Rarely does a week go by that I don’t hear from business owners and photographers about how Facebook ads are a waste of money, blah, blah, blah. I’ve also been told that Google and Bing Ads are a waste of money. You know what those people have in common? They didn’t know know how to use these ad platforms properly. Not only that but they lacked a clear strategy for how to get to their end goal.
I’ve spent tens of millions of dollars on digital advertising during my career and can assure you that Facebook is not a shitty ad platform for businesses. In-fact, Facebook actually has some of the most sophisticated tools and targeting of any digital ad platform. Their ability to target people blows Google out of the water. Google is almost entirely based on keyword intent and some rudimentary demographic & psychographic targeting. Facebook on the other hand, a big double-edged sword I might add, knows a lot about their users either through usage data and/or from purchasing 3rd party behavioral data from companies like Acxiom and Epsilon. If you use a credit card or have a rewards card from any retailer then chances are that Facebook knows all about your purchase history. Creepy yes, but that is what makes Facebook’s ad platform such a potentially powerful tool in the right hands.
During my extensive use of Facebook Ads Manager, I have concluded that there are several common factors that lead people to believe that Facebook is a waste of money.
- The lack of a lead generation strategy
- Not defining adequate key performance indicators (KPI’s)
- Not setting up conversion tracking for lead generation and sales
- Too broad of targeting strategy
Let me explain some of the more powerful features of Facebook advertising. You can create “custom audiences” by uploading your contact lists into Facebook Ads Manager then serve up very targeted messaging. I wouldn’t suggest going with a sledgehammer approach here. Use some filter criteria here to weed out people who don’t fit the campaign strategy. Industry studies have shown that most people don’t purchase anything before having been exposed to your brand ten or more times. Facebook ads are another way to stay top of mind with your customers just like email is. When it comes to business you can’t let your personal bias cloud your judgment. If your customers are on Facebook and they probably are, then stop complaining and learn how to use it properly. I’m not the biggest fan of Facebook’s policies or their algorithm but I also recognize that they have built a sophisticated marketing tool for business people so I make extensive use of it.
Another way to market on Facebook: If your average customer usually fits into a certain demographic or psychographic profile, then you can define that criteria in Facebook and run ads to people that have never heard of you before and use that to grow your mailing list. Be very selective here. If you go too broad then you can easily end up spending a lot of money for questionable ROI. The more targeted you are the better ROI you will get. Think about how to generate leads first, and sell later. As mentioned above, people rarely purchase expensive items like photography or other luxury items without a consideration process. Commodities are purchased with minimal consideration but for everything else it generally doesn’t work that way. In marketing speak we refer to this as a “conversion funnel”. If your only advertising KPI are sales transactions then you will probably conclude that advertising on Facebook is a waste of money. Sales transactions are at the very end of a conversion funnel. If you’re only looking at the last touchpoint before the sale then you’ve missed all the other steps it took to get them to the point of sale.
To boost posts or not? I’d say that it depends but again, you need a strategy. Test different forms, set up your conversion goals and monitor the results. Test again. If your goal is to grow your audience on Facebook then maybe boosting to your friends and their followers would make sense. Do 18 year-olds buy photography? If not then stop targeting them. If your goal is to turn your existing followers into loyal customers then maybe targeting your followers only then driving them to your site makes more sense.
While I don’t doubt that many people have wasted their money on Facebook advertising, what is most ironic about this is that some people also believe that Russia and Cambridge Analytica swung the electoral in favor of Trump via Facebook ads. So what is it; Facebook ads are a waste of money for business owners but they are effective in brainwashing people? Don’t mistake this for political commentary. It’s not. I’m just pointing out that people who know how to use these tools can really do some effective persuasion for better or worse. That is the definition of marketing.