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Facebook Advertising – Test if You Like It. Test if You Don’t!

Facebook LogoThere are so many places to advertise your business. Indeed,  it would be possible to write a whole blog with several hundred posts on the subject and still only scratch the surface, so I will instead focus on Facebook Advertising. In particular, looking at Facebook advertising to secure more  Likes for your Business Page –  and highlighting  the absolute necessity of testing.

Getting Likes for your Business Page is not always easy and each business will have its own unique requirements and optimal methodology. Bear in mind, that a for a typical retail product or service, a prospect may have to see your offer and take several different actions (both on and off-line) before they will actually take a decision to buy your product. While the actual number of actions will vary for apparently impulse or distress purchases to long term investments and every type of product in between,  an assumption of seven actions is a good yardstick.

Cost per thousand and cost per click

There are two main types of advertising on Facebook. Those businesses that wish to improve their branding and become better known would normally choose CPM or Cost Per Thousand advert impressions. (Strictly cost per Mille, the Roman word for 1,000). That is, if you place an advert on Facebook and it is to be seen by 1,000 people, you will pay the agreed amount to Facebook.  Sometimes this is called display advertising. The difference in new media, like the web and on Facebook, is that the results are somewhat easier to measure than in traditional display advertising in for example, your local paper.

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The other form of advertising is CPC or Cost Per Click (or as it sometimes called, CPA or Cost per Action). Google pioneered “Per Click” advertising, but a similar payment mechanism is available on Facebook.  This advertising is best used when you are trying to get a prospect to click on your advert to take a measurable action. This could be as simple as clicking through to your main website or to actually begin a purchase. That is, when someone clicks and makes the agreed action, you pay Facebook the agreed amount. Either way, purchasing Facebook advertising works on a “bid” basis.  In order that your advert, (whether display CPM or CPC), is shown – and how often, depends on how much you bid (the maximum you are prepared to pay) for that click. This is the same principle as Google Search AdWords.  And similarly, you can set an individual advert or linked adverts in a campaign budget maximums too.

Many textbooks see these options as separate, but often a combined or serial approach could lead to better results for a business trying to increase the number of Likes. In any case, as Yellow Page advertisers will know, you can get prospects to take immediate action from a display ad by including your sales telephone number and a well designed CPC advertising campaign will reach many thousands of prospect eyeballs – even if they do not immediately take a desired action.

A Mini Example

Let’s assume that you are a small  business working in genealogy. Your existing customers know who you are and you already advertise in other traditional and new media, but you wish to spread your bets and need more leads- especially from a younger age group. A friend suggested you set up a Facebook Business Page and that looks good, but you are not seeing much from it – apart from a few “Likes” from friends and well wishers. You need to step it up. It is tempting to go straight to a direct CPC campaign.  But your new potential Facebook buyers will not have heard of you and may not even know they need the services of a genealogist. You may have to create some demand within the Facebook crowd.  In this case, it might well be better to try CPM advertising first.

Facebook auto generated display adverts

If you have a Business Page, Facebook automatically generates adverts with suggested headline, copy and photographs based on text lifted from your Business Page. If your Business Page is any good, these can be surprisingly effective. If your Business Page is not any good, believe me, it is better to go back and get this fixed first! My view is that it is worth just having a go with the automatically generated advert, just to set a base line. In theory, this should be your worst performing Facebook advert because you have put almost no effort in to the design.  However, it would be advisable to at least give some thought to making some minor edits to the auto suggested copy and to specifying to whom the advert should be shown. In the UK, Facebook allows you to choose geography (or reach) down to city level. Beyond that, you can chose lifestyle factors such as education level, age, marital status, films, television programmes watched- or indeed any factors that Facebook collects in its Customer Profile Page. While in a test stage, you may as well choose a limited geography. As a professional genealogist, you will best know the factors which might best identify your Facebook target audience, but if you do not- then do not sweat it- just make an intelligent guess and get on with the base line test.  For example, perhaps it would be: married for at least 10 years, educated to a reasonable level and interested in programmes about history.

After filling in the relevant information in the Facebook advertising purchase screen, you will be advised of the likely number of times someone will see your advert over the set time period and the bid price range. If this is within budget and the number of impressions (views) is high enough to make sense, then go ahead. If not , modify your criteria and repeat. Once you get your initial feedback statistics, you can begin to modify individual test criteria to optimise your results. In this case, you could try a different age range or marital status. Alternatively, if display advertising starts to work, you could test more sophisticated design concepts or new headline messages – perhaps by working with a local design agency.

Facebook CPC  adverts

If your brand is known, then consider a CPC  campaign. Much of the thinking about who to target will be the same as for the CPM Display Advertising. But again, it is worth creating something simple and quick- and to just get on with it.  This time, you are trying to get people to Like your Business Page. For most prospects, this is a much easier decision than actually purchasing.  Nevertheless, only a fraction of those people who are served your advert will actually Like your Page – but as you are only paying for that action- it can be highly cost effective.  The “Like” only represents an invitation for you to engage with your prospects in true social media style.  To actually make a sale requires the now warm prospect to take another action – more usually several actions.

So Facebook Advertising for a “Like” may typically take longer to deliver sales than direct offer advertising, (although there are exceptions to every rule), so you might ask why not just buy direct offer advertising. The answer is that getting a “Like” on Facebook can be considered one of the “several steps” to a sale that might end with a phone call from a print advert, or might continue to be closed via a Facebook shopping site, or maybe on your main website. In other words, although we like to think that new media advertising is measurable and discreet, real people do not see the distinction between channels and advertising types and actually make overall decisions based on all of their interactions with a particular company. Even prospects who seem to buy directly from your main web site in one go, will have taken many previous actions that you will not be aware of.

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If your existing direct advertising is already highly effective, (oh lucky you!) test you can  test Facebook advertising anyway, or indeed test other social media for a relatively low cost – at least as a lead source top-up and as a learning experience. The point is, no one knows the right answer  – all of the time. The optimal choice of advertising channel is a complex matter that has become more complex with the introduction of new and social media. Market conditions for both direct and social media advertising response rates will continue to change and evolve.  So testing has to become a way of life , not just a one-off exercise.  As Brucie and Tess don’t say at the end of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, “Keep testing!”.