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For well over a decade Google’s iconic self-service advertising system has been connecting businesses to potential customers cheaply and efficiently (while generating billions of dollars for Google in the process).
Adwords is so brutally effective that it has become the reflex choice for many brands online. A whole ecosystem of businesses has sprung up around the optimisation and administration of Adwords campaigns.
The problem, though, is that when you have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Many companies continue to pour money into Adwords without even considering their options. When Adwords was the only pay-per-click, targeted advertising platform with any real reach, then this strategy made sense.
But now Facebook’s self-service ad platform is proving itself as a worthy alternative to the big bad Goog. Here are five reasons you should consider using Facebook to advertise your brand.
1 . Facebook has enormous reach
With half-a-billion active users around the globe, Facebook is fast approaching Google’s enormous reach. In South Africa alone, Facebook reaches three mlllion people – most of them (by definition) in the upper end of the market.
2. Facebook targets people, not topics
For all its brilliance, Adwords can only target topics based on what people search for and hope that the searchers match the customer profile that the advertisers are trying to attract.
In contrast, Facebook targets the people themselves using the data they have willingly provided while filling out their profiles. This information has proven to be remarkably accurate and self policing, due to users realising that fewer of their real world friends will be willing (or able) to connect with them on Facebook if they lie about things like age or location.
This makes Facebook’s targeting incredibly powerful and accurate. You can target people based on everything from their geographical location to their favourite TV shows.
3. Facebook uses social leverage
Because Facebook’s ads are native to their platform they can use the behaviour of members’ friends to add a social dimension to adverts. For instance, if several of your friends have joined a Facebook Page for a brand, the version of the advert you see will tell you this.
This kind of subtle peer recommendation dynamic makes these “social ads” exceptionally effective. A recent study by Nielsen showed that social context boosts metrics like brand recall and awareness by as much as 100%.
4. Facebook allows for long-term relationships
Where Adwords is nothing but a clever pipe used to funnel raw demand onto your site, Facebook offers ways to germinate and nurture an online community around your brand.
Yes, you could do this on your own site using all the wonderful free tools out there. But ask yourself – are you a social networking site, or even a community site?
If the answer to one or both of those isn’t an emphatic “yes”, then you’re better off fishing where the fish are. Why compete for attention with Facebook when you can join their enormous ecosystem and win yourself thousands of new readers or customers? You wouldn’t start your own search engine … would you?
The best option for brands on Facebook is to use their excellent Facebook Page offering. These pages give you an official brand presence on the platform along with great features like message broadcasting, stats, brand-centric events and thousands of applications to pimp out your presence. Just be sure not to make one of the common mistakes I wrote about earlier this year.
By advertising your Facebook Page rather than directly linking to your own site, you accomplish three things at once:
1. You recruit long-term brand advocates who can be converted to customers and/or readers in time (very few people un-like a brand unless it actively irritates them)
2. Because pages are native to Facebook, your adverts will have all the social context bells and whistles built in. People will be able to “like” your page with a single click – without even leaving their home feed.
3. As you add new fans to your page it begins to gather a self-sustaining momentum. We’ve found that once it reaches 10,000 fans a page will be constantly full of customer conversations and will send thousands of visitors to your site every month with very little effort.
5. There is (currently) less competition on Facebook
Because Adwords is so incredibly popular and well understood, it can be quite challenging to get your adverts seen and clicked on. Most common search topics have hundreds of thousands of businesses competing for them and require both high bids per click and high technical proficiency to make any impact. Just try advertising “insurance” on Adwords and you’ll see what I mean.
Facebook, on the other hand, is still relatively uncongested – at least in South Africa. I’ve run campaigns which have yielded new fans in their thousands at a cost per acquisition of well under R1. These campaigns also saw a high percentage of “bleed through” traffic to the brand sites, so they won both fans and traffic at no additional cost.
Of course this won’t last forever. Competition will increase and bid rates will climb. So rather join the party early before all that lovely punch is finished and you have to start paying for drinks.
Hopefully I’ve got you all revved up to start your own massively viral Facebook campaign. If you’re still a bit fuzzy on the details, look out for my upcoming piece: “5 tips to getting the most out of your Facebook ad campaign”.
DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to encourage you to try Facebook Ads, not to abandon AdWords completely. The two platforms are quite different and serve certain brands and industries better than others. Facebook, for instance, serves media brands very well because it allows them to harvest cheap clicks by growing Facebook pages. AdWords, on the other hand, is perfect for e-commerce brands because of their great synergy with search. If in doubt, try both and see which works better for your brand.