Lean Marketing: Facebook advertising for newbies

We write often of low-cost, high impact marketing tactics for small businesses and share tips for leveraging these. We believe that small business and startups should always be willing to experiment with marketing tactics and strategies as long as those serve a larger goal and contribute to a clear strategy.

The key to this approach is to set very specific incremental goals, carefully collect and analyze the resulting data, and be ready to do one of two things based on what the data tell you. If the results are positive, repeat and iterate that tactical experiment as long as it is moving you towards the defined goal. Alternately,  if the tactic is failing, be ready to quickly terminate the experiment.

Search engine marketing is a tactic that is perfect for a lean, iterative approach to marketing. Paid search allows small business owners to easily set simple, reasoned goals and then, based on the data collected, make adjustments and decisions rationally. For instance, if you have a simple goal of driving additional traffic to your site it is easy to measure the results (and cost) of the SEM campaign. Define for yourself exactly how much traffic you wish to result from the tactic, and how much money you are willing to spend for the additional traffic. The resulting data will tell you quickly whether you have accomplished that goal.

We have provided advice on using Google Adwords as well as other platforms, and today I want to share some advice on best practices for using Facebook as an advertising platform. Facebook advertising’s greatest benefit is the network effect. If a Facebook user interacts with your ad by ‘Liking’ it, that ‘Like’ is automatically shared with the user’s entire network of FB friends. This is a powerful magnifier, not just in terms of the word-of-mouth amplification that brings your message to many more people, but because of the ‘endorsement effect’ that accompanies the word-of-mouth. Studies have indicated that as many as 90% of consumers are more likely to trust recommendations from people they know. In other words, we all take advice from our friends and if one of them ‘Likes’ a certain FB ad, then we are more inclined to try that product or service ourselves.

Here  is a short tutorial for getting your Facebook campaign going:

Set goals. Be very clear with what you are trying to accomplish with your Facebook campaign. Is it to gain fans for your business’s FB page? To drive traffic to your own site? To generate sales and revenue? It is crucial that goal definition include conversion definition. For instance is a visit to your site what you would consider a conversion? Is a user registration or harvested email address a conversion? Or does it have to be an actual sale for you to consider it a conversion? Define what a conversion is and be clear on how much you are willing to pay for each conversion. The only way to measure the campaign’s success is to articulate for yourself how you define success and to measure the data against that definition.

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Target effectivelyFacebook allows you to target your ads to very specific segments and demographics.You can segment by a user’s location, language, or by the industry the user works in. Alternatively you can target by personal demographics like age, relationship status, education or even by birthday. For instance you could target your ads only at people in California, who are single, and who’s birthday it is today. You could even choose to target only people who’s 37th birthday is today. This ability to slice and dice by the audience you want, and not just be those searching for specific words or terms can be incredibly powerful.

Determine ad type. You will have to choose between to approaches with your Facebook ads – CPC or CPM. CPC is the cost-per-click model and with this you will only pay for the actual click-throughs that your campaign generates. With CPM (or cost-per-thousand views), you are paying for the number of impressions, or actual people, that see your ad appear on a FB page they visit. This choice should be driven by your own goals; if the objective of the campaign is to drive traffic to your site, then CPC will be a more measurable choice. If, alternatively, you are trying to raise awareness of your brand or service, then a CPM approach might make more sense.

Budgeting, bidding, and structures. Like AdWords, Facebook allows the advertiser to set a daily budget which is not to be exceeded. For instance, you may determine that your daily limit will be $200 and that (using the CPC ad type) you will pay as much as 50¢ per click. At this threshold you will receive a minimum of 400 clicks before your budget for the day is depleted. Remember though, as with AdWords, you are competing with other advertisers to get your ad in front of the intended audience and this is where bidding comes in. You will need to determine not just a daily budget, but the maximum amount that you are willing to pay for each click (or for each thousand views with a CPM approach). So if you set your bid at that 50¢ per click maximum, your ad will be less likely to run than your competitor’s who may be offering 60¢ per click. Think not just budgetary, but strategically and remember to let your own goals, and your own business economics drive your bidding strategy,

Test your ads. A/B testing. or champion/challenger testing is an important way to understand what works for your intended audience and what doesn’t. This can be as simple as testing alternative headlines, images, or body content. When you run two ads head-to-head, it can quickly be determined which is more effective in reaching your stated goal nd in maximizing your budget. Other testing strategies include testing your ads at different times of day, teasing against different segments or demographics, and testing different bids. Any of these tests will give you valuable data and allow for iteration and experimentation. Finally, create lots of ads. Everyday try new ads, with new copy and new images. Every day target a new segment with a new message – then stick with the ones that are working, and quickly kill those that aren’t.

6. Make them Like you. One of the more common strategies with FB ads is the use of a ‘reveal tab.’ This technique displays a special offer or download available to the user, only if they Like your ad or your page. By giving a FB user a reason to Like your ad, such as a free download, a discount coupon, or other value which will be provided to them only if they click the Like button. The old rule applies here: to get something, you gotta give something.

7. Analyze and iterate. Then analyze and iterate again. Im the tips above, I talked about setting goals, targeting, bidding, budgeting, and testing. The most important point is what do you do with this information. It’s pretty simple: collect the data, analyze the data, and then act on the data. For instance if you test against various target segment, take the time to scrutinize the data, and adjust your ads based on which segment responds to your ads more often. Iterate based on this information and adjust your targeting accordingly. If your testing reveals that one image results in more Likes than another, then focus your ads on the image that is converting more effectively. This constant cycle of test, iterate, test again will allow you to refund your campaign and make the most effective use of your budget.

8. Give it time. Facebook advertising takes time. Not just the time to test different approaches, ad types, target segments, and bids, but time in the sense of capacity. It is critical that you carefully and deliberately track your campaigns, adjust your approach, and measure your progress. Doing this takes precious hours, and as small business owners and managers, we all know that these hours are our most valuable commodity. Budget your resources as well as your money, and remember that the two go hand-in-hand; to get the most from your money, be sure to devote the time needed to do the job right.

Graphic: Sam Michel

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