Here's a handy guide on how to target your marketing efforts more precisely with the use of Facebook’s advertising tool.
It’s no surprise that Facebook has gone to great lengths to make its advertising system easy for busy online-business owners to use. In fact, it could hardly be simpler: type a status update, click the Promote button, set a budget and it’s done. Facebook will then present your post to more than the 10% or so of followers who would normally see it.
Sadly, this simplicity comes at a price: it’s next to impossible to make your adverts pay.
The key to controlling your Facebook campaign is to employ the site’s Power Editor. This is “tailored specifically for large advertisers” and offers “precise control of [your] campaigns”. Despite Facebook’s recommendation that advertisers with fewer than several hundred ads should use the built-in Ads Create Tool, the Power Editor can be used by anyone who wants to take control of their campaign.
To use Power Editor, you’ll need to set up an advertising account with Facebook; this can be created easily at www.facebook.com/ads/ manage. This will enable you to access the Power Editor at www.facebook.com/ads/manage/powereditor. Unlike the Google AdWords interface, ads aren’t created and edited directly in Power Editor; instead, you “upload” them into the Facebook ads system when you’re ready to set them live.
Although this could be seen as a more involved and more time-consuming method by which to create ads, the advantages greatly outweigh the effort required to learn your way around the system. In fact, if you’re not prepared to use Power Editor, I don’t think you should bother with Facebook ads at all.
With Power Editor, you can target Facebook members according to their relationship with you outside the social network. For example, if you employ MailChimp to collect email addresses, you can use Power Editor to connect this email list to your Facebook adverts, then set up ads targeted at those members of your list who also use Facebook. If your list has been set up properly, these users will be aware of your business and either existing or potential customers, so you can write keenly targeted ads.
For example, since they’ve already visited your site to sign up for your list, you can tailor the ad text to reflect this, which will make it feel far more personal. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you, as the advertiser, won’t know the names of the email-list members who have Facebook accounts, merely that your ad will be shown to all of them.
Positioning and device targeting
Users of the desktop Facebook client can view ads within or down the right-hand side of their main newsfeed. Power Editor lets you choose in which location you want your ad to appear. In most cases, you’ll want to test both positions to see which results in better conversion rates. You can also specify whether your ad should be shown only to desktop users, mobile users or to both.
You can even choose on which specific brands of mobile device a particular ad should be seen. Although you might imagine that targeting the widest audience possible is the best option, having information on which device a user is viewing Facebook – when combined with an understanding of how much the typical user of that device is worth to you – can focus your marketing efforts far more tightly and make it more effective.
For example, in most markets, we’re approaching the tipping point where mobile visitors become the majority. However, what if your site analytics show that desktop users tend to spend more and have a higher conversion rate? First, this suggests you need greater insight into your site’s design and sales funnel: how does your shop look on a smartphone screen and how easy is it for customers using a smartphone to pay? But it also implies that it would make sense for your ads to appear only if the potential customer is viewing Facebook on a PC, or at least imply that you’d be better off devoting more time and money to such users. Furthermore, such device targeting will enable you to run split tests – in which the same ad is shown across multiple platforms – to see which works best.
You can even target tablet users, rather than those using phones; iOS devices over Android ones; and iPads instead of iPhones. It takes little effort to duplicate an ad within Power Editor so that one set of “creatives” can be tested across multiple devices and in front of different audiences. And, thanks to conversion tracking, you can quickly see which combinations make the greatest difference to your bottom line.
If this catalogue of benefits hasn’t yet convinced you, Power Editor also offers batch editing, which can greatly shorten the time it takes to make a single change across multiple ads. It’s also first in line for any new features Facebook introduces to its ad system: these tend to be tested and perfected by Power Editor users before being implemented in the standard system.
Setting up a campaign
If you want to use a custom audience – for example, by connecting with MailChimp, uploading an email list or adding a Facebook tracking cookie to your website – set up a campaign first. It’s a simple matter of following the prompts. Power Editor will ask whether you want the “fixed-price” or “auction” buying type: the former allows you to specify an overall budget, on the basis of which Facebook will inform you of how many impressions you’re likely to get; the latter lets you specify a daily budget and guide price. The latter is the option I usually choose.
You can now tell Facebook what action you want users to take – in other words, your main campaign metric. For an online shop, this would normally be conversions, whereas other web businesses may want users to visit a certain URL or “Like”, comment or share a page post.
The next step is to create at least one ad set (the equivalent of an ad group in AdWords), each of which has its own daily budget and start date. Take care here, since Facebook doesn’t ask for an end date by default, but it’s essential to set one. To see the necessary field, deselect “Run my ad continuously”.
You can now create new ads for this ad set, each of which will have three aspects, called Creative, Audience, and Optimisation & Pricing. Facebook ads are simply normal status updates, photos and videos that are promoted, so the first step is to identify an existing update or create one within the Power Editor interface. You can associate your ad with any Facebook Page you administer; once you’ve selected it, the latest post for that page will appear. In most cases, however, you’ll want to create a new post that will be used only for the purposes of advertising.
Another advantage of the Power Editor is that it gives you far more choice about what this ad contains and what options it presents to the user. For example, you can embed a button containing one of a range of text labels, such as Learn More or Download. You also get far more control over the headline and descriptive text, so you can craft a compelling ad. This is also the point at which you can specify where your ad will appear and on which devices, so if you intend to target both desktop and mobile users, I recommend having a different campaign for each – it makes it much easier to see quickly which is performing without having to drill down to the individual ads.
It’s with the audience options that Facebook’s ad system establishes its advantage over AdWords – the range is amazing. If you’ve chosen to import a custom audience, you can simply select it at this point, or you can choose the sorts of people to whom you’d like your ad exposed. You may expect this selection to be based on gender, age and the range of interests users have indicated in their profiles, but Facebook ads goes way beyond this level of detail.
For example, not only does Facebook know whether a user owns a smartphone or tablet, but it’s also aware of how long they’ve owned it – presumably based on when they installed the Facebook app. This means you can target those who have recently purchased a tablet if, for example, you’re selling insurance or tablet covers. You can even – heaven help us all – advertise to holidaymakers a week after they’ve returned home.
The final step is to set up the pricing scheme you wish to use, which should almost always be cost per click (CPC), since this will force you to work out how much a click is worth to you. Cost per thousand impressions (known as CPM, for cost per mille) is a licence for Facebook to print money, whereas optimised CPM allows you to set marketing goals and have Facebook set the cost per action to fit these goals. Once you’ve done this, click the Upload button; once Facebook’s ad team has reviewed your campaign, it will go live.
It’s early days yet for the campaigns I’m currently running, but the first results appear encouraging and interesting. So far, the most effective has been the advertising aimed at desktop users: not only am I making sales as a direct result (on the evidence of the conversion tracking system), but the cost per conversion is comparable to that of AdWords. In fact, it’s been around 25% cheaper.
I’ve found the advertising based on my MailChimp custom audience to be effective, too, although the number of impressions and the conversion rate is much lower. So far, the least effective has been the mobile campaign: although there have been plenty of impressions and a reasonable clickthrough rate, the conversion performance has been poor. This could be down to site design and payment processing, so I haven’t given up on advertising to mobile users. For now, though, I’m turning off this campaign.
So far so good – I’ll certainly continue using Power Editor to run my Facebook campaigns. I like the fact that I can drive clicks directly from the social network to my online shop and, crucially, record any conversions to sales. I can then make a direct comparison between my marketing efforts via Facebook and my advertising on Google.
Building a community
While you’ll need a business Page to get started with Facebook advertising, you won’t need a big following if your aim is simply to send clicks to your website. You’ll get the best out of the platform, however, if you build a community to whom you can advertise directly, alongside the wider Facebook userbase. With this larger following for your Page, you’ll also receive the social media benefits of being able to provide support and generate interest in your products.
It’s been a while since I’ve started a Page from scratch, so I asked Ben Harper of social media agency Datify to provide some advice. The best approach, he says, is to mix the creation of content with advertising from the start. Conventional wisdom has been to create lots of interesting posts before starting to advertise, but it can take weeks to populate a Page in this way, and you’d end up with a negligible audience. It’s far better to run ads from the beginning, since many people will “Like” a page if they like its title.
That said, at this stage advertising should be aimed purely at increasing the fanbase of your Page. If you’re intending to send clicks to a third party or to sell directly from Facebook, Harper recommends you hold off this type of promotion for at least six weeks or so; otherwise, you risk alienating your nascent community and stunting its growth. Indeed, he says this is the most common mistake made by newcomers to Facebook marketing – you have to earn the right to promote your products by first providing interesting content.
I’m impressed with Power Editor, since it turns a system that was of marginal value to most online businesses into a genuine alternative to AdWords. There’s no danger that it will replace Google’s cash cow for me anytime soon, but it’s a useful supplement and a far better option than Bing. By using Power Editor, I can target Facebook users with unmatched precision, and I can run experiments with fine levels of control until I discover the magic formula that provides a good level of conversions for minimum cost.
It’s a shame that Facebook doesn’t trumpet this tool more widely and, indeed, appears to go out of its way to put off small businesses from using it. Were I a cynic, I’d suggest this is because it makes more money from the cruder system built into Pages, which would be reason enough to choose Power Editor. Give it a try, it might surprise you.