The answer depends on the development stage of your business, where your audience is on the customer journey and even what devices they use to connect. While you can and should post content on your company’s Facebook page, the real power of Facebook as a marketing platform comes from paid advertising.
“Say you own a bakery, and you just opened in a new neighbourhood,” says Brodeur. “The first thing you need to do is let people know you’re there. If you know a lot of your target customers use the Facebook mobile app, maybe you want to hit them with a special offer during their morning commute, when they’re on the go and likely to be passing by.”
She offers these thoughts on the five steps to setting up and running successful Facebook ad campaigns.
1. Decide what you want to achieve
There are three main goals you can set out to achieve with Facebook advertising:
- raise awareness
- give customers information as they consider your product or service
- convert leads to sales
These stages—awareness, consideration and conversion—describe how people get from the “top” of your sales and marketing funnel to the bottom, i.e., to a sale. Which stage you target will shape your Facebook campaign.
For example, a new flower shop might start by targeting ads to people closeby (awareness). Then, retarget people that have interacted with their ad, liked their Facebook page or visited their website and send them a special offer (consideration and, hopefully, conversion).
2. Set up your ads
Once your company has a Facebook business page, you automatically have access to Facebook’s ad creation tools: Ads Manager and Power Editor. Both are free, but Ads Manager is a little simpler to use if you’re just starting out.
These tools allow you to create ads in a number of formats including:
- regular boosted post with an image
- instant article
- carousel (several images users can click through)
- canvas (full page, immersive ads that are primarily built for mobile users)
Because the news feed is crowded and users’ attention span on social media is limited, Brodeur says you should make sure your ads:
- catch the eye (use bright colours, nice visuals)
- display your value proposition
- use punchy copy
Also make sure you follow Facebook technical requirements and advertising rules.
3. Zero in on the right prospects
Facebook lets you target your advertising with amazing precision by:
- interests (the pages they like, related interests, pages their friends like)
- the device they are browsing on
- retargeting users who visited your website (using Facebook pixel)
- their email address
What’s Facebook pixel?
Pixel lets you know when someone follows a Facebook ad to your website and interacts with your business there. Because you can see that trail, you know how to target that customer again. According to Facebook, the more conversions you get on your website, the more accurate Facebook becomes at making sure the right audiences see your ads.
You can also target based on upcoming events. For instance, a business selling “giftable” products can target people who have friends with birthdays coming up, or people with anniversaries in the near future. A hotel can look for upcoming conferences and target individuals who will be attending from out of town.
That precision can mean better results for your business and a stronger return on your marketing dollar. However, it also requires you to think harder about who you want to reach and what strategy is going to reach them. (Read our article on personas for more.)
“Just be careful,” says Brodeur. “If your targeting is too niche, your acquisition cost can go up. And if you haven’t defined your target audience well enough, you could be wasting money on people who aren’t your ideal audience.”
One trick is to exclude certain audiences, such as existing employees, to ensure you’re not spending money targeting the wrong people.
4. Keep targeting the most promising prospects
Once you’ve had success with a particular group, use data from past campaigns and your website to create remarketing and “lookalike” audiences, which have higher likelihood of success. (See below for more on what a “lookalike” audience is.)
Remarketing is also a great way to transition from a brand awareness campaign to a conversion campaign.
Some excellent data sources for remarketing are visitors to your website, email lists and customer data, gathered from your business’s customer relationship management system (CRM).
The type of data you select for a remarketing audience should be influenced by your campaign goal. For example, if your goal is to inform existing customers of a special offer, consider using the email addresses of people who have previously purchased your product or service.
You can also narrow down your audience by excluding people you know won’t be interested, or who have already made a purchase. For example, if you’re trying to build brand awareness, you could use pixel data to prevent people who have already visited your website from being served your ad.
What is a lookalike audience?
Let’s say one of your custom audiences is performing well and you want to build on that. You can use targeting information to build a lookalike audience. Facebook will then use your custom audience list to pull a list of similar users.
Using lookalike audiences has two main benefits.
- It lets you reach new people beyond your current customer list and fan base.
- It ensures your ad is shown to people who are likely to engage with your brand.
Cross device optimization lets you retarget people who visited your website on one device (for instance, their mobile phone) on another device (maybe their desktop computer). For example, if you are a software as a service (SAAS) company and your audience is more likely to buy from their desktop, you can target everyone who visited your website on mobile in the past few months with a desktop ad featuring a persuasive call to action.
5. Measure your results
A successful Facebook advertising strategy doesn’t generally happen overnight. It’s an iterative process that comes as a result of experimenting, tracking your results and adjusting to do more of what works well.
Facebook allows you to track a number of metrics to help measure the effectiveness of your ads. There are five main metrics you should track.
The number of total followers you have.
The number of people who get your ad in their newsfeed.
Cost per click
The cost you pay when someone clicks on your ad. This allows you to track and optimize how much you spend to get someone to take an action (or convert) on your website after clicking your ad.
Cost per action
The cost per like, website click, email sign up or any other goal you choose.
The percentage of people who clicked on your ad.
Knowing these five metrics will tell you how much it costs to get someone on your landing page, sign up for your newsletter or any other goal you choose.
Don’t be intimidated by the technology
Compared to traditional advertising, Facebook is highly affordable. You don’t need a big budget. A typical Facebook ad will cost a few hundred dollars, though a lot of variables affect the cost. Start by testing and see what works. You can do ‘A/B’ testing—running two options at the same time to see which gets better results. If you don’t get a response in 24 to 48 hours, remove the underperforming ad and start fresh.
Brodeur also notes that strong branding is important: People need to associate the content they see with your company.
Facebook changes its algorithm fairly often, so it’s hard to organically get views for the content you post on your Facebook page. Mixing in some organic content is important, but paid advertising is definitely the way to go.
Think of Facebook as a customer service extension
Because Facebook allows for real-time, direct communication, Brodeur’s advice is to answer promptly when a customer says something positive—or negative—about your company, product or service, just like you would if they were standing in front of you.
“Make sure you have someone on your team that knows the business very well and can reply to messages and comments from customers,” she recommends. “It requires a skilled person to create effective content and manage ad campaigns. You can either hire someone, have one of your employees receive training or outsource to an agency.”
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