Social media marketing can be defined in several different ways. For some companies, that means using social networking sites to build brand awareness and cultivate a community that is endeared to the brand. For some, that means aggressively building a following to promote the brand to new customers and increase their perceived authority. For others, that means leveraging the opportunities of social media to advertise products and services to new and existing customers.
All of these tactics are valuable for different reasons. As an organic search and inbound marketer, I tend to favor the first option, building brand awareness and brand loyalty as naturally as possible, with high quality content and engaging posts. But that’s not the only way to make use of social media.
Most social networking platforms have rolled out an advertising wing to businesses and entrepreneurs, offering ad space on users’ news feeds in exchange for money, and Facebook seems to be the most popular due to its massive user base. However, social media advertising is not for everyone, and there are many pros and cons to consider before you pursue a direct advertising campaign on social media. In this article, I’ll go over some of the most important pros and cons of Facebook advertising to keep in mind before making a decision.
Like with any form of traditional advertising, Facebook ads have global advantages and limitations that make them appropriate for some companies in some situations, and inappropriate for others.
Facebook ads are useful because they can be created entirely from one location. You can create your campaign from scratch in a fairly easy series of steps, and return to that exact same platform to follow up and see how it’s performing. They’re also advantageous because you can set a specific budget and walk away, giving you the ability to fully and accurately set your budget in advance and compare that to the amount of return you eventually receive.
There are some limitations, however. Facebook advertising is not as targeted as direct advertising, nor is it as efficient as a long-term strategy as a broader content marketing campaign. Like paid search ads, they should only be used as a short-term or complementary strategy, and only when you have a good understanding of your target audience. Without a solid advertising strategy focused on specific demographics, Facebook advertising is almost useless.
Let’s take a look at some of the specific qualities of Facebook ads, and each of their pros and cons.
Facebook introduced a new ad campaign structure back in February, delighting some social media marketers and enraging others. Business can create multiple overarching campaigns, each of which has a specific goal. For example, you could run one campaign designed to bring people to your main website and another campaign designed to send people to a specific landing page. Within campaigns are different ad sets, which are usually split based on your audience or budget. Finally, each ad set is split into different ads, which feature different text, images, and callouts.
This campaign structure is advantageous because it gives you lots of control and enables the possibility of rigorous A/B testing within a single campaign. However, it will take some time to learn the roles of each category and tailor your campaign to fit them appropriately.
There are two main types of ads that Facebook offers: promote page and promote website.
“Promote page” allows you to build your Facebook audience through advertising designed to attract new likes to your brand. For marketers interested in generating a bigger social audience, this can be useful, but remember that Facebook likes are a superficial means of measuring your impact. Not every “like” corresponds to an interested customer, and even your interested customers will abandon ship if your content marketing strategy doesn’t hold their attention.
“Promote website” is the better option of the two. It allows you to direct traffic to an external website (presumably, yours), giving you more traffic and more options to convert. Of course, you can also lead them to a specific product page or landing page based on your specific goals.
Facebook ad pricing has increased in the past few years, but it’s still reasonable. Paid advertising in search campaigns can range from less than a dollar per click to over a hundred dollars per click. On Facebook, you can set a daily budget—such as $10 per day—that corresponds with a certain number of “average clicks” you can expect—such as 15-32 clicks. It’s no guarantee, since click-through rates are partially dependent on your wording and imagery, but in my experience, it’s been a fairly reliable estimation.
The pricing also gives you firm insight into your ROI. At the end of your campaign, you’ll be able to see exactly how much you spent and compare that against exactly how many new visitors you attracted as a result. From there, it should be apparent whether the ROI of your campaign is sufficient to justify further campaigns.
Facebook doesn’t allow much wiggle room on ad placement. You can see some examples of where ads run, but you don’t have any control over where and how the ad shows up. That’s a key disadvantage that cannot be easily overcome. Fortunately, Facebook recently announced they would be keeping ad inventory at around five percent of all news feed content. This may drive the price up slightly, but it will also keep ads at an ideal ratio—appearing often enough to be looked at, but not so often that they become white noise to users.
One of the biggest advantages of Facebook advertising is the amount of control it gives you over your targeted demographics. Other forms of advertising, like paid search ads, focus on a location rather than on a specific type of person, but Facebook ads help you only advertise to your ideal targets. For example, it’s possible to advertise only to a specific gender, a specific age group, a specific location, and even people with specific interests.
If you’re running many ads within a campaign, you’ll have the opportunity to experiment and gradually whittle down your target demographic to a very specific type of user. It may seem like an intimidating number of options at first, but that level of control is something you’ll be hard-pressed to find in almost any other advertising medium.
So is Facebook advertising worth it for an average business? It all depends on your type of business, your budget, and your goals. Conceptually, you should be able to determine whether Facebook ads are worth looking into, but you’ll only know for sure once you experiment. Fortunately, Facebook doesn’t require much ad spend up front, so you can play around with the system without a significant financial investment and then determine whether the ads are worth continuing or scaling.
Regardless of whether you pursue advertising on Facebook, it’s still a good idea to practice regular community building on your most relevant social platforms. Engaging with your current and potential future customers on social media is one of the best ways to build loyalty, and you don’t need to pay for advertising to do it.