I’ve been getting quite a few questions lately about Facebook advertising as a viable option for affiliate marketers so I wanted to address it and give you guys an idea of how it works, what I like about it, and whether it’s a good place to spend your advertising budget.
What is Facebook Advertising?
For the most part, Facebook advertising should look familiar to any current or former AdWords marketers. You create an ad, choose your demographic and bid on ads at a per-click rate. There are some major differences, however.
To start with, Facebook ads are based much more on the demographic of your potential prospect than on keywords. With AdWords, you can choose location and a handful of local characteristics, but for the most part, you’re bidding on those long tail phrases. With Facebook, you’re betting largely on the profile of the prospects to which you’re showing ads.
In the targeting section where you create a new ad, you can choose your location – down to the city in which you live, the age range, the sex, specific likes or interests that appear on their profiles, specific groups or events to which they are connected, birthdays, sexual interest, relationship status, language, education, and even their workplace (phew!)
In short, you can use any piece of public data on a prospect’s profile to determine if they see your ad. That’s some serious power. But it’s also some serious research. Facebook ads are not inherently cheaper because they are not on Google. You won’t find the $5 per click quality scoring black holes, but you will also find $.50-$1 per click averages for a lot of age groups. So, I recommend you spend a lot of time on sites like Quantcast and Compete.com learning who your ideal prospect is and narrowing them down.
If you’re worried about narrowing down too much, there’s a nifty sidebar that shows you exactly how many people will see your ad based on your criteria. Right now, for example, there are 1.4 million people in New Zealand over the age of 18. This is an estimate but often it is very close to accurate.
Starting an Ad Campaign
When you create your ad campaign on Facebook, you can choose to pay per impression instead of per click. Just like with AdWords, per click advertising is always better, but only if it is properly targeted. For affiliate marketers, mass impressions just don’t work. I’ve seen profitable Facebook campaigns succeed with CTRs of 0.15%. If you had a CTR that low and were paying per impression, you would likely lose money. Like any rule there are exceptions, but PPC is definitely the way to go.
When creating your ad, you obtain slightly more options than you do for Google’s ad network. The title and body text are familiar, but you can also choose an image to go with your ad, and I absolutely recommend you do. Images in Facebook ad copy increase click through rates greatly and from what I can tell, even boost conversion rates on the other side of the ad.
I’ve seen a number of recommendations for how to use that image space. Some marketers suggest you place an image of something desirable to your prospect. Others try to be funny or eye catching. I personally like the idea of placing an image of a person in that space. It is Facebook and inherently most users are on the site looking for people, information about people, or ways to connect with people. Whatever the product is, if you can obtain an image of an actual person using it or benefiting from it, the results are better. This is not universal of course, so use your judgment as to which image works best.
While 135 characters is quite a bit for ad copy, I recommend you limit how much you write. Users are accustomed to short ads. Google and Yahoo! provide only 70 characters to convey your body copy – keep that as an imaginary limit and your message will be sharper and to the point.
Facebook’s Advertising Guidelines
The last thing I should mention is how specific Facebook’s advertising rules are. In the past, I’ve heard complaints about repeated ad rejections. More so than Google, Facebook is very strict about what you place on user profiles. There are a number of specific offers that violate Facebook’s rules including anything weapon related, tobacco, gambling, contests, money making opportunities, adult content, surveillance equipment, online colleges without accreditation, and pretty much anything that is negative toward another person.
There are some exceptions to these rules, especially for money making and contests where Facebook will provide waivers if you petition them directly, but for the most part, I recommend you read the Facebook advertising guidelines before posting an ad. The worst that can happen is it gets rejected, but you probably don’t want to waste time preparing a campaign only to have it canned.
Is Facebook Advertising Worthwhile?
Two years ago, I probably would have recommended you steer clear of social media advertising. The medium was untested and the income unfounded. Today, things are a little different. Not only has PPC advertising on Google only gotten more expensive and less forgiving, Facebook ads have become more sophisticated in their delivery.
Unfortunately, with distribution continuing to expand, so too have the prices on Facebook. Two years ago, you could advertise to any demographic for less than $0.30/click. Today, if you’re not very specific about who you want to see your ad, it could cost you as much as $1/click.
In the end, it comes down to what you will gain on Facebook that you could not gain on Google. If you are selling a product that is inherently social – such as restaurant coupons, clothing, or dance lessons, Facebook’s audience is prepped to think exactly as you want them to think. Remember that you won’t pay for any impressions that don’t convert to clicks. In my observations, CTRs are generally lower on Facebook, regardless of the niche, but when properly targeted, conversions can be boosted effectively.
If I were to name the number one advantage of using Facebook, it would be the demographic targeting of potential prospects – there are so many ways to do it, giving you unprecedented control over who sees your ad. On the other hand, if demographics don’t matter and your sales are driven more by understanding what people need and want (through keywords), Facebook is limited in a lot of ways and with CPC rising, making a substantial profit can be hard.
So, how should you approach Facebook advertising?
First, make sure you limit your initial budget. Second, split test your ads frequently. I know you already do this, but for a Facebook campaign, do it more. The science here is largely untested – you’ll be doing your own analysis. Finally, if it doesn’t work, don’t keep pouring money in. For a lot of niches, Facebook is not the ideal platform. Yes, it can be profitable, but it won’t always be profitable. Know when it’s time to cut the cord and go back to traditional search PPC.