Facebook Advertising: No Silver Bullet

It's official -- in case you didn't know already. Facebook is massive. The social networking giant says it expects membership worldwide to top 200 million by the end of March. What's more, a new Nielsen report says the total time people spent on Facebook globally increased by an incredible 566% between December 2007 and December 2008.

Many savvy brand marketers have already made forays into Facebook marketing and advertising, and these new figures will likely tip many more over the fence. It seems like every company and brand has a Facebook Page these days, is urging their CEO to post status updates, and is racing to attract profile friends and fans. But few companies have yet to find the magic formula that delivers measurable brand value.

While some brands have been encouraged by the impact their Facebook Pages, apps, and promotions have had, recent industry reports paint a gloomy picture for the effectiveness of more traditional social network display advertising. A late November study from IDC found that, because people are engaged in specific tasks on social networks (updating their status message, uploading photos, sending party invitations etc.), they have little interest in clicking on display ads during these sessions.

In fact, just 57% of consumers on social networks have clicked on a display ad or equivalent, while 79% of Internet-wide consumers had on classic content sites outside the big networks. Even more disappointing for marketers considering spending hard media dollars for social network display advertising: social network consumers make fewer purchases as a result of clicking on an ad by about half, compared to Internet-wide consumers.

Paid advertising on Facebook may soon become more effective, however. Facebook recently announced upgrades to its ad-serving technology platform and audience targeting capabilities, allowing advertisers an even wider range of demo, geo, and even psychographic targeting options. Second, Facebook's unique Engagement Ads provide a more interactive and flexible ad creative unit to the agencies and advertisers seeking more than simply a classic click.

But you don't need to buy an ad on Facebook to reap the branding benefits of the world's largest social network. For many brands and companies looking to take their first step into Facebook, launching a free brand page is a great start.

When you launch your brand's Page, make sure to follow a few tried-and-true tips to make sure your brand comes across as relevant. (Facebook is helping a bit in this department by rolling out a new brand page format which more closely resembles regular user profile pages.) Anyone can start a page, but it takes an effort and continual stewardship of the Pages' content to connect with a growing base of fans. First, build your fan base by giving people an incentive to join your Page. Post relevant content, funny anecdotes, and special promotions that will keep fans coming back - and encourage them to recommend your fan page to friends. The best brand Pages let fans upload photos and videos, offer entertaining updates and content, and engage people in personal conversations about why they love these products.

As you're establishing your brand's Page content and fan base, start joining other groups and become a fan of related product and services pages. The best way to do this is to set up a dedicated user profile within Facebook aligned with a key company executive or marketing team lead. As that person demonstrates committment to other pages and related groups, your brand will become more visible throughout Facebook, more Facebook traffic will come to your own brand's Page and, hopefully, more people will become fans.

Your Facebook marketing strategy will remain a work-in-progress for some time; many companies and brand marketers are actively experimenting with a mix of branded Pages and groups, paid display and engagement ads, virtual gifts, custom-built Facebook applications, sponsorships, and the like. While there isn't a "silver bullet" to getting Facebook marketing right, the most successful brands to date have implemented a multi-faceted strategy combing free Pages and paid media placements that go a long way toward building customer engagement, boosting brand awareness, and encouraging more Facebook users to become paying customers.

2 comments about "Facebook Advertising: No Silver Bullet".
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  1. Michael Mcmahon from ROI Factory / Quick Ops, March 25, 2009 at 11:51 a.m.

    Much has been written about Facebook being a weak advertising environment, but I have to disagree, based on tests we've run using Facebook's basic ad unit. While clickthrough rates were lower than traditional banner or search ads, pricing is on a CPC basis, so clickthrough rate is irrelevant. In fact, given the low CTRs, we found there is a great opportunity to get massive reach for branding impressions at prices well below $0.50 CPMs. And the recent targeting improvements will only help improve overall efficiency.

    We have posted the first of a series of articles on Facebook advertising containing REAL data and results in our blog, The Dogfood Chronicles. Check it out at

  2. Steve Fawthrop from Exacta Media, March 29, 2009 at 9 p.m.

    While there are many ways to approach social media, as noted, in the article, every marketer has to first realize that social media was not originally built as an environment to host basic advertising and commercial messages. That is evolving and site users realize it. Still, how a builds their image or creates a dialogue has to be respectful of the community. It also has to be done with flexibility to adjust to community desires, not the ideal objective of the advertiser.

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