Self-Help With Self-Service Ads

The self-service ad model may not be the secret to Facebook's future fortunes, but it presents marketers with some largely untapped opportunities for reaching the most precisely targeted audiences online.

If you talk to Facebook's users about advertising, you'll hear a number of criticisms. Some say it's brash or irrelevant. Many others don't notice it at all. I'd expect many consumers wouldn't even think of the best ads as advertising, such as those ads for TV show or movie premieres on the homepage where you RSVP if you're going. Some of the worst problems with the site's advertising have been minimized, such as those in my musings last summer on Facebook's 'Jewhavioral' targeting and overly personal weight loss ads.

Forrester's Marketing Forum last month provided me with an excuse to run another ad trial, as I demoed the platform to an attendee during a break and wound up creating a live campaign. I was covering the event as a blogger (read the roundup), so I had something to offer. Here are a few things I learned in the process. You can view screen shots from the campaign on Flickr or SlideShare.

  • Facebook self-service ads remain as easy as ever to create. While I can't say my ad copy was perfectly written, putting up something passable took all of a few minutes. There have been few changes since the service launched.

  • The targeting options such as Keywords and Workplaces allow precise ways to reach consumers volunteering this information. I had the campaign target people working at Forrester Research, which brought up about 400 people in the United States. Most advertisers won't want to cast such narrow nets, but the option's there.

  • Creating similar ads is also a cinch. I used this feature to create five versions, all of which are shown on Flickr and SlideShare. These include ads targeting Forrester's competitors, and one targeting Forrester employees in the Netherlands.

  • Expect low CPMs. Recommended bids ranged from 30 cents to 46 cents. I set my bids significantly higher since I was targeting fewer than 1,500 people through the various versions of the ads. I tried entering various other keywords and targeting options and couldn't find anything higher than 50 cents. More precise targeting does not lead to higher recommended bids.

  • The actual CPM after a week was 60 cents across the campaign. If Facebook is able to reach its $5 billion valuation, it's not coming from advertisers like me.

  • The performance was underwhelming, with a 0.25% click-through rate. That could be the fault of the ads. One ad targeted to Forrester employees where I used a better image reached a 0.60% CTR. I also know at least one of the clicks came from the analyst Jeremiah Owyang, who was featured in that ad. Moral: people will click ads with their own picture in it. But do that too much and you're probably going to creep out everyone who sees it. Fortunately that targeting's not offered by Facebook directly, though some application ad networks can pull in profile pictures.

    After going through the process as an advertiser, I'm reminded of how relevant the advertising can be for consumers. Advertisers know a lot about me from the site, and they can infer a lot more. Fans of "30 Rock," Christopher Guest movies, and Jonathan Safran Foer books living in New York probably would welcome hearing about restaurants in the city's theater district. The cost of testing these ads is negligible; for around $15, I amassed over 25,000 impressions, which is plenty of information should I choose to use it for another campaign.

    Self-service ads won't be the best option for running a major branding campaign on Facebook. The engagement ads on the homepage serve that purpose. With this kind of targeting, though, I'll fork over that quarter per click when there's a reason to reach a segment of Facebook's audience.

  • 2 comments about "Self-Help With Self-Service Ads ".
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    1. Ed Vasquez from ejv communications, May 5, 2009 at 5 p.m.

      That's about .25 cents per click. What were your conversion rates? We've tried FB advertising and are not sold on it yet. It's nearly impossible to get the attention of visitors thus the low CPM and high click/conversion charge. Google PPC still has the best results even with inferior targeting vs. FB.

    2. Paul Ashby, May 8, 2009 at 4:48 a.m.

      The suits come to Social Media. Now that’s the kiss of death!

      Advertising Agencies, having all but destroyed a perfectly good Old Media are set to do the same with Social Media!
      In the fickle world of online chatter, yesterday’s achingly fashionable meeting points are rapidly acquiring the appearance of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s’ headquarters.
      Already Twitter, becoming bogged down with fake PR tweets as well as fake advertising tweets, so much so that already the kids dismiss it as tired! And are moving on.
      As soon as the buzz of innovation starts to fade the “cool” but influential people move on quicker than you can send a tweet.
      Take Commercial Television,agencies were salivating at the prospect of commercial television and couldn't wait to get in on the act! Advertising Agencies are loath to change a medium that is to them, a money-spinner. Despite the fact that it was non-accountable.
      And now Agencies are rushing onto Social Media ignoring the fact that, as in the past, people don’t want their advertising in whatever form. The difference here is that they can easily move away from advertising, you have only to look at the experience of Second Life, that was to be advertising’s salvation. That’s why the early adopters have moved on! And be warned, they still don't know how to monitize the Internet..but we do!
      Once “The Ad Man” gatecrashes the party and corporate marketers are inevitably a long way down the adoption curve – the kudos rapidly evaporates.
      This explains why the assumed valuations of social media companies are often built on greater financial chicanery that Bernie Madoff’s tax return.
      In to-day’s market whatever supposed “next big thing” our digital culture favors in any moment faces an ever more accelerated journey to oblivion!

      Because ad agencies still don’t understand it – we will not take delivery of your commercial messages – we never have and never will!

      However we can create programs where your advertisement becomes a valuable source of information – with surprising ROI results - & there’s more.

      Read "Television Killed Advertising" it will show you how advertising has failed us and more...much more.

      It's all in my book "Television Killed Advertising" plus how clients can make their own "Social Media" environment and become very successful on the Internet. Together with the fact that you learn the real meaning of the word "communication". Want to learn more? contact me @

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