Facebook Advertising: 3 Essential Steps To A Successful Campaign

All marketers these days want a Facebook strategy as part of their outreach mix, and pharma is no exception. Facebook is easily the largest social network, and it continues to integrate itself into users' lives on so many levels -- social, political, personal -- that at times it may seem dizzying. In addition, Facebook advertising promises unprecedented access and response, all for a fraction of the cost per acquisition of traditional media.

However, implementing a successful Facebook campaign is not as easy as it appears. While Facebook's user interface is simple, behind the scenes is a complex set of rules and algorithms that determine when, where and how an ad is served. Understanding and working within these parameters will help maximize an ad's exposure and response.

The process of placing Facebook ads can be broken down into three steps:

1. Testing and Validation
2. Creative Development
3. Sustainability

The examples in this article specifically discuss marketing for clinical trials, but this process can be applied to almost any marketing endeavor.



Testing and Validation

Before launching headlong into a Facebook campaign, test different targeting and creative strategies to calibrate response. For clients new to Facebook advertising, it's important to understand how critical it is to set aside time and budget upfront to test campaign strategy and ultimately maximize response.

Facebook offers many ways to reach a desired audience -- targeted by location, demographics (age, gender, relationship status, languages), likes and interests, education levels, and places of work. There are unique advantages to both broadening and narrowing your search. If the focus is broad, the bid is lower and the cost per click is less expensive. However, website conversion is also likely to be lower. Narrow targeting will reach fewer individuals with a higher bid and higher cost per click, but also is more likely to have a higher website conversion as the message is reaching the right audience.

Creative Development

People new to Facebook may not know that running an effective ad campaign requires many creative executions. It is not uncommon to have several hundred iterations of creative for a single Facebook campaign. The reason is simple -- if no one is clicking on the ad, Facebook will no longer serve it. Once the audience has been saturated with a creative message, new creative needs to be on deck to rotate in when response to the old ones decreases. Here are a few tips:

  • Test multiple versions of both copy and graphics to capture the target audience's attention.
  • Keep in mind that ads are competing against stories about the target's friends.
  • Ads with images of people drive higher click-through rates due to the nature of Facebook.
  • Don't over complicate the copy and images because it may negatively impact readability.

Ad Quality Score -- Your Creative Report Card

Facebook advertising can be purchased either by impressions or number of clicks on the ad. Typically, advertisers plan campaigns based on clicks. Facebook generates revenue under this model only when users click on ads, so it is in their best interest to serve ads that are more likely to be clicked. Blue Chip Patient Recruitment campaign analyses have suggested that Facebook is beginning to utilize an ad model similar to Google (Quality Score Index), which minimizes users' exposure to ads that under deliver on clicks. Ads that are clicked more frequently are in turn served more frequently. If an ad is served five to six times to the same person without a click-through, Facebook will no longer serve an ad to that person.

Producing several hundred ads may seem like a daunting task. While it does require an investment of time, there are ways to gain efficiencies. Try generating 40-50 versions of text and approximately the same number of images. The text and images can be paired together in multiple combinations. For clinical trials, work closely with the Institutional Review Board (IRB) to secure regulatory approval of all ad versions as well.


Newcomers may give up on Facebook because their ads generated a strong initial response, but quickly hit a plateau. An early Blue Chip Patient Recruitment Facebook campaign aimed to recruit participants for a multiple sclerosis study. Initially, the cost per qualified lead was $75, compared to nearly $250 from other outreach tactics, an incredibly efficient response for this patient population. Six weeks into the campaign, there was a significant dip in response, and the conversion rate increased to $200. Not only was there an insufficient number of creative executions, but several ads were no longer being served as they had reached their limits. Consequently additional creative was developed to boost response which helped reduce the cost per conversion to $110.

Marketers can make sure they hit their desired goals by monitoring clicks and impressions in real-time, and rotating the creative often, ensuring that their ad is being served frequently.

For a women's health study, Blue Chip developed a large library of creative upfront, with nearly 50 versions of text and images. The program ran for approximately one month and generated 600 pre-qualified leads to the study sites at $62 per referral -- about 75% less than the television advertising for the same study. There was no plateau in response because sufficient creative had been developed upfront and the program was continually being optimized.

This example shows how effective Facebook advertising can be. Managing Facebook advertising campaigns requires a lot of time, oversight, analysis and attention to detail. But if executed properly it's a strategy that pharma will learn to "Like" for a long time to come.

1 comment about "Facebook Advertising: 3 Essential Steps To A Successful Campaign ".
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  1. Lauren Poeta from Maiden Media Group, June 30, 2011 at 12:56 p.m.

    Creating an effective Facebook campaign can be difficult and time consuming-this article really included some helpful information in terms of ad score, creative development and sustainability. It is very important to pay attention to detail and create many different ads to see which one grabs the most followers. Luckily Facebook has made it easy to target audiences and gauge the effectiveness of each ad by its clicks. Analyzing this makes adjusting your campaign much simpler. Although something may initially seem to generate a response, it is easy to hit a plateau - constantly staying up to date is important. Maiden Media Group created a special strategy to make sure each post is valuable and ads are interesting. Check out how we implemented our own social media strategy at

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