Ad Age and Citibank have been surfacing interesting insights from their recent survey of marketer and agency sentiment about investing in Facebook. According to the study, building awareness is the top Facebook goal for marketers:
“Asked to identify their primary goal in Facebook ads, 45.9% of respondents put building awareness and sentiment for their brands at the top. Driving traffic to brand websites was the second most-cited goal, with 17.6% of respondents saying it is their most important objective, followed by building fans or likes, staying in touch with customers, generating sales leads and social commerce.”
These stats are interesting, but worthy of a little more context based on our experience working with Facebook Ads.
First, Facebook Ads, thus far, have proven to work best toward top- and middle-of-funnel marketing goals. Therefore, the fact that brand-building is the top goal is not surprising. And considering that high-volume media buying typically happens through agencies, and probably most Facebook Ads spending is coming (and is likely to come) from brand budgets (versus direct response), it makes sense that any reallocation of media investment from existing brand budgets into Facebook will orient toward branding goals.
Our experience also confirms that, in addition to building awareness, top advertiser goals include acquiring fans and driving engagement (such as driving Likes). Indeed, successful advertising post-click behavior most often happens within Facebook, not outside. And that is why we see so many click-through destinations of ads remain native, inside Facebook, to apps or pages. If you were to bucket these engagement activities, the survey’s second most cited goal -- of driving traffic to websites outside of Facebook -- would be less significant from a ranking perspective.
Given the workflow challenges inherent in more sophisticated Facebook advertising opportunities, it makes sense that simpler awareness goals with conventional Facebook Ads would dominate these early days of social ads. For example, Sponsored Stories, which have very high impact on engagement, demand dynamic coordination between content, fan connections and media buying. This is a prime example of the inextricable link between paid, owned and earned media. However, as marketers and their agencies become more sophisticated and integrated in their approach, they’ll increasingly pursue more engagement goals and Sponsored Story tactics.
Moreover, Facebook’s own strong positioning and promotion of Sponsored Stories and engagement goals will drive more attention and behavior in that
Finally, as ROI tracking systems mature, providing greater visibility into the connection between ad investment and purchase outcome, we'll inevitably see large brand marketers and their agencies migrate goals not only toward engagement, but also performance and transactions. We're likely to see this with the looming Facebook Exchange, which provides better targeting of Facebook Ads inventory based on behavior and intent observed elsewhere on the Web.
There's a bit of irony in all of this. Performance online marketers with direct-response goals were among the first to colonize Facebook advertising opportunities. With testing and habituation, more mainstream brand marketers began to enter the fray and become a larger and larger presence. And while their early goals were focused on awareness, they are the ones who will mature and redirect goals increasingly back to performance.