Does Facebook Advertising Work for Small Businesses?

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Last week, we talked about traditional print advertising and if it still made sense for small businesses. Our answer? Like everything else in marketing and advertising, it depends. Facebook logoIt depends on a variety of factors, and the same is true for Facebook. While some of the factors are the same for both print ads and Facebook ads, there are enough differences that we thought Facebook advertising deserved its own post.

Not to mention that Facebook advertising has come under increased scrutiny thanks to Facebook’s IPO and the announcement that GM was abandoning its ten-million-dollar Facebook advertising campaign because the company claimed the ads didn’t work. Which brings us to our first point. [Editor’s note: during the drafting of this blog post, some reports surfaced that GM might try giving Facebook advertising another shot.]

1. Comparing yourself to GM is an apples/oranges comparison. It’s easy to think, “Well, if it didn’t work for GM, how will it work for me?” One thing that is important to note is that larger companies have different advertising products available to them. At the writing of this post, small businesses (i.e. those spending less than $25,000 a month [that’s not a typo] on Facebook advertising) have self-serve ads and sponsored stories. Bigger companies have log-out ads, mobile advertising, and within-the-newsfeed ads (all considered premium ad products). By contrast, with the self-serve ads, you can have a budget as little as $1/day. And, of course, your “success” relates to this number, at least somewhat. Which brings us to our next point.

2. Determine your definition of success. GM, which has much deeper pockets than the average small business, is probably looking for a more specific ROI. In your case, you might decide to run ads for a finite period (such as a month) in order to boost your fan base. You might succeed spectacularly at picking up 200 new fans for $50. A company like GM is probably looking for something much more significant than that. (Which is why it’s an apples/oranges comparison.)

3. Understand the difference between sales and likes—and the value each has to your business. With Facebook ads, you can send people to a destination URL off Facebook, such as a product page where people can place an order right then and there. Or you can send them to a tab on your Facebook business page that entices them to like your page. Or you might do some sort of hybrid version—perhaps the ad you run sends people to tab on  your Facebook page where you invite them to fill out a form for a free product demo…they’re surrendering their information, so now you can consider them a warm lead.

There’s value to all three.

Getting fans is not a bad long-term strategy since studies show that fans of brands are more likely to buy from that brand or recommend that brand to friends/family. Immediate sales, of course, are always welcome and great for your bottom line. And getting lead info that you or your sales team can follow up on is also beneficial. You have to know which is the most valuable for the particular campaign you’re running. In other words, don’t get upset if you land 50 new fans but no sales if your ads were focusing on getting people to like your page. The sales will likely come over time (provided you have an engaging page and a strategy for engaging fans—but that’s a subject for another blog post).

4. You won’t know unless you experiment. The beauty of Facebook advertising is you set the budget…and the budget can be economical, as we stated above. You can run multiple ads under the same ad campaign budget, so you can test and see which ad works best and then use that as your main ad. You can stop campaigns at any time, or lengthen or shorten them. There’s so much flexibility that it makes sense to try it.

The AllFacebook Marketing Conference, held in June, had an interesting panel discussion with marketing experts who agreed that Facebook advertising can work, if it’s done right and if you give it time (some on the panel noted that GM gave up too soon on its Facebook marketing).

5. Don’t forget the benefits of advertising on your page once someone is already a fan. You could think of your Facebook advertising as a two-prong approach. Use ads to increase your fan base. Then, post the occasional ad as a status update to spur action. Here’s an interesting case study that goes into detail on this strategy. Also, when a fan likes or comments on a status update, there’s a chance his or her friends will see this activity in their newsfeeds, thanks to Facebook’s organic promotion. Plus, you now have the ability to promote your posts so that you can make sure more of your fan base sees the update. Learn the ins and outs of promoted posts in this helpful article from HubSpot.

Bottom line with Facebook advertising: do your homework (check out this article from Wildfire for some good tips on creating ads). Experiment. Give it time. And, quite possibly, rinse, lather, and repeat. The good news is that even running a few different campaigns (ones you improve upon each time) won’t break the bank.

How about you? Have you done any Facebook advertising? What was your experience like? Share in the results.

Oh, and be sure to like Amsterdam Printing on Facebook as well. :)

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