Using Facebook’s Ad Platform

October 4th, 2010 by Chris

I recently started using Facebook’s ad platform, and while it is not without it’s faults, I like it, and I see it as powerful and definitely capable of commanding a large share of online ad spending, especially if it is improved over time.

It is fundamentally different from search engine advertising. Suppose you sell digital cameras you might place an ad on Google for “cheap digital cameras” and be confident in the knowledge that if someone searches for those keywords it is because they want to buy a cheap digital camera, perfect targetting.

Suppose, however, you sell a unique digital camera accessory, if you try to bid on generic “digital camera” keywords on Google, you’ll be vastly overpaying and will not likely achieve a positive ROI. If you bid only on your product name and variations, it may be too unique to get enough searches.

Facebook is different, you can target people based on age, gender, location, and interests. So you can target people who are interested in photography, and show them your ad.

To say it another way, search engine advertising is great for advertising products or services people know about and want. Facebook is a great way to advertise products or services people would want, but one they do not yet know exists.

You can also get a social benefit to using their ad platform, as people can “like” your ads, and thus promote them to their friends. This may have the greatest effect around Christmas.

Another example, suppose you are an author, self published perhaps, or just new and unknown. Suppose you just wrote a fantasy novel. You could advertise it to people who like Lord of the Rings, or JRR Tolkein, or The Wheel of Time, or Harry Potter. People who might like your book too, but do not yet know it exists.

There are limitations with their ad platform. Currently when you target ads based on interests they’re done using an OR modifier. You can target people who have indicated they like Harry Potter OR The Lord of the Rings. You cannot target people who have indicated they like Harry Potter AND The Lord of the Rings.

With an AND modifier you would be able to get very very specific. If you know your customers well enough you could, theoretically, get very specific and achieve highly desireable targetting. However, that is not yet a feature. For instance, if your digital camera accessory was an underwater rig of some sort you could target people who like both scuba diving and photography. Instead now, you can only do OR modifiers so you’d get photographers who hate the water and scuba divers who don’t take pictures.

Pricing seems very reasonable, in general I’m paying CPCs that are less than or equal to what I pay search engines.There is plenty of ad inventory, one one ad I’ve gotten a million page views in a week, and you can pay CPM or CPC, your choice.

There are some quirks in their ad auction software I’ve noticed. Some ads will not show anything for days or a week, and then suddenly start showing a lot. I theorize that Facebook only tentatively will show a new, unproven ad, until they can establish a baseline value for it based on CTR and whatnot. Then, once they do so, it’ll make it into the normal rotation. It is just a little inefficiency I’ve noticed which can delay the effective start of your campaign.

All told I definitely think it is worth using if you’ve not yet done so. In addition to the straight up clicks and conversions, because of the type of advertising it is, you’re also just letting people know your product exists, and they may be adding it to their birthday list or whatever, so you could get delayed sales. It won’t be for everyone, but if you’ve got a product related to a something people might “like” on Facebook, you have an opportunity for some good targetting.

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