The battle between businesses and Facebook has been an interesting one for online marketers to be in the middle of, particularly on the advertising side of the business. Recently, we were blindsided by a notification from Facebook that some of the main advertising groups used to create audiences for ads would be restricted or removed from use. Determining factors such as job title, education, employer and field of study were to be removed in a knee-jerk reaction after these avenues were used to target people with extremist beliefs.
We, along with many other advertisers, rely on these options to help create the most relevant campaigns for our clients and were frustrated with yet another way that Facebook was making it difficult for businesses to reach their audiences. I can only assume that their biggest advertisers were frustrated as well, because the decision was quickly reversed with the top 5,000 professions used in advertising on Facebook added back to the advertising platform.
Facebook Advertising Has Led to Some Unintended Consequences
Facebook used to be a platform where a business could make an impact with thoughtful strategy and quality content. No advertising needed. It was THE BEST ‘free advertising’ platform around. This forced marketers to think organically when it came to growth rather than relying on dollars spent to bring a return. It also required businesses to work their digital marketing team into their everyday operations and conversations with clients and customers. This was the only real way to continue to see growth on a platform and to this day, a strategy that includes online and offline connection to social media works best.
The addition of Facebook advertising has led many marketers to rely heavily on, and sometimes solely on, the money spent to bring a return, with little or no attention to the organic posts as part of a strategy. It has created a situation in which business owners believe this is the only effort that needs to be put forth to grow their reach or following on social media, leaving their most valuable audience asset, their current customers and cheerleaders, out of the plan. Word of mouth through social media is still very valuable, and reminding clients of that is paramount. Reviews are great, but nothing beats seeing a friend boasting about the fabulous service they received from you in their timeline.
Facebook Advertising Roadblocks
Over time, once Facebook made it virtually impossible for businesses to rank in people’s timelines and reach anyone that wasn’t already following them, they also started tweaking their oh-so-easy targeting options on the platform. As well as their standards for images. In theory, things are always moving at Facebook to make the experience most enjoyable for users (and most profitable for Facebook). So, anything, even that for which they are being paid that threatens, is subject to scrutiny and changes on a whim.
For instance, when we took on advertising for a waxing business who wanted a theme of summer and beaches, it stood to reason that we would use images of people enjoying the beach IN BATHING SUITS. However, when said image was used, with the health and tastefulness of the photo subject in mind, Facebook said, ‘No.’ The reason being that it could promote negative body image. I pushed back, suggesting that the image in question did not represent an unhealthy body or provocative content, so what was up with this? I was told that parts of people’s bodies (i.e. legs for leg waxing) could not be focused upon. The entire body must be shown. The example I was given was that a dentist could not advertise photos of just teeth. A. Dentist. Could. Not. Advertise. Teeth. What? This was, as you can guess, one of the most frustrating moments of my career.
Facebook Advertising is Still a Productive Resource, Particularly for Small Businesses
When it comes to Facebook advertising, there are still mysteries, but they are good at what they do. With a variety of options to suit any goal or type of ad that a business might want, they have the corner on the market for ease of use and results. Just like back in the good ol’ days before advertising, it is still about building trust and that takes time. The results don’t come overnight. Three months of seeing ads in their timeline, in their articles, in their mobile apps is the threshold that leads users to start to trust you as an advertiser. It seems counterintuitive that anyone would ‘trust’ someone just because of an ad they see over and over again, but the familiarity of it is what makes the difference. Businesses like ours and larger advertisers are really starting to take Facebook (as well as Google) to task for not making it easier to see direct returns from digital marketing and online advertising, and this will keep getting better.
When Should a Business Expect to See Returns from Facebook Advertising?
I’ll say this more than once; it differs for everyone, but there is a pattern we can see when there are several factors in play. With consistency in message, branding, and audience, after three months an advertiser will begin to see a difference in people interacting with their ads. Within six months, and again with a consistent message, brand, and audience, they will begin to see a bigger shift to conversions. This is not the same for everyone, but in our experience there is a tipping point that occurs when everything is working together; meaning that a solid brand with a website (including SEO and blogging), as well as email marketing, organic social media, advertising, and hustle from business owners, can create a tipping point right at that six-month mark.
Digital marketing and online advertising have advantages when the audience is clearly defined and the message is consistent (as well as correct). More changes are on the horizon that will complicate things even further. Working with a partner who has experience can save a lot of unnecessary frustration and confusion, in some cases even despair for business owners for whom digital advertising is a necessity. Our team can work with you to help you reach your own tipping point. Schedule a phone consultation to get started!
My first love is writing and my true passion is helping others, whether it be in business, personally or through community organizations. I have an affinity for many forms of media, particularly film and television, and write about both. I am a geek for social media, analytics and generally anything marketing or advertising related (particularly in the digital realm).