Peter VanRysdam / Digital Marketing / April 16th, 2008

Trying Facebook For Pay Per Click Ads, A Case Study

I’ve been a fan of www.facebook.com for awhile.  I specifically use it more for business than to keep track of friends.  I’ve friended several clients and have in turn been introduced to their coworkers, which has been a great success.  The whole time I’ve been using the site, I’ve been waiting to see how facebook would monetize itself.  Well now I know.

Sure, they have the occasional banner ad on their site, but it’s not overdone at all.  But the real money for them will come in the form of pay per click (ppc) ads.  While the ads don’t reach beyond their site like google or yahoo’s, they have something that google will never have: precision targeting.

Here’s an analogy to tell you what I mean.  Banner ads are like the atom bomb.  Effective at their goal, sure.  However there is a ton of collateral damage in the form of people outside of your target audience seeing your ad and therefore costing you money.  Google ads are more like the bombs of the Korean War or Vietnam.  They are designed to hit their target and their target only.  Would you want to be next door when one goes off?  No.

In this analogy, facebook ads are the smartbombs, capable of following you home, opening your window, and moving the curtains aside before taking you out.  At least this is my first impression as I gave it a try for the first time yesterday.

The Pros
So the pros are obviously the targets.  I was amazed at how granular you can get, but it makes sense because you tell facebook where you live, when your birthday is, where you work, and where you went to school.  So the pros are that facebook offers some of the most targeted ads around (assuming your target audience is in the facebook generation). 

In my particular case, I decided to go after employees of Microsoft.  They are far and away our largest client currently, and we’ve only scratched the surface of contacts there that can contract with us.  With their push towards Silverlight as a development environment, and our expertise there, I decided to make that my call to action.  That brings me to…

The Cons
Facebook has certainly embraced it’s tech company status.  By that I mean no live help is available anywhere, and boy did I need it.  I tried creating my ad 6 different times before getting it right.  The reason is was disapproved 5 times?  Spelling.  Or so they say.  I say Silverlight isn’t a word in their dictionary.

So after a bunch of trial and error, since I couldn’t tell for sure if that was the problem and the interface didn’t give you a live “characters remaining” count, here’s what I came up with:

352 Media Group's Facebook ad

After creating the ad, I discovered what I feel is another Con.  You can’t seem to edit the ad beyond the title.  All I see is the option to create another ad.  In going through the process 6 different times, I apparently forgot to check one option for “adding social actions to my ad.”  Now I can’t seem to add it in, though it does sound pretty cool according to their FAQ’s:

What does choosing ‘Add social actions to my ad’ do?
Social Ads leverage the actions that users take with Facebook Pages and Applications to create highly relevant promotions. If you choose to add social actions to your ad, we will attach any relevant interaction that a user’s friends have with your brand or business on Facebook as the headline for your creative. When you create your ad, you will be able to specify which Applications or Pages should contribute social interactions for your particular campaign.

What are the two versions of Social Ads?
A Sponsored Story is how a business or brand can start to promote their product or service on Facebook. This ad unit is 100% branded by the advertiser with copy and image and does not include any social actions. It can link to a Facebook Page, Application or external website. An ad directed to a Facebook Page or Application can generate social actions for future campaigns.

A Sponsored Social Story is a Sponsored Story with a user’s friends’ interactions with a Facebook Page or Application as the headline. It includes the branded image and copy from the advertiser alongside the social action.

The other Con is just a lack of real education about the system.  For example, I needed to key in some keywords, which I made Web Design.  It auto fills in the terms based on a limited set of options, but I honestly don’t get the significance of the keywords.  Does my ad only appear on pages about Web Design, and if so, where are these phantom Web Design pages on facebook?  Is it only to people that list that as a hobby?  I don’t get it.

The help says I’m shown how many potential people fall in to the categories as I pick them, but I haven’t seen that feature yet.

In the same vein, the bidding system is pretty much a shot in the dark as it is.  I am asked for my maximum PPC bid, but am given no frame of reference.  Hopefully these kinks will be worked out as the system evolves. 

I’m sure I’m not the only person dipping their toe in the water of social media advertising.  I promise to update my blog with status reports about how this tool works out.