EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 292 - August 07, 2011 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 5

Another Way to Drive Customers: Social Advertising for Online Sellers

By Kristin Mattera

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If eBay's mission is to connect buyers and sellers, then Facebook and other social networks are additional tools that can connect you with potential buyers. While many sellers recognize the importance of providing as many details as possible in listings in order to optimize the chance of a buyer seeing an item, there are other ways to make a listing or store seen by a potential customer, such as social advertising.

When it comes to ad buying, the main questions are:

  • Who are you targeting?
  • Where are you targeting? i.e., Where are your customers?
  • When will you schedule the ads? i.e., Is there a time of year, a season or event that impacts when your customers would buy?

There are steps that every person goes through when making a buying decision. Google and other forms of search focus on the "Interest" or "Discovery" part of the customer decision journey. A potential buyer has an idea of what he or she wants, and is actively looking for it utilizing keywords. Facebook offers a targeted approach to reaching potential customers, by advertising based on interest and not search. This allows an advertiser to reach both a person who may not have figured out they have a need, and the person who may know what they want.

Google Adwords is based on what a person is searching; Facebook is based on "who" someone is. Like traditional forms of media buying, advertising works best when it is directed at a targeted audience. Who is your customer? What are they like? What is gender breakdown of buyers? Are they from one geographic area, or are they found all over the United States? What are their passions?

Facebook allows advertisers, big and small, to leverage its most valuable information to reach people - who they are. Ads can be targeted based on:

  • Location - city, state/province, and country;
  • Age - ranging from 13 to 64;
  • Gender;
  • Relationship - single, in a relationship, engaged, married;
  • Education;
  • Workplaces;
  • Interests - both broad and specific.

For interests, advertisers can type in specific terms, which can be useful for niche markets. Instead of simply using "cars" which runs the gamut from general interest to a kids movie, using "Mopar" would reach a more select audience. The same goes for records. Type in "vinyl" and Facebook also suggests terms such as "Vinyl Solution Records," "Collecting Vinyl Records," and "I Love Vinyl Records."

To the right of the terms, Facebook provides an Estimate Audience sidebar with a projected number of people meeting your audience profile. In the case of "Vinyl records," approximately 16,000 individuals in the U.S. list this as an interest in their Facebook profile, whereas over 800,000 people list "rock." Targeting an audience is part science, part art and a bit of "Goldilocks" - you don't want your audience to be too big or too small.

One note - Facebook interests are considered "Or" statements. The site will show an ad to someone who fits your demographic and geographic information and any of the interests listed. So you can get Men who live in the US who are over the age of 40 who like The Beatles OR The Who OR The Rolling Stones. The estimated audience number is an inclusive list of people with those interests and may contain overlaps, so its not completely exact.

What Should I Advertise on Facebook? Or "Design Your Ad"
It depends. First think of what you want to achieve. It could be selling a particular item, increasing an emailing list, or just reaching potential customers and creating awareness. Facebook allows you to advertise internally - Facebook fan pages - or through external links. This gives you the freedom to choose where a person would land after clicking an ad on the social website.

Define your goal first, then figure out where you want to send someone after they click, then write an ad that makes logical sense.

External links provide an opportunity to utilize unique urls, allowing for tagging, tracking and analytics. (For more information on tagging with Google Analytics, visit this page. Also, .eduguru has a great resource, under the Campaign URL header on this page.)

If you are listing a particular item and the landing URL is an eBay listing page, then the copy in the ad should speak about the item for sale, and include a relevant picture. People dislike it if there is too much of a disconnect between what they clicked and where they land - it will come across as a bait-and-switch or worse.

Say you want to promote your storefront - write an ad that talks about what is sold, and why people should go to your page. Always have a "call-to-action" - language that tells the reader what to do next. "Click here to learn more" is one example. An ad can't just be a statement, it needs to include a command. Don't assume someone will click unless you provide a reason to do so. Otherwise you just created a tiny billboard and a URL is unnecessary!

Log into Facebook and take a look at the ads. Which ones do you want to click, and why?

Make multiple versions of your ad and test to see which ones perform best. Try using different language or a different picture, but only make one modification, so it's a controlled experiment and you can determine which variable works better than others, optimizing your ads over time.

Campaigns, Pricing and Scheduling
One great thing for smaller businesses is that Facebook is pay-per-click and its dashboard is real-time, meaning you can monitor how much money is being spent. The ad platform also has a maximum bid function, controlling the most you are willing to pay per click. Similar to eBay, you may end up paying less than the maximum bid, but never more.

Facebook suggests a bid amount, which is impacted by the interests in the target profile, and once the ads are running, the success of the ads. If ads perform well, Facebook charges less per click, but serves them more often. If the ads aren't performing well, the ads will start increasing in price per click, and be served less frequently - so it's in both Facebook's and your best interests to have well performing ads.

To help budget funds, there is the option to have either a max daily spend amount or a lifetime budget. Do what makes sense for you, as you are the best judge of the financial realities of your business.

To avoid any accidental spending, uncheck the box "Run my campaign continuously starting today" and actually put in an end date. You can always go back once the ads are live and extend the campaign, but this avoids a "Set it and Forget It" mentality that could lead to a costly surprise.

Finally, name the ad campaign something that makes sense, especially if you are going to do several different versions over time.

Facebook provides great resources for those looking to utilize its ads, as well as an overall guide for businesses using the social network, including the following:

Facebook Advertising

Facebook Ad Help page

Facebook for Business main page

About the author:

Kristin (Kris) Mattera is a marketing and creative professional based in Boston, Massachusetts who is equal parts design, account management, and strategy. She has been active on social media for over seven years. Her experience includes being on both the client and agency side, for companies ranging from start-ups to global enterprises, in roles from creative to client services. Kris combines her passion for design, technology, marketing know-how and yoga practices to come up with unique holistic solutions for client challenges. As a social media addict, she has designed and launched her fair share of Facebook fan pages, and has also served as community and content manager, driving awareness and revenue. She can be found on LinkedIn here.

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