I’ve often heard people say that social media advertising is a waste of money, as social media users are predominantly catching up on news and seeing what their friends ate for lunch, rather than actively looking to buy goods or services. Although there’s an element of truth to this, there’s still a place for social media advertising.
Contrast this with traditional Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising methods such as Google AdWords and Bing Ads, where the searcher is actively looking to buy (depending on the keywords used). As a result, it’s far easier to gauge intent with PPC advertising.
In reality, it’s unfair to compare these two very different advertising methods, as they operate in completely opposite ends of the funnel.
Facebook is a great platform for businesses looking to increase their brand recognition, increasing awareness and spurring interest. Facebook also has an excellent form of an ad, that can be very cost-effective, which is called a “conversion” ad.
In this form of an ad, you only pay the Facebook advertising costs when your ad “converts” ie when the user performs the desired action such as making an online purchase, contacting your business etc.
The difficulty with a Facebook conversion, as illustrated in the opening statement, people generally aren’t looking to buy goods and services whilst browsing Facebook.
It’s all about the sales funnel!
That’s where the funnel comes in. Facebook Ads generally target users towards the top of the sales funnel. That is users that are in the awareness or discovery phase of the funnel. In the example of people looking to buy a TV, these users are generally researching TVs, trying to find out the major brands and features to learn more. This top of the funnel phase is where social media advertisers operate. This, however, makes Facebook conversion tracking tricky. Very few social media users will convert instantly, that is, they won’t click the Facebook ad and then buy right away.
How do you calculate a conversion then?
As we previously established, Facebook ads are generally used at the top of the buying cycle, and it may take several weeks before the user flows down the funnel and is actually ready to buy. The question is, how do we track a conversion then?
Facebook has a piece of code called a pixel, that tracks the user’s interaction between Facebook and your website. It has a 28-day post-click attribution window. That is, any click from a Facebook ad that converts in 4 weeks is recognised by Facebook as a conversion. You can read more about the difference between Facebook and Google conversion calculations here.
How does this compare with AdWords?
Much of AdWords’ success has been attributed to intent. It’s really focused at the bottom of the funnel actions. That is searchers that are firmly entrenched in the buying cycle. Through detailed keyword research, it’s relatively easy to determine the searcher’s intent. Search terms such as “cheap TVs Sydney” or “best price 48 inch OLED TV” is very specific and has buying intent.
As you can see, these searchers are past the point of informational research and are close to buying. They’re clearly in the Intent or more likely the Purchase stage of the funnel.
So, as we see Facebook ads operate very differently to Google AdWords. Facebook Ads are great for building brand recognition and alliance for your business. Also, once this recognition exists, Facebook Ads are more likely to convert. Take the example used above, if Samsung is advertising OLED TVs on Facebook, and the buyer is actively looking to buy a TV, they’ve probably come across Samsung TVs through research or exposure in general and those ads may convert. However, if there’s an ad from TV manufacturer TCL that the buyer hasn’t heard of, it’s very unlikely to convert.
AdWords, on the other hand, lets you run very specific ads that are listed above (and below) the organic Google search results and is ideal for those users who are ready to buy and know what they are looking for.
One harsh truth is that neither AdWords nor Facebook Ads are cheap. Advertising constitutes the cash cows for both organisations. In some industries, the cost per click can be upwards of $50!
Paid online advertising is often a great option for businesses, and there’s often a great return on investment with a well-managed ad campaign.