The Real Problem with Facebook Ads isn’t the Ads, it’s the Advertisers

When GM pulled their Facebook ads last month, it caused a lot of talk about the lack of confidence people have in their platform. When you plunk down $10,000 a month, you expect to make back at least $10,000.

What advertisers STILL don’t seem to understand, after all these years of exposure to social networks, is that nobody goes on them to buy things. If anything, people go to Facebook and Twitter for “me time.” Few people are going to leave their “me time” to click on a link to Verizon just because the link is there.

It’s like if television never had commercials, but instead all commercials happened on their own channel. How many people would ever leave the show they were watching just to tune into the 24 Hour Commercial Channel? My guess is about as many people who click on ads on Facebook.

Since this is the case, trying to use the same conversion point on a Facebook ad as, say, a paid search ad, is ludicrous. People who perform a search are looking for something specific, some problem to be solved, and if the paid ad is relevant and brings people to a product or service that helps them, they will “convert” – that is, buy something.

Facebook Ad Revenues Worldwide, 2011-2014

People don’t go to Facebook with a need or problem, though. Ads trying to sell goods must count not only on reaching people who are their target market, but happen to catch them at just that moment the ad will appeal to them. For example, someone might be the right fit for buying a car this year, but for the ad to turn into a sale, it needs to be seen by that person during those few days they are actually looking at cars and car financing. Facebook still can’t target ads¬†that well.

So really, the definition of what makes a successful social network ad needs to be changed. On Facebook, it is much easier to convince someone to Like your Fan Page than to get them to immediately part with their money. Using ads to increase fan count would be a much saner way to grade Facebook Advertising: How many new eyeballs does your content get as a result of your ads?

Then it’s up to your Fan Page to land the sales, or at least get traffic to your site. If your content is compelling enough, people will click through to see more. In that way, the Fan Page becomes what Facebook always intended it to be: A company landing page, on Facebook.

Paid seach ads work (or don’t) based on a number of factors: If the keywords for the campaign are relevant to the product, if the ad copy is compelling enough to get a click, if the landing page entices people to click on the “buy now” button, and if the user experience of the site’s store encourages people to complete a sale.

The rules for Facebook are very different, but people keep trying to apply the same rules: Impressions, clicks, conversions, sales. What’s different here aren’t the tools, it’s the audience.

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3 comments

    1. Thanks!

      What’s funny is Facebook does seem to get how their traffic is different, even if advertisers don’t. That’s why their ads now include how many of your friends liked something, or commented on something else. For a Toyota dealership just trying to get people down for a test drive, I can see where they’d think that was useless information – but only because they still have an “Old Media” view of how advertising should work.

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