With all of the recent changes to Facebook’s Advertising Platform, is it still a place where business owners and social media managers should spend their hard-earned marketing dollars to grow their brands online?

The answer is yes.

Read on to learn why.

Facebook has represented a bit of a love-hate relationship for business owners and social media managers like you over the years, and it’s no wonder: Facebook reinvents itself (for better or worse) so often that it’s hard to keep up.

But this year Facebook moved the goalposts again, announcing some big changes to the platform that meant another shift in strategy for those using Facebook ads to grow their brands on social.

This most recent change came as a result of the global “Facebook/Cambridge Analytica” scandal, where Cambridge Analytica was caught collecting the “personally identifiable information of up to 87 million Facebook users” and using it “to attempt to influence voter opinion on behalf of politicians who hired them” (Wiki), related to suspected Russian involvement in the 2016 US Federal Election.

In response, Facebook “pledged to make reforms in Facebook policy to prevent similar breaches” (ClixMarketing). Some of those changes included “the removal of third-party audience categories, as well as the elimination of reach numbers and audience insights for custom audiences” (Clix).

In this case third-party data includes “things like income, active credit card user, consumer electronics high spenders, vacation travelers” etcetera (39celsius). Facebook’s full updated Terms can be found here.

So is the relationship between brand managers and Facebook finally over?

Not even close.

News outlets have since reported that the global “social media ad spend [would still] overtake TV’s in spite of Facebook woes”, and that the “Cambridge Analytica scandal [was] unlikely to diminish [the Facebook] sector’s dominance,” (eMarketer).

Further, “despite the removal of third-party data, Facebook still retains a wide range of targeting capabilities, including interest targeting, custom audiences, and lookalikes…Thankfully, lookalike targeting is still available” (Clix).

“Advertisers and digital marketers on the social network will soon need to find new ways to work around more restricted access to user data from Facebook” (Brand24), but there are work-arounds. That said, as the new policies are focused primarily on electoral and “issue-based” ads and ads run by “large Pages”, most social media managers won’t notice anything has changed when building their next campaign.

39celsius says that from their experience, “these changes that Facebook is making to the ad platform through 2018 will affect mostly the larger advertisers who were able to profit from this very tight and specific segmentations…if you’re an advertiser spending in your local market (a city or some miles around your business) you will not be significantly affected by these changes.”

In fact, business owners and brand managers should likely be more concerned with the earlier announcement by Facebook about changes to the News Feed:

News Feed: Meaningful Conversations are Paramount

“Per Zuckerberg’s post, the goal of the News Feed is moving from “helping you find relevant content” to enabling those meaningful social experiences I mentioned before. As such, the litany of posts from news outlets and the brands you love (or love to hate) whose content you passively consume will be usurped by updates from your friends, family, and groups…Facebook will now push content to the top of your News Feed that its algorithms predict will spark meaningful “back-and-forth discussion” (Wordstream).

We can infer from that change, then, that some restrictions may be placed on ad content in order to make room for targeted organic content.

That announcement, combined with the changes to targeting options and data policy (and for European brand managers, “Facebook privacy changes to comply with a new data protection measure in the EU…” (Vox.com)), means that your 2018/2019 social media marketing and advertising strategy could (and should) look very different from your previous year’s plan.

But not in a bad way.

Great audience targeting options still exists, and this change in the handling of organic social content will actually force us to be better marketers. How?

Facebook’s new News Feed policy will hold “content that sparks conversations” in highest regard. Wordstream’s tip for creating organic brand-building content that will get your business noticed despite the new rules: create hyper-engaging content.

“This drastic shift is in an effort to make people’s lives better by improving the quality of the content shared on Facebook (and its engagement) by, in part, significantly reducing quantity. Brands sharing “engagement-bait,” superfluous listicles and the like, are going to fall by the wayside in favor of those who consciously decide to create content that truly makes people’s lives better” (Wordstream).

And that’s something we should be doing anyway.

So despite everything, Facebook still represents a critically important channel for business advertising success.

Facebook ads are flexible, adaptable and affordable.

What’s more, you can reach your customers earlier. A traditional search campaign (like Google AdWords) works by targeting users who are searching for a specific item or term. Social Media ads are able to reach your audience a step before they start searching by looking at their existing online behaviour. Social networks gather an incredible amount of information about their users’ lives and for marketers that information is a goldmine. Access to this information lets marketers create more personalized ads. Additionally, you can target your marketing campaigns more specifically, gather detailed and actionable analytics, test and refine your campaigns, and dominate on mobile.

That last point is important: Facebook has 2 billion active users and last year more than half of them accessed the site exclusively from a smartphone or other mobile device.

(Table c/o TechCrunch.com.)

Still not convinced?

  • “While there are hundreds of different marketing strategies, only one can bring in consistent sales from day one: social media advertising” (BigCommerce).
  • And the anticipated Facebook advertising ROI is very good: “…in terms of ROI, more than 95 percent of social media managers say Facebook offers the best return, followed by Twitter and Instagram” (Hootsuite.com).
  • And when it comes to eCommerce, Facebook really shines. From BigCommerce, “…Facebook excels at lead generation. If you want email addresses, Facebook is the place to go, with many advertisers reporting costs below $1 per lead. The most common model used is to run a Facebook ad directly into a high-converting landing page offering some variety of a free lead magnet or bundle product.”
  • And while sometimes you want to be a pioneer, reaching your target market in ways and places where no one else is yet, you also have to go where your competitors are. Hanapin Marketing surveyed 164 brand marketers and 93% spend money on Facebook ads.

The below table c/o Statista.com shows “social media advertising expenditure as share of digital advertising spending worldwide from 2013 to 2017”:

Don’t get left in the dust.

From Facebook, with Facebook Ads you can:

  • Find people easily: You can choose your audience based on demographics, behaviors or contact information. (Includes Custom Audiences, “Custom Audiences help you find your existing customers and contacts on Facebook”.)
  • Get their attention: Our ad formats are eye-catching, flexible and work on every device and connection speed.
  • See the results: Our ads reporting tools show you how your ads impacted your business in visual, easy-to-read reports.

So if you’re looking to grow your brand online, build buzz and awareness, increase fans and followers, drive targeted website traffic, increase conversions and more, then include Facebook ads in your digital marketing strategy.

A Word to the Wise: With all of the recent changes to Facebook ad targeting, data policies, Newsfeed content placement etc., it’s more important than ever to work with an experienced social media advertising professional to ensure your marketing budget is well-spent.

Facebook Ad Types 101:

Facebook offers a healthy variety of ad types, and allows business owners and brand managers to choose them based on type or goal/objective. Facebook also offers ads across a variety of platforms, including Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Audience Network and Workplace.

Facebook Ads by Type

  • Facebook Photo Ads: “Use beautiful images to convey your message.”
  • Facebook Video Ads: “Tell your story with sight, sound and motion.”
  • Facebook Carousel Ads: “Show multiple images or videos in a single ad.”
  • Facebook Slideshow Ads: “Create lightweight video ads…across connection speeds.”
  • Facebook Collection Ads: “Tell a story with a single ad that showcases your products.”
  • Facebook Messenger Ads: “Help people start conversations with your business.”

Facebook Ads by Goal:

Facebook Ads by Objective:

Facebook: “Facebook ads are extremely versatile—but they work best when you’re focused about what you want to achieve. That’s why we have ad objectives, a way to clarify your marketing goals for campaigns or even individual ads. While the objectives can be granular, they fall under the larger goals of awareness, engagement and conversion.

Raise Awareness

  • Brand awareness
  • Reach
  • Video views

Grow Engagement

  • App installs
  • Traffic: Website clicks
  • Traffic: App engagement
  • Lead generation
  • Engagement: Page posts
  • Engagement: Event responses
  • Engagement: Offers
  • Video views
  • Messages

Boost Conversions

  • Conversions: Websites
  • Conversions: Apps
  • Catalog sales
  • Store visits
  • Offline conversions

Boosted Posts

Facebook Boosted Posts (and Instagram Sponsored Posts) are a type of advertising. Don’t forget to include these in your strategy, and to consider using this tactic as often as your budget allows and as feels natural. They’re a very important part of your Facebook Ad Strategy.

Applying a budget (of your choosing) to a regular Facebook post and setting targeting will mean that that post is seen by members of that targeted group. (Again, this is critical to Facebook marketing success as regular newsfeed posts aren’t likely to be seen by fans.)

The budget for a boosted post can be very low – any amount at all – and this amount can be modified next time / next post if it’s determined that the budget was too low to get results.

Targeting for Boosted Posts can be set to users who already like your Page, those people’s friends, and gender, location, age, interests and more.

Because you can boost posts in real time, you’ll be able to see results very quickly and decide what budget is required to get the likes you want. Note: You can also track in Facebook the number of Page likes that result from the boosted post. This is an important metric in tracking social ad success. Look in Facebook Page Insights to see clicks, shares, post likes and page likes” (StirMarketing).

Don’t forget about Instagram!

Instagram is owned by Facebook, and all of its business features can now be linked with and managed from your Facebook Business Page. Instagram offers similar ad types and nearly as many targeting options (as well as Sponsored Posts (like Boosted Posts) and it all adds up to a great way to reach your targeted segment of Instagram’s 500 million monthly active users. In fact, some brands find even more success with Instagram ads than they do with Facebook ads: “Instagram’s engagement rates are 58% higher than Facebook’s and 2,000% higher than Twitter’s” (BigCommerce).

Pulling it all together…

So you can now narrow down the best ad type for your business, brand or current goal. But the ad creative (copy, graphic, and call-to-action, for example) and targeting are as crucial as choosing the right kind. Learning from our peers is a good way to improve our own strategies. We love this post c/o AdEspresso: The 10 Best Facebook Ad Campaigns That Killed It In 2017.

And when looking at the best practices for the nuts and bolts of your campaign, do your research. There are proven tactics that work and lots of great round-up articles online, including these two:

At Stir we check all of our draft ad creative against lists like this one below to ensure they’re designed to hit all the right notes:

  • Ensure ad targeting matches both campaign goals and ad content
  • Ensure branding and key messaging are consistent and approved
  • Use a great, high-resolution, eye-catching and evocative image
  • Offer something of value; provide an incentive
  • Include a powerful call-to-action (CTA); Make following the CTA risk free
  • Include “Social Proof”
  • Carry out A/B Testing; test multiple ads at once

Novice or Master?

Not confident yet in your mastery of Facebook advertising? Don’t fret. It takes a long to time master the intricacies of social ads, and few business owners have the time to stay abreast of Facebook’s many and ongoing updates. So consider connecting with a digital marketing agency specializing in Facebook ads to help you get set-up and running.

Here to help.

Contact Brent and his team of Facebook ad experts today for your free consultation, or detailed custom social media advertising campaign proposal.