Facebook adverts were something I fought against for a very long time. Convinced they weren’t necessary, there was a time I pounded on any trending topic, any major event and any celebrity news story to increase organic reach and funneled my way into every discussion, debate and influencer opportunity I could.

A year or so (and hundreds upon hundreds of adverts) down the line, I’m an absolute convert and believe our Facebook ad campaigns to be critical to the success of a huge number of digital marketing initiatives. For a relatively small amount of money, we’ve been able to increase site views for clients by over 2000% in just a couple of weeks, and gain direct (and trackable) conversions from brand new audiences. It’s incredibly exciting, amazingly simple and, best of all, completely within our control.

Facebook Advertising

Advertising on the platform isn’t a simple point-and-shoot exercise, however, and to make Facebook adverts work, you need to understand and utilise the tools at hand. Here’s a simple starter guide to kick you off.

Targeting

Without doubt, one of the reasons I’m so passionate about Facebook advertising is the opportunity for detailed targeting. If you’re not using it effectively, you’re missing out on huge opportunity to put your brand in front of a captive and willing-to-buy audience.

We give an incredible amount of information to Facebook; from our relationship status to our profession, our favourite brands to where we went to school (and that’s before we get started on the information accessible to Facebook from their partner data channels). While it’s somewhat Orwellian to think about, the platform knows an incredible amount about us which it uses to put the right content in front of us. In the same way that advertisers don’t want to irritate their audience with what they create, Facebook wants to make sure the adverts it puts in front of its users seem as organic as possible - the moment we click we’re being sold to is the moment we want to stop using the channel, after all.

This is where targeting comes in and why it’s crucial you get it right. Local businesses, for example, can take full advantage of area-specific geo-location tools going as intricate as someone living in particular postcodes, or even someone visiting a city. Niche businesses, meanwhile, can target fans of existing competitors in the industry (with information as specific as the number of cars people have in their household and whether their car insurance is up for renewal). Our advice is always thinking outside the box when you’re targeting - remember, your competitors will be trying to reach exactly the same people as you are. Think who your ideal customer is and what they like besides your item - if you’re selling makeup, what magazines might they read? Are there any local fashion boutiques you could imagine them shopping at? Don’t be afraid of sending the same advert to very specific, different audiences and experimenting with who you target - the amazing thing about Facebook is that you can always pause a campaign if it isn’t working with minimal spend and minimal risk.

Cost and how much to spend

Speaking of spend, this leads me on to the second reason I love Facebook advertising - the cost. We have multiple campaigns for clients (industry and topic depending) that cost less than a penny per interaction, with multiple website clicks, conversions, shares, likes and comments, and general growth in brand awareness and fans.

If you compare this to Google, whose average UK CPC sits at roughly £0.64 - £1.26 per click according to Wordstream, you can see why the tool can be the perfect building block for smaller businesses. That’s not to say PPC should be ignored but with higher costs per website click (some keywords are worth up to £50 in particular industries), you want to ensure the person visiting is ready to buy when they visit you and Facebook is the ideal way to attract new audiences who you can later remarket to.

Clients often approach us in the first instance after spending a large amount of money on Facebook adverts, with complaints it doesn’t work. But, in our experience, this commonly comes down to spending too much without properly experimenting with your audience and what type of content works best. As a personal preference, I like being somewhat tentative with a budget in a first month - spending a small amount to understand the different audiences and adding more money when I see something works. You don’t have to be as cautious as me, but never throw a huge budget at adverts and expect results if you haven’t planned and researched. Experimentation with audience is as important as the copy, imagery or video you use - which leads me on to my next point...

Creative

You can read countless blogs on the best colours, imagery and copy length to use in adverts but, in reality, what works best will always be specific to your industry and your brand. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can ignore the guidelines set out by the channel itself - always stick with the correct image dimension sizes and never (ever!) disobey Facebook’s rule of keeping text to a minimum on images. Your advert will just end up not being shown to as large an audience (if it's accepted at all) and you’ll end up exactly where you started off.

Your first step to choosing the right creative is remembering precisely what Facebook is there for. Unlike Google, your audience aren’t actively seeking to buy your product or find out information - you’re interrupting their free time. Therefore the ‘perfect’ advert needs to have an entirely different aim than on PPC advertising, you’re not fulfilling demand. You’re creating it.

In my experience, the best Facebook adverts are extremely simple. They’re evocative and show the viewer a lifestyle that relates to them - if you’re selling a holiday, a non-specific beach can be enough to sway someone to your site. If you’re selling clothing, the right imagery laid out in a creative way can look effective and encourage engagement. Your creative needs to feel organic and unobtrusive to the viewer’s Facebook feed. You might love your brand, but the people viewing your adverts probably don’t (yet!).

While keeping a constant eye on trending topics for any precarious link can (occasionally) work, is it really worth it? Spending hours researching and creating content in the vague hope it will go viral is never a worthwhile strategy and, in far less time, a small investment could allow you to see better, controlled results. Time is money and the cost of advertising will always be less than your own time. Making Facebook adverts work for you is as simple as understanding the tool you’re using and the brand you’re representing.

These are just a few tips to get you started, but we’d love to talk more. If you’re interested in finding out more about Facebook advertising or social media, talk to us on Twitter @afterdigitaluk.