Facebook hasn’t had it easy in recent years.
There are some kinks in the system to work out — no one denies that. Even the ad targeting changes that went into effect this year could be argued as a good thing for marketers.
The inability to target by age, gender and zip code shouldn’t hinder your ability to run a successful ad campaign, if you’re otherwise strategic in your approach.
Marketers may whine about Facebook organic reach and ROI on social media as harder to achieve. But, in the name of tough love, that’s only because they’re not willing to put in the work it takes to meaningfully connect with their audiences.
Social media is not dead, but massive follower counts and likes are quickly becoming artifacts of the past. What people really want from the brands they choose to engage with are personalized experiences supported by memorable creative.
If you’re going to invest the time into creating thoughtful social content, it’s worth considering the impact a small ad investment can make.
Important Social Media Metrics to Pay Attention To
Before you ever get started pushing content and ads through a social platform, it’s important to consider what’s driving them in the first place. What is the intended end result of your effort?
Ask Matt Jackson of Socially-M and he’ll tell you that goal-setting is something many businesses fail to consider.
“When it comes to social media metrics, we spend too little time working out what our goals on the platforms should be and too much time trying to justify our reasons for being there through metrics. Casting aside all ‘vanity metrics’ (i.e. likes, followers, impressions, etc.), we should be focused more on the relationship-building purpose of these platforms, which is precisely why they were created in the first place.”
Relationships are all fine and good but unfortunately, as Jackson points out, “[pressure from management] often results in us having to spend 80% of our time on producing statistics simply to justify our existence and only 20% of our time on actually being social and delivering results.”
So, how do you change this? How do you enlighten stakeholders to the necessity of social beyond outdated best practices and metrics?
Part of it comes down to education. You have to own your philosophy and create valuable content for distributing upfront.
Additionally, when building out reports, highlight metrics that can help speak to goals that are more encompassing of your content marketing strategy at large.
For example, Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media argues for giving more value to the less-visible numbers calculating behind-the-scenes.
“One of the best (but far less visible) metrics is conversion rate by social network. If you go to the Acquisition > Channels report [in Google Analytics] and drill down into the social networks, you'll quickly see that visitors from different social networks convert into leads and subscribers at different rates.
This information is gold. It can help you adjust your budgets, spend and time based on the likelihood that visitors from a social source are to take action.”
As you launch ads on Facebook, take note of how they’re translating into conversions on the back-end. Additionally, if you’re looking for a quick, at-a-glance way of gauging ad potential, click-through rate is a decent metric to keep tabs on.
This, paired with the engagement rate, should provide an initial indicator of which content is worth putting ad spend behind.
Is Facebook a Pay to Play Platform?
The pay to play nature of Facebook these days is all relative to where you’re at in your business’ social media strategy.
Andréa Jones of Online Drea says, “For those new brands or businesses just starting their social media strategy, it is absolutely a pay to play game. It's nearly impossible to grow a Facebook page organically these days.
If you've already got a bit of an audience, great! You can use that as leverage by getting your current audience members to like and engage with your new page. If you don't already have an audience, then setting aside some advertising dollars to spend on Facebook is highly recommended.”
Think of any ad spend you dedicate to social as an accelerator. It’s a way to push the needle even further on the content you’re already seeing perform well organically.
Marketing Consultant Bridget Willard offers a more cut and dry way of thinking about Facebook as a platform. It simply “is what it is.”
“[Facebook] is too big to quit. Whether it is pay to play or not is irrelevant. You can boost a post for $20 and your money goes very far. All social media marketing takes time and, therefore, costs. Having a small budget for paid advertising is just smart.”
5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Facebook Ad Budget
Knowing that your ad spend on Facebook is worth the investment is one thing. But how do you maximize that Facebook ad budget? Especially when what you have to work with isn’t much to begin with?
Strategists and stakeholders alike want to know that the money they’re spending is going somewhere. No one wins from simply boosting every post on a Facebook Page and hoping for the best.
With insight from industry experts, here are five ways to get the most out of your Facebook ad budget — whether you’re working with $200 or $2,000 per month.
#1: Broaden Your Audience
It may seem counterintuitive to broaden your ad audience when targeted is such a beloved buzzword among digital marketers.
But as Jeromy Sonne of Reverb Agency sees it, you have to start by trusting the Facebook algorithm.
“When you set up an ad audience, you want to go broader and actually less targeted than you would initially think — letting Facebook itself find the folks that are likely to engage with your video content. When you do that, your CPM (cost per 1000 views) tends to go down and your engagement tends to go up. It's scary to trust the system but it oftentimes works quite well!”
#2: Pay Attention to Your “Small Data”
As you begin to dedicate ad spend towards social, keep in mind that you’re not simply looking to connect with everyone. The intention is to connect with those most interested in your brand. And no, not everyone is going to like you.
Matt Jackson knows that it pays to be respectful of those wishes for the sake of resonating with the audiences that matter most.
“[T]he future is more about 'small data' and respect-driven marketing. Finding out more about those that interact with our brand or service and having enough respect for our audiences to offer them something personal to them, instead of trying to pigeon-hole them all into categories of people to market at.”
#3: Get Strategic with Retargeting
One of the best ways to engage with audiences is to target those who have already shown interest. More importantly, target them with ad content that would be most relevant to where they are in the sales funnel.
Mana Ionescu of Lightspan Digital says,
“Setting up a retargeting audience and strategically boosting your most important content to target this audience is the best way to use a small ads budget. Ideally, this would be content that links to your website or point of conversion.”
In other words, if you don’t have much to work with from a budget standpoint, optimize for what you do have from an audience and content standpoint. Use email lists to your advantage rather than simply targeting by interests alone.
#4: Make Your Ad Content Facebook-Friendly
The competition is high when it comes to advertising on Facebook. If you’re putting money behind content that isn’t Facebook-friendly in appearance to begin with, you’re showing a disregard for the type of experience you want customers to have with your brand.
Make it look like you know what you’re doing, as Bridget Willard explains.
“If you want your ad spend ($20 a post) to go a long way, ensure that your URL is Facebook-friendly. Meaning, that page or post should have a featured image that is 1200 x 628 pixels with less than 20% of the area containing text. Ensure your meta description has a clear call to action. Then write the copy in a way that encourages the reader to click.”
#5: Don’t Be Afraid to Test
Lastly, make it a point to actually learn from what you’re doing on the ads side of things. Remember those social media metrics we pointed out earlier? Don’t just look at them — put them to work in testing out different types of ads on Facebook.
As Social Media Consultant Katie Cooper argues, this is something most businesses could stand to get better at.
“Many brands — regardless of size, shape or focus — get stuck in the trap of doing things to do them on social. If you’re not going to care enough to socialize with intention, why should an audience engage with intention? Set an example.
If what you’re advertising isn’t returning much, it might not be the who of your audience that’s at fault. Be willing to test out multiple ad forms and types of creative. Comparing the performance of not just “ads” as a generalized term, but as different types of CTAs and creative will help you think more strategically in relation to the long-term process and goals.”
Final Thoughts: How a Little Facebook Ad Budget Can Help Your Business Go a Long Way
Is Facebook ad spend necessary? Yes. Do you need a massive Facebook ad budget to make your ad spend sing? No.
You just need to define why you’re doing what you’re doing, what you’ll be doing to achieve established goals, and how you’ll determine success. Having this foundation, regardless of the amount of ad spend you have to play with, will prove crucial to increasing it in the future.
Maddy Osman is an SEO Content Strategist who works with clients like AAA, Automatic, Kinsta, and BigCommerce. Her background in WordPress web design contributes to a well-rounded understanding of SEO and how to connect brands to relevant search prospects. Learn more about her process and experience on her website and read her latest articles on Twitter @MaddyOsman.