Digital Advertising Brand

In defense of Facebook for advertisers

By Jeri Smith | CEO

February 21, 2017 | 7 min read

Facebook seems to be resorting to ever more desperate attempts to engage consumers with ads.

Facebook for advertisers

Whether it’s a shift to auto-playing sound on videos or launching standalone TV apps, the platform is grappling with how to have more impact with its product offering. This is at a time where there’s increased chatter in the marketing industry about the perceived lack of value Facebook is delivering to advertisers.

The truth is, Facebook advertising can generate value for brands in several ways. They’re just not the ways Facebook or most agencies will reveal to you. This disconnect is either because the agencies would rather focus on high-spend, shiny approaches Facebook is trying to sell, or they simply don’t have available to them the actual insights on how Facebook ads perform.

But at its best, Facebook can have a strong impact on brand perceptions and purchasing. Here’s how to make sure it does just that for you.

1. Remember that Facebook is for amplification, not origination

Most brands and agencies have a backwards view of how Facebook fits into the marketing mix. It’s a platform that shines in a supporting role, but not as the foundation. The lack of understanding on this point has made a mess of cross-channel campaign planning for many brands.

When well-executed, Facebook can amplify the impact of traditional media. For example, in one study (commissioned by a client) we found that a brand’s traditional TV campaign was 8% more effective in producing brand lift among those who also saw the brand’s paid posts on Facebook. In another, we found Facebook, when seen in combination with TV ads, can amplify the impact of TV by up to 5%.

So Facebook can be valuable in providing an additional touchpoint for your message. But it’s not where you should be starting: Facebook is the more intimate setting where you can amplify an effective traditional campaign.

2. Credence cultivation is the name of the Facebook game

We know people believe what they hear from friends more than they do brands’ own claims. And while consumers know brands are paying to reach them on Facebook, it’s still a more intimate context for doing so – much more so than digital ads placed on other sites, or the ones you broadcast on TV or even as pre-rolls. This environment can provide a subtle halo of persuasive power, particularly when it comes to brand affinity – making consumers feel that “this is a brand for people like me”. Make the most of the Facebook setting to garner extra trust in the brand message.

3. Don’t believe Facebook’s millennial hype

While conventional wisdom says millennials aren’t consuming traditional media anymore, the data is clear: you’ll engage far more millennials with a TV buy than you will by concentrating on Facebook. Use Facebook to supplement your traditional advertising, not replace it.

4. Know the limitations of Facebook’s reach

With a very robust buy and compelling creative content, you might be able to capture the attention of up to 20% of your target with your Facebook campaign. But a more typical result lands in the 10% range.

Facebook mostly reaches the same people you’re already getting with other media, not serving an exclusive audience. As such, it builds intensity more than awareness. The number of consumers who will engage with your brand on Facebook but whom you’ve missed elsewhere is more in the low single digits, making it the least effective of all media types for engaging an exclusive audience.

5. Be realistic about Facebook’s cost efficiency

After several headline-grabbing measurement errors by Facebook, lots of industry observers are obsessing over how many exposures advertisers are getting for their money. Wrong question.

Instead, marketers should focus on whether spend is actually making an impact on the people you intend to reach. This is how you start calculating exactly what Facebook can do for your brand.

Yes, Facebook’s cost to engage is generally lower – with a typical campaign generating ad awareness for just 15-20% of what it would cost to build that awareness with TV. But exposures and awareness are just the starting point, and if Facebook is unable to deliver the audience size and sales results you need to build your brand, simply spending more against the platform won’t help.

6. Resist the urge to over-target with content

For Facebook to work for an advertiser, the brand has to speak with one voice – and be authentic. Due to Facebook’s image as a target-rich environment, it’s tempting to craft different messages to different targets based on what you think they want to hear. Don’t do it! Unless a message is authentic to your brand, not only will it fail to amplify the impact of your other media, it will actually do great harm to the brand identity you’ve invested so much to build over the years.

Your brand will benefit if your Facebook ads are consistent with, and part of, your overall brand campaign. Having the same look and feel (while avoiding ‘matching luggage’) helps the consumer put two and two together, strengthening the amplification and brand authenticity dynamics.

To make this work, you either need to use the same agency for social as you’re using for your traditional campaign, or you (or someone on the brand team) needs to be a very strong advocate for the brand, what it stands for and how it’s conveyed in the ads. Otherwise, brand equity is lost rather than built, at a cost difficult to calculate.

Jeri Smith is chief executive of Communicus

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