In January 2017, Small Business Trends released the results of a survey of over 2,600 small-business owners, revealing that 62 percent of them believe Facebook ads are ineffective. With complaints of little-to-no ROI, these entrepreneurs say they will not use Facebook advertising again. Some experts, however, challenge this viewpoint, saying that properly targeted Facebook ads do indeed provide results.

"When businesses don't see the results they hope for, it's usually because they haven't done enough testing on their ad copy, visuals, and the ideal combination of information to target the right audience," says Vitruvian Digital Advertising founder Kristie McDonald.

Jeanine Blackwell, founder of The Launch Lab, agrees, saying that marketers aren't asking themselves the right questions to determine an effective target market for their ad campaigns. "The problem is that most advertisers only use the simplest of criteria to let Facebook know who they want to see their ads, such as gender, age, and income," says Blackwell. "When you couple this information with more insights on the behaviors and unique interests of your audience, you can deliver your ads only to people likely to be interested in what you offer."

Both experts agree that a testing budget as small as $5 or $10 a day, focusing on different mixes, can tell you what you need to know before you begin to invest larger amounts in your campaign.

McDonald suggests that, instead of combining your demographics with every interest and behavior you can think of, you set the criteria for only one or two interests and behaviors at a time.

"Combining too many interests, demographics, and behaviors won't tell you what's actually working for you," she says. "You will spend a lot of money on audiences that are not a good match for your offer."

Are small-business owners asking themselves the right questions to determine a narrow enough niche for their Facebook ads? Probably not. Blackwell recommends answering 10 key questions to narrow your niche. "When you invest time in figuring out what your audience is interested in online, you can get laser specific in telling Facebook who you want to show your ads to," she says. In addition to Facebook ads, the answers to Blackwell's questions will allow you to do some targeted grassroots work on LinkedIn, within popular associations and professional organizations, as well as through online discussion forums.

Here are Blackwell's questions. Answer them to identify the perfect audience for your offering and see a strong ROI on your advertising dollars. Blackwell is also offering a free online workshop that will show you how to engage your ideal clients on Facebook.

  1. Who is the perfect demographic for your offer? (Example: age, gender, location, income, marital status, education level.)

  2. Who are the thought leaders, experts, or celebrities in your niche that your people might follow?
  3. What are the most popular books (authors) or magazines in your niche?
  4. Who are the most popular bloggers and podcasters in your niche?
  5. Where do your people shop, what retailers or vendors do your people buy from (related to your niche)? Think tools, software, resources they might use that relate to your area of expertise.
  6. What are the most popular associations or professional organizations in your niche that your people might belong to?
  7. What Facebook pages are liked by your people?
  8. What Facebook groups do your perfect people belong to?
  9. What are the most popular online discussion forums in your niche?
  10. What are the most popular LinkedIn groups in your niche?

Good luck on your campaign. If you have a Facebook ad story to tell, share it here.