As my company has been managing pay-per-click advertising since the dawn of the medium, I've been thrilled to turn its attention to the Facebook advertising platform's amazing targeting abilities.
We stumbled a lot at first, however, and went through millions of dollars of testing before we learned to walk (and finally run).
Here are the five biggest lessons we have learned about using Facebook ads.
1. Forget Google AdWords.
The more familiar you are with AdWords, the harder it will be to get your head around Facebook advertising.
It starts with a fundamental difference in the users you are reaching. With Google, users go there specifically to find information, products or services--their intention is to immediately leave Google and find what they are seeking.
With Facebook, you are reaching users that are on Facebook to be on Facebook. Removing them from that experience and trying to get them to take action is whole different ballgame.
This is an important paradigm shift to really absorb, as it affects your entire strategy, from ad copy to targeting. New Facebook advertisers get tripped up the most in trying to specify user "interests" in Facebook. Keep in mind: A Facebook user targeted by interest in "Toyota" is very different from a user searching the phrase "Toyota."
The former may have simply hit the ubiquitous "Like" button at some point somewhere, while the Google searcher has intent now.
2. Don't manage bids. Manage ads.
In Google advertising, campaign optimization is heavily determined by optimizing your bids on each keyword ("bid management"). But in Facebook, it's all about refreshing your ad creative to increase your click-through rate.
On Facebook, the ads with the highest click-through rate get the best placement (since that's how Facebook makes the most money). And since you are essentially reaching the same audience each day, based on your targeting, you need to switch up your creative every five to seven days--otherwise users will start to tune out your ads.
Takeaway for AdWords people: Resist the urge to increase volume through increasing your bid. Instead, switch up your ad copy.
3. Your thumbnail image really matters.
The single most important element determining an ad's success is that tiny image that goes along with the ad. It will literally make or break an ad.
Intuitively, this makes sense: The No. 1 activity on Facebook is to look at photos, so Facebook users are trained to scan for pictures. The more your ad resembles Facebook content, the more likely a user's eyes will stop at your ad--and the more likely they will be to click.
So test lots of images as you go through the ad refreshing process described above.
What are the best images, you ask? In almost all cases, people: casual, happy, and unpolished. And pictures of women far outperform those of men—for virtually any product or service.
4. Do the best headlines ask questions?
Yes, Virginia, the best headlines ask questions.
In paid search, you almost always want to match a keyword to the search query. In Facebook, there was no search query--and your user has not indicated intent--so you need to think about headlines differently.
Odd as it sounds, we find question headlines perform extremely well.
Why questions? Well, punctuation in general draws attention--but the real reason is that when people see a question, their brain tends to process an answer. So when a user's eyes pass over the headline "Need Better SEO?" it is almost impossible for her not to answer that question. And if the answer is a "yes," guess what: She's come to the right place!
5. Think short. Super short.
People don't like to read, so shorter is unequivocally better. In your ad copy—less important than the image and headline but still relevant--use two- to three-word phrases to get your point across. We found, for instance, that "Industry Leaders. Inc 500 Company. Free SEO Audit" would nearly always outperform a nice piece of prose or traditional marketing copy.
With these five concepts in hand, you are now armed to make your foray into Facebook advertising. It's a brave new world, but with the proper tools has nearly unlimited untapped potential.