Facebook Paid Ads Ain’t PPC Ads. Here’s What You Need to Know

Each and every day, roughly 1.3 billion people actively use Facebook – a statistic that honestly is beyond comprehension.

Those daily users make up more than 66% of monthly active users, meaning that unlike other social networks where folks go through patterns of habit and neglect, Facebook users turn to the social network seemingly as frequently as they turn to their TV sets.

It’s mind-boggling.

So why do these stats matter? Well, as marketers with a PPC company in Atlanta, the answer is clear for us: Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard pet project has proven to be the place to target engaged audiences and convert them into some type of action.

The logical next question, then, is how. How do brands and marketers use Facebook’s reach to get results?

That question has stymied the best and brightest minds for the better part of a decade. It’s been such a tremendous frustration – cracking the Facebook code – that some brands have thought it best to just jump ship and look elsewhere to reach audiences.

But let’s just let that soak in for a moment: In an era where TiVo, DVR, on-demand, and streaming devices make it impossible to reach audiences “the old fashioned way”, brands are actually voluntarily opting not to publish on the world’s pervasive platform!?

Just because something isn’t easy doesn’t mean it should be abandoned. But let’s face reality, it can be challenging to find success on Facebook.

Just look at this headline from Marketing Land in 2016:

Down 52% is no small blip on the radar. It signifies a paradigm shift in how brands need to look at their relationship with Facebook.

What relationship should you have with Facebook? Simply put, a paid relationship.

Your organic strategy will never work – not if you stick to budgets and timelines

First, let’s shed some clarity here: We are supporters of organic marketing methods. Part of our offering is, of course, SEO. And social media plays a significant role in your organic strategy:

  1. Build a community that trusts you
  2. Create content that people want to share and engage with
  3. Establish a clear brand persona across a multitude of channels

But relying on organic posts on Facebook to build and grow and audience, or as the engine behind a campaign, is akin to expecting a kite to fly in space – without wind, you’re not going anywhere.

When it comes to social media, reach is your wind. Without it, your content is just that proverbial tree in the woods that no one gives a damn about.

And that’s not a fun place to be. That’s why we’re so adamant with our own clients that if you want to reach your audiences on the one digital channel where they spend the most time, then you have to implement a paid Facebook strategy.

Often times this conversation goes well; many brands realize we live in a pay-to-play world. But there are times when a client fears the worst – that opening up the coffers to yet another ad channel (in addition to their PPC budget) will bury them.

The reality, however, is a lot less frightening. Facebook ads can be your most lucrative investment, if you know how to create the perfect campaign.

And that, right there, is what we want to talk about here. At this stage of the game, an overwhelming number of brands actively advertise on Google, or know enough about it. These brands, then, assume that shifting toward Facebook advertising couldn’t possibly be that much different.

Heck, it’s likely even easier, right?

Well, for starters:

  • PPC advertising and Facebook advertising are incredibly different from one another
  • Yes, Facebook advertising can seem easier to manage and launch than a PPC campaign, which often leads to the downfall of many brands

Suggested reading: Guide to Programmatic Display Advertising

You see, there are many different factors you have to consider when you launch a Facebook campaign.

For starters, you’re dealing with different algorithms that rank the effectiveness of your ad. You’re also dealing with different targeting capabilities, including such things as lookalike audiences and the ability to target your existing subscribers. These little extras don’t just open up a world of opportunities for your advertising; they also demand that you approach Facebook advertising from multiple angles (one type of ad won’t work for everyone).

And, of course, there’s the audience. Facebook audiences are incredibly different from folks who hop onto Google to search for something.

And that’s where we’ll start our conversation – the people, because in the end, that’s what matters most, right? Your ads need to reach the right people at the right time, with the right type of messaging.

And if you approach your Facebook advertising like you do your PPC advertising, then all you’re doing is padding Zuckerberg’s pockets.

And we all know he doesn’t need any help in that department.

Understanding the mindset of the Facebook user to bolster your advertising strategy

To understand the mindset of the Facebook user, let’s first make sure we’re clear on the mindset of the average Google user.

Think for a moment: Why do you go on Google? Is it to catch up with friends? Is it to post a selfie?


You go onto Google to find answers. Period.

Whatever question is running through your mind, when you want to find an answer to that question, you go to Google.

Where is the nearest pizza place?

How much are the new Air Jordan’s (do they still exist?)?

Difference between affect and effect?

Is my mole cancerous?

All of these are questions, and we trust Google to come back to us with valuable answers to our questions. It’s why brands and agencies invest so much into PPC and SEO. Google processes around 40,000 search queries every single second, which equates to 3.5 billion searches every day, and 1.2 trillion searches every year. Companies are vying to rank at the top spot for searches related to what they sell or offer.

So, when I google “is my mole cancerous”, countless companies are looking to grab my attention through a mix of paid advertising and good ol’ fashioned SEO.

Here’s what I find atop my results page for my query, is my mole cancerous?

It’s an ad, from melanoma.org, and speaks directly to my mindset. In other words, this is a winning ad! There’s an incredibly good chance that I’d click on this ad.

Melanoma.org clearly built out an ad campaign that included some, if not all, of my search query. But how did they know not only which terms to use but, more importantly, which terms were worth bidding on?

Well, they merely had to skip on over to their keyword tool of choice (like the Keyword Planner in Google AdWords) to come up with some ideas. While they probably built out an entire list around the idea of “mole” and “cancer”, I went ahead and plopped in my exact query to see what came up:

Well, that’s pretty impressive. While monthly searches aren’t massive (100-1,000) they are good enough to raise a few eyebrows. Couple that with the low competition, and very low bid suggestion, and you can see why Melanoma.org invested in that phrase, and likely earned my click.

All of this to say that when it comes to Google, keywords are king.

That’s simplifying it, I realize. But all of the bid strategies you develop, all the work you do with landing pages and ad copy all comes down to keywords aimed at finding, and targeting your audiences.

Facebook is a bit different. Why?

Because with Facebook, you have to reach out to your audiences; they’re not actively searching for you.

Here’s what I mean.

How often do you go onto Facebook to find the answer to a random question? When’s the last time you looked for a “doctor near me?”

Likely never.

Sure, you might have hopped onto Facebook to search for a specific restaurant or retail store, but you don’t use it as a search engine. And, because of this, the way you approach advertising on Facebook cannot mirror your PPC strategies.

In fact, it’s safe to say that when you use paid search, you’re typically targeting low-hanging fruit: users know what they’re looking for. There are ways to expand that, of course, to target your ads to searchers who demonstrate the clear signs of someone who’d likely want what you offer (but many brands use SEO for that).

There’s creativity involved, sure, but in the end, PPC is based a lot more on formula. Facebook, however, relies heavily on the creative aspect of classic marketing. Things like branding and messaging are enormous, as is audience research and persona development.

There are a number of reasons why this is the case:

  1. Remember, you’re approaching potential customers and have to fight for their attention, vs. they’re actively being in search mode
  2. Facebook is a far more visually rich medium than a Google results page
  3. As a social media platform, Facebook brings with it a different type of experience for users. The language you u
  4. se needs to reflect that

This can be extremely challenging for traditional paid search marketers who are used to banking on solid ad copy that calls attention to a sale. That type of approach works great for PPC ads … because they speak to users actively searching for answers.

But that approach isn’t nearly as effective on Facebook.

Think of it, most of the folks on Facebook you’d reach with an ad don’t know who you or your products are. Take, for example, this ad that popped up in my feed:

I have no idea who Jaybird is, so why should I be inclined to “Shop Now”? That’s a mighty big jump for me to take, from stranger to customer?

I don’t think so.

Another factor to consider with Facebook is that, unlike PPC, it’s not as easy to gauge what stage of awareness your audiences are in. With PPC, there are various clues you can use to nail down the specific mindset of a searcher.

In other words, Facebook audiences are generally not bottom-of-the-funnel users. They don’t know your product. They don’t know you. Heck, there’s a very good chance they’re not interested in what you’re selling.

Let’s look at the headphone ads above, again. I can’t tell, for sure, why that ad popped up in my feed. Was it because I clicked on an article about the new iPhone? Maybe. Regardless, at the moment when this ad popped up in my feed, I was in no way interested in buying headphones.

So, that ad was a waste (to me, at least).

Here’s what you have to realize as you begin to shift toward Facebook advertising: you have to take the role as salesperson if you want to see results.

To paint a clearer picture of what I mean, let’s take this conversation offline. While not a perfect metaphor, think of it like this:

When you advertise with PPC, it’s like reaching out to customers who’ve walked into your store (or, at least, into a mall). They’re on the hunt. They’re purchase-ready. You just want to make sure that your ads hit the folks who are interested in your product.

With Facebook advertising, however, audiences aren’t walking into your storefront. They’re just milling around on the street and there you are, sign in hand, shouting out to passersby hoping to turn some heads.

If you go into Facebook advertising with a PPC mindset, chances are your first experience will be a failure.

Heck, even if you go in armed with Facebook savvy, you’re still likely to walk away with less-than-stellar results your first time around.

It’s one of the biggest mistakes we see marketers make on Facebook – run a single campaign, get no true conversions, and then throw up their hands in defeat proclaiming Facebook advertising as an utter waste.

But not so fast.

While outliers do exist, generally Facebook marketing isn’t focusing on the number of sales or leads driven by one campaign. I know, crazy, right?

Facebook is more about the total experience introduced to your audiences. It’s about unleashing several campaigns, utilizing remarketing, and carefully cradling users across various stage of their buyer’s journey.

Of course, these types of multi-touch campaigns require extensive planning, not just on how you establish them, but also how you message each step.

So, what does that come down to?

Go into your Facebook advertising campaign with a helping of content assets

If Facebook advertising isn’t just about one campaign, then it’s safe to say that Facebook advertising takes more than just one piece of ad copy or one landing page. Let’s take, for example, this ad that showed up in my Facebook feed (for whatever reason):

The ad features a minute-long video that goes into the background of Quip – a company I have never heard of before, never visited their site, don’t follow their Page, and so on; in other words, I’m not in the market for what Quip’s selling (but it doesn’t mean I might not be soon).

OK, let’s dissect this a bit:

Again, this is a brand-new product for me, offered by a brand-new company. If Quip wants me to become a customer, they’re asking me to take quite a leap, at this moment, to Shop Now.

Let’s see what happens, though, when I do click on that ad. Here’s the landing page I’m led to.

This is just the above-the-fold section. You can see the whole page at https://www.getquip.com/. Regardless, the company does a good job introducing me to their product, and their mission.

Still, that doesn’t mean I’m ready to buy this brush – I’ve never expressed interest, in my life, in any type of toothbrush. I’ve never even bought one from Amazon, so this ad really does come from leftfield.

But sometimes ads do that, and that’s OK, because, in reality, Quip should not expect a great deal of conversions from this one ad – that should not be its purpose. Instead, it introduces me to the brand name and, if Quip is lucky, one or two unique selling propositions of the product.

And, if I click on that ad and head on over to Quip’s landing page (which I did), then with a little help from remarketing, Quip can follow-up with me with new ads on Facebook and across the web.

But even if I didn’t click on that Shop Now button, Quip’s advertising efforts shouldn’t end there. What they should have is a flurry of content assets to promote to me over time, that successfully shows me more about the product and company.

I’m reminded, at this moment, of the company Purple, which specializing in sleeping products (mattresses, pillows etc.).

In the same feed where Quip popped up, I also saw this ad from Purple.

This is not the first ad I’ve seen from them. Far from it, actually. In fact, the first ad I saw from Purple was months ago, and boy was it a doozy.

If you haven’t seen this video, please do so. It’s right here: https://youtu.be/4BvwpjaGZCQ

I love this ad, especially as a first introduction to Purple because, well, the ad itself isn’t about Purple. It’s about how to use a raw egg to determine if your mattress is awful. That headline, alone, is intriguing. The fact that the video starts out with a character named Goldilocks, who offers up science and facts with a hint of intelligent humor, makes this 4-minute video worth watching from start to end.

Did I buy a mattress by the time I finished that video? No, of course not. That’s a huge purchase, and not one we make on a whim.

And, truth be told, despite the power of this first video, if I had never heard from Purple again following that ad, I might not have thought to buy from them when the time did come for me to buy a mattress.

Alas, Purple’s marketing team didn’t let them down. Not only did they not inundate me with the same ad over and over again, but the next time they did pop up in my feed, they had something different to tell me.

This time, they had something to say about pillows. Again, they used humor, and science, to make a compelling video that spoke to common pain points without overly marketing their product or boring me to tears. You can check out the video here: https://youtu.be/xX2FcnxrHyA

What Purple has done was create incredible content built around their core products. They then developed optimized landing pages for each of these products so that if their content assets (in these examples, videos) sparked interest, their landing pages would help funnel visitors toward conversions.

What Purple has not done is assume that one ad on Facebook would drive sales or leads. Rather, they looked at their ads as an entire campaign. Each ad they created, each content piece they promoted, fell in line with the company’s branding and messaging, thus helping to differentiate them from competitors (I don’t know a single other mattress company with that much personality, and that’s worth something).

The fact that their videos show scientific proof (in a clear – and fun – way) absolutely helps to establish trust, which is key because, again, they’re reaching out to me.

I’m not in the market for a mattress. I didn’t go to Purple’s site. I didn’t get added to their mailing list. They’re using Facebook advertising to interrupt my leisure time; they better come to me ready to prove why I shouldn’t report their ad as spam or irrelevant.

The best way to mirror the success of Purple’s Facebook advertising strategy is to come into your own campaign with a clear picture of all the content assets you want to promote to help encourage audiences to convert.

What does that look like?

For starters, you want to think about the end goal. What’s the ultimate action you want visitors to take? In Purple’s case, of course, it’s to become a customer.

Then, ask yourself, in what ways can we make this action happen? Again, for Purple, it comes down to promoting each of their products, separately, to demonstrate how they are leaders in their industry.

You should also factor in objections from your audiences. For Purple, they address objections within each of their videos; however, you might consider promoting an ad specific to customer objections. For example, if you’re a technology company promoting one product to Human Resource Directors, one of the objections of your prospects would be the pain of learning a new software.

Why not create an entire ad that focuses on that one pain point, and then target your audiences with that? By doing this, not only are you varying the messaging your audiences receive, but you’re speaking directly to their mindset.

Is Facebook advertising right for you?

If you’re accustomed to PPC advertising, then chances are you either love Facebook advertising, or you hate it. If you fall in that latter group, then it’s worth noting, again, just how prevalent Facebook is in our lives – with no signs of letting it up. Sure, there’s the occasional Snapchat that pops up from time to time, but there’s not a single social network on the planet that steals most of our time each day than Facebook.

It’s the new TV.

Navigating the Facebook Ads platform can be daunting and, despite becoming extremely robust in recent years, is still in its infancy. You can be certain that it’ll become only more complicated to work through as it continues to expand and refine itself.

You’re better off getting your feet wet now and learning the intricacies of Facebook Advertising, particularly as it pertains to your market and niche, so that you avoid falling further behind from your competitors.

While not every business type is made for Facebook, there’s a very good chance you could gain some positive traction in the social platform, if you approach it with the right mindset and strategy. Just ask yourself, do you still spend any time on Facebook?

If the answer is yes, then why would you assume your audiences are any different?

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