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What Facebook’s data beast offers small businesses

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    Francois Badenhorst

    Francois Badenhorst Deputy Editor Staff Member

    Posts: 91 Likes: 18
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    Gavin Bell put it best when he described the marketing power of Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg’s social media monolith, Bell says, is “a data beast”.

    “They know more about you than you can imagine. How do they know this? Every time you’re on Facebook, you’re leaving a trace of what you’re interested in.” From a civic point of view, Facebook’s Argus-like all seeing power is a little frightening.

    But we’ll park privacy concerns for now. The fact is that if you’ve got something to sell, then Facebook’s nigh-on omniscience gives you unparalleled penetrative power.

    Facebook collects all this data because it needs it to power its incredibly complex algorithm. The algorithm basically decides what to show you in your news feed from the data you give it. Facebook, say what you will, is absolutely excellent at surfacing relevant content.

    Again, this speaks to the power of Facebook ads. As Bell says: “You’ve got the ability to place your ads in front of your perfect customer. You know they’re your perfect customer because of the data Facebook collects. Again, this benefits the user because they’re seeing ads that (theoretically) should be relevant to them. I know nobody likes ads, but if you’re going to see them, it’s better if they’re relevant to you.”

    The problem with Facebook

    Okay, now that we’re done praising Facebook, let’s get into some of the nuances:

    “The difficulty with FB is the intent,” writes UKBF member ChrisRM. “People are on there to consume content. To read status updates and articles, to look at images, watch videos etc. They’re not there to look for a product or service.”

    Like ChrisRM points out, this is in direct contrast with Google, where people are already in a search mindset; that is, they’re looking to solve a particular problem and may already be considering using a product or service to do that. Facebook’s user psychology makes the content you put out more important than on Google. “It shouldn't be directly selling,” says ChrisRM. “For instance, an interesting blog post, or video.”

    “Promote something useful or helpful to your target audience. This portrays you as an ‘authority’ on the topic and you can use the targeting of FB to show adverts to only those who consumed the content.”

    The last point Chris RM raises is an important one. The ability to show ads to only the people who consumed the content is tied in with the ‘Facebook Pixel’. Facebook Pixel is, basically, a snippet of code you need to install on your business’ website. It bundles everything together and allows you to track conversions from your Facebook ads on your site (and gives you the ability to only pay-per-conversion). It also gives you the ability to drop cookies on your visitors to retarget them later and find similar audiences.

    An embarrassment of riches

    There’s an old joke about a Texan who fires some gunshots at the side of a barn. After wildly firing a bunch of rounds, the Texan then paints a target centered on the tightest cluster of hits and claims to be a sharpshooter.

    With Facebook ads, it’s easy to be a digital version of the Texan sharpshooter. The issue with Facebook’s data is that there’s so damn much of it. And it’d be easy to just blindly fire off a few rounds. Yeah, you could probably draw a target around the tightest cluster and congratulate yourself - but in reality you’re just wasting bullets.

    “Before anything else,” writes Guy Webb, “who is your target buyer? Are you targeting the right buyer when setting up your ads? Spend lots of time on this then spend lots more time making sure you know who you're talking to!”

    Gavin Bell went into this at length in an article for UKBF last year. Before anything, you’ll need to draw the parameters of your campaign. “To create a campaign, you need to choose an objective for the campaign. This is where you want to think about what it is you really want to achieve from the campaign. Is it more sales? More page likes? Brand awareness?”

    Facebook Ads Manager offers a whole smorgasbord of campaign objectives. From ‘clicks to website’ to ‘page likes’ and ‘app installs’ - you name it. And once you’ve laid down your goals, you can get really granular with who you’d like to target:

    There’s the obvious geo-targeting (ie. location based, which is handy if you’re a local business)

    Another option is demographic targeting (so, age, gender, education etc.). There’s even the option to target users by income thanks to Facebook’s partnership with credit rating agencies like Experian

    And then there’s the classic interests and behaviours. “There’s a huge range of interests you can choose from,” explains Bell. “With behaviours, you can select things such as  ‘mobile device user’ or ‘currently travelling’ etc.”

    A/B testing

    But what if you’re a little unsure about what your target groups are? That’s tricky, to be sure but, as Chris RM says: “The beauty of Facebook Ads is that you can do things in small ‘batches’”.

    “For example, you could run one advert targeting women aged 25-35. This would contain images, copy, and offer relevant to them e.g. images of women of their age so they can relate. And have copy that refers to issues that they face.

    “Then you can run another advert aimed at women 36-50. Have different imagery, an offer and copy which relates to them, but not the younger crowd. It’s a case of spending £50 on two ads as opposed to spending a £100 on the one ad. This means no extra cost but it gives you added insight into your most lucrative audience.”

    There’s no reason to limit your testing either. If you have some time, you can test pretty much anything you’d like. You can experiment with budgets, ad copy, different audiences; the world - well, Facebook - is your oyster!