If a tree falls in the forest, it's debatable that anyone hears it. When your ad fails on Facebook, though, there's no confusion. It was a dud.
A lack of interaction tells the tale. Clearly you paid good money to expose lots of people to this particular piece of content, but most gave it little mind.
That doesn't have to be the case. There are people who do nothing but study the performance of social advertising all day. We talked to some and gleaned a few insights. If you want to run an ad with a halfway decent chance of getting a social lift, check out these pro tips.
1. Think About Who You Are Targeting
While we've established that an ad with no Likes is an embarrassing failure, it's also true that an ad with a lot of interaction from the wrong people is a waste of pixels. Lucky for you, Twitter and Facebook both have sophisticated turnkey programs that let you target users by demographic, location and affinities, among other variables.
For instance, say you wanted to target all the feta cheese fans in New Jersey. Facebook lets you do just that.
As Peter Goodman, VP of Social.com at Salesforce.com, notes, a successful social media ad program relies on good customer data. Who is really buying your products? What are they interested in? "You really need to start to think more deeply about these amazing targeting features," he says. "Concentrate on the demo you know are going to work and then build that out to scale."
How to do that? Back in March, Facebook released Lookalike Audiences, a program that uses Facebook's data to identify people who aren't currently fans of your site, but who have similar characteristics to your fans.
2. Not Every Ad Has to Be Social
Take a look at most advertising you see. Is it something you would want to pass on to a friend? No. That's because most ads are not entertaining in themselves, but are either formulated to propose a call to action or as a branding exercise. "If you think of the typical ad with the shot of the car driving on the mountain against the sunset, there's nothing particularly social about it," says David Berkowitz, CMO of the marketing agency MRY. "You have to consider if there's anything social about it."
There doesn't have to be. A very targeted ad with a call to action will be social because people seeing the ad are in the market for the product or service. Similarly, a branding ad might go over well with rabid fans of the brand.
Jimmy Kimmel notwithstanding, creating a viral video, though, is nearly impossible Berkowitz says. Jim Squires, director of ad product marketing at Facebook, says that video probably wouldn't do much for your business anyway. "Stay on point," he says. "Funny cat videos may pull likes, but they won't help you achieve a business objective. Make sure you're crisp on the business objective — as you would be for any ad campaign — and create content that is relevant and supports your story."
3. Social Ads Don't Have to Look Like Ads
Facebook's Promoted Posts and Twitter's Promoted Tweets look more like communication with consumers than ads. That's by design. The top social networks are pushing a native advertising experience, which translates roughly to branded content.
"Take the time to do great creative — asset planning and creation is often overlooked for this new medium," says Squires. "Sharing thoughtful, timely, iconic pieces is important, since it's being seen alongside compelling content from friends and family." At Facebook, they call these interactions "stories." Squires says marketers should think of them the same way: "Tell stories –- people remember stories, not facts."
Sometimes social ads don't even need to be ads. Berkowitz points to the Audi Instagram feed as an instance of non-advertising advertising. "Almost every image has an Audi logo in it," he says. "And there are thousands of interactions with each post."
4. Optimize for Mobile
Obviously, a desktop-first model for advertising won't work in a world in which Facebook's mobile ad revenues are on track to supplant its take from desktop. How do you make sure your ad works as well on a phone or tablet as it does on the web? Says Squire: "Make sure posts are succinct — your key point should be made in the first 90 characters — and ensure that any photo or video works well on mobile.
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