What you need to know about advertising on Facebook

Facebook Exchange (FBX) was publicly released in September 2012. Although still in its infancy, it’s an advertising option that’s becoming an increasingly important marketing capability, so much so that AOL is now looking to join in the fun. But how, exactly, does FBX work? And how can marketers make the most of its opportunities?

Facebook’s mind-blowingly popular global usage should, in theory, present an unprecedented marketing opportunity. Over one billion of the world’s population is spending over six hours per month on the site – more than any other web property including Google. The information volunteered by these users is a marketer’s dream; with age, gender and interests providing easy targeting opportunities. But advertising on Facebook has proved controversial. Many advertisers, big and small, have invested in advertising on the platform and have found themselves questioning their returns.

The social network’s stock market flotation received a lukewarm reception, reflecting these concerns. In response, Facebook has been looking to restore faith by providing services that offer genuine functionality for both users and advertisers:

1.Facebook Graph Search, which pushes Facebook firmly into the personalized search engine space, has major potential to keep users interested.  It allows them to search their pages, photos, posts and comments as well as those of their friends, and their friends’ social circles.

2. FBX is the network’s gift to advertisers.   It offers a unique opportunity for brand marketers to dynamically retarget Facebook users who have already interacted with their products via their owned website properties.

FBX could be described as the equivalent of display remarketing, but on the world’s most popular website. Marketers can take advantage of FBX’s real-time bidding (RTB) to serve relevant ads based on intent data gathered from users’ visits to brand websites. RTB is cost-efficient because it ensures marketers only bid on impressions that meet campaign objectives for CPA, CPM or CPC.

This flexibility means Facebook Exchange is extremely scalable, making it the ideal solution for a variety of marketing campaigns and objectives. It is most effective at combining people’s use of the social network with genuine consumer interest in brands.

This is an approach that can take many forms: 

a) A customer visits your travel website from an email newsletter discussing European hotel offers. Your business can then stream similar communications in the form of FBX ads that encourage the customer to return to your website and make a reservation.

b) Your fashion retail business is running a mid-season sale and a prospect has visited your website from an influential blog that provided style notes. The user is considering buying a new pair of jeans. FBX ads could nudge that consumer into a purchase with a tempting 20% off promotion.

c) A leading car manufacturer has been advertising test drives through Google. A large number of people have shown interest by visiting the brand website, but have not yet arranged a test drive. FBX ads could drive reconsideration and increase the number of test drive requests.

Thanks to cookie-based data, FBX is able to create custom interest segments. So it’s a great way to develop different advertising variations for different users and their individual behaviours or interests. There are also additional opportunities to target campaigns even further include frequency capping, geo targeting, user recency targeting, day-parting and day-of-the-week targeting, although some of these depend on the technology platform you run FBX through.

FBX can also be used in the context of search retargeting, where data gathered about consumers’ previous searches can be used to stream relevant ads at a later date to them, helping to push them further down the conversion funnel.

Long term commitment and analysis of user behaviour are important for effective implementation of FBX. Through ongoing analysis, we can establish which users have a high propensity to buy. Bids can then adapt in real-time to maximise the chance of turning that interest into a purchase. The lessons learned could then be taken to the next level by targeting other users that have similar attributes or behaviours.

FBX is a direct play; it encourages people to go back to a brand website and reconsider purchases. At DBD Media, we work closely with marketing solutions technology vendor IgnitionOne, part of Facebook’s Preferred Marketing Developer (PMD) program for Ads, to deliver FBX campaigns for clients. Head of Client Solutions Dominic Gramatte says, “FBX should be viewed as another weapon in your arsenal, rather than a standalone cure all”. Indeed, the only way to get true value from Facebook marketing is to use FBX in tandem with wider Facebook advertising strategies…

Facebook’s standard ads help acquire new fans from target demographics; ‘Sponsored Stories’ encourage likes from friends of fans; ‘Custom Audience’ ads persuade existing customers to become fans; and Facebook Offer ads tempt people into taking up offers or promotions. When combined with FBX, these tactics create a powerful arsenal for marketers that are greater than the sum of its parts.

It may be de rigueur to find fault with Facebook, but by offering up the potential to reach an audience of over 1-billion consumers divided into specific interest segments, it’s a platform that – whilst not always perfect – simply can’t be ignored. The flexibility and granular targeting of FBX has made this the case more than ever before.

Effective Facebook marketing is about engagement – but to think of engagement in terms of just likes, comments and shares is short-sighted and is perhaps why brands have struggled with finding tangible value in Facebook advertising before Facebook Exchange. Real engagement is about driving user intent and sales; showing people specifically what they want to buy. People are engaged if they ultimately buy something. That’s the point.

Jonny Rosemont is head of social media @ search and social media agency, DBD Media (@dbdsearch)