What SMBs Need to Know About Advertising on Facebook

When we log on to Facebook we do it to connect with friends, “spy” on people we knew in the past, join events, post and tag images, recommend songs and so on. It’s a social network, and we have clear social intents when using the site.

When was the last time you heard someone say he had to log on to see if there are any new, great advertising campaigns going on?

However, Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising, and if we want a place where we can participate in social activities there has to be a fair amount of ads in the mix. But as long as they aren’t too distracting and disturb our original reason for being on the site we’re fine with the ads.

You can sum up what is, essentially, a silent agreement between Facebook and the users thusly: “Ok, you can show me an ad or two as long as you let me do what I came here for.”

Don’t Break the Online Agreement

The big question is what will happen when Facebook increases the advertising space, and chances are they will. Where’s that tipping point where Facebook just becomes a new MySpace where commercial interest – and maybe shady ones – infiltrates your private space on the web?

What will we think about Facebook if it becomes more of a marketplace than a social hub?

The people behind Facebook have to take this issue seriously. It’s a thin line between the amount of disturbing elements we tolerate and the point where it all becomes too much; when we can’t stand the commercial buzz, and we look for a new place to interact socially.

Facebook is strong right now, almost unbreakable it seems. But Web users can be a disloyal bunch.  

If you’re planning to advertise your small business on Facebook — or if you’d like to improve your advertising performance — keeping this “agreement” in mind is quite important. Remember who your audience is — and their reason for being on the site in the first place — you will approach them in an appropriate, efficient manner.

Social Marketing for Small Businesses

When you’re planning a marketing campaign on Facebook, try to make it as social and as close to peoples’ normal Facebook behavior as possible. Your goal should be to make your marketing become a recommendation, a story that looks natural in the news feed.

Facebook’s advertising opportunities range from antisocial to very social. On one side you’ll find regular external-website ads to click on and that direct you to another website, perhaps a Web shop or a sign-up form. These ads have very little or no social interaction at all.

On the other side of the spectrum, you’ll find sponsored stories that highlight when someone takes action around the brand: comments on the fan page, tags an image, likes a post, uses an app, votes in a poll, checks in or some other real action. These ads revolve around social interaction.

It’s easy to realize why these ads fit — to a greater extent — with visitors’ original reason for being on Facebook.

For example, say that you see an ad for a band you’ve never heard of; perhaps there’s a concert in your town or they released a new album. Chances are that you won’t click on a classic external-website ad. In fact, due to banner blindness you probably won’t even notice it.

On the other hand, if you see a sponsored story around the band – perhaps a couple of your friends like it, have listened to them on Spotify, have RSVP’d to a concert or commented on their fan page – there’s a much greater chance that you’ll give them a chance.  

As a small business, if you want to use Facebook to raise brand awareness, move towards true social advertising. The network was built for social advertising.

How Facebook Marketing Becomes Organic

If you run a small business, there is another clear upside to making clever social-advertising campaigns: They may turn organic.  

When you start acquiring fans through sponsored stories, these fans have friends who will see there’s activity on your page, and when people start commenting or using your fan page even more, friends of fans will see that too.

If you’ve put some effort into the fan page – with a nice design and useful content for visitors – fans might start coming back to the page organically; without having been sent their through a sponsored story. And when you have a fairly large fan base, you may start seeing a natural stream of visitors – people you haven’t paid to come.

That’s when your small business advertising really pays off. And if you have a limited budget, this is a very beneficial situation.

Top 5 Tips for Small Business Advertising on Facebook

1. Start with the fan page: Before you begin driving traffic to the fan page through advertising, make sure the page looks good and has content and product information that is interesting, fun and relevant for your fans. Without that, you will have a hard time succeeding with social branding.

2. Target the right people: By doing so, your marketing efforts may go viral and the page can start “advertising itself.” Remember, attracting the friends of fans is what puts the snowball in motion.

3. Test different ad options: Depending on your business and what you do, certain ad options and marketing strategies will work better than others. Be very open-minded in the initial phase and try all sorts of advertising — and target different demographics. Testing different options will help you know what works best for your business.

4. Integrate the fan page on your Web page: It’s good to shorten the gap between your fan page and your Web page. Incorporate the Like box widget on your website, so that people instantly see which of their friends like you when they visit your site. Also include Like buttons throughout your site, so that your content can be Liked and recommended on Facebook.

5. Analyze the results: If you use a Facebook ads tool when working on Facebook, it will be easy to see what works and what doesn’t. Always keep a close eye on the stats so that you can abandon campaigns that only cost you money and transfer the budget to high-performing marketing efforts.

Craig Robinson is an editor at Qwaya, a company that makes social media marketing tools.

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Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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