Mike Hanbery July 3, 2012

Guide to Advertising on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

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Advertising on social media networks–most prominently Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter–has similarities to other pay per click advertising and, therefore, similar measurements for Return on Investment (ROI).

For most companies, the short-term goal of most advertising is to purchase leads. Clicks do not equal leads.

Large companies and known brands use advertising for awareness; for these campaigns, impressions and clicks remain relevant metrics. Most companies, however, should be interested in clicks only as a means to acquire leads. These leads should be fed into a system that creates conversions.

For ecommerce websites, conversions are purchases. For more consultative sales industries–marketing agencies, for example–advertising conversion, is achieved when a qualified prospect is contacted. This can be via the completion of a web form or submission of an email address or phone number. If by any of these definitions, companies convert website visitors but fail to generate ROI  from social media or any advertising campaigns, adjustments must be made either to the sales process or on the front-end with ad targeting.

Targeting is possibly the most interesting aspect of social media advertising. While behavioral targeting is available elsewhere in the digital world, only advertising on social media provides the ability to strategically and instantaneously appeal to self-identified people interested in relevant offerings within a moment of heightened interest.

This article provides some fundamentals about advertising on social media networks Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Twitter Advertising
While Twitter does have an advertising system, its model and price point render it relevant for larger players only. Twitter’s advertising program requires a $15,000 minimum initial buy which covers $5,000 in advertising spend for three months. The cornerstone of the offering is placement on each Twitter user’s home page in the “trending topics” section.

Even then, the target audience is one that is Twitter-savvy, which limits the potential audience considerably regardless of industry. For companies just getting started in social media advertising, Twitter is not the venue. Facebook is.


Facebook Advertising
As with all things social media marketing in 2012, there is Facebook and then there is everything else. Until recently, Facebook ads were entirely housed within Facebook. In late June, 2012, Facebook ads started to show on Zynga.com, Facebook’s stand-alone gaming website. Industry analysts believe this is a precursor to Facebook ads being visible to Internet users via an ad network which operates outside of Facebook. For now, however, Facebook continues to function largely as a closed network. This means ads placed within Facebook are seen only within Facebook.

Facebook advertisements allow advertisers to choose the landing page—the web page to which a click goes through. Historically, conversion rates increase when Facebook ads click through to a Facebook page rather than taking the user out of the network. This spawned the practice of “like-gating,” wherein Facebook advertisers drive clicks to a custom “app,” or landing page on the advertiser’s Facebook Company Page. “Like-gating” pages usually offer a free premium—a downloadable white paper, for example—in exchange for an email address. The page design also usually encourages the visitor to “Like” the Page, though this is not required because to do so is outside Facebook’s rules for advertisers.

Facebook ads can be targeted by:
–    Geography, down to the zip code.
–    Age
–    Gender
–    Interests, both broad and precise.

Examples of precise interest are, “#Social media,” and, “#Marketing.” Facebook associates the “#” symbol with someone who has indicated to Facebook specific marketing or social media interests. She may like Webolutions’ Facebook Page, for example, or be tagged in a photo on the Page for Social Marketing for Business – Join the Conversation! It is not necessary to add the hashtag; Facebook’s advertising tool is quite intuitive and adds it automatically. It also suggests additional targeting options.

A broad interest (“Marketing,” “Social media” – no hashtag) will target Facebook users who have simply indicated in their profile that either of those topics is an “Interest.” A wide variety avails and the interface is slightly different.

Advertisers can use either or both. Conversions increase with more precise targeting; a larger audience size is reached through broad targeting. The goals and ROI measurements of your social media marketing campaign will dictate which is best.

–    Connections – Companies advertising on Facebook can choose to show their ads only to people who already “Like” their Facebook Page or, more commonly, those who do not. There are additional personal connection-related targeting options.
–    Facebook Advanced Targeting Options allow advertisers to target ad placement based on Relationship Status and “Interested In (All, Men, Women),” languages spoken, education level and workplace.

When launching a new campaign, best practice is to create multiple ads and run them simultaneously. The most effective means of testing ads on Facebook is to use the same copy with different pictures or, alternatively, the same picture with different copy.

For example, a Facebook ad campaign targeting women might use three advertisements. The picture for one might prominently feature an older woman, another a younger woman and another a male. Click through rates and conversions will reveal which audience is being most effectively targeted; conversion rates which is actually most interested in the offering. This information can be used to emphasize certain advertisements in the immediate term and, more importantly, used in future considerations for all marketing.

Another easy social media optimization opportunity is “Show Social Activity About.” Checking this box generates text below the ad showing which of the targeted user’s connections have had recent interactions with the advertiser’s Facebook Page. This visual association with a known person greatly increases recognition and the likelihood the desired action will be taken.

Facebook also offers “Sponsored Stories,” which provide constant promotion opportunities for companies posting good content on a regular basis. Options for these promotions include:

–    Generic references
–    “Check ins,” which could be useful for brick-and-mortar businesses such as retail establishments whose clientele use Facebook and who can craft a promotion and achive ROI around using Facebook’s “check in” function—not to be confused with Foursquare’s “check in” function, which is in no way associated with advertising on Facebook.

Targeting options for Sponsored Stories are nearly identical with one exception: Objective.

The “Objective” for a Sponsored Stories campaign can be set to, “Show this to people who are most likely to:
–    Like my page
–    Click on my…Sponsored Story

For most companies, Webolutions recommends the latter because it is more tangible, track-able and relevant to the goal of the campaign–conversions. The alternative, impressions, are for large, established brands on the level of Starbuck’s and IKEA for whom impressions is a pertinent ROI metric.

Clicks on Sponsored Stories open the page or wall post being promoted. There is no choice of landing page.

Advertising on LinkedIn
LinkedIn’s audience is smaller (160 million compared to Facebook’s 900 million) and time on the network pales in comparison to the Facebook juggernaut. LinkedIn advertising is more expensive than Facebook. Higher price point placements available to larger clients are featured prominently on the right side of the page.

More ad inventory in more affordable placements is available to small and medium businesses. These are seen in text banners across the top of the home page and in various display placements throughout the website. These are more affordable, but clicks are few.

LinkedIn provides targeting by:
–    Geography, down to the metro area. Example: Greater Denver Area
–    Company, by name of company or category of company. Within category, one can select industry (example: Media) and sub category (example: online media). The advertisements can also be targeted by company size.
–    Job Title, by specific job title or Job function and/or seniority. (Example: Marketing, Director.)
–    School
–    Skills
–    Group. This is probably the most intriguing of LinkedIn’s targeting criteria. If a company has built community around its brand via engagement within certain LinkedIn Groups—participating in discussions, providing valuable responses to serious inquiries—an advertisement to those groups is more likely to generate clicks.
–    Gender
–    Age: 18 and up

LinkedIn ads are visible via the LinkedIn Audience Network, which is simply a connection to the Google double click Ad Exchange ad network. This means LinkedIn ads can be seen outside of LinkedIn if advertisers choose, which they should.

An image can and should accompany LinkedIn ads. The approach should be the same as outlined above for Facebook.

Compared to search engine marketing pay per click campaigns, click through rates for social media advertising are low, but—especially with Facebook—they are less expensive on a per click basis, easier to manage and can be more effectively targeted by most businesses.

The maximum life of a social media advertisement is three weeks. This should be incorporated into any promotion plan or campaign that includes social media advertising.

Everything with social media is “now,” and so it is with advertising on social media networks. Campaign management and optimization is hands-on and time-intensive.

How to Use This Information
One of the most important metrics in social media marketing is “reach,” or the number of people who have the potential to see your message. At any stage of any company’s social media presence, the ongoing acquisition of Likes and Followers is an important goal. While content and engagement are the long-term keys to success, advertising offers arguably the best complement.

Advertising on social media can favorably impact the ROI of all time and efforts spent on social media marketing.


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