Facebook Advertising Sucks

Last year, we ran a large scale advertising campaign made up of a number of different elements.

One source that performed much better than we were expecting was Spotify – we tracked a substantial amount of trialists and experienced a lot of positive interaction on social media while the advert was running, not to mention the fact that it also impacted on search by name and brand awareness (albeit that’s a bit more tricky to measure…).

However, another element of the campaign was Facebook advertising and, as the title of this post suggests…it sucked.

Ok, I’m being glib, but the following numbers sort of speak for themselves –
Facebook advertising ppc CTR

Considering the fact that we implemented some pretty specific targeting, and tried several different ads, a CTR of just under 0.02% is not great. It’s not too far off the sort of CTR you might expect when taking out display advertising, but display advertising rarely offers the ability to target as precisely as Facebook.

It’s worth observing that the (relatively) recent introduction of ‘Suggested Posts’ attempts to address the issues that we, and many other advertisers, have experienced with advertising on Facebook – images the size of a postage stamp on the sidebar of a website don’t exactly make it easy to create something distinctive and eye catching.

pug t-shirt Fab.com facebook advertHowever, I recently noticed a Suggested Post from Fab.com featuring the t-shirt pictured on the left. Not only had the post accrued a huge number of likes, it had also been shared by hundreds of people. Of course, when this pops up in the newsfeeds of a sharer’s friends it converts the post from an advertisement into a recommendation from a friend – Facebook uses the same tactic when pointing out that ‘Your friend X likes this’.

It’s difficult to get away from the fact that Facebook isn’t somewhere people go to be sold to. Unless they manage a page for a business themselves, it’s unlikely that they’ll ever sympathise with a brand or product that’s appearing somewhere that they don’t it want to – you don’t have to watch your newsfeed for long to see Suggested Posts (that are less visually appealing than Fab.com’s efforts) being blasted by people who want it out of their feed.

If you’re selling a product that’s visually intriguing or exciting, or a low value ‘impulse buy’, Suggested Posts seem to be a great way to go. However, if you sell high value products or subscription based services, you might want to think very hard about whether or not Facebook advertising is going to deliver what you want it to.

Stu Bradley

Whether he’s dealing with journalists, copywriting content for new websites or disseminating information internally, it all comes back to words with Stu. His posts deal with everything from tone of voice to life in the startup scene.

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  • http://twitter.com/Rollo87 Steven Hammond

    I want that T-Shirt!

    • http://twitter.com/KashFlow KashFlow Software

      Yeah, we kinda do too…

  • Howard Davies -Lectogic

    We have just updated our website and was considering social media advertising. This is valued information, many thanks.

    • http://twitter.com/KashFlow KashFlow Software

      Think it really depends on your business…perhaps worth testing it and seeing if it works for you!

  • http://twitter.com/mattchedit Matt Chatterley

    To some extent I think “effectiveness” depends on what you’re trying to do – I’d agree with your assertion that Facebook isn’t somewhere people go to be sold to (although, where is?) – or rather the inference that there is a barrier to selling. However, if your ‘goal’ is a social conversion (e.g. getting them to like a page, or interact with you), then I think you’re more likely to succeed (haven’t measured this personally).

    I definitely concur that trying to sell a subscription, your money is probably best used elsewhere, though!

  • epnkris

    Was this for KashFlow? At a guess Facebook might not be the best place to advertise business services given its a place largely used for fun/personal stuff. Have you tried other networks like LinkedIn and if so what was the perfomance like there?

    • http://twitter.com/KashFlow KashFlow Software

      It was, and we did try LinkedIn but that wasn’t hugely successful either! Strangely enough, we speak to a lot of business owners who haven’t found LinkedIn great for advertising either…

  • http://twitter.com/iDare87 Mr Daré

    Very true the FB algorithm has been tweaked to suit paid advertisments more…they also suck more lol – what a conundrum!!

    Twitter better in your opinion?

  • http://twitter.com/SprintersTravel Sprinters Travel

    Hi Stu! I’ve heard that average Facebook CTR is only 0.01% so you’re doing well (in that sense!).

    We’ve had a bash at Fb advertising and it’s worked well for a very localised and community directed campaign. But an ad for our general services produced hardly anything. Although the CTR is low, I think (have no proof just yet) our profile has been raised amongst our target audience and so while I won’t invest bundles in it, I reckon for the time being we’ll keep it ticking over.

  • http://www.octopus-creative.co.uk/ Octopus Creative Design

    Web designers are constantly being asked for advice on Social Media Advertising and SEO companies. There seems to be no shortage of companies offering miracle returns on investments, all too often they prove to be both expensive and ineffective. Your article has confirmed my suspicions that returns are always likely to be meagre and to reap the benefits of any online marketing campaigns you need to manage it yourself and adapt accordingly. After all, who knows your business better than you?

  • Elliott

    I’ve blocked all ads on my facebook. I go there to socialise and don’t want to see ads. If I want to buy I’ll go to Google, Amazon or similar.

  • Marcus Lee-Crowther

    hey Guys … Anyone trying to direct sell a product or service on fb will fail … but if you build a relationship with a fanpage first its a whole new board game .. IE concentrating on getting the likes first to a page with great examples like the pug t-shirt or maybe in KashFlow instance a completion to win a free copy maybe one a month would see huge difference in my own opinion and seen this work well for many services and products …At the end of the day its all about know like and trust :)

    • Marcus Lee-Crowther

      Just to add as well just seen good results with direct fb id uploading ie a targeted scrape of all laser targeted users instead of the usual way of filling in the facebook ad targeting section. hope this helps a few and reminds me i never did use my KashFlow trial ooops :)

  • http://www.srijancapital.com/ Ravi Trivedi

    Looks like your campaign was run fairly unoptimized, and no wonder you saw poor results –

    1) Frequency of 7.8 means each person saw your ad roughly 8 times. Either your targeting was too narrow, or you ran the ad for too long. Rule of Thumb, any time frequency is above 3 we stop that ad.

    2 ) CTR is too low. Any ad below CTR of 0.2% should be created again till you get the higher CTR. Specific optimization will vary depending on what you had in ad, but Image is a key.

    3) Did you use Day parting. Not run the ads in night .

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