Facebook ads often seem like a no-brainer to businesses, and with good reason. The platform has 2.2 billion monthly active users and offers some of the most precise audience targeting out there, ranging from simple metrics like gender and age, to more complex characteristics, such as interests and behaviors.
But even with advanced targeting options, 62% of small business owners who use Facebook advertising say their ads are missing their targets. Which is a bit weird, don’t you think? Especially if targeting is supposed to be Facebook’s greatest strength.
But there are a few reasons for this statistic. First, Facebook isn’t the right platform for every business; it depends on your industry, audience, and business goals, so not all businesses will thrive there.
It can also be difficult to create successful paid social campaigns without the guidance of someone who’s an expert in PPC—someone who knows the ins, outs, and pitfalls of social platforms like Facebook.
But the biggest reason for that statistic may be that businesses are setting themselves up for failure by misunderstanding how Facebook ads contribute to sales.
Too many businesses believe the only definition of a successful Facebook ad is one that generates clicks which turn into immediate purchases, when in reality, these ads contribute to so much more than just their own conversion rates.
Facebook's biggest strength is its massive user base and nuanced targeting, but the problem is this:
Nobody goes on Facebook to buy things.
(Unless they're using Facebook Marketplace, but that's a whole other conversation)
People go onto Facebook to connect with friends, look at photos, and share content. They don’t log onto Facebook thinking, "I’m looking to buy [insert product] today.” That is the inevitable barrier you face when advertising on Facebook.
Now, not all PPC advertising platforms are like this; on Google, for example, many consumers will search for phrases like "heart necklaces for valentine's day," "floral candles," or "patriots themed pint glasses," and they do so with a higher buying intent. That's one of the benefits of Google search ads; if you set up your keywords correctly, the people who see your ad are more likely to be looking to buy what you’re selling, right then and there.
But Facebook, again, is different. People are socializing, not shopping, so it's important to remember when looking at ad performance that you might be getting more clicks with fewer conversions because the buyer isn't ready to buy yet.
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Take a look at this fancy sales funnel we put together.
This is the journey every customer goes through when considering a purchase:
As you can see in the above funnel, however, while search ads usually reach people at the bottom of the funnel, Facebook ads often reach people toward the top, during the awareness and interest stages. Problems arise when businesses expect to get an unreasonable number of bottom-funnel actions (purchases) when consumers are still at the top of the funnel.
That’s why a consumer might click on your ad but not buy anything; they’re still trying to learn more about your business.
But here's the good news.
The reason they want to learn more about your business is because they’re interested in your product. And that Facebook ad they clicked on? It just took them one step deeper into the funnel, and one step closer to a purchase—whether it happens today, tomorrow, or in the weeks to come.
Hearing all this, you might think it’s better to avoid Facebook altogether and just invest in bottom-funnel advertising, such as Google search ads. But if you do that, how will you efficiently get new customers into the funnel? And how will you help move them from the top of the funnel to the bottom, where you’re able to convince them to make a purchase?
The answer (or at least one of the more effective answers) is Facebook.
What Facebook advertising does well is expose your brand to relevant audiences. According to Adobe Analytics, social media ads drive three times more non-customers than existing customers to retailer websites, giving you the chance to introduce your brand and website to a lot of new consumers.
Facebook also helps you nurture your pre-existing and newly exposed audiences, moving them toward purchases via remarketing ads. These ads enable you to target consumers who’ve already interacted with your brand, using tactics like re-engagement campaigns and dynamic ads populated with products the consumer has expressed interest in. Remarketing ads such as these will likely generate some of your best conversion rates on Facebook.
But even when an ad doesn’t lead to an immediate sale, it can still often lead to future purchases. In fact, according to Curalate, 76% of U.S. consumers have purchased a product they’ve seen through a brand’s social media post, but 65% of them didn’t do so until a later date.
Those are a lot of sales not showing up in your Facebook conversion rates. And if that’s the case, where are they happening?
There are four main conversion points when advertising on Facebook.
The Facebook Ad Itself: Although Facebook users generally have low intent to buy, you can still make strong sales directly through Facebook ads. Some users will convert because they’re already deep in the sales funnel, either due to their own research or previous ad or brand experiences, and others will convert because you happen to catch them at the right time or offer a compelling enough deal to motivate them. Remarketing ads, again, are particularly effective at encouraging purchases on Facebook by actively targeting users who’ve already interacted with your brand.
Google Search Ads: Even if a customer has no intent to buy while on Facebook, if they are interested in your ad, they won’t ignore it. Instead, they will continue browsing Facebook, and at a later date, when they’ve had more time to decide, they’ll type your product’s name into Google, click on one of your search ads, and convert there—giving you a sale and boosting your search ad conversion rate.
Your Website: Some customers will click on your ad and bookmark or remember your website for later. Again, they’re not ready to buy yet, so they’ll take some time to consider your product; then, when they’re ready, they’ll return to your website directly to make the purchase.
In-store purchases: Whether they need your product fast or don’t want to pay for shipping, some customers will click on an ad to learn more about your product, then go to a nearby brick-and-mortar store to make the purchase. In fact, 20% of consumers who purchased a product after seeing it through a brand’s social media post made their purchase in-store. This increases foot traffic both to your own shops as well as retail stores that carry your product.
Judging the success of a Facebook ad, as you can see, is much more complex than just looking at conversion rates. You need to remember that these ads are one of many important components of your advertising ecosystem—one that can introduce customers to your brand, nurture them, and help generate sales across multiple channels, not just on Facebook itself.
If you’re looking to set up advertising on Facebook or other pay per click channels, feel free to get in touch about our PPC services. Our specialists will gladly provide guidance, management, and reporting services, ranging from plan creation and execution, to ad creation, conversion tracking, and more.