Facebook Falls Flat

Reprinted with permission from the Lyris.com blog archives.
By: Dane Christensen

I’ve been hearing some claims recently about people having success with pay-per-click advertising on Facebook – plenty of low-cost clicks that were highly targeted due to Facebook’s demographic profiles. So I thought I’d give it a try. I figured it was a win-win situation: if it worked well I’d be able to improve my overall PPC performance. If it didn’t, at least I’d have fodder for another blog post. So how did Facebook stack up?

No, I am not a fan of Facebook PPC. I’ll start with the system itself. My experiment started out well enough, I suppose. The interface is so minimalistic that it was obvious that the first thing to do was to create an ad. But things started to go wrong soon after that.

I was greatly disappointed in the targeting capability. I did target based on age and college education for good measure, but what I really expected to be able to target on was their interest. I started by typing “email marketing” into the keyword field and soon realized that I couldn’t enter just any term I wanted. I could only match on words that were in their system – and “email marketing” wasn’t. Neither was “web analytics”, nor “internet marketing”. In fact, the only words containing the word “marketing” were job positions (i.e. marketing manager, etc.). So the closest I could really target my market was for the general word “marketing”. Certainly of the millions of people on Facebook some of them must mention “email marketing” or “internet marketing” somewhere in their profiles, so I was not impressed by this.

Then I saw that I needed to upload an image to go with my ad, but they required a non-standard 110 x 80 pixel image. I already have banners for all our product lines in pretty much every standard size, but I had to go back to our creative team to have them create special versions just for Facebook. That wasn’t a huge obstacle. Within a couple days our designer had cranked out my images and I was able to launch my ads.

I created five different campaigns and let them run. After a few days had passed and I started monitoring my accounts I began to notice other inadequacies of the interface. For example, in the main ads manager I only had four choices for time frames I could look at: Ad Lifetime, Today, Yesterday, or Week (since Sunday). You can’t even see a month-to-date view of your data, let alone a custom date range.

Worse yet, the report didn’t total up the metrics for all my campaigns. It gave me daily totals and it gave me the totals for each campaign for the (limited) time frame I selected. But if I wanted to know how much money I had spent over the last few days I had to break out the ol’ calculator and do the math myself. Of course, there is a reports section that does have all the reporting basics, but why not allow me to view the basic numbers within my ad management UI like all the other search engines do?

All that said, I could live with these miscellaneous issues if the bottom line looked good. But for me the performance of these campaigns was not just bad – it was dismal. Oh, there were plenty of impressions, comparable to what we get from the content networks in the search engines. And the average click-through rate was about the same as we get on those content ads. But the average cost per click was considerably higher than what we pay on the content networks – not the nickels and dimes I had been anticipating.

But the bottom line, of course, is conversions. And here is where Facebook fell flat on its, er, face. After investing over $1200 in this experiment and getting over 1,100 clicks we garnered exactly one lead – and a low quality lead at that. These were the same ads and landing pages that work quite well on all the other search engines I manage, so the issue was clearly Facebook itself.

I should have thrown in the towel on this test much sooner, but I wanted to make very sure I gave Facebook a fair trial. I did, and I find Facebook PPC seriously lacking as an advertising platform. Before I give Facebook another shot I’d need to see:

1) More user interface standardization with other PPC platforms

2) Better keyword-specific targeting capabilities based on user profiles

3) Most importantly, a more reasonable cost per click relative to the quality of those clicks

To be fair, I really should mention that I was promoting a B2B solution. It is possible that performance may be better for campaigns that are more “socially oriented” or “locally targeted”.

If you think Facebook is the appropriate medium to promote your product or service, go ahead and give it a shot. In fact, if you have a success story you’d like to share, please do so in the “Comments” section below, because I’m not convinced. Otherwise take a lesson from me and don’t spend $1200 before you pull the plug!