With all the activity on Facebook right now, do you know who you're talking to? Should you care?
Absolutely. As the social networking site gets busier and busier, it gets more and more cluttered. One of the best ways to make sure that you cut through the clutter is by targeting your messages and your ads to people most likely to be interested.
Facebook recently launched two new ways to get your message in front of the right people:
Sponsored Stories is now available and it's beta testing another service that lets you insert your logo or message in real time into people's comments.
Facebook Sponsored Stories lets advertisers link ads to relevant content created by users. Facebook users may see Sponsored Stories ads attached to their friends' Page Likes, applications, Place check-ins and posts to Pages. They appear in the right-hand column of the Facebook interface, in the same place that ads do.
For example, if someone "likes" your Page, that might show up in her friends' News Feeds. However, depending on how many friends she has and a variety of other factors, it might not.
If you are advertising via Sponsored Story, you are paying to have that same action show up on the right side of her friends' News Feeds. And according to Mark Barrera, an independent online marketing consultant, Sponsored Stories provide automatic targeting.
"Assuming that someone's friends are in the same demographic, you can reach out to that group of people sharing similar interests. I would definitely recommend it to small businesses for that reason: you're getting into someone's social circle."
"I love the use of the term 'story,' it's a good fit for what Facebook is about," says Paul Chaney, social media consultant and author of The Digital Handshake: Seven Proven Strategies to Grow Your Business Using Social Media. "I'm seeing my friend's name, seeing they like the page, it's a natural inclination for me to want to do that too."
He has tested sponsoring both Likes and posts with good results. He notes that "No Facebook conversions are double digits; it's usually a percent or two." But, clients whose average conversion rate with Facebook ads is 0.08 percent get better performance from Sponsored Stories.
There's one big difference between regular Facebook ads and Sponsored Stories, Barrera points out: Sponsored Stories link only to your Facebook Page, not to your external website.
"Depending on what it is you're trying to tell people, sometimes it is important to take them outside," he says. To get around that, you can create a new tab in your Facebook Page and customize it with a link to your website, and send people who click on the Sponsored Story to that tab.
You can apply all of Facebook's existing targeting criteria -- age, location, interests, income, etc. -- to Sponsored Stories, as well.
A few large brands are testing advertising in real-time conversations, Facebook's alternate name for the News Feed. In demos offered by Facebook, the Starbucks logo appears on someone's News Feed after she mentions the brand. Instead of being off in the right-hand column, which many Facebook users have learned to ignore, it's in the center of the page.
The theory seems to be that because the advertiser is already in a user's mind, a clickthrough is more likely. But Chaney is skeptical.
"I just don't know if an anecdotal remark on my part in a status update will result in a clickthrough," he says.
The price is right
Barrera and Chaney both note that Facebook ads of all kinds are highly affordable. Like other pay-per-click advertising, you only pay when someone actually clicks on your link.
Facebook allows you to set a daily budget, Barrera says, and this could be as little as $5 per day. For that $5, you can usually get five to 10 clicks—as well as many more impressions.
"Because you only pay when someone clicks, you get a lot more brand visibility. You get your name out there and build awareness," Barrera says. "It's great visibility for such a cheap price."
Flexibility is another bonus for the SMB marketer, Chaney adds. "You can capitalize on a hot trend, and then, when it goes away, you move onto something else. You're not stuck in a long-term commitment."
Image credit: umjanedoan