As Facebook tries to convince small businesses to advertise, it’s doling out lots of advice. Its latest pointer: Tell your story before trying to sell your stuff.
A new study conducted by social media advertising technology firm Adaptly found that Facebook ads that tell a brand story—versus, say, promoting product deals or asking people to take a specific action right away—are more likely to generate results. In May Adaptly worked with lifestyle and fashion site Refinery 29 and tested two types of Facebook ads: “sustained call to action” ads that focused on generating specific results (in this case, getting people to sign up for subscriptions to Refinery 29) and “sequenced” ads that told Refinery 29’s story before eventually asking them to subscribe. The company used Facebook’s Custom Audiences tools, including Lookalike audiences, to first target both types of ads at Facebook users most likely to care about Refinery 29’s content and offerings.
The more indirect approach of using storytelling ads was far more effective: People who saw the sequenced ads that were more focused on brand awareness clicked through to Refinery’s website 87 percent more often than those who saw the shorter, more sales-focused ads and were 56 percent more likely to sign up for email subscriptions.
A blog post on Facebook for Business says the secret may be that lesser-known companies and brands need to first help people clearly understand who they are and what they offer before trying a hard-sell approach.
“Some advertisers may find it counterintuitive to elongate a campaign as a way to more gradually bring their audience through the purchase funnel, rather than more immediately delivering a call-to-action,” said Nikhil Sethi, Adaptly’s CEO. “But we have proven that this classic brand-building approach is both effective and efficient, even for direct-response advertising.”
Of course, it may be rather self-serving for Facebook and Adaptly to suggest businesses create longer, creative ads—as more-involved advertising campaigns benefit both of those companies. All the same, it offers some valuable lessons for small businesses trying to win customers in the social-media age: You need to generate awareness and understanding of your company and brand before assuming people will want to buy from you.
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