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Comment - Social media advertising for retailers

It is hard for any marketer to ignore the hype that surrounds social media - Facebook, Twitter, performance display and ad exchanges are bringing opportunities for retailers to generate demand within these massive new channels. By Ed Stevenson


Comment - Social media advertising for retailers

It is hard for any marketer to ignore the hype that surrounds social media - Facebook, Twitter, performance display and ad exchanges are bringing opportunities for retailers to generate demand within these massive new channels. By Ed Stevenson

Facebook is probably the most accessible and it’s understandable that retailers are getting excited about its possibilities. We’re looking at a site with more than 400 Million active users, all of whom can be individually targeted and engaged through Facebook Ads. 
But paid advertising on Facebook has only just begun, and still has a long way to go. Since Facebook opened up its API and allowed text and image advertisements to appear on the right hand side of most pages, few organisations who have figured out how to make the most out of the opportunity – and, in many cases, they still do not have access to resources and budgets to tap into the channel.  Now, for smart retailers, this uncertainty around Facebook Ads represents a fantastic opportunity. Just as advertising on Content Networks required a shift from intent-based to contextual advertising, Facebook Ads represent a similar shift.  It’s true that advertising on Facebook is driven by targeting users based on their likes and interests, as opposed to user queries.  But most of the search marketing skills and techniques developed by successful brands can be translated into the skills required to build winning campaigns on Facebook. This is because Facebook and paid search advertising share a common bond – their ad platforms fundamentally rely on targeting specific segments of users. 
With a large set of potential keywords to explore, Facebook marketers have the challenge of expanding their audience, whilst refining their traffic quality at the same time. They also need to make sure they are doing this with factors such as creative and landing pages and the affect they have on conversion in mind.  Doing these things is all part of a search marketer’s skill-set: analysing conversion rates and ROI down to the creative level, building out multiple similar campaigns with varying targeting parameters, sub-segmenting campaigns based on quantitative results to refine traffic, testing ad copy and landing page effectiveness, bidding to business goals on ads with little history or data, and managing ad quality. 
But how to take the first steps?  As a retailer, there are lots of ways to use your existing search programs to give yourself a head start on Facebook.  And more importantly, there are some unique best-practices on Facebook that you should know about. Below are three tips that I’ve put together after working with merchants using Facebook Ads:
Carefully consider how to re-purpose Your Top Keywords to Generate Likes and Interests
Just as in paid search, you will likely use keywords (called Likes and Interests) to target your ads to potential customers on Facebook.  Identifying your highest performing paid search terms can give you a head start in determining relevant keywords for use as likes and interests.  But, you have to be thoughtful about how you use these keywords.  Similar to advertising on the content network, focus on topics and themes rather than individual terms in order to translate from search keywords to keywords representing likes and interests.  You should be creative about generating likes and interests by including related themes.  For example, if you sell tents, consider likes and interests like “camping”, “backpacking”, “trail running”, “rock climbing” and other related activities.  Also, you need to be weary of keywords that are too general.  These terms can cast a wide a net in terms of audience and end up diluting traffic quality and performance.  Use Facebook’s advertising tools to estimate the reach of targeting parameters, including candidate likes and interests.    
Test Images Before Copy
On search engines, ads are typically limited to a 25 character headline and 75 character description, making testing and tweaking copy easy. On Facebook, you have a little more copy to play with, but more importantly you have the option to use an image in your ads. With a wide variety of engaging social content on Facebook pages, you need to ensure your ads stand out and can grab the user’s attention.  While relevant value propositions, differentiation, and calls to action, in copy are vital, using the right image can have a much larger impact on whether or not your ad warrants a second glance or a click.  Most successful ads include colourful, engaging images.   Adding borders to your photos in colours like orange or yellow, which contrast with the blue and white Facebook interface, is a simple way to pull the users’ eyes your way. The most successful images tend not to be the most aesthetically pleasing, but are instead the ones that grab the most attention. 
Keep Your Ads Fresh
With users spending an average of over seven hours a month on Facebook, they will be presented with your ads much more often than paid search ads.  Because an ad can be served to the same users multiple times, it doesn’t take long for Facebook users to become “blind” to an advertisement.  Additionally, if your ad has low click-through rates, Facebook may look to serve the ad less than newer ads without performance history.  Rotating images and ad copy are important to keep ads fresh and quality scores high.  Even Facebook themselves suggest that you move around images and copy every couple of days to make sure your ads remain fresh to the viewers and encourage clicks.  Serving a variety of ads to the same target group can also help you hone in on the messaging and images that make an impact on particular segments.

Ed Stevenson is European MD at Marin Software

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