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.

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 400m active users, all of whom can be individually targeted and engaged through Facebook Ads.

However, 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 repurpose 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 is important to keep ads fresh and quality scores high.

Even Facebook suggests 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

Published 29 June, 2010 by Ed Stevenson

Ed Stevenson is Managing Director (Europe) of Marin Software, a paid search technology firm, and a contributor to Econsultancy. He also writes the Big Search blog. 

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Comments (4)


Matt Whitehead

One thing not mentioned here is the formatting of the image.

Size 110x80

No looping images

No flash

Max file size 5MB

Best tip here is to rotate copy. Nothing worse than seeing the SAME ad's over and over. Or maybe I should do more work.

about 8 years ago



Matt:  What users are going to sit around and wait for a browser to load a 5 MEGABYTE AD?

about 8 years ago


Marc LeVine

Yes...I've taken this into account:

"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." 

I wonder if there are any studies available about the impact of certain types of images in social media ads - the subject matter.  I am not sure I can think of all the possible categories, but  we all can think of several.

1. Stock Art vs. Amatuer.

2. Photos vs. Graphics

3. Color vs. B&W

4. Modern vs. Nostalgic

5. People vs. Things vs. Scenery

6. Children vs. Adults.

There are many more....

My question boils down to some sort of metrics on what works (best) and what doesn't.  I understand that context plays a major role in all this, too.  So, does culture and there may be regional issues, as well.  Just wondering what kind of research and discussion may exist, if any.

about 8 years ago



Facebook Ads have changed how I promote my sites.  And holy wow is it effective!  On a recent campaign I grew the Facebook Page by 900 fans in two weeks for a mere $127.  Another campaign grew it by 700 fans for $73.  

That comes to 14 cents to convert a fan and 10 cents to convert a fan.

And believe me, they are very high quality fans.  They continually make purchases, become repeat customers, comment on posts regularly, etc.  And very few of them have ever left.  My mind is continually blown.

There is no doubt that it took some trial and error to find the right target, ad messages, etc.  But Facebook is amazing in that it lets you pause, delete, and edit ads on the fly and allows you to split up your targeting with as many ads as you like to find which target is responding the most effectively.

It's something I've become a huge advocate for and I'm eager to use it with other clients, projects etc.  

Hit me up, would love to chat more about it.  Mostly I just love numbers and mmmm-math.

about 8 years ago

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