Facebook recently launched a new way to advertise: Lead Ads.
We’ve been trying them out as part of the promotion for an upcoming event, and this has revealed three things about the future of Facebook advertising.
I’ll go into that in more detail, but first a quick plug for the event in question.
Econsultancy is holding a roundtable for client-side marketers in Sydney and Melbourne this month on Behavioural Marketing. And for those who are in Sydney you can sign up here, for Melbourne sign up here.
Now, on with the post…
What are Lead Ads?
Lead Ads let you advertise your product, service, or event in the News Feed and capture information from potential customers right in Facebook.
That is, when people click on your ad you now have the option to gather information right then and there. The information is stored on Facebook and you can download it from your company page.
And, as Facebook has a lot of personal information stored in its platform, commonly-used fields such as name and email are already filled in for respondents.
What this means is that marketers can now host their lead capture applications on Facebook and interested people can submit their details without having to type them in again.
At the moment, it’s only available on mobile, but if your marketing experience on Facebook is anything like mine, you know that mobile is where a lot of the traffic is anyway.
Trying it out
Well to find out how it all works, I decided to launch a campaign for our upcoming Behavioral Marketing roundtable in Melbourne.
First, I created the campaign in the Power Editor and selected the objective ‘Lead Generation’.
I created the ad as you normally would with a nice photo of one of our previous events and the relevant information in the ad copy. Here is the mobile version of the ad.
And then I targeted it to people in Melbourne interested in digital marketing topics.
Now for the interesting bit. When you go to edit the ad, there is a new section called ‘Lead Form’.
When you add a form to your ad, Facebook offers a very easy-to-use interface to add requests for customer information and even generate your own questions.
Then you pick a budget and launch it as you would with any other Facebook ad.
Once people start respponding to the ad, and supplying their information, you can download the results in a CSV file from the company page. Simple, right?
So what does this new ad format mean?
While working on it, though, I realized that Lead Ads give a few insights into the future of marketing on Facebook.
1) Facebook wants your content, and more
Facebook has encouraged marketers to post up company information for some time now. And, more recently, Facebook has made it possible to upload long-form content, as well.
Facebook Notes has been upgraded recently to a slick blogging platform and Facebook Instant Articles allows select publishers to deliver rich media content to their fans.
But Lead Ads are different
Lead Ads not only let us publish ads but they also let us interact with Facebook users directly in the News Feed. Instead of seeing an ad with a link and then clicking through to your website, they can do what you need them to do without leaving Facebook.
Essentially, this means that Facebook is making possible for us to move some of our business processes onto its platform. And in return we will have direct access to its vast audience.
What about apps?
We have been able to do this through Facebook Apps for some time, but Apps are somewhat hidden behind customized tabs on the company page and not very widely used by brands.
But now that we can have App-like interaction within the context of an ad, I suspect that more marketers will take Facebook up on its offer and use the platform for more than just publishing posts.
2) Facebook’s ad platform is becoming very sophisticated
Facebook’s ad platform started off as a way to publish simple ads on the right-hand side of the desktop News Feed.
But in the past few years, Facebook has added an almost overwhelming list of options to try and help marketers deliver more effective ads to a more targeted audience.
Custom audiences, lookalikes, mobile ad formats, day-parting, optimization options, carousel photos, videos and sophisticated budgeting have all been added recently to encourage us to advertise more on Facebook.
Now with Lead Ads, we can see that Facebook is determined to continue to innovate in the ad space with the intention of becoming among the most sophisticated ad platforms in the market.
And we can expect that if simple Lead Ads are successful, we will see more interface-rich options available to us.
At some point we may even be able to deliver fully-featured apps as ads.
3) Getting the most out of Facebook takes some work
And finally, with such levels of sophistication it will no longer be possible for just anyone to use the Facebook ad platform effectively.
In order to get the most out of it, marketers will have to spend a significant amount of reading, testing, and learning through doing.
My Lead Ad experience
The reason I mention this, is that when I saw that people were responding to the Lead Ad, I was very excited to see who had responded.
I immediately Googled to see what I had to do to download the list and found many helpful articles.
All you need to do, they said, was go to the company page, click on Publishing Tools and you will see the Lead Ads Forms which let you download your list!
Well I went to our company page and could not find Lead Ads Forms anywhere.
Furious and frantic I emailed Facebook saying that the product was broken and I needed a fix immediately. No response.
Then I searched high and low for a workaround. One clever guy explained that the information is available through the API. All you need is one ‘simple’ UNIX command and you get the URL to download a spreadsheet of your leads.
I tried it – and I got a malformed Excel spreadsheet instead.
Then finally, taking a deep breath, I went back and read the manual. Yes, in small text, it seems that you can create ads as an Editor of your page, but to get the list of respondents you need to be a page Admin.
Now that may make sense, but as a frequent user of Facebook ads I had never come across anything which required full Admin privileges.
I can only expect that other marketers may run into this problem – so be warned!
(And even long-time users of Facebook ads have to occasionally read the friendly manual!)
Offering the new Lead Ads format is an interesting move for Facebook. It gives advertisers a new way to interact with a Facebook audience and gives us some indication of where things are going.
I suspect we will see more innovations like this come out of Facebook and the other social platforms will follow shortly after.
But it does raise the question for marketers. How much of our business processes do we want on the social platforms, where we stand to get great engagement, versus how much do we want to keep on our sites, where we lose people because they don’t want to leave Facebook?
As we become more reliant on social platforms for traffic to our site and interaction with our businesses, I think this is something all marketers will have to consider very carefully, very soon.