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As of the writing of this book in late summer 2015, Facebook ads, also known as Unpublished Page posts, are the single best advertising digital product for entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies that I’ve seen since buying the keyword wine through Google AdWords in 2004.

I didn’t realize it at first. Facebook has been an evolving ad product for the last few years, starting off slow, with ads on the right side of the desktop like any other banner advertising. When I started to see ads in the newsfeed it made a lot of sense to me; it’s huge and in-your-face when you look at the screen on your phone. Still, I didn’t have a eureka moment until a few months later, into 2014. It was only when I looked at the data and the results of the early Facebook ad campaigns that I started getting bullish and recognized that this was going to be a game changer.

So did a few others, but not everyone. In fact, a lot of people were hysterical in 2014–15 that Facebook would make changes that would compromise its organic outreach on fan pages in favor of ad pages. Journalists, pundits, and execs who had never run a Facebook ad were publishing articles about how all the young people were migrating to Snapchat and Instagram and threatening Facebook’s domination. People were so angry and emotional they resisted exploring Facebook’s capabilities and trying out the new ad product. But I and other real practitioners, the kind of people who spend lots of time in the dirt, recognized that this emotional narrative was creating an outstanding arbitrage opportunity, and we jumped in to take advantage of it.

The more people bashed Facebook and swore its effectiveness was on the decline, the fewer people were trying out the new ad platform. And since Facebook is a supply-and-demand marketplace, the price only goes up as advertisers bid for audiences, just like Google AdWords. There was therefore an incredible golden era in 2014–15 where the intrepid marketers who weren’t wasting their breath complaining and were willing to experiment could get tremendous reach to the exact people they wanted with a bunch of different creatives, and see tangible results. That, my friends, reflects the difference between how practitioners and headline readers operate.

We’ve never had an ad product with incredible accuracy, one that could target to age, s@x, occupation, and on top of that, behaviors and interests. By partnering up with data mining companies, Facebook can now tell us not only the demographics of its users, but their buying histories, both online and off. You can literally target one ad to nineteen-year-old men with facial hair who live in Phoenix and drink Red Bull, and send another one to twenty-three-year-old women in Detroit who wear contact lenses and play golf. I’m a forty-year-old male who lives in Manhattan and loves the Jets and root beer. Imagine what a phenomenally cost-effective transaction you could instigate if you hit my emotional center by putting in my line of vision a root beer with green football thematics. The only challenge is figuring out the psychology of your audience and determining what story will most likely compel them to make a purchase. If you learn to interpret the available correctly and deploy it with creative calls to action against the right demo at the right time on the right platform, you’re golden. Theoretically, Facebook ads could allow you to create a unique, native, relevant ad to every user on Facebook. I’m convinced this period will be heralded as one of the great eras of advertising alongside early TV advertising, early direct mail advertising, and early Google AdWords.

By the time you read this more people will be flooding this product. It’s possible that Facebook ads will no longer be as effective as they once were now that more people have caught on to their extraordinary capabilities. Slowly the supply and demand will force the ads to a more appropriate price. I’ll still be bullish about it and I believe it will be a monster platform in 2016–17, even becoming the bedrock of people’s advertising plans. And as always, even in the most saturated market, there is ROI in putting your content on anything that consumers pay attention to, so long as you know how to execute, preferably better than anyone else.

imageWhat’s the best way to use Facebook ads and the right price to pay?

The answer is the same whether we’re talking about the best way to capitalize on Facebook ads or Instagram, Pinterest’s ad platform or native ads on Outbrain, Taboola, and Hexagram: Get in there and figure it out. The only way to get good at anything is to do it. There are hundreds of papers, articles, and video tutorials that will teach you how to create Facebook ads, but what will determine whether yours work or not will be how much time you spend listening to your consumers and gauging what content will best speak to them. The only way to figure that out is to experiment and see what happens.

As for what ads should cost you, that’s always going to be a different answer from day to day depending on the supply-and-demand curve of the open bidding marketplace.

imageWhat’s the best way to use Facebook ads to grow audiences on other platforms?

You shouldn’t. It’s the wrong strategy when you can buy an audience on YouTube with pre-rolls at 5–7 cents per view, and Pinterest and Instagram now have their own ad platforms. You will find that dollar for dollar, you will win by building audiences within the ad product of the platform. Native content is always the best way to reach consumers, so leave your Facebook ads on Facebook.

imageWhich marketing vehicles are working best to grow the start-ups you’ve invested in?

At the time I answered this question, every start-up I was investing in was using Facebook ads and if they could have spent every dollar they had on them they would have. It was as effective as Google AdWords was back in the day for Amazon and eBay. At that time, while many dithered and debated the ROI of Google AdWords, these two Internet companies went all in, which allowed them to gain tons more market share at an undervalued price.

imageAs a rookie, how much should I allocate to Facebook ads for a Teespring campaign?

With a platform this powerful you should be spending as much money as possible on it. You could have so much fun with a campaign for such an easily customizable product. Imagine if you made a T-shirt that said, for example, “Denver Truck Drivers Rule.” You could then create a Facebook ad targeted toward truck drivers who live in Denver. It would crush.

imageHow should marketers engage with an audience that is generally reluctant to talk publicly about the needs we can fill, for example hair replacement products?

First of all, you might be surprised what people are willing to talk about in public. Ashley Madison aside, there isn’t much left that’s truly taboo or embarrassing. Rogaine has 36,000 likes on its official Facebook page. Depends has 26,000. So you can certainly start there, and you can make an educated guess that a sizable portion of men and women between the ages of 35 and 50 might have hair loss on their mind. In addition, however, because of Facebook’s data mining capabilities, you can gauge who your audience might be based on their purchasing behavior.

Second, don’t forget you can go after people indirectly, too. Look for specialists and doctors with fan pages and tap their audience. Analyze the similarities among all of those people and create a general profile for the individuals who would probably be interested in hearing about your product or service, and target them.

Finally, search ads would be a powerful tool for anyone with this dilemma. Buy the right keywords on Google so that when someone does take it upon themselves to start looking for information, yours shows up immediately.

imageIs it worth paying for a course to learn all about Facebook ads, or is it all right to rely on the free info on YouTube? Are Facebook ads really that complicated?

Facebook ads are not hard in the same way that using a screwdriver or shooting a basketball is not hard. Being great at the execution is what’s hard. Use your time to educate yourself on the options available to you with the tool, and then start experimenting with it. The more you practice and analyze your results as you go, the better you’ll get. Being a practitioner is the only way to achieve meaningful success. We live in a world of headline readers and shallow pundits. I want you to be different. Go deep.

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