Facebook has been in the news a lot lately, and not just because of its less-than-stellar IPO.
A few weeks ago, General Motors announced that the company was pulling back its $10 million ad buy — a move that garnered major headlines, especially given it was on the eve of the aforementioned IPO.
But today we learn that Ford has decided to up the ante on its Facebook advertising.
So, what’s the truth about Facebook ads? Are they effective or just a lot of hype?
Our company does quite a bit of advertising, and so I tend to agree with Ben Kunz who writes:
What GM’s retreat really shows is the harsh reality that other brands must face: Making social-media communications work requires heavier lift than many organizations can muster.
In other words, there are a lot of organizations who simply aren’t doing it right.
I preface this post by noting that our firm does not utilize Facebook to sell products. We don’t sell widgets (or cars). We sell ideas, we promote candidates, and we help build communities for businesses, campaigns and non-profits.
But that’s kind of the point. While there are some businesses who are successfully utilizing Facebook ads to directly sell products — Facebook’s greatest value lies in creating communities around your brand and then engaging with those communities to build potential customers, paying customers and, hopefully, loyal customers.
In the political field, we’ve seen many a campaign that fails at Facebook because they fail to put the effort into engaging with their community. In some cases, the content is there — but they fail to either run Facebook ads, or to run those ads in a strategic fashion. Some campaigns still run Facebook ads that simply link to the homepage of their Web sites — a missed opportunity to engage these potential voters as Facebook fans with whom they can have an ongoing dialogue and, hopefully, convert them to loyal voters and advocates prior to Election Day.
In other words, it’s vital that organizations utilize Facebook to engage instead of, ahem, merely trying to reach eyeballs (sound familiar?).
Many campaigns, however, are doing it right. The Huffington Post today reports on a new study by Holly Teresi of the New Organizing Institute. Her study tested “tested whether status updates from a friend could noticeably improve a person’s knowledge of current electoral politics, or move people to head to the polls who might otherwise have sat at home.”
The results of Teresi’s study are pretty amazing:
Data was collected from several different pools of voters that ranged between 100 and 700. Voters in her control group who were not given a message from a friend about voting on election day turned out at a 22 percent rate. Those who received messages encouraging them to vote and letting them know when election day was turned out at a rate of 30 percent. An eight point jump — an increase of more than a third — is the kind of thing that can turn an election.
Keep in mind that it wasn’t just Facebook ads alone that caused these results. It was the fans of a campaign’s Facebook page (who were most likely recruited via Facebook ads) who made the difference by sharing the campaign’s content.
But heavy deployment of Facebook ads is shown to move the needle, according to another study cited in that same HuffPost article:
The consulting firm Chong & Koster blasted some Florida voters with an average of five ads a day on Facebook, encouraging a no vote on a proposition that would have increased school class sizes. Voters exposed to the ads were more likely to vote no than a typical voter — and more likely to oppose it than a typical Democrat.
In fact, our own anecdotal evidence from some of our local campaigns shows that heavy rotation of Facebook ads can increase baseline candidate name identification. We’ve had several newbie candidates who felt they were helped greatly by Facebook ads when they walked door-to-door, as numerous voters recognized them from those Facebook ads.
Facebook ads are inexpensive, they can be hyper-targeted, and they can be very effective in helping build a fanbase for an organization’s Facebook page. The key, however, is ensuring that you engage with these fans (i.e., customers, voters, advocates) once they become fans. As Holly Teresi’s study found, the rewards can be … well … winning.