Do Facebook Ads Really Work?

Do Facebook ads really work? It was one of the first questions the media began asking after the company went public in 2012. And, the question continues to get asked to this day. Though more and more companies are spending big on Facebook advertising, reports on the effectiveness of those ads continue to provide conflicting results.A lot of that uncertainty comes from the sheer fact that using Facebook as an ad platform is a new option for businesses. But as more data exists to be collected it seems that the results are improving. Mashable reported that the first of the annual Social Media Intelligence reports released by Adobe found that “ad clicks, ad impressions and advertisers’ return on investment were all higher in 2013 than in 2012.”The study looked at more than 131 billion impressions on Facebook ads, and over 4 billion social engagements. That data showed that Facebook ads were clicked on nearly 30% more often in 2013 and that investors’ returns on those ads increased nearly 60%.With numbers like that, it’s not surprising that Facebook continues to be the social medium that brands turn to most often. The Technorati Media’s 2013 Digital Influence Report found that 57% of top brand’s social media budgets went to Facebook, compared to just 13% to Twitter and YouTube.Despite those stats, doubts still linger. Businessweek recently took a look at that divide pointing to a recent Forrester report which “surveyed 395 marketers about what kind of online advertising they find most effective. They generally expressed skepticism about social media websites in general, ranking Facebook at the very bottom of the list.”And, MediaPost recently wrote about a study that found “just 37% of the marketers surveyed said they think their Facebook advertising campaigns are effective, while 22% disagreed and 41% were uncertain.”Some of those doubts could stem from the fact that a lot of the analysis of Facebook ads is based on a “last click model.” That means that if users see an ad for something they are interested in on Facebook but go on to purchase it later, without clicking through the ad, the Facebook ad likely drove the purchase, but would not get the credit.All told, there are some tactics that many companies have found very effective to use with Facebook ads. Because of the vast reach of the Facebook platform, and the specificity with which brands can target, there is opportunity to reach a large, potentially interested audience. And since the ads can easily be changed or replaced, many companies report success when they test several variations of ads, then replace the underperforming versions with the ones that are driving Facebook users to their page. Recently Facebook announced a redesign of their ad buying and reporting tools. To begin the ad buying process, advertisers must answer, “What’s your advertising objective?” The business is given a list of choices and Facebook will recommend an ad type based on the choice made. Additionally, Facebook now allows businesses to decide whether their ad will be shown in the mobile News Feed, desktop News Feed and/or on the right-hand column. According to Facebook, “a marketer looking to drive traffic to their website can now place a desktop ad with a link to their full desktop site, and a separate mobile ad that links to their mobile site. This means businesses can better tailor ad experiences based on where people will see their message.”Many companies have found success with Facebook ads when they are used for list-building. By offering an entry to a contest or giveaway, a “freemium” like a preview of a product or a low-cost download in exchange for an email address, many companies have found success in growing their email list for a low cost. One executive also noted that Facebook ads proved effective in bringing customers back to their website who had not made a purchase on their first visit, saying that “with retargeting on Facebook exchange, we are seeing a 200 percent ROI.”Facebook’s recent updates to the ad buying and reporting tools may improve advertisers results, but if you aren’t sure if it is the right place for your business to advertise, watch to see what changes Twitter makes to their advertising program now that the company has gone public. Or, your company may benefit from placement on more visual sites such as Instagram (which just recently introduced ads into their feeds) and Pinterest. Pinterest does not currently sell advertising space but is starting to determine how it will do so. As more and more people spend more time on social media, these sites are ones to keep your eyes on.