Facebook Small Business Advertising

I’m often asked by small businesses to help them sell to a local audience. Traditionally, local businesses have advertised in local printed newspapers and magazines or in the Yellow Pages. But today, one of the most effective solutions, in terms of results and cost, is for them is to advertise on Facebook.

There are three areas where Facebook wins hands-down over local print advertising. The first is the incredibly detailed level of targeting advertisers can achieve. The second is it’s very much cheaper than traditional methods to reach their target audience. Thirdly, you can manage your ads with total flexibility.

Facebook offers laser-focused targeting

I live near Ashby de la Zouch, a town in the East Midlands and, in common with most small towns, we have a local printed magazine. It appears in shops and is delivered once a month. If a business takes an ad in our local magazine, the only thing they can safely assume about its 6,900 readers is that they live or work in the Ashby area.

That’s OK if you sell something generic that’s popular with a wide range of people. But not so much if you want to target a specific type of customer.

Let’s imagine you’re a local travel agent and you want to advertise a wine tasting holiday in Italy. You have decided your ideal customers are local women aged 40-60, who like red wine and Italian holidays.

The local magazine can’t help you with that level of targeting. However, on Facebook, you can focus your advert directly at women meeting those criteria.

And Facebook tells me it has 7,500 users within 10km of Ashby who fit the bill exactly.

For our travel agent, the choices are: advertise in the local magazine, where your ad might interest four readers, or 400, but you won’t know until you run it. The only thing you can be sure of is most of the people who see the ad will not be your ideal customer.

Alternatively, they could run a highly targeted campaign on Facebook. Here the ad will be shown only to women whose idea of a perfect holiday is living la dolce vita with a glass of Sangiovese or two.

On Facebook, if you set up the targeting correctly, practically everyone seeing your ad will be your ideal customer.

Facebook ads are way cheaper

One way to compare the costs of print and digital ads is to look at the cost to reach your target audience, usually measured as cost per thousand people. However, working that out isn’t as simple as dividing the price of the ad by the circulation figure. That’s because not all the readership matches your target audience, and for those who do, not everyone will read the ad.

To estimate the cost per thousand in our example, we need to make some assumptions.

Firstly, let’s assume half of the local magazine’s readership is men, who don’t interest us, so we’ll discard them. Then we’ll say, of the women left, half fall into the correct age range. We’re already down to 1,725 readers. How many of those like red wine and Italian holidays? That’s anyone’s guess, so let’s say 20%. Finally, we’ll assume the 75% of them will see the ad.

That makes 259 women (6,900 x 50% x 50% x 20% x 75%). To reach them, a half-page ad in our local magazine will cost £94.80, which works out at £0.336 per person, or £336 per 1,000.

When setting up a Facebook ad, you can dynamically set the budget according to Facebook’s reach estimates.

Facebook says there are 7,500 red wine drinking, lady holidaymakers of a certain age around here. To reach an estimated 1,200 of them over a week will cost our fictional travel agent £56.

Which works out at £0.046 per person, or £46.60 per 1,000.

In this instance, it is 86% cheaper to reach our target audience on Facebook, than it is in our local magazine.

Facebook ads are totally flexible

In print advertising, once you’ve published your ad, you can’t make any changes until the next edition. If your ad is not performing, there’s nothing you can do about it. Also, if you’ve made a mistake in the copy, you’ll have to live with it. In the case of our local magazine, you’ll have to wait a month.

On Facebook, you can make changes to a campaign at any time. You can increase or reduce the budget. You can change the advert, or run different versions of the ad at the same time to test which is the most effective. You can pull underperforming campaigns instantly or extend campaigns if they prove successful. You can schedule the ads to appear at certain times of the day, or only on specific days. The controls are almost endless.

Why doesn’t everyone advertise on Facebook?

As our example shows, Facebook wins hands-down compared to local print advertising. So why isn’t everyone doing it?

Firstly, plenty of local businesses are already using Facebook to reach their audiences. You just haven’t seen their ads because they weren’t aimed at you. That’s the power of targeting.

Some businesses won’t find their ideal customers on Facebook. Local companies selling to other businesses may find LinkedIn, the social networking site for professionals, more suitable. LinkedIn offers similar targeting features to Facebook, but in addition, allows you to target people by specific job titles and employers.

Finally, there’s the power of inertia. When you’re always busy it’s tempting to do what you’ve always done. For many business owners, getting their heads around online advertising is too complicated and technical. The learning curve seems very steep.

And even though Facebook advertising allows you to reach more relevant people for less money, few local business owners have the time or inclination to wade through the workings of Facebook’s Ad Manager.

Which is a pity, because they are missing out an incredibly cost-effective way to advertise.

If you’d like to know more about how Facebook advertising can help your business, let’s have a chat.

I’m Keith Barker, a freelance designer, marketer and copywriter with 30 years’ experience of helping LOCAL business to achieve their goals.

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