Are Facebook Ads Worth Abandoning SEM For?

There’s no question that Facebook has become the talk of the town in the advertising world. Facebook allows marketers to target virtually the entire world based on the interests and browsing behaviors of users. The social network knows it must rely on advertising to maintain its lofty stock price. Facebook recently launched an ad network, mobile ads and it may soon launch its own form of search advertising to take advantage of its massive user base.

So should you abandon your search marketing dollars to reach this massive, targeted audience? In a word, no!

Mark Cuban said it best in a recent post on his blog: “FB is far more like TV than it is Google Search … FB is what it is. It’s a time waster.” Facebook users don’t log on to research a new computer; they certainly don’t log on with the intent of buying something. Facebook users aren’t actively seeking information, unless it’s about their friend’s relationship status.

Search marketing, specifically paid search, is pure pull marketing. Consumers are already looking for your product. They’re either in the research phase, plugging broad keywords into Google looking for information or they’ve already made a purchase decision and are simply looking for a place to buy. Consumers use search engines because they’re actively seeking answers to a problem they have. All you have to do is show for the right keywords; give consumers the details they need via compelling copy and boom, you have sales. Obviously there are a number of nuances in search marketing that can be a full-time job for many, but these are people with money in their hand, banging on your front door.

That’s not saying Facebook should be totally discounted. Collecting “Likes” offers many of the same opportunities as collecting email addresses — consumers have indicated they’re interested in your brand and want to communicate with you in their social space. That’s huge, but you can’t pay your rent in likes.

If you want to advertise on Facebook, especially if it shifts dollars from direct response channels like search, I’d suggest answering the following four questions first:

1. Why do you want to be on Facebook? Facebook, just like any other sort of marketing vehicle (digital or otherwise), needs to have a goal associated with it. Is your goal to build likes? Great, but what are you going to do with them when you get them.

2. Is it important to be precise with your targeting? While Facebook does allow you to target based on any piece of information consumers provide, it doesn’t allow you to exclude or negate audiences. While you can target a 25-year-old male, Duke graduate who loves cricket, you can’t target those who dislike basketball as well. Additionally, targeting on Facebook is cumulative, not exclusive. You’re not able to exclusively target people who like baseball AND basketball, instead you’ll have to settle on one or both.

3. Can consumers complete the action you want on Facebook? Facebook rewards advertisers who keep consumers on its site and punishes those who don’t. While you certainly can send consumers directly to your website, you’ll likely pay about twice as much per click and risk alienating users who weren’t ready to leave their news feed.

4. Do you have a social strategy? Dovetailing with the first question, if your goal is to drive likes or build your brand socially, you need to have an idea of what to do with these consumers once you get them. A simple like isn’t worth anything, but building a relationship can help your brand in the long run.