Over the past three years or so, I’ve had the benefit of exchanging ideas and collaborating with some of the top social media influencers in Westchester County and across the country. I realized early on that this environment is moving far too fast for anyone to attempt to do it all on their own.
Last week, I had the opportunity to meet Harris Decker, the owner of Westchester-based Think Social, a social media, website design and marketing firm that works with storefronts, online communities and brands. During our conversation, it became apparent that Decker has a particularly strong grasp and understanding of one of social media’s often misunderstood specialties — Facebook advertising.
When asked to share some of his thoughts with Westchester Social Media, Decker was enthusiastic. The following is the result of our dialogue:
WSM: We’ve all heard about how some of the largest corporations are using Facebook advertising. Does Facebook advertising offer significant potential benefits both to small and medium sized businesses?
Harris Decker: Absolutely! Facebook Advertising is probably the largest innovation for small and medium sized businesses since the sandwich board. With traditional advertising, the only control a business owner had was where a magazine, newspaper or flyer was distributed. With Facebook’s platform, you can target men, women, children, Star Wars fans, people who love pizza, people who just got engaged or just about any other combination you can think of. This power is incredible and helps to make sure that your advertising budget is put to use in the most efficient way possible.
WSM: How can Facebook ads provide positive ROI? Are they best used to direct traffic to a website or Facebook page?
Facebook in general needs to be a large piece in your overall marketing strategy. Rarely do people buy things directly on Facebook so it’s important to figure out the best way to create a positive ROI. When using Facebook Ads, you can choose to direct people either to your website or Facebook Page. This decision will be different for almost every business. If your goal is to grow your online community, then you’ll want people to be sent to your Facebook Page. If your goal is to drive sales of a product sold on your website, then sending them to your site will make more sense for you. Again, each case is different but remember, once someone is a fan on Facebook, you can market to them time and time again.
WSM: Are there any common misconceptions about Facebook Ads?
Harris Decker: Yes! The most common misconception is that no one clicks on them. This couldn’t be more incorrect. Facebook has done a brilliant job of blending their ads into their pages. In fact, many people have clicked on the ads before without realizing it. The ads can be so targeted that you might not even realize it’s an ad!
WSM: What are some of the advantages that Facebook Ads offer?
Harris Decker: The largest advantage is the targeting. Being able to narrow down your customer based on dozens of criteria, make it among the most efficient advertising methods.
Harris Decker: This is another area that Facebook has excelled in. While Twitter’s ad platform requires huge budgets, Facebook’s can be started for as little as $5 per day. Unfortunately, to see a significant impact, you’ll want to bump that up quite a bit. Depending on how much of an impact you are looking to make, I usually recommend a budget between $15-$50 per day.
Harris Decker: No. Facebook’s Advertising platform is best described as a fickle beast. It is a mega-machine that is sometimes difficult to control. If you have a very large budget, you’ll be able to run dozens of trial ads, testing things like photos, copy and landing pages. Unfortunately, most business’ don’t have the budget to run dozens of tests. That’s when agencies like mine come into play. We have already run the tests. We’ve seen the results. We know what works and what doesn’t. We’ve mastered controlling the beast.
WSM: What types of clients seem to get the most out of Facebook Advertising?
Harris Decker: This is a tricky question. It’s easy to look at numbers and pick a winner. But, there’s more to the story. A brand with 50,000 fans could have less influence than a brand with 5,000 fans if those fans are targeted correctly. In general, the clients that get the most from their campaigns are the ones willing to take the risk and the ones that know that although Facebook is “quick” and “fun,” it’s not a quick fix. Building an online community doesn’t happen overnight. If the patience is there, the outcomes can be amazing.
WSM: How can a small business learn more about Facebook advertising? Is it best left to an expert, or can a smart business owner figure it out?
Harris Decker: This one’s easy. Yes, no, and everything in between. Facebook’s platform is easy enough to learn. Within a few clicks you can be on your way to driving customers to your website or Facebook Page. Learning the ins and outs becomes more challenging. Still, many smart business owners can figure it out. Something I’ll discuss with my clients is whether that makes sense for them. Is it better for you to spend time learning this platform, which changes every few months, or is it better for you to continue running your business? Usually, the latter makes sense and that’s where companies like mine come into play.
WSM: Do you recommend the use of sponsored stories?
Harris Decker: This is going to depend on your goals. In some cases sponsored stories are gold. In other cases, it’s like throwing money out the digital window.
WSM: Do you have any copywriting tips for Facebook Ads?
Harris Decker: Keep it short. Keep it to the point. Make sure there’s a call to action present.
WSM: What mistakes are some of the so-called experts making?
Harris Decker: The biggest mistake is treating every campaign the same. Each and every campaign is different, and without learning about these differences, many campaigns are destined to fail right off the bat.
WSM: What is the most common mistake business’ make while using Facebook?
Harris Decker: Mistakes in the social media world are everywhere. A seasoned eye can look through a page and pick out sometimes dozens of errors in just a few seconds. With so much of this discussion spent on Facebook ads, never forget that when someone clicks on your ad, even if it’s the best ad ever created, that they will land somewhere else. If you’re going to send someone to your Facebook Page, make sure it’s been updated at some point in the last month. If you’re going to send someone to your website, be sure not to have information about your Christmas Eve Sale in mid April. Be smart, it’s all a part of a much larger picture.
More about Harris Decker
Getting his start in the writing world, Harris began using social media half a decade ago, in an attempt to grow his music blog, The Truth About Music. Since then, he has applied his sound understanding of both the traditional marketing and digital marketing worlds, to help small and medium sized business’ grow, both online and in the real world. Decker says his approach to social media is simple. “A social media marketing plan needs to be the most simple representation of a business’ core values.”
Chris S. Cornell is the Director of Social Media at Thompson & Bender — a Westchester-based PR, advertising and marketing firm. He manages several online communities, and consults, speaks and writes about social media. You can follow Chris on Twitter at Cornell140.