How to Not Suck at Facebook Advertising

Published: Friday, August 9, 2013

Note: I originally wrote this post a few months ago. Please bear with me on the delay; the message remains very relevant.

Today, I was looking at Facebook on my phone when I was greeted with this advertisement:

A screenshot of a Facebook ad for a Black Hawks hockey promotion from a night life promotion company.

Odui? Nah, not really.

It’s not a bad strategy. Incenting people to subscribe to your e-mail list with a giveaway or subscriber-only offer works well for many companies (although there’s certainly a debate to be had about the level of engagement you’ll get from people who subscribe only for a chance to win — but that’s a different discussion.)

Nevertheless, this is a perfect example of Facebook advertising that sucks.

Not that the ad itself is bad or that the proposition or messaging are particularly awful, but there are three big, ugly problems with this ad:

  1. I live in Des Moines, IA. (That’s about 5 hours from Chicago, IL — where this nightlife deal site is targeted. I am not planning to visit anytime soon.)
  2. I am not a fan of the Chicago Black Hawks.
  3. I don’t even watch hockey.

It’s clearly not meant for me. So, why am I seeing this ad? Even if they want a lot of people to see it, why show it to the wrong people, at the wrong time, or for the wrong reasons?

This is the problem that plagued brands in the world of old media. The strategy was almost always to cast as wide of a net as possible and hope that you catch some of the right people (sorry for the rather gruesome use of the metaphor.)

This approach sucks. This is the reason people hate advertising. Your company is wasting money reaching people that it has no business communicating with, and people are annoyed by the ad that is carelessly put in front of them.

But, here’s a news flash: We live in the future now. This kind of thing doesn’t have to — and shouldn’t — happen anymore (at least not with Facebook’s targeting capabilities.)

I should only see ads that are immediately relevant to me and my demographic or my immediate interests. In the perfect world, I would click on every ad because it would be exactly what I was looking for and interested in.

Cue: How to not suck at Facebook advertising, i.e., how to properly target ads that reach the right audience and don’t waste my time or your money with stray impressions.

Facebook makes this so simple. It’s actually kind of horrifying how many people still get it wrong.

Take a look at this screenshot of an ad targeting configuration that I just put together in about 3 minutes:

A screenshot that shows a Facebook advertising targeting configuration.

See this? This is how it's done!

You see that? It targets only people who:

  1. Actually live within 50 miles of Chicago.
  2. Are over 21 (optional: I don’t know what exact deals they offer. Some may be appropriate for under-age audiences.)
  3. Have said they are fans of the Chicago Black Hawks
  4. (or) Have said they are fans of hockey in general (maybe their team is out, but they are still interested in watching a Championship game.)

And we still have a potential audience of 480,000 people! Real people who might actually want to see this message.

This isn’t rocket science. Getting this wrong is just wasting your dollars and wasting people’s time. So, stop it.

If you’re going to spend the time and money to advertise on Facebook (which is probably a good idea), get your targeting right when you have such a great tool at your disposal — or give me a call, I’ll help you out.

About me

My name is Tyler Hakes. I'm a digital strategist in Des Moines. I write and tweet about marketing, strategy, media, and technology.

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