You might think that social networks are free, so why pay for social network advertising, right? However, if you follow that philosophy, you might be missing out on the extra reach social advertising can provide. Though your business needs may vary, the best network to dip your toes into for social advertising could be Facebook, with over a billion users and tons of tools for the savvy social marketer.

“I find that Facebook advertising is a requirement for people to test media opportunities in this day and age,” explains Debbie Horovitch, a producer, author, and consultant who’s currently working on Celebrity Hangouts on Air. Among Facebook’s billion users, you have a lot of diversity — and the platform lets you leverage that diversity with targeting tools that other networks just can’t match.

“Facebook has amazing demographic targeting options,” says Patrick Coombe of Elite Strategies. “You can target people within a certain age range, a specific zip code, gender, sexual orientation, job, or hobby.” What this means to you, the potential advertiser, is that you’re talking to the people you really want to talk to, on a budget you set. What’s not to like about that?

Building Great Facebook Campaigns

Unfortunately, advertising campaigns don’t create themselves — but Facebook provides first-time advertisers with plenty of support to get started. However, before you can start bringing in clients with great advertisements, you need to be sure you have somewhere to bring them to.

“The first step is to have a clean, branded look to your Facebook Page,” explains Jeromy Ko, Social Media Strategist at The Social Firm. “Next comes quality content. Once you’ve laid down this foundation, audience growth should come in organically.” Now you can supplement organic growth with audience acquisition campaigns to bring in new views, shares, Likes, and conversions.

“Once you find a winning ad that not only gets people to click on it, but also brings in the type of customer that might buy, then it works,” says Coombe. “Some ads are complete duds from the beginning while other ads are very eye catching and really do a great job of promoting your brands. It is just a huge trial-and-error process.”

Creating the perfect ad can be a challenge. The key is focusing on the type of people you want to reach. “What we first do is choose the geographic area we want to target and look at large cities, metro areas, and how big the radius should be,” says Ko. “Once you have this ideal target audience it’s a lot easier to break it down. Say my market is Columbus and I’m pushing the launch of a new app targeted at college students buying textbooks. You target the Columbus area and then specific areas around it that also have colleges. You can target specific colleges, people that are still in college — and even specific majors where textbook buying is more frequent.” Facebook advertising can target all of this and more.

“Facebook advertising is really one of the only places that you can target only the people who are on your email list. Or you can custom-create a Facebook campaign target group of twelve people and still do cost-per-click to them to make sure a message gets into their faces,” says Horovitch. “Once you find an ad that you like, then you just increase the budget. It will multiply based on that budget. It will keep on doing the exact same things because there are so many people on Facebook to show your ad to, so you can scale it up or scale it down as much as you want.”

Facebook’s Low Advertising Costs

Advertising may sound like an expensive proposition, but with Facebook advertising you can get a lot of benefit from a small budget. “It’s cost effective,” explains Coombe. “You can get a campaign going for very cheap and see results right away.” Just how cost-effective can it get? Elite Strategies recently ran an $8 a day campaign for a local muffler shop  — to great success. Though Coombe explains that you might not see the same results in every campaign, you definitely don’t need a big budget to make an impact.

“I’ve personally worked with budgets from $50 a month to $1000 a month or more,” says Ko. “For a smaller company, you don’t want to put all of its money in one platform — you want to work with a smaller budget at first to test the waters.” A few dollars a day can make a difference to your brand’s bottom line, whether you’re trying to drive social engagement or you’re just interested in conversions. “Because Facebook has a billion users, there’s almost no campaign where it won’t try to meet your top budget,” explains Horovitch. “You could set a $12 spending limit and make your campaign so specific that you still don’t meet your limit — and Facebook is going to show your ad to millions of people.”

The relative low cost of a Facebook ad also makes it extremely easy to test multiple campaigns so you’re reaching the right people. “You could see that certain campaigns create a 45-cent Page Like and on another campaign a 3-cent Page Like,” says Horovitch. “The initial instinct would be to shut off the ad that’s costing you 45 cents per Like and only invest in 3-cent Likes to build your Page. But are you actually converting people into clients? Once you have those paid campaigns, you know specifically what type of audience is producing you the most profit and conversion in your business. The 45-cent Like could be a $3000 customer.”

Potential Pitfalls With Facebook Advertising

But Facebook advertising isn’t perfect. “It can be very frustrating for someone who doesn’t know what they are doing to even get a Facebook campaign launched, let alone profitable,” says Coombe. The amount of demographic targeting Facebook offers is extremely valuable, but it can also be daunting, especially if you’re just getting started.

Beyond that, you can go overboard with advertising in the same way you can go overboard with social spam. “You can have too many campaigns going at one time,” explains Ko. “You want to get those brand impressions where people are seeing your ad, but if you’re at a point where it’s obnoxious, people are going to start getting negative impressions from your brand — and that can hurt a lot more than them not seeing it at all.”

With patience and effort, however, Facebook advertising can really pay off — and with all of the potential it has to grow your business, it really can’t be ignored in your social strategy.

[Image credit: Wrote]