An incredible 3.48 billion people are on social media. That’s half the planet. There are tens of millions of folks, at the very moment you’re reading this, checking a friend’s feed on Facebook. They’re uploading that dinner photo they took on Pinterest. That political rant on Twitter you’re going to shake your head at is being typed out right now.
The scale of this activity makes the dollar signs pop up in the eyes of advertisers. Surely, if that many people are participating on a given platform, it’s a no-brainer to put ads in front of them.
Except billions of dollars in ad spend have proven that it isn’t quite so simple. While social media affects the purchasing decisions of up to 74% of consumers, a relatively small percentage of that resulted directly from advertisements. Instead, most of that is friends and family suggesting products to each other.
That’s why Twitter was in the red for so long. Why Snapchat still is. Advertisers spend money on channels that provide strong ROI, and social media’s shaky track record doesn’t inspire much confidence (though some platforms, like Instagram, show incredible promise). However, there is one platform that bucks the trend in a spectacular fashion…
Facebook is still the king of social media ad spend ROI.
In fact, there are no other contenders for the crown. Advertisers almost unanimously consider Facebook to be one of the best dollar-per-result platforms out there, not just in the social media space.
Here are the numbers: a study found that 52% of consumer’s buying decisions (both online and off) were influenced by Facebook. The platform accounts for 64% of overall social revenue. The average American on the platform clicks on eight Facebook ads a month.
And it works for ecommerce too, if you do it right. MVMT, at one time the world’s fastest growing watch brand, attributed their growth from $0 to $90 million in under five years to Facebook Ads.
But the key words there are “if you do it right.” Success with Facebook ads hinges not just on the sheer number of users, but the fact that advertisers can perform several different types of targeting that other platforms simply don’t allow. Facebook campaigns are simultaneously powerful and complex. We’ll show you how to put them to good use.
Facebook Marketing for Ecommerce
When Advertising on Facebook, You MUST Shift Your Mindset
Whether you’re just getting started or wish to refine your Facebook campaigns, you need to understand and take advantage of the best (and scariest) thing about Facebook. They have more data on people’s personal interests than anyone in history.
As an advertiser, that’s actually a good thing. It means that if you know who your ideal prospects are, you have a superb method to interact with them. Facebook specifically lets you narrow down your audience to a ridiculous degree, to the point you can specifically aim ads at a 25-year old woman in Antarctica with an interest in skiing AND water polo.
That means that when you advertise on Facebook, you need to think about your campaigns completely differently than how you do on any other platform.
Imagine you’re selling men’s watches. You know your audience is affluent, tends to be older than 30, and also generally shows an interest in golfing.
If you were advertising on a platform like Google, you might have ads show up for men who type in specific keywords like “men’s watches in gold,” people who are actively searching for a specific product. These are men who already have an interest in buying, and the ads must reflect that. If you were using banner ads, you might put them on golfing websites, hoping that visitors would also be interested in watches.
With Facebook, you don’t need to do any of that, and can target your audience directly without any fuss.
Because you know these audiences are backed up by the vast amount of data Facebook collects from basically everything anyone does on its platform, any campaigns aimed at these audiences are going to punch above their weight class. But there is one thing to keep in mind while advertising on Facebook.
People on Facebook Are Not Trying to Buy Anything (Usually)
Supermarkets sometimes offer free food samples in hopes of a shopper throwing an extra package in their cart. That makes sense—people shopping at the market are receptive to the idea of purchasing food at that very moment. That’s what they’re there for.
But what if somebody were offering free food samples at, say, a concert hall, a bowling alley, a park? You can imagine a great deal fewer people going home with a bag of frozen yogurt bites. Getting people to buy products even when they’re not thinking of buying things requires planning and finesse.
People you advertise to on Facebook are not explicitly looking to buy, so you have to make them want to. In this way, advertising on the platform requires a mindset more similar to buying ad space in a lifestyle magazine instead of, say, what you might do with Google Ads.
Ask yourself why people go on Facebook. To catch up with what their friends are up to. To see what’s going viral and what’s popular (aka procrastinate). Around 43% of Americans get their news from the platform.
Keep in mind that any advertisement you put out there shows up in a Facebook feed, which means you are competing with the latest viral content. So how do you break through this “interest” barrier and get them invested in your product and the various ways it can improve their lives?
Choose From the 2 Types of Ecommerce Selling That Perform Well on Facebook
There are ways to do extremely well with Facebook marketing without using these two methods. But until you have a steady revenue stream going on the platform, you might want to stick with these two tried-and-true methods.
Stimulate Impulse Buying
Now, we’re not using this term in the way most people think of it, which is tricking people into spending too much for something they don’t need. Done right, it’s the farthest thing from that.
The impulse buying we mean here is simply getting people to desire a product emotionally, rather than intellectually. This is what happens when your product and advertising pushes all the right buttons and they have to have it even though they hadn’t originally planned on buying anything. As long as you don’t misrepresent your product, it’s the same as any other kind of selling. In fact, 40% of ecommerce sales are impulse buys.
On Facebook, you can use this phenomenon in one of two ways. You can present a product that someone wants really, really badly. Or sell something cheap enough they barely have to think about buying it. Or both. What both of these have in common is that they engage the emotional need to have a product.
Consider passing a pretzel stand on your way home from work.
You might be tempted to stop and make a purchase, regardless of what mood you’re in. Why? Because you have a desire for that pretzel, triggered by your hunger or memories of the taste of a pretzel you’ve eaten before. Also, it’s cheap.
If that stand was selling televisions, you’d have to think a great deal harder. Your understanding of the financial consequences of the purchase would overwhelm any immediate emotional burst. In other words, if you have:
A) A unique product that satisfies an immediate instinctual need
B) Low prices relative to the target audience
C) A painless purchasing process
You can likely directly sell these products immediately, with simple ads, even if nobody on Facebook knows your brand. That said, these prerequisites are difficult to nail for most ecommerce businesses. If you’re selling to an American audience, even going into double digits prices can make this a losing prospect.
This tactic also doesn’t work if you’re selling something like refrigerators, both because of the high price, but also because there is a distinct lack of urgency to satisfy a desire.
Selling something expensive? Don’t worry.
There are still methods of taking advantage of that impulse mentality even with more pricey or utilitarian products.
For instance, in our refrigerator example, few would flat out purchase a new fridge from a Facebook Ad. But what if we started them a bit earlier in the sales funnel? A free guide on what to look out for when buying home appliances, a comparison video by an expert, a quiz on what kind of refrigerator you might need—these could all be great lead magnets to get an email address, which you can send a newsletter to, highlighting the latest deals and discounts.
Or, if you have a large enough catalog, you could use your first low-cost product sale as an entryway into the rest of your offerings. But ultimately, while lower investment on your end, neither of these methods takes best advantage of Facebook’s strength.
Sell To People Who Already Know Your Brand
Yes, in the vast majority of cases, this is a prerequisite to getting good ROI on Facebook ads for ecommerce.
While people aren’t on Facebook to buy products, many are quite happy to discover products from brands they like. In fact, 78% of Americans have done so. An increasingly high number of users log onto Facebook for news, and fresh products from companies they love fit that criteria. Think of an Apple fan learning about the latest iPhone.
Even if a product isn’t the latest and greatest, they’re far more likely to respond to an ad if they know who is trying to connect with them. Ecommerce ads on Facebook directed to people invested in your brand are cheaper, more effective, and just an all-around good idea.
And if you’re a big brand with that heavyweight name recognition, you can skip a great deal of the prep work and directly launch ecommerce ads on the platform. If that’s the case for you, you can skip the next section. Most of us aren’t that lucky.
Therefore, the first step for most businesses will be to ensure they have a significant social presence on Facebook before they begin selling.
Build Your Facebook Presence to Figure Out Who Loves What You Sell
If you know the exact persona who is likely to love what you sell, you could simply target them through Facebook’s ad platform and that’ll get you results. Unlike less reputable platforms, Facebook’s information on user interests is solid as stone.
But you would need to know, in excruciating detail, every behavioral characteristic of this audience; gender and age isn’t enough. What do they do on the weekdays? What other products do they buy? What devices do they use?
That’s why building a core audience on Facebook before you begin serious spending becomes such an advantage. It gives you clarity and accuracy into your target audience. Not only can you show ads to these fans once you’ve established your presence, but Facebook has specific features that can help you target potential customers with similar characteristics (called Lookalike audiences).
This is an extremely powerful way to get new streams of revenue, and we’ll go over it a bit later. In summary, there are three reasons you want to build a core Facebook audience before you do anything else:
- Ecommerce ads to people who already know your brand are most effective.
- Unlike other platforms, ads you create will have social indicators like Likes, Reactions, and Comments, which can greatly decrease the cost of ads and increase reach.
- You can use your following to jumpstart your direct selling activities on the platform, and enable Lookalike audience targeting for future growth.
So you want to get started on building that core audience. You’ll most likely already have a Facebook page, but if you don’t…you need one. It doesn’t have to be fancy—here’s a simple guide. Then you need to figure out who you want to join that page first.
The Lowest-Hanging Fruit: Retargeting
If someone has visited your website before, browsed a product page, put an item in a shopping cart, they like what you sell. An ad from you is therefore no longer “cold” outreach, and becomes more of a reminder to get them to do something they already once considered doing. Sales and discounts are superb ways of reaching these fans.
You want these people to make up the core group on your Facebook page, because they are precisely the type of people who your ads will work for. Assuming you can bring them over from your other marketing channels onto Facebook, you’ll also be able to teach Facebook’s algorithms that these are the type of people you want to connect with.
First, use all your communication channels with current customers and the aforementioned audiences to invite them to join and follow you on Facebook. Ideally, you would create an incentive for doing this, like a coupon or referral system. You can also target these groups on Facebook directly. If you have an Instagram account or a list of customers, you can import them onto the platform as well.
For your website, however, you’ll want to make sure all your Facebook tracking is set up. Facebook’s tracking mechanism is called a pixel, and can be implemented on your site and tagged with certain actions. Here’s Facebook’s guide to setting that up properly.
Once you’re firm on that front, you can target people on Facebook who have performed certain actions on pages you specify. Now, you can directly advertise to them at this point (likely with some success), but it’s better for you to focus on building an active fandom on your page first, so that any ads you run later have social proof and play well with Facebook’s algorithms. Sometimes, this will require you to first create a Lookalike audience instead of a custom audience as shown in the picture below. Either way, you need that pixel set up first.
Besides your customers, you probably have some idea of who your ideal prospects are. You can also go ahead and target these people to like your page. Start with your most specific audiences for now (here’s how you might find them), and you can expand later. In terms of reach, you want to be in the tens or hundreds of thousands, not millions. If you want to learn more about the details of targeting, you can check this article out.
How to Get Your Facebook Presence Up-and-Running Quickly.
You could write books on brand building on social media platforms, and many have. For our purposes, you don’t need to go viral or have the hottest brand out there (though it sure would help). Here’s what you do need:
A brand page where fans, customers, and prospects know that you are engaged and available. One that provides value for someone interested in your products, which is the only way you’ll build a dedicated and long-term audience for your ads.
1. Promote new products, developments, or sales you are running. Facebook is, essentially, a way for companies to talk to the people who buy their stuff. Anything new you have to talk about should appear simultaneously on your page and your website. It can also be a great way to gauge interest in new developments. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your fans and ask questions. Facebook-exclusive content and deals are a must.
2. Hold contests, giveaways, and other interactive events with your fans. It might seem a bit artificial, but these events have been shown, time and time again, to be one of the best ways of increasing activity on your page. People like free things. They like participating. They like winning. Use these desires to maximize the effect of your posts, and get your audience engaged with your content. We have a great post on all the know-how you need to really make this take off.
3. Boost your posts if you need more traction. Don’t go crazy with it, but boosting your posts can sometimes be necessary to building an active audience. It’s no secret among marketers that recent changes to Facebook’s organic formula makes it a near-impossibility to get traction with good content alone. But paying for your posts to reach more people can be worth it, as you’ll more than make up these expenditures by getting the necessary social proof on your ads down the road.
At the bare minimum, you could do these three things. But the more you invest into Facebook, the more your efforts here will apply synergistically to any ad campaigns you run. You can even use more creative methods, like podcasts, to great effect.
Avoid Artificial Numbers
It can be tempting, so, so tempting, to either buy subscribers or just get as many as you can from anywhere you can. This is especially true if your competitors have huge numbers of fans.
It’d be a lie to say there aren’t any benefits to doing so. Your store will look more popular, more active. And people like popular things.
But resist the urge. Not only will adding such subscribers do nothing for your bottom line, it’ll contaminate the pool of actual fans you have. You won’t be able to get clarity into your numbers, and you won’t know who is following you because they actually like your products or brand.
Worse, Facebook gives advantages to ads that perform well among the target audiences you select. If you, say, decide to target certain ads at “people who like your page,” you want the highest response rate possible, which will give you the lowest cost-per-click and greatest reach. Adding people artificially will dilute this, and cause problems with your ad campaigns down the road.
Of course, you can’t always be sure that someone who likes your brand is actually a potential customer, but you can keep it as close as possible to who you think they are. And when you have a clean audience, you have a very good starting point for your ads.
3 Key Methods of Building Great Ecommerce Campaigns on Facebook
We’re not going to go over the actual process of how you create a Facebook ad in this piece. Facebook has their own guide for that here, and it’s relatively straightforward. If there is an option to allow Facebook to optimize something, you can go ahead and select it; they do a pretty good job.
Instead, I’m going to talk about the specific catalysts that turn decent campaigns into great ones, and also what you need to watch out for as an ecommerce retailer doing this, whether you’re getting started or want to improve an existing campaign.
In terms of targeting for these ads, you’ll want to start with the audience of people who “like” your page. If you’ve kept it clean, they’ll have a much higher likelihood of converting into a sale than any other audience. Your second target audience should be the one that most fits your customer persona. Keep it limited as you test your messaging and ads, and you can always expand to other audiences you think would respond well to your products later.
If you’re used to advertising on other platforms, there are three things you really want to pay attention to when you’re building your campaigns.
Facebook Is Primarily a Visual Platform
If you’re regularly posting on Facebook, you’ll likely have noticed that pictures and videos accrue far more likes and comments. Visual content just performs better on Facebook than text (about 2.3 times better).
For ecommerce, that generally means a high-quality photo or video of your product or someone using your product. Sticking with static imagery means you can test and iterate faster, but videos have significantly higher engagement. Starting out, that means you should probably stick with photos for testing (stick to one image per product), and move onto to videos when you’ve hit that winning formula. This is an example of an effective ad:
Notice the lack of text in the image. Facebook penalizes imagery with a lot of wording in it, so you’ll want to either keep it to a minimum or get rid of it entirely.
In an ideal scenario, you’ll want to test a single image ad with different messaging. This will give you the most clarity into what is working and what isn’t. Too many variables can complicate your analysis.
That said, if you have a large catalog of products, that becomes impossible due to the sheer amount of testing you’d need to do. In that case, you can use carousel ads, which showcase several products at once. But if you’re only selling a few products, stick with the more focused approach—it helps.
Keep The Copy Short, Except…
Some experts recommend that you keep your copy short for your Ecommerce ads. Quite a few companies in the space have found success doing just that. Yet long copy on Facebook has also been proven to be more effective in certain circumstances. What gives?
Simple: you can use shorter copy when your audience has a good understanding of your brand and your product. You use longer copy when your prospects aren’t familiar with them. I don’t know the brand in the image below, but I still really, really want their cookies, especially after that copy.
People need information to make a buying decision, and that’s all copy is. When they have enough of it, they don’t need to read more. And if they don’t, they do.
Just keep the text out of the image and remember that most people on Facebook are checking it on mobile, so make sure your messaging doesn’t get cut off. And for videos, the vast majority of users play them without sound. Here’s a great article on how to write killer ad copy for the platform.
Pay Attention to the Social Context
Your ads are also Facebook posts. It’s a weird concept to wrap your head around, I know.
But just like normal posts, they can get likes, comments, and everything else. Considering that social proof can be one of the most pivotal factors in making a buying decision, having a bunch of comments underneath your ad about how terrible your product is can crash any campaign before it gets off the ground. Plus, ads that get more engagement are favored by Facebook’s algorithms and are shown more frequently, to more people, and at a lower cost-per-click than otherwise. Those thousands of engagements in the ad below aren’t just for show.
This is why it’s so critical to build a friendly audience on the platform you can push your ads to first. Your fans are going to view ads for your product in a better light than the general public, which means if you get that engagement from your fans first, you’ll be able to push a stronger ad to other audiences.
“Fans make your ads more effective. When an ad has social context—in other words, when a person sees their friend likes your business—your ads drive, on average, 50% more recall and 35% higher online sales lift,” noted a Facebook team member.
Oh, and ads you run can sometimes be public, and can be accessed by anyone directly from your Facebook page. So don’t push anything you can’t back up.
Being Successful at Facebook Marketing for Ecommerce Means Testing Often and Never Stopping
Facebook had a notorious saying for their internal methodology: “Move fast and break things.”
This is apt, because to succeed on the platform you have to keep moving, break many things, and you can’t really stop. Unlike some other platforms, you can’t “set and forget” an ad here. Each ad clearly has a drop-off point where it eventually loses effectiveness. “Refreshing” your campaigns often is crucial.
This is why successful ecommerce retailers on Facebook can test hundreds, even thousands of different ads to find the best performing ones. If that freaks you out a bit, don’t worry, you don’t need nearly that many to succeed, and many of those are simply slight variations of each other.
But you do need to try many different ads in the early stages to find what audiences are working for you, what kind of images do well, and where your copy-length sweet spot is. Once you hit a winner, you can build upon it with many more variations. You can never really get complacent with the platform, but you definitely can build upon your success.
And Facebook makes it easier for your with Lookalike audiences, which I would rate somewhere above sliced bread in terms of how amazing they are. Simply, it takes the people who convert, analyzes their behaviors, and finds other people who are similar (and thus likely to buy your stuff). Don’t neglect it.
In the End, Facebook Is One Step in the Funnel
It is not the end-all-be-all. Much of how well your ecommerce ads perform on Facebook can be tied directly to the product pages you send prospects to, who you’re targeting, and how you follow up.
Having the right mindset and using the above tips should be a significant help to your efforts on the platform. That said, even if your ads aren’t yielding positive ROI on the front end, ask yourself this: Do they really need to?
After all, getting new customers from the platform could mean getting them into your brand or database, opening the potential for further purchases down the road. Most important is knowing the lifetime value of a new Facebook buyer, and how to maximize it.
Have an experience advertising with Facebook you want to share? Questions? Feel free to weigh in below.