(This post originally appeared on Philly.com)
According to a recent report from the Pew Research Center, more than two-thirds (69 percent) of U.S. adults are active Facebook users. That’s a lot of potential customers, and the number hasn’t gone unnoticed by businesses both big and small.
That’s probably why, according to the company, businesses have created more than 90 million pages on the social media platform with more than seven million advertisers spending almost $17 billion in just the last quarter alone.
So should your small business be advertising there? That depends on three significant factors.
For starters, you should know whether or not your audience is actually on Facebook. For a small business, resources are tight and there are a lot of choices for spending our advertising money. The last thing we want to do is market to an empty room. So to determine the potential audience for our products, we should be asking ourselves a few basic questions.
For example, if you have a Facebook page, is it active? Are you getting much engagement? Do you have the type of business that lends itself more to creating a Facebook community that enjoys commenting on posts, meeting others with similar interests, sharing photos or asking questions? A gardening company, for example, might be more conducive to this sort of thing than, say, an industrial pipe distributor. For some businesses, that decision is a no-brainer.
“We started using Facebook four years ago to network and let people in the area know we are open for new patients,” said Minh Snyder of Snyder Endodontics in Lancaster, Pa. “We now use Facebook to keep our audience updated on different activities regarding our practice as well as run ads for new patients.” See? Dental care is a topic of interest.
So are baked goods. Candice Conway, the owner of Dessertcrazy Inc. in Fairmount has used Facebook advertising to tailor her ads to very specific groups. “As a keto, diabetic friendly, gluten-free bakery, I was able to create separate ads for different types of customers and emphasized that we are sugar free to dentists,” she said. “I emphasized keto to our keto clientele. It was very useful to be so specific.”
Finding that right demographic is probably the biggest challenge you’ll face, and it’s not easy.
For example, you – like some business owners – may not be as familiar with your audience as you might think. Shana Bentivegna, a Philadelphia area social media expert, tells her clients to avoid falling into the trap of thinking they know their demographic when targeting potential customers on Facebook. “You should be open to exploring results,” she said. “It’s important to let the demand from Facebook and conversions determine the best demographic to target.” Also, be aware that not everyone can advertise on Facebook. Also, be careful what you’re selling. Businesses – like those offering dietary supplements, certain health-care products, firearms or adult-only products – may face restrictions.
The next factor has to do with budget. Some large companies spend millions of dollars a year advertising there. But even very small businesses can attract customers at just a fraction of that amount. Snyder, for example, spends $1,500 to $2,500 a month. Dessertcrazy’s Conway spends about $1,000 a year on Facebook ads.
Whatever your budget, succeeding will take consistency, patience and a long-term commitment. Creating the right Facebook ad for your audience is a combination of art and science. You have to figure out the right amount of text and graphics. You have to become proficient in tailoring your message to the right demographic, be it a prospect’s location, interests, hobbies or professional activities. You’ll have to commit to a significant amount of testing, analyzing and adjusting your ads so that you can determine what works the best.
Finally, it’s likely that you’ll need to get help. Why? Because no matter how smart you are, you’re probably not an expert in the anomalies of Facebook marketing. “If you are in a position to hire a marketing professional, I would advise to do so,” Snyder said. “This will allow you to focus on what you are good at and let someone else with marketing experience do what they excel in.”
It’s likely that you won’t need someone full time so figure out an arrangement in which both you and your potential marketing partner can test each other out. You probably won’t hit it out of the park on your first try, but after a few times you’ll soon figure out the type of person you want to work with.