Why the big fuss about Facebook ads? | Megan Mallicoat

Why the big fuss about Facebook ads?

There are two basic kinds of ads on the internet: ads you ask for, and ads you don’t ask for. 

Ads you ask for appear when you search for something. Say, for example, you need to buy baseball pants for your t-ball player. So, you type “black baseball pants for size 7 kid” into your favorite search engine (*cough* Google! *cough*) The first several search results you see are paid results — ads. Results like this are predictable, usually useful, and — from the perspective of the advertiser — lucrative. Because how perfect is it to be standing in front of someone with a sign that says “I sell what you’re looking for! Buy it from me!” right as a consumer searches for a store selling that thing?

The only problem with this kind of advertisement is that the ads only reach people who know they’re looking for your product. 

That’s where ads you don’t ask for come in. 

Ads you don’t ask for appear when an advertiser buys an ad designed to reach someone like you, demographically and psychographically speaking. Truthfully, these ads more closely resemble the analog advertisements you’re probably familiar with — think of the last magazine you read and how it was filled with advertising. Yoplait didn’t place an ad in that magazine because they knew you had added yogurt to your shopping list just that morning, but they did buy ad space because they knew that people who read the magazine you were reading usually fit the description of people who buy their products. They’re counting on you seeing their ad, then thinking to yourself, “Boy, yogurt really sounds good. I think I’ll buy some Yoplait the next time I’m at the grocery store.”

It’s pretty effective, really. But, it depends on the publisher of the magazine (or newspaper, or whatever else) knowing stuff about the people who read their publication. Enter Facebook. 

Facebook knows you. Really well. 

Facebook probably knows how old you are, what your marital status is, and — if you have children — how old your kids are. Facebook knows what you like and what you don’t like. They know what stores you like to shop at. They know what you do for a living and how much money you make doing it. (If you’d like to see some of the specific things they know about you, go to https://www.facebook.com/ads/preferences and click around. You have to be logged in to Facebook for that link to work properly.) Plus, Facebook partners with third-party big data companies to fill in some of the blanks. What it doesn’t know about you from the information you provide on Facebook, it gets from enterprise data companies like Acxiom. This means that Facebook also knows things like whether or not you own a home — and when you’re in the market for a new house — and if you’re car shopping.

And, Facebook has 2 billion users. So they know a lot about a lot of people. 

That’s the reason it works so well.

They know a lot of specific information about a lot of people, and so they can place ads in front of a very targeted set of people. 

And — importantly — you don’t have to spend a ton of money to play the game, unlike with most other forms of advertising. You can spend $1 a day or $10,000 a day — whatever fits your budget. 

That’s the reason it works so well for small businesses. 

How about you? Have you ever tried Facebook ads? Why or why not?

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