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For Businesses, Facebook Is Now Pay to Play

If you’ve been paying attention to our blog lately, you’ll know that Facebook is starting to replace Google as the destination for local search. That’s because it’s easier to ask your Facebook friends for personal recommendations than it is to comb through Google’s search results looking for a seemingly well-reviewed business. If you think about it, it’s a logical reaction against the overwhelming amount of information that comes from a Google search. Plus, the feedback you get from Facebook crowdsourcing is often much more reliable because it comes from people you actually know and trust. Businessman Asking for Money That’s why Facebook ads and promotions are so popular right now. Local businesses are taking advantage of how many ready-and-willing customers are right there, searching for a plumber, electrician, or handyman for their latest project or emergency. But Facebook is smart, and it now wants you to pay for that advantage.

Sites, They Are A-Changin’

Just like all other marketing platforms, Facebook is rapidly growing and changing. We’re all taking advantage of Facebook as much as we can until it fades out of relevance and a more vital, effective platform comes along. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that Facebook was a small site populated only by college students. Then, Facebook opened its doors to everyone over the age of 13. Soon after, companies and organizations were allowed profiles, and advertisements quickly followed. Now, Facebook is swimming in content and status updates, and it has realized how much money there is to be made in advertising. As a result, Facebook has significantly limited the “organic reach” of business Pages—in other words, they’ve restricted how many people a Page’s content will reach for free. This forces businesses to pay for sponsored ads and “boosted” posts in order to reach their fans and followers. (When Google rose to power, it did a similar thing by launching AdWords.)

Small Businesses Are at a Disadvantage

But here’s the kicker: Most small business owners aren’t well versed in the complexities of paid online advertising, so they’re at quite a disadvantage with this new restriction. And even if a business owner is somewhat familiar with paid advertising from working with Google AdWords, they’ll face some confusion because Facebook’s model is substantially different from Google’s. The difference is that Google uses a CPC (cost-per-click) model, while Facebook primarily uses a CPM (cost-per-impression) model. CPM is based on how many times Facebook shows the ad to a user, rather than how many people click on it. Facebook’s advertising options also allow you to choose an “objective,” but your ad will only perform well if you optimize correctly for that objective. That means, in some cases, you can choose a CPC model if it makes sense to do so; however, you’re all but guaranteed to spend a lot more money. At the same time, if you stick with CPM but fail to target the proper demographic, or fail to write an ad that’s compelling, you will still spend a lot of money and get dismal results. And these are only the basics! It gets much more complicated as you dig deeper.

Grabbing Attention Is Hard

Aside from the payment models, sponsored advertising also presents another difficulty: creating effective ads. This is particularly important if you’re paying for impressions, because you want the people who see your ads to actually be affected by them. Many small business owners are exceptionally skilled at their trade but don’t necessarily know how to create attractive, eye-popping ads or how to write powerful calls to action.  Even if local businesses are able to figure out which payment model works for them, they face a whole new battle in creating ads that will stick in people’s minds—and that’s before even worrying about generating new leads!

Act Fast, Be Smart

While Facebook’s new pay-to-play model may seem like a giant hurdle, that shouldn’t stop you from using it. The reality is that Facebook is the most fertile ground for local advertising these days. But while it’s crucial to get in on the ground floor of Facebook advertising while it’s still relatively affordable, don’t be too hasty. Make sure you do plenty of research and know exactly what your plan is before putting down your company credit card. If you don’t have a plan for ad messaging, testing, rotation, and bids, then you aren’t ready to do it yourself.

Don’t Be Afraid to Call for Backup

If that all sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. The time-saving alternative, of course, is to hire an advertising professional. This decision might even save you money. The reason is simple: By specializing in online advertising and doing it all day, every day, professionals have gotten really good at it. In this case, “really good” means driving down the CPM and making your dollars work harder for you. As a prime example, take a look at what Prospect Genius achieved with the last campaign we ran for ourselves. We spent less per Page “Like” than 99% of other Facebook advertisers. Why? Because we eat, sleep, and breathe online marketing. By doing it every day, we’ve reached a level of expertise that, according to Facebook itself, 99% of other people have yet to reach. In fact, by the time we ended this campaign, we drove that cost-per-Like down even further to just $1.65 over the life of the campaign! Our proud achievement Whether you decide to advertise on your own or with a professional, make sure you aren’t missing out on the endless possibilities that an effective Facebook advertising campaign can create for your local business.