Facebook: ads or boosts?

News flash: Facebook is a valuable social media tool that every business should be using. (This message brought to you by the year 2008.) However, like any tool, it has to be used correctly. The typical usage goes something like this: you post an update on Facebook. Your fans (those who have “liked” your page) see it, like it, and share it with their friends, driving millions of people starving for your product or service to your website.

Well, that does happen. But that’s the exception, not the rule. It’s called “lightning in a bottle,” and the most recent example is the wildly successful bucket of ice water challenge to raise funds for ALS research. Terrible disease, great for the ALS researchers and all that. But for the rest of us, we have to find other ways to get our message in front of our intended audience.

boostWhat you have to realize about Facebook is that it’s a shareholder-owned company, the main motive of which is to turn a profit. Facebook makes its own rules, and they aren’t always in the user’s favor. For example, when someone updates their company’s Facebook status, Facebook only shows the update to a tiny smattering of that company’s fans—just three to five percent, in fact. So a company with 50,000 likes only gets its post shown to about 1,500-2,500 people.

Why? Well, Facebook wants you to do one of two things. Both involve spending money:

  1. “Boost” your post by paying a fee to have more people see your post.
  2. Buy an ad, which will appear on Facebook users’ timelines.

You’ll read pieces like this one on the internet that say to never boost a post, because it’s too difficult to target your demographic. In some cases, this is true. Facebook allows post boosters to identify who will receive their boosted post by geography (anyone within X miles of this or that city), age, gender and interests. You can also choose how much to spend and how long to boost the post. So while you probably can’t dial in users of specific Cisco routers or people who spent more than $5,000 on horse tack last year, you can do a little better than “people of planet Earth.”

Facebook ads have an Achilles heel, a green Kryptonite, if you will.

boostIn contrast, the ad purchasing feature in Facebook is certainly more robust and allows you to do some fairly sophisticated targeting. One can argue the pros and cons of ads vs. boosted posts, which one consumers trust more, and which one consumers are more likely to click, which is the whole point. However, Facebook ads have an Achilles heel, a green Kryptonite, if you will: Adblock Plus.

Adblock Plus blocks ads on websites using filters, Facebook ads included. And something like 25 percent of visitors to websites use an adblocker.

What does this mean for your company’s social media strategy? Stay tuned next week for some answers.

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