Search is a powerful tool for marketers when their customers are actively looking for a product or service. When there’s already demand, search helps fulfill it. And that has made search a major force in online advertising.
What about all those other times, though, when people may have an interest in products or services but haven’t yet sought them out? Creating demand online, rather than fulfilling it, presents a new and interesting opportunity for marketers.
The Internet is in the middle of a shift from a place for finding information to the social hub of people’s lives. Last year alone, social networks and blogging together saw a growth rate of more than twice that of other leading Internet activities, including search and portal usage, according to a recent Nielsen Co. report.
This shift towards a social Web offers the opportunity for marketers to find customers before they search.
Reaching the right people
With the rise of the social Web, people share more information than ever before and express their opinions and interests. On Facebook, more than 175 million people share their real-world interests as part of their profiles. They spend more than 3 billion minutes every day on Facebook, and about 28 million of them update their status daily to keep their friends and family aware of their lives.
Facebook compels people to share authentic information about themselves because they are sharing and communicating with the people they already know. As a result, when advertisers target an ad to an audience based on their interests, they are reaching real people.
Through the Facebook Ads system, marketers can reach an audience based not only on demographics but also on interest areas by targeting keywords ranging from a band to a favorite food.
Consider a tent manufacturer trying to reach camping enthusiasts. Through search, that advertiser could target an ad to appear for the keyword “tents” with the potential to appear alongside the approximately 200,000 search results for “tents” every month in the United States.
By targeting interests, rather than search keywords, that same advertiser has the potential to reach over 1 million people in the United States on Facebook who list “camping” as an interest.
When put into practice, this approach of reaching people based on their real interests rather than only targeting keywords can offer a cost-effective way of finding new customers.
Finding new revenue
Photography studio CM Photographics, of Woodbury, Minn., recently tried Facebook Ads to generate new leads for wedding photography. The company combines both traditional and photojournalistic styles of photography to capture a wedding day.
CM Photographics created a series of ads through the online Facebook Ads system targeted to women ages 24 to 30 that listed themselves as engaged. The Facebook tool showed CM Photographics the estimated number of people it could reach with the ads, without knowing any individual information about those users.
During the 12 months of running campaigns, CM Photographics was able to generate $66 in revenue for each dollar spent on Facebook Ads. The ads drove potential customers to its Web site, where 60 percent of those who visited became qualified leads actively expressing interest in more information.
“My business wouldn’t be anywhere close to where it is today if it weren’t for these ad campaigns,” said Chris Meyer, president of CM Photographics.
Learning about more than clicks
Similar to search and other online advertising, Facebook Ads provide reporting about the number of clicks on an ad and the number of times it is shown. Beyond that basic information, advertisers can also discover previously unknown insights about their target audience.
For instance, advertisers learn about the aggregated demographics of those that clicked on their ads, including age, gender and location. Also provided are aggregated psychographic information about the audience that responded, including the response groups favorite books, TV shows and top interests. Many advertisers use these insights to determine the targeting sets for more narrow follow-on campaigns.
Together, this information helps advertisers to glean new trends and insights about their core audience, so they can retarget ads and better inform future campaigns.
The first step for any marketer who wants to find new customers in the social Web is to join it. Facebook and the social Web are participatory. Any business can create its own public profile on Facebook, not to mention dozens of other social media sites.
Advertising takes building demand a step further. New systems like Facebook Ads offer the ability to reach an exact audience at the right time. To be truly effective marketers need to think about the interests and demographics of their audience, rather than targeting specific search keywords.
Remember that with the social Web, it’s about finding customers before the search.