When Facebook advertising doesn't work, is it a case of operator error?

When Facebook advertising doesn’t work, is it a case of operator error?

A view I keep hearing is that Facebook advertising doesn’t work.

True?  False?  Old wives tale?  With a statement like that, there’s never going to be a definitive answer.  By definition, there can’t be.  It would be a bit like saying hammers don’t work.  If you’re working on something delicate, no they probably don’t.  But when you’ve got some nails that need ramming in, they certainly do.

So why even consider the question?  Easy, I keep hearing it.  And secondly, after this afternoon, I might just have an interesting theory about why some Facebook advertising doesn’t work.

Here is what happened…

It has been a while since I looked at Facebook advertising.  And suddenly, I had a project that was a perfect fit.

The product being sold is mass market at a relatively low price point, with the need for international coverage, ability to rapidly test variations, tight budget control, reasonably precise targeting and detailed reporting.  If that doesn’t fit Facebook, I don’t know what does.

So I clicked over to Facebook, opened the Adverts tab, and went from there.  What happened was probably the most frustrating two hours I’ve spent since trying to convince an Eskimo I once met that those snowballs were a truly great deal.

Campaigns and adverts

It’s been so long since I’ve looked at Facebook advertising that I was effectively a newbie.  So whilst I understand the concept of ‘Campaign’ and ‘Advert’ very well, their implementation in the Facebook advertising system isn’t quite so obvious.  It took some minutes to get to grips with that, and then I was able to move on.

Create an advert

The next step was to create the advert itself.

Step one was to provide the destination;  the Facebook page or internet url you want the advert to take somebody to.  I suspect if you want to take it to a Facebook page, it’s easy.  But when you want to step outside of Facebook and take responders to a landing page on an external website, it’s neither obvious nor easy.

I’m still not sure how I managed to get it to recognise the landing page I wanted it to, but eventually it did.

The next step was to add the advert headline and text.  Wow – tight. You can use just 25 characters in the headline and 135 characters in the body text.  That needs crisp thinking and ruthless character counting.

On the face of it, creating the headline and body text was easy enough, but there is a gotcha a bit like a Minecraft Zombie waiting for you around the next corner.  We’ll meet that in a moment…

The next step was to add an image.  That needed careful thought because they are tiny.  Remember postage stamps?  Think smaller…  much smaller.

Again, it all took time, but eventually I got there.  At which point I felt a pat on the back and a cup of coffee where well overdue.

The gotcha

I can’t remember the exact wording around this, but it was something like, ‘Did I want to run News Stream ads as well as Right Column ads?’  Seems like a great idea, yes I do.

The next question requested the Facebook page I wanted the advert to relate to, so I chose the company’s Facebook page.  Maybe that was my undoing.  But I’d been gotcha’d, and I didn’t know it, yet.


The process then moved into who the advert should display for, and what selection criteria would be required to achieve that.  At this point Facebook’s focus on B2C became very clear, but despite that, I was able to choose selection criteria that made sense (at least to me).

Budget and frequency

The final part of the process was about budget – how much did I want to spend per day?  How long did I want to run the campaign for?  (I spotted the default is the equivalent to something like ‘forever’ and stepped around that gotcha).  Then came the choice between billing for clicks and billing for impressions.  This is a direct marketing campaign, so bring on the clicks.

Done and good to go?

It seemed that way.  So I hit ‘Save’ to see what happened next.

Hey – my advert appeared in the Campaign Manager – result!

In fact I’d created two adverts.  A right column advert and a news steam advert. Huh?  What’s that all about?

The right column advert looked just fine.  It had the combination of landing page, headline and sales text I wanted.  Even the funky picture worked well in size miniscule.

So then I had a look at the news stream advert.  Picture – yep.  Sales text – yep.  Headline – what?  For some reason I’d been a dodo and chosen the name of the Facebook page for the business as the headline, not the headline.  So of course the advert made no sense at all.

Easy, just edit it

So I tried to fix it.  On the face of it I could, but in fact I couldn’t.  Frustratingly no error messages were being thrown, the edit page was just hanging.

(And can I point out I’d also discovered at this point that every movement inside the adverts manager seems to generate a new browser tab.  By this time I’d got about ten open.  As they all look very similar, it’s dead easy to be working on the wrong one).

No I hadn’t fixed it

Back to the headline.  No I hadn’t fixed it, and I hadn’t a clue why.  My temper was fraying now.  I’m not trying to be big and clever, but how can it be that an MBA can’t figure out the simple process of creating an online advert?

Eventually I nailed the problem.  Everything in the News Stream has to come from a Facebook entity (personal profile, company page …), and that is what goes in the headline box, where the headline should be.  The advert ends up looking stupid.

How many other people have fallen into that gotcha?  If I hadn’t checked the advert thoroughly, I wouldn’t have spotted it.  And I would have been paying out for adverts that were unlikely to do me much good.  I wonder how many other people have been caught like that.

The solution?  I went back and deleted the news stream advert.  I’ll settle for the right column right now – unless somebody can share a neat solution to this?

Back to the original question

The thick side of two hours had now passed.  My temper was frayed.  My patience exhausted.  But my adverts were approved almost immediately, and I was out of there.  How good is that!

But I was left with the question about the effectiveness of Facebook advertising.  Certainly, the potential for making campaign-killing blunders that spend a fortune over their unlimited lives is large.  And many of the blunders could slip past you without you ever noticing unless you take your time, think clearly and check everything, very carefully.

So my conclusion is simple.  The question isn’t does Facebook advertising work.  It’s are you thorough and persistent enough to create the adverts that might work?

Here’s what to do next

If you’re interested in how this could help you, or feel I may be able to help you with some of the challenges you’re facing, please get in touch for an informal discussion.

There’s no commitment, we’ll just discuss your situation to see if working together might be a good fit.  Contact me now.

Best regards

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