There has been a lot of chatter on the web recently about how Google better watch out, because Facebook ads are gaining on them.   While it may be fact that Facebook is experiencing a higher percentage of growth than Google (naturally, since Google has already reached critical mass, and Facebook had minimal revenue in 2008), the reports of Facebook being the next "Google Killer" are downright irresponsible.

While I cannot definitively say that no advertisers have had positive experiences with Facebook (Shoemoney's Facebook Ads article from earlier this year is still the best example of success that I have read to date), I can say that I have had poor experiences thus far with Facebook advertising.  I'm embarrassed by how bad they performed!

As a performance oriented marketer who tends to look at campaigns from a direct response point of view, my results from an August 2009 campaign were absolutely putrid.  Even removing my direct response glasses and putting on a "brand hat" - the results were about as poor as they get.

In fact, I'm so embarrassed by my results that I'm almost ashamed to show them in public... but in the spirit of transparency, they will be shared at the end of this post.

However, I would first prefer to share what I have learned from my recent foray into Facebook ads:

  • Be Specific With Your Targeting - Demographic targeting is your friend!  Find your target market and make sure you only advertise to them.
  • Facebook's Keyword Targeting SUCKS - There's no way to sugar coat this - Facebook has completely missed the mark with the way they allow advertisers to target keywords.   Three Deep works with some big brands... and none of their brand names were available as keywords for purchase.  Not good.
  • Branding Campaigns to External Links (i.e. Your Site) Do NOT work -  No matter how specific your ads may be, chances are that the resulting click won't produce a quality visit to your website.
  • Branding Campaigns Internal to Facebook Might work - Only if they are asking visitors to become a fan of your brand and nothing more.
  • Facebook Users Won't Leave Facebook - They don't want to do anything outside of use Facebook... they definitely don't want to purchase anything they see in your ads.
  • It Doesn't Matter How Specific You Are - After reading many Facebook advertising horror stories, I decided to attack our campaign with some very specific ads that included pricing, shipping rates (free), SKU modifiers and other extremely specific details about the product; enough information so that there was nothing left for interpretation.  The results?  Embarrassingly bad metrics.
  • Facebook and Social Media May Never Usurp Search - The nature of search is simple: people are looking for information, and organic and paid results provide a solution to their query.  Social Media doesn't work the same way; from my experience, most Facebook users have no desire to do anything but share pictures and spy on their ex-boyfriends and girlfriends (trust me, this is what I do 90% of my time on Facebook).

At the time I write this post, I hold true to the above statements.  In fact, we are in the process of experimenting with Facebook ads for other clients in order to determine the true value of the medium.  I would like nothing more than to provide our clients with a great experience advertising on Facebook.  With that said, I must share with you my truly atrocious results.

Here is the click thru data for my Facebook campaign:

Facebook Campaign Click metrics

These CTR metrics really don't look too bad; low CPC and CPM... lots of clicks generated for my modest budget (I cut these ads short after 3 days to place these dollars in a more effective medium).  In fact, this is one of the cheapest ways I have ever seen to achieve 8MM impressions.

HOWEVER, when you look at how this traffic eventually performed on the site, you will understand the comments I have made above.  Here are the metrics I pulled from our analytics tool:

Facebook On Site Metrics

Pathetic.  Only ~33% of charged clicks registered as visits.  Average time of visit is 1 second. Nearly 96% of visitors bounced.  No sales.  No branding value since most visitors didn't even make it past the first page of the site.  Absolutely no single metric to gravitate toward as a sign of success.