THE BLOG
05/19/2016 03:00 pm ET Updated May 20, 2017

Why Small Businesses Should Use Facebook Advertising

When it comes to marketing, there are two things we know for sure.

1: You have to do it.
2: It costs money. Sometimes lots of money.

Now, that cost might not matter so much if you're, say, Coca-Cola who brings in little over $40 billion annually.

But if you're one of the 27 million small businesses across the country, then you probably don't have a wealth of cash lying around to spend on marketing, which means every penny of your ad budget has to count.

So what do you do? How do you market your business when you don't have a lot to spend in the first place? Better yet, how do you do it effectively?

These are the questions we have to answer every day at WideNet. Nearly all our clients are small businesses (not counting nonprofits and schools), which means we spend most of our time helping local companies utilize the latest marketing strategies without breaking the bank. And one of the most effective methods we suggest to some of our clients is Facebook Advertising.

The Benefits

At this point, most businesses are aware that social media can have some great benefits for their business. Yet, I'm often surprised at how many business owners are still clueless about what all can be done with Facebook Advertising.

Facebook Ads run on the same pay-per-click/pay-per-impressions idea as most online ads (re: Google AdWords). However, thanks to amount of personal information in Facebook's database, they allow you to get ridiculously detailed with your targeting. Anything a user can put into their profile--age, sex, location, education, religion, interests, politics, job title, marital status, etc.--can be used as a filter for your ads.

For example, if you want to market specifically to 30 year old, married men who live in Atlanta, graduated from LSU, work at a bank, vote Republican, and love the movie Die Hard, you can.

The best part? Facebook Ads are surprisingly affordable. (Our friends at Buffer wrote a great article last year about how far $5 can go with Facebook Advertising.)

To put it in concrete terms, let's compare Facebook Ads to one of the most popular, traditional forms of marketing: billboards.

In Birmingham, Alabama (my home state and a place with over 300,00 small businesses) a billboard from Lamar Advertising--a company that covers a huge chunk of billboard advertising in the state--will cost you $2250 a week and deliver roughly 275,000 weekly impressions with a frequency of 5.5 views per-person (based on a potential reach of 873,000 people, ages 18+).

Now, if you run a Facebook Ad targeting the same age group in Birmingham with a daily budget of $50 ($350 weekly), you can expect to reach anywhere between 25,000 and 70,000 actual people a week. Apply the same frequency as the billboard, and you get up to 385,000 impressions.

By comparing the same stats, Facebook Ads seem to come out as a more effective, affordable option over outdoor billboards. However, we have to remember that impressions (though a good metric if your goal is brand awareness) do not equal conversions or sales. So how does Facebook add up when it comes to ROI? Let's take a look.

A Different Kind of ROI

Like any marketing method, you can find a billion articles on Google about how Facebook Ads don't work. And for some businesses, they might not. Success and failure with Facebook Advertising isn't black and white. However, a lot of failures happen for two reasons. Either A: the business in question didn't have a solid strategy in place, or B: they approach Facebook Ads with the wrong intentions.

The thing to keep in mind with Facebook Ads is that they're passive. That means they're shown when the consumer isn't necessarily in the buying mood. So, if you plan to use Facebook Ads to sell your product directly, what you're selling will greatly determine success of your campaign (and for the record, B2C businesses are likely to find more success over B2B when it comes to direct selling).

In our experience, we've found that the most effective uses of Facebook Ads for small businesses are:

  • Increasing brand awareness & social exposure
  • Capturing and nurturing leads

In this respect, the success of your campaign is better measured in something called Social ROI.
Social ROI is not a new age buzzword. It's an analysis of how well your audience engaged with your ads, and it's measured by a number of metrics. These include:

  • Impressions - The number of times your ad was seen
  • Reach - The number of individual people your ad was shown to
  • Likes - The number of people who liked your ad
  • Shares - The number of people who saw your ad and shared it
  • Comments - The amount of comments on your ad
  • Frequency - The number of times your ad was shown, on average, to a user.
  • Click Through Rate - The percentage at which a consumer saw the ad and click through to the landing page.
  • Page Likes - The number of likes generated for your Facebook page because of the ad.

Now, this is where Facebook Ads really get a leg up on traditional advertising. Other than the potential savings, real time analytics let you to see how well your ads are performing, which means you can actively track all the metrics we just mentioned above. And if an ad isn't working as well as it should, you can use the data to adjust the content on the fly. You can also split test multiple ads to see which one gets the best results.

Getting Started with Facebook Advertising

Even in 2016, there are plenty of business owners who are skeptical of using Facebook Ads (or any social media, for that matter). But here's the simple truth: If you're a small business with a tight budget, Facebook Advertising is one of the most affordable and effective ways to market your business. In fact, over half of professional marketers say Facebook is the most important social network they use.

Setting up an Ad Account is a relatively painless process, and you can get a step by step tutorial over at the WideNet website. And if you'd like some tips on creating an effective ad, HubSpot offers a wealth of information in their blog.

If you have a success story with Facebook Ads, or if you have a question about small business marketing, share it in the comments!