Should Facebook pages still pay to acquire new fans?

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A common refrain among small business marketers goes something like this: “We’ve paid to acquire new fans, and now we have to pay again to reach them?”

There’s been a shift recently in Facebook ad and marketing circles, prompting page admins and brands to put more investment in engagement. But has the “like” been rendered useless? According to Facebook Strategic Preferred Marketing Developer SocialCode, definitely not.

A new report by SocialCode shows that pages should keep doing campaigns to acquire new fans on Facebook, as they tend to convert more often than non-fans. Instead of just acquiring fans and hoping for profit, SocialCode Chief Innovation Officer Addie Conner told Inside Facebook that fan acquisition campaigns should be coupled with retargeting so these new fans don’t just disappear:

We were looking for new ways to scale on (direct response). Facebook started allowing new ways of retargeting against email lists through Custom Audiences. Immediately, we saw that if they use an email list on Facebook and were retargeting against those users, that works really well. We were able to get really efficient CPAs on that. If you think about fans, it’s just like another email list. You’re getting a group of users who are opting in to see your content going forward and you have an audience that is retargetable over time. If you measure the marginal benefit and it’s coming in, these people are saving you more money than they cost downstream.

Conner authored a report, “Does It Pay To Buy Likes,” noting that it’s easier to convert a fan of your page than it is a non-fan, when retargeting is used. The paper cites a blog post by Facebook’s Vice President of Ads Product Marketing Brian Boland. In that post, he said that ads with social context drive 35 percent higher online sales lift.

In a sampling of five early 2014 campaigns among SocialCode clients, they found ads with social context drew 11 percent higher online sales lift. SocialCode’s report states how important social context is to a campaign:

Social context is one of the most powerful tools in a Facebook advertiser’s arsenal. Make sure a Page has enough likes to achieve the huge benefit that accrues when target audiences see that their friends have engaged with a piece of brand content.

The report also cites a figure gathered from client campaigns: every time fans engage with a piece of content on Facebook, they generate, on average, eight viral impressions with social context.

Conner talked with Inside Facebook about how acquiring new fans with retargeting and purpose can actually help drive sales. Previously, in the early days of Facebook marketing, everyone was going for fan acquisition, but they were largely doing so to build likes as a vanity metric or without much of  a plan after the like. Now that retargeting is a more widely used and mature advertising option, it’s OK to target likes again, Conner said:

They were trying to get likes for the wrong reason. Whether it’s for a vanity metric, or because they thought, “Oh, if I bought someone for $1, then I would earn more than $1 over time in earned media.” That’s where they thought their return would be, versus now really it’s, “I buy a group of people who I later want to retarget in order to take a valuable action against my brand.” This is just the first interim step in creating a relationship with that user and getting them to opt in to seeing my content at a higher rate. It’s a different data optimization feedback loop. We’re not just buying fans based on whoever’s cheapest. We’re buying audiences to become fans who are going to carry the greatest marginal benefit of converting downstream.

The report also mentions — in bold — that companies shouldn’t acquire fans just to acquire fans. The business objective always has to come first and be incorporated into the ad campaign. After the fans are acquired, SocialCode recommends that companies do serious and thorough fan vs. non-fan analysis to learn more about their fanbase and how to reach them.

Readers: Do you still see the value of a like-building ad campaign?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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