There are pros and cons to Facebook Ads and the companies that offer them. You need to be informed beyond the hype that has been broadcast ad nauseam by social media marketing companies for a few years now. They are still new and exciting. The question is: are they right for your office’s marketing budget this year?
The Short of It:
If you have room in your marketing budget to put a “cherry on top”, Facebook Ads are a cheap and easy way to get added exposure, either to prospective patients or to make your office more top of mind for existing patients. Just set your expectations very low.
It’s dirt cheap. Compared to Adwords, the per-engagement cost for Facebook Ads, which is comparable to the “per click” metric of Google Adwords’ pay-per-click model is very inexpensive. You can get many times the exposure in terms of engagements including clicks, post likes, comments, shares and page likes, that you could for the same money spent on Google Adwords. It’s important to note that if you try to calculate the Cost Per Conversion (the amount that is spent in order to generate a phone call or email), Facebook may not actually be more cost effective. More on this later.
It can be an effective branding tool. Your office may have great exposure locally, and if your website is well-optimized (it is 😀 ) you have great exposure on Google. Facebook Ads can help you go the extra mile in getting eyeballs on your brand.
It’s nearly the only way to get noticed on Facebook these days. Okay, maybe this is almost a CON but since Facebook is the 3rd most popular website on the Web after Google and YouTube, we need to have a presence on it. Unfortunately, without paying for exposure, we may as well not have a Facebook page.
Investors pushed Facebook to monetize their website because they had this crazy idea that the website needed to be profitable. Facebook realized that the users with the deepest pockets were their business users and now dental offices are among the parties involved in hefting Facebook’s stock price uphill.
Offices who choose not to pay to play (don’t pay to boost their posts or launch Facebook ad campaigns) are next to invisible on users’ newsfeeds. This is essentially the case on all social media platforms now.
It’s targeted advertising…in theory. Facebook has demographic and “interest” targeting features that Google Adwords is just starting to crack into. Facebook also offers most of the same geo-targeting capabilities of Google. The “targeted advertising” is something that social media marketing companies LOVE to sell as a unique opportunity on the Web. Unfortunately, there’s a catch…
The targeting is somewhat unreliable. Interests and information that users provide Facebook is not always grounded in reality. You may think, “I can target women who appreciate luxury goods in my area?! Sign me up!” The trouble is, a 15 year old woman launching her career at McDonalds can still like Gucci and Dolce&Gabbana and even lie about her age (or simply omit the info) to land herself just inside your demographic targeting criteria. Her clicks and likes may help your overall exposure, but she’s highly unlikely to bring in a return on your per-engagement investment.
Facebook is almost certainly pulling out all the stops to improve this, but businesses with wider goal posts are going to perform better than niche practices who are looking for a specific type of clientele.
In the end, it’s interruption advertising. Some would argue that social media is right alongside search engine optimization in the category of ‘permission marketing’ where people are asking for your information, but that has changed now that Facebook is allowing ads. People don’t have to “Like” our Facebook page in order to see our ads and they certainly are not logging onto Facebook to look for businesses who will advertise to them.
Facebook users want to see what their friends and family are up to. Or, more likely, they want to tell the world what has been going on with their own lives. Every once in awhile, our ads, with messaging honed and targeting as explicit as can be, will display at the right time for the right individual and spark a new relationship. But will this chance encounter immediately lead to a new patient appointment scheduled? Unlikely.
In reality, social media, including paid ads on social media, are about relationship. You build trust and awareness and hope that this will someday lead to a phone call or email.
The Ultimate Con:
Tracking the success of a Facebook ad campaign is extremely difficult. Facebook has an Ad Manager interface that creates beautiful charts and graphs to demonstrate that your ads are indeed working. The problem is that their tools are like signposts along the road that point to all the towns in the area except for the one you’re trying to find.
Facebook measures impressions (notoriously masquerading as value in digital marketing pitches) as well as Reach (essentially the same as impressions) to tell you just how many people saw your ad, but these metrics represent theoretical awareness. Our ads share space with events, news, sports scores and of course, updates from friends, not to mention other ads. That’s a LOT to compete with. It will take many exposures to an ad before it may catch a user’s eye.
Facebook attempts to build value by promoting engagements like comments, shares, post likes and pages likes. All of these things have some value- some. But not the same value as a phone call or an email.
It’s an “only time will tell scenario” and in these marketing situations, it’s a gamble either way. If you start now to build awareness and it pans out into improved conversion rates and more opportunities in the future, you’re a genius. On the other hand, if you’re one of the first to leap and Facebook Ads ultimately don’t generate the kind of awareness that eventually brings about a return on investment, you’ll feel like a fool. If you jump on board somewhere in the middle, you might feel a bit foolish regardless of which scenario ultimately ends up becoming reality. For now, we can only hope that all the awareness we are building in the office’s brand has value. Hope is, unfortunately, hard to trace back to ROI, especially in the short term.