How Facebook Advertising Works (And How to Make it Work for You)

As a small to medium business owner, you have to envy Facebook. With it’s huge reach, the platform manages to do what an SMB can only dream about. Facebook is perpetually in front of your potential customer’s eyeballs, which begs the question, “How can I get into their newsfeeds?”

Facebook offer several options for small businesses to advertise, the basis of which is the Fan Page. The fan page is your space within Facebook to share pictures, updates, and contact information, as well as to interact with customers and fans. The other primary aspect of advertising via Facebook is to use “Sponsored Stories,” which is essentially an ad, to lure customers to your fan page.

Facebook’s advertising set up is essentially self-serve. Large, international brands (such as Amazon.com or Starbucks) have managed accounts with Facebook, but as a regular person with a local business, you have to make do with their “Online” category of advertising, which calls for setting up your own Fan Page and moving from there.

Get to Know the Fan Page

The Fan Page is your place to drive engagement for your brand. A good fan page includes pictures of products, the business itself, or customers interacting with the product. For example, if you own a pizza restaurant, you want to have plenty of photos of tasty-looking pizza, customers chowing down, and maybe some cool shots of pizza being prepared in the kitchen. In addition to photos, the Fan Page should include relevant information about your business; think of it as an extension of your business website. Include hours and location, promotions, and a link to your website so that customers can find the information they need quickly.

When managing a Facebook Fan Page for your business, another key way to drive engagement and to get new fans is to create discussion and encourage your fans to interact with the page. This could involve asking questions like “What’s your favorite pizza combination?” or “Who’s coming to watch the game at our restaurant tonight!?” When Facebook users like, share, or comment on your posts, information about their interactions with you may show up in the feeds of their friends, which increases your exposure to new people.

Based on research by Nielsen that found that ads with a social context had higher click-through rates, Facebook uses something called Social Stories instead of simple ads. Essentially, when an ad contains a friend’s name, for example “Natalie likes Pizza Restaurant!” along with a link to the Pizza Restaurant Fan Page and a “like” button, users are more likely to check out the brand or engage with the content in other ways. Social Stories is kind of like word-of-mouth, except it is based on Facebook algorithms. This method is effective for advertising on Facebook because it gives you—the business owner—a direct line of access to friends of people who already like your page. This means your ads are more likely to get click-throughs and to reach Facebook users in your demographic.

What are Your Options?

Facebook has several other ad types that business owners can take advantage of. These ads are the kind that usually appear on the sidebar of Facebook and not necessarily in a user’s feed (that’s what Sponsored Stories are for). A standard ad’s purpose is to drive traffic to your website, not to your Facebook site. Use this kind of ad when you want to push users to somewhere other than Facebook. A Like ad is intended to encourage users to find your Facebook page and engage with your brand there.

These can be useful, but have generally been eclipsed by Sponsored Stories. You can also create ads to promote an app or an event. If your pizza restaurant has a cool new ordering app, you could take out an ad to promote that via Facebook. For events, you might create an event to encourage people to come to your restaurant, such as a business anniversary, a new product launch, or simply happy hour. Getting users to attend your even is another way to engage them in your brand.

Finally, whatever type of ad your chose, have a clear goal in mind for users when they come to your page or website. If you are creating an ad to drive page likes, have some new pictures or content on your Fan Page so that users have something interesting to look at when they get there. If you create events on Facebook, follow up by making sure that your event is fun for the people who show up, and then post photos or comments about the event to make sure Fans know what they missed out on so they will want to show up next time.