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January 08, 2015

Facebook Advertising: The Basics

January 08, 2015

Welcome to 2015: though the demise of Facebook has been tossed around by pundits aplenty, chances are still fairly strong that you logged in this morning to get your daily dose of baby pictures, complaints about the tundra (thanks, Midwest!), or participate in a argu...polite discussion. Sure, maybe your kids were Snapchatting and Yo!-ing and whatever else, but billions of people (and ‘bots) are still on Facebook.

Yep – the platform is currently still a major media channel that shouldn’t be ignored as at least a potential source of sharing information to users, attracting new audiences, and spreading the good word (or photo). If you haven’t budgeted a Facebook spend for 2015, but are planning on dipping your digital toe into these waters, here’s a quick primer on the difference between boosting a post and running an advertisement.

See the little "Sponsored" text in gray? That means you're seeing an ad...

What's the Difference?

First, let’s define the rules...I mean, let’s let Facebook define ‘em:

Boost – “You can boost any post you share from your News Feed, Timeline or Page, including status updates, photos, videos and offers. Any post you boost will appear higher in News Feed to help more people see it. Keep in mind that boosted posts must follow Facebook's Advertising Guidelines.”

Wait...whose News Feed? - “You can choose the audience for your boosted Page posts. When you boost your post, you can target it to people based on their location, age, gender and interests. If at least 50 people like your Page, you also have the option to show your boosted post only to the people who like your Page and their friends.

Advertisement – “They're shown to specific groups of highly engaged people on desktop and mobile.”

Wait...who are these ‘highly engaged’ people? Facebook’s ad platform decides, based on the in-depth targeting options that you choose, including Location, Demographics, Interests, Behaviors, Connections, and Custom Audiences.

Scratching your head and wondering what the difference is? Boosted posts originally take the form of any post you share on your page, and have very simple targeting and spending controls. Advertisements, on the other hand, must be created and run through Facebook’s ad platform, complete with specific end goals, in-depth targeting, content variation, and extensive budgeting controls.

If boosting a post is dipping your toe in, then creating an ad campaign is planning a day at the beach: gathering all the needed supplies, loading your vehicle, mapping your destination, setting up your perfect spot, adjusting your umbrella, sunscreen, or beach position throughout the day, and then spending the ride home talking about what you liked and didn’t like, before you do it all over again next time.

So...what’s a Facebook page like you to do?

Well, if you want your current fans and followers to see a post, status, image, or link – and you don’t need all those fancy-pants targeting options, you’re probably better off boosting a post, whether it’s a popular one you’ve already made, or something new. Like any other major media channel, Facebook has become pay-to-play. If you want post views, engagement, and clicks...ya gotta pay (well, at least a little).

Think that’s silly? Just like running an ad in print, on radio, or TV, you’re paying for that set of eyes (and/or ears). The more things change, the more things stay the same. The good news is that it’s simple to flip the switch: boosting a post, and stopping the boost only takes a click or two.

So when should I run an ad?

Prospecting for new audiences, building a following, got an awesome piece of content that isn’t going anywhere, or looking for new sales? You might be better off digging into an ad campaign. Just beware – this is the deep end. In order to stand out to audiences who may not recognize your very existence, you’ve got to make sure to bring your A-game, including effective (and appropriate!) targeting, creative and eye-catching content, and the time needed to manage, respond to, and refresh your campaigns.

Should I Be Advertising On Facebook?

Just because you’re operating a Facebook account – doesn’t necessarily mean you should start pouring money into advertisements and boosted posts. If you are struggling to determine an end goal, don’t have the time or technology to manage a campaign, or are unsure about ROI, getting distracted by a Facebook campaign with all its bells and whistles (which make it oh-so-easy to increase your spend) shouldn’t be your first priority.

If you are completely new to online advertising and paid search options – take the time to research platforms before deciding which is right for your business or organization. Like any other ad campaign, your research will pay off in a product that is more useful to your end audience, which is what’s most important in the end.

Already running Facebook campaigns? Where have you seen success in boosting posts or running advertisements? How have you changed your strategy over time?

Cover image via Grand Velas Riviera Maya on Flickr.

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