Let me start by addressing the SEOs in this group, as Brian Carter did recently for Search Engine Journal. It is true that search can capture customers as they’re getting ready to buy. But if you really want to capture them at the right moment, according to Carter, your keyword choices for AdWords can be pretty limited. There may be 45 million searches for “shoes” every month on Google, but only 450,000 searches for “buy shoes.” Your safest bet to capture customers, “buy shoes online,” sees only about 90,000 searches every month.
That still looks pretty good…until you consider how many competitors are bidding to show their ads in Google for precisely that phrase. And don’t think your customers won’t comparison shop with your rivals online! As Carter notes, “we’re also competing on price with all the other businesses who are only advertising at the bottom of the funnel. We lower our profits and our conversion rate with all that competitive shopping.”
But there’s even uglier news. Carter says that he’s managed a lot of AdWords accounts for advertisers over the last six years, and he’s noticed a painful pattern: only about five to ten percent of the keywords actually turn a profit. Once you’ve discovered what those profitable keywords are and gotten the most out of them, does it make sense to throw more money at AdWords? And if it doesn’t, what do you do when you’re ready to expand?
Here’s another situation: say you’ve created a new product. Its functionality combines that of two older products. Which keywords do you use? Your instinctive answer may be “keywords for both of the older products,” but it’s not that simple. Google dishes out quality scores on AdWords ads; these scores affect how much (or how little) you can bid to get your ad in certain positions. Ad position plays a major factor in its click-through rate.
Given all that, what kind of quality score do you think you would get if your ad is for a new device that both melts and blends widgets, when most people search for either a “widget melter” or a “widget blender”? You can bid for “widget blender” and “widget melter,” but your ad’s quality score in AdWords might not be very high – because your product and ad are not perfectly relevant to either of those phrases. If you need to bid more for your AdWords campaign, you’ll need to sell more of your product to turn a profit. You might find, as one of Carter’s students did, that you can’t launch an affordable AdWords campaign for your new product.
With Facebook, you are reaching people who further up the sales funnel. They’re not ready to buy right now. But they will buy eventually – and you’re paying a lot less for them, based on cost per click, than you’d be paying through AdWords. As Carter notes, “The fact that Facebook ad CPC is from two to ten times cheaper than AdWords means that you can afford to get those general ‘shoes’ customers.”
How can you be so sure that they’ll buy eventually? With Facebook, you’re actually building a relationship with them based on who they are. You’re not trying to target keywords; you’re targeting what users like. Once a user clicks to “like” you (or your Facebook fan page, more precisely), you can post daily updates that they’ll actually be glad to see if you do it right. Try sending an email to your subscribers every day; you’re going to see a LOT of people opting out of your mass mailing!
The point is, you can use Facebook to do things that you can’t do via AdWords or other forms of marketing. Say, for example, that I’m using Google to look for new crochet techniques, and you’re a business that sells yarn and other crafting supplies (knitting needles, crochet hooks, etc.). You can’t sell me anything at that point, because I’m looking for information. Heck, even if I’m specifically looking for a particular type of yarn, I might just be curious about its properties, and trying to find a local source (rather than looking to purchase it online).
On Facebook, though, you can target my interests. You can find out that my friends and I are avid knitters and crocheters. You can set up an ad to appear on the right side of my page that I can “like” to become a fan. And if I actually *do* like it, this fact will appear on my wall and my friends’ walls – letting them know I thought your page was worth a look. It’s not quite as good as word of mouth advertising, but it’s close.
Once I’ve “liked” you, you can do things to encourage me to interact with your page and your site. For example, you can tell me when you’ve posted a new blog entry, or tease me with the free patterns I can get if I join your pattern club, or offer coupons good for a discount and free shipping on yarn I’ve purchased from you online, or…well, you get the idea. You can do this sort of thing practically every day, and it won’t bother me, because I’m the one who took the initial action to “like” you.
A Facebook Wall isn’t like email; it’s where people update each other briefly with what’s been going on in their lives. So if you’re brief in your updates (think Twitter-style short), your fans will interact…and want more. Keep them interested, and they’ll convert. It isn’t just the conversion that you’re after, though. Figure that will come naturally in time. What you’re really trying to do is build a relationship with someone who will become a lifetime customer.
When you look at it that way, two things become very clear. First, Facebook isn’t going to go away. Second, you can’t afford not to learn how to market yourself and your business on Facebook. If you’re an SEO, your clients will thank you; and if you’re a small business, you’ll be pleased with the results.