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How Targeted Facebook Ads Maximize the Impact of Your Content Marketing Strategy

By Kathryn Hawkins. Content Strategy
Targeted Ads
Martin Fisch via Flickr  License: CC BY-SA 2.0

Use targeted Facebook ads segmented for your target audience to help your content marketing assets gain a loyal following.

With nearly two billion users, it’s not difficult to see why so many marketers flock to promote their content on Facebook, both organically and via Facebook ads. In fact, 95.8% of social media marketers said Facebook provides the best ROI of all social platforms.

But in order to use the platform effectively for content promotion, you’ll need to get a handle on the basics of how to use Facebook’s advertising tools to reach and effectively engage with your target audience. Here’s how to get started using Facebook ads to connect with your ideal customer.

Why pay for promotion?

The easiest way to begin promoting your content on Facebook is completely free – simply share a status update with a link to your content on your business’ Facebook Page. That said, over the last several years organic reach has declined considerably. If you simply share your posts on your Facebook Page, it’s likely only a handful of your existing customers will see them—with no opportunity to reach a new audience.

Like Google AdWords, Facebook’s algorithm is designed to benefit the user, which is why you see a mix of posts from friends and family alongside the occasional ad. Unless a social media post has a ton of natural engagement, business content that hasn’t been promoted by ad spend gets lost in the shuffle.

The good news is Facebook ads are some of the most effective and affordable around. The platform also offers a ton of flexibility. You can drive traffic to your blog or a contributed article to help raise brand awareness among top-of-funnel prospects, or you can send potential followers to a gated landing page for the purpose of email collection.

You can also set budgets and timelines, perform A/B tests on ad copy and creative, and lower your costs by serving better content. Facebook calls this a “relevancy score.” The more relevant your content appears to be, the less you’ll spend. This means you want to serve your Facebook ads to the most receptive audience possible, which brings us to the topic of ad targeting.

Finding the Right Audience

Choosing the right target audience is the key to maximizing your budget on Facebook. You can build custom audiences using a wide assortment of parameters, including purchasing behavior, industry, and education level. For instance, if your business targets realtors in the Seattle region, you can promote a piece of content around choosing a mortgage company to individuals who match real estate-related professions within that specific geographic region. The better you can nail down your “buyer persona,” the easier it will be to connect with the right target audiences by choosing criteria that suits them.

You can also target followers of specific pages, like that of a competitor, or target a “lookalike audience,” which is a group of people that don’t already interact with you, but resemble those who do. Once you have established a following, lookalike audiences are some of the best performing ad groups, second to custom audiences.

Engaging with Followers

But what about those people who’ve visited your site in the past and gone away without signing up for your email list or website offer? These types of users have already expressed interest in your business—so just because they didn’t convert on the spot, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get them back into your marketing funnel. Chances are, these anonymous users also use Facebook—which means that you can often use Facebook ads to convince them to purchase your services.

Most marketers call this technique retargeting, while Google refers to it as remarketing. Facebook uses “custom audiences,” but it’s all the same idea – serving ads to people who’ve already connected with you. Any salesperson will tell you it’s easier to “farm” warm leads and existing customers than “hunt” for new ones.

There are two ways to set up custom audiences. The first involves uploading a contact list. While this option may seem easier, it’s not the best choice for many B2B marketers, since most people have different contact information for personal and professional use. The email addresses you’ve collected may not be associated with your followers’ pages.

The second way involves “dropping a pixel” on your website. It sounds a bit more complicated, but it boils down to pasting a small bit of code into your site’s HTML header. It’s an easy task for an experienced developer, and Facebook offers step-by-step instructions for those with nontechnical backgrounds.

Once the Facebook pixel is installed it will begin collecting data, and you’ll select “web traffic” when setting up a new ad. You can target everyone who has visited your blog, people who have visited (or not visited) certain pages, and followers who haven’t visited your site recently.

Optimizing Your Campaigns

After you have your first campaign set up and have given the platform some time to serve your Facebook ads, you can begin analyzing your data using Facebook’s measurement tools.

For the beginner, it’s most important to focus on three key metrics: click-through rate, cost-per-click, and comments (for Facebook ads that appear directly in the newsfeed). I like to include comments because engagement impacts your relevancy score, and they also provide rare qualitative feedback from your audience.

Learn more about measuring content marketing ROI here.

Once you’re comfortable tracking these metrics for your ad campaign, try experimenting with A/B tests, which can help determine what sort of content your ideal customer prefers, when they are most likely to engage, and a host of other variables.

Best Practices in High-Performing Facebook Ads

Regardless of the content being promoted, the words, images, and formats you choose can make a huge difference in how your audience responds.

First and foremost, content marketing-focused Facebook ads should differ from product or service ads. They should demonstrate expertise, as opposed to a hard sell describing features, benefits, or pricing.

Your Facebook ad should provide an enticing teaser for what the reader will receive in the ebook or article—for instance, “Learn how I cut my Google CPC cost in half.” The ad should also provide eye-catching graphics, but glossier isn’t always better—many Facebook users have grown tired of seeing the same generic stock photos over and over. A photo of you on a vacation with your family can provide a more genuine impression that will make your reader more likely to trust you and what you have to say.

In an ideal world, you would use a designer to create custom imagery, but cost and timing constraints may make that unrealistic, depending on your business size. In that case, look into Canva, a free tool that makes it easy to produce beautiful content in a variety of formats. It’s also important to note Facebook’s algorithm prefers ad images with little to no text.

In most ad copy, short, snappy, and memorable is key. Showcase the value of the content up front: Use your limited ad space to show what the reader will gain from the offer. Consider asking a simple question in the headline that will resonate with your target audience.

Sponsored Facebook Posts v. Facebook Ads

When it comes to getting clicks on a Facebook ad, sometimes it makes sense to go long. Grab your readers with a “hook”—a surprising, declarative statement (bonus points if it speaks to your own past failures), then focus on spotlighting the value the reader will gain from your article or ebook.

Your word count is limited in a traditional display Facebook ad; if you’d like to try out this model, you’ll need to use the “Boost this Post” option to sponsor an existing social media post on your Facebook Page. When doing this, you can analyze your existing social media content to see which articles or offers have had the most organic engagement, and provide a “boost” to your top performers, or you can develop a new social media post specifically designated for your Facebook ad campaign.

Unlike with display ads, Facebook users can comment on sponsored posts, just as they could with a traditional social media post, so make sure that you take the time to review and engage with the comments you receive. Boosted posts are optimized for engagement, so they’re good for building brand awareness

How Much Do Facebook Ads Cost?

Though the price has crept up in recent years, Facebook advertising is very affordable compared to LinkedIn or even Google. The average LinkedIn cost-per-click was $5.26 in 2018, and $2.69 for Google search (though it can vary wildly based on industry). Facebook ads’ average cost-per-click, in contrast, is as low as $0.22.

Facebook ads’ CPC can also vary a lot based on who you’re targeting, so if you’ve built a custom audience focusing on financial advisors and accountants, for example, don’t be surprised if the cost is higher than an ad targeting people who like to play basketball.

You’ll also want to plan your ad campaigns based on a specific objective: If you’ve launched a new brand, it may be helpful just to promote your content to as many people as possible without caring who signs up for an offer. If your aim is to generate new leads, then you’ll be more focused on getting readers to not just read your article or landing page, but to share their email address to download your offer, so it will be important to focus on conversion-rate optimization in your landing page to ensure that your audience follows through.

Paid Promotion Is Part of a Good Content Strategy

If you’ve developed a content marketing strategy, then you’ve already gained a good understanding of who your ideal customers are and the kind of content that appeals to them. But while SEO research can be helpful in developing content that Google will help to surface for your target audience, it’s not a standalone strategy—like it or not, a lot of your blog content won’t naturally develop organic traffic, so it will be important to boost your posts to your target audience to ensure that they get visibility. If you’re boosting a blog post, make sure that you include options for opt-in resources, such as an ebook or offer, so that you’ll be able to capture those leads and continue to market to them.

It’s important to remember that content marketing rarely results in an immediate sale, so don’t despair if your website visitors don’t become customers at the first click. Focus on using attribution through Google Analytics or a marketing automation platform to track users by their IP address from their first visit, so you’ll see if a website visitor who just made a purchase first found you three months ago via a Facebook ad for one of your blog posts. Particularly if you sell goods or services that require a large investment, your goal should be to build trust, not immediately drive your target audience to make a purchase. By using Facebook ads and sponsored posts to drive custom audiences to your content, you’ll be able to expand your reach and ensure that your ideal customers are gaining familiarity with your brand. Either through retargeting or lead capturing, you’ll then be able to continue marketing to this audience without spending on advertising to them again.

Looking for more ways to build an audience on the web? Check out our free eBook, A B2B Content Marketer’s Guide to a Digital Distribution Strategy.

Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is principal and chief content strategist of Eucalypt Media. She has worked as a freelance journalist for media publications and managed inbound marketing and content strategy for corporate and nonprofit clients for more than a decade.

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