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What are the advantages of Facebook advertising?

Facebook offers small businesses greater access to potential customers than any other social network in the world. With more than 1.23 billion users, Facebook has an enormous user base (1). As that audience has grown, so have the options for advertisers that want to reach them.

Who is on Facebook?

Facebook started out as a social network for college students back in 2004. Now, more than a decade later, the platform is used by almost everyone who has access to the Internet. Although the company does not release official data about its most popular age groups, a Pew research study suggests that Facebook reaches a mature audience with nearly 71 percent of adults online using it (2). Although usage tends to be lighter with groups on both ends of the age spectrum, marketers can now reach significant audiences of varying characteristics.

Advantages of Facebook advertising

Before you can understand the advantages of Facebook advertising, you should examine how it compares to other online advertising platforms. Facebook's greatest competitor for ad dollars is Google Adwords, on which a business can buy advertising messages to display in search engine results pages (SERPs) when a user searches for a product or service. This method of advertising is called demand fulfillment (3) - the user searches for something, and the business offers a solution that the user will hopefully buy.

The first challenge with demand fulfillment advertising is that the number of related keywords that users might use to search is usually limited, and because of this, businesses often have to bid on the same keywords, which drives up the cost to advertise. The second challenge is that businesses can only market their products and services in the moment a user has an existing demand.

Facebook advertising, on the other hand, uses a demand generation model where businesses can target users based on a variety of attributes - including age, gender, interests and careers - instead of what they are searching for. An average Facebook advertising campaign often costs less than search based advertising, and it offers a greater variety of campaign goals.

Summary of marketing options on Facebook

Facebook offer three basic tools that allow businesses to reach consumers. Each one serves a different purpose, and many businesses combine them to maximize their efforts:

  • Create a page: Similar to user profile pages, businesses can create pages that people can "like," thereby inviting content into their news feeds. Pages can be liked by anyone without the page administrator having to accept the fan's request. Pages are easy to set up (4) - most can be created within minutes - but the challenge is building a fan base that you can communicate with. In recent years Facebook has introduced changes to their news feed algorithm that caused drastic declines in reach for businesses. Even companies that have a significant number of fans struggle to reach a fraction of their user base through organic posts. If you want to reach the fans who have liked your page, or reach new audiences, you will likely need advertising.

  • Advertising: Once your page is created, you can use advertising to reach audiences using the incredible wealth of user data Facebook has aggregated over the years. You can create ads that reach specified geographic regions, age groups, education and income levels, as well as other characteristics. You can also develop campaigns that have different goals. Your primary concern might be to grow your fan base, and Facebook offers easily customizable ad formats that will help you achieve your goal. Other times you might want to increase clicks to your website, and there are several ad formats and pricing options you can choose from.

Facebook isn't just a powerful network for reaching new and existing customers. It's also a versatile marketing tool. It allows you to mold your approach around the unique aspects of the desired audience, the goals for your business and the budget you have. As Facebook marketing has matured, the time for dabbling has passed for most industries. Facebook is quickly becoming an indispensable component of business growth, and companies that invest the time to learn it will have a competitive advantage in social media.

1. "Facebook Marketing: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners" 2. "Social Networking Fact Sheet" 3. "The Beginner's Guide to Facebook Advertising" 4. "Marketing on Facebook Starts With a Page"

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