This is Part 2 of a new post series on my blog, where I evaluate if Facebook advertising is of material value to a needlepoint shop owner such as myself. The post sums up my findings on the results of a modest ad campaign I recently ran on FB. Part 3 will wrap things up with an analysis of the demographic that responded to this particular ad campaign.
In the weeks ahead, I may broaden the scope of this series to contrast the effectiveness of my promotional activities on FB vs Google and local print media.
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Kate Dickerson FB Ad Campaign
As the owner of a small needlepoint shop in a highly seasonal market, my #1 concern is cash flow.
I need to find a way to sell canvases and threads online to help defray the fixed costs of running a brick-and-mortar shop whose sales plummet 5-6 months out of the year, due to the fact that snowbirds – the bulk of my customer base – that is to say, wintertime Florida visitors and part time residents, abruptly vanish around May, and do not return till around November.
Now the lure of an online outfit such as FB – despite the teeth gnashing of my unkempt tech staff that growl it’s little more than snake oil wrapped in a circa mid ’90s AOL style interface – is that it seemingly presents to a store owner such as myself the opportunity to advertise to a potentially locked in and very large audience.
I decided to investigate this, given that Facebook allows you to target your ad campaigns to a specific demographic using its Ad Manager product.
I set up a very simple campaign structure: 1 ad, contained in 1 ad set, comprising 1 24-hour campaign.
I qualified my audience as follows:
1. Women only
2. Age 45+
3. Mobile or desktop users
4. US-based only
6. Interested in needlepoint.
This netted an addressable audience of about 90K potential customers – a far cry indeed from the “1.6 billion users” number FB is fond of trotting out.
Nevertheless, given the low cost of running ads on FB, all I would need is a couple of product buys, and my ad campaign would essentially pay for itself.
So if I only reached say, 10K viewers, surely (I reasoned) a couple of them would buy a canvas or two and maybe even some threads, which would be nice.
When setting up my campaign, I decide to pay by the click, while letting Facebook automatically determine the ad slot bid price (in case you did not already realize it, most FB ad deliveries are run as auctions, where different merchants compete for end-user face time).
As a store owner, the result I expect from an FB ad campaign to achieve is sales.
Vague sounding delivery of “impressions” seems like too nebulous a goal for my needlepoint business, which is about to make it to Year 2 in a highly competitive, overcrowded retail space.
To a small business owner such as myself, “share of mind” or “brand trust” is an amorphous luxury. This may be short-sighted on my part, and I remain open to changing my mind on this – providing FB first delivers concrete results.
What I was specifically looking for in this ad campaign was:
(a) a level of traffic to my blog that is significantly above the daily traffic level I ordinarily achieve,
(b) visitors to my blog that would be interested not only in reading the landing page post for my teaser “Patience, delivered” ad (see Part 1 of this series for more on the actual ad),
(c) a subset of these visitors that could actually be persuaded (via image or textual hyperlinks) to browse through my product catalog, and,
(d), a conversion metric (i..e, the number of visitors who turn into paying customers, in Internet ad speak) sufficiently high to be worth my while.
Did Facebook deliver?
Here are views of a spreadsheet I worked up that show what actually happened.
The traffic was delivered on the following platforms.
After a full day of advertising, my custom ad reached only 4 thousand FB users of the 90K target.
(By the way, a small nitpick here: I originally set my ad limit to $30, but FB – without asking me – eventually changed this to $34.)
The good news is, FB-driven traffic modestly increased the number of views I normally get at my site – an okay, but not a wow number – but the impact of the ad was nowhere near as pronounced as the veritable river of traffic that can result from a mention on Chilly Hollow.
Now for the so so news.
Of those 4K FB viewers, only 165 ended up visiting the landing page for my ad – which was a post that lives on the blog on Needlepoint.land, my store’s ecommerce site – a 4% click through rate, which is the industry average.
And now for the bad news.
Not one FB visit to my site resulted in a buy event. Worse still, when I analyzed via Google Analytics how these visitors traversed my site, very few went on to view my catalog.
The ad platform for 99 per cent of FB’s audience was mobile, even though I had specified desktop as well as other delivery conduits for my ad campaign.
So… what’s the bottom line to a small retail store owner such as myself?
The conclusion is fairly inescapable.
Despite conforming to an industry average click through rate, it appears that the FB needlepoint audience demographic has little appetite for buying products via FB-delivered ads.
While such FB users may be interested in visiting groups that trade needlepoint “stash,” or join popular needlepoint groups who promote online (i.e., PO box only) needlepoint resellers, FB appears to be uniquely unqualified to meet the advertising requirements of a B&M needlepoint retailer selling hand-painted quality needlepoint products.
In contrast to a Google search for needlepoint canvases, in which an individual stitcher is more likely than not to be looking for a specific needlepoint product or product category, FB users seem to be primarily interested in it as a social media experience vs a go-to ecommerce platform.
While some may argue that my ad run was too small, and that only 4K out of perhaps as many as 90K stitchers were reached in this ad campaign.
Well… if you perform a simple (but mathematically non rigorous extrapolation), it would have cost me $800 to reach the entire 90K FB user base – which is completely out of the question.
Moreover, it is important to keep in mind that FB does not allow third party audits.
So one can readily question this 90K number: are they active users? And are they, in fact, even real?
Given the fact that the one of the most popular needlepoint groups on FB only consists of about 8K members, how does one verify the existence of this purported missing 80K stitchers user base?
These are questions that Facebook does not clearly answer, at least in any of the homework I did before engaging in this trial exercise.
Despite these concerns, FB’s Ad Manager did provide some useful analytical data points, where I’ll drill down in Part 3 of this series. Moreover, this FB ad campaign stands as a benchmark to contrast the effectiveness (and cost basis) of serving Google Ad words on directed searches, as well as the opportunities afforded by traditional local print media (more on that soon).
Stay tuned to find out more about the adventures of Erin in Peggy Olson country!