Perhaps it is little surprise that Facebook has so quickly made the leap from grassroots to mainstream advertising. After all, a channel that reaches nearly 1.4 billion active users daily, and which is also cheap, easy to use and effective — well, that is no easy thing to ignore. Facebook ads cost as little as $5 per day.
“With images and videos as the primary vehicle of ad content, small and midsize retailers that get really innovative with their ad content can achieve the same reach and virality as the bigger brands at a fraction of the cost,” said Kirtarath Dhillon, marketing manager of the paid-per-click effort for online menswear retailer Indochino.
These days even the largest retailers and shopping center owners are adding Facebook ads to their usual social-media marketing and advertising strategies. Facebook is a powerful advertising tool, because it provides access to a large, engaged audience, says Erin Rankin, digital-media manager at CBL Properties. “You have the full attention of folks on Facebook, versus just touching their side attention with a display or banner ad on other places on the Internet,” Rankin said.
One advantage of Facebook ads is that they are very similar to regular nonpaid posts (called “organic” posts in the parlance), and many shopping centers use both to spotlight sales promotions, special events and the arrival of new tenants. Companies may choose to put dollars behind any piece of organic messaging to boost exposure, because running the post additionally as a paid ad opens up the viewing audience beyond just the usual visitors to that particular Facebook page. This extended audience can then be customized based on such things as demographics and geography. “It doesn’t change the format or look of the content on the Facebook space,” said Rankin. “It still appears in the news feed the same way. It just extends the reach.”
Another advantage of Facebook advertising is that it opens a direct, two-way communication channel to customers. Advertisers used to communicate through TV or radio commercials or by direct mail. “Now we don’t talk at our customers, we talk with them,” said Wendy Ellis, CRX, CMD, marketing director in the Lincoln Property Co. retail division. Lincoln Property’s Fairview (Texas) Town Center uses Facebook ads to complement organic posts around special events and new tenants. The center ran a paid ad to promote the opening of a Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen there this month and ran more ads closer to the opening date. People can also post comments and questions, such as whether the restaurant will include a store (it will), and thus a company-consumer dialogue can be initiated, Ellis says.
“Now we don’t talk at our customers, we talk with them”
Easy as Facebook is to use, it also offers online learning guides with tips for best practices. “It is so easy to dip your toe in the water and test things out, because you can start with such a small budget,” said Jennifer Maisch, director of corporate communications at Kimco Realty Corp. The low cost allows companies to modify ad copy and images and to target various Facebook users or to post at different times of day. “You can test all that for very little money to really find out what works best and then maximize your results,” she said. Kimco primarily uses Facebook ads to promote special events at its centers, whether Easter egg hunts, toddler story times or special guest appearances. People can RSVP by clicking on buttons in the ad. “You can see results instantaneously as the RSVPs roll in,” said Maisch. Facebook also sends reminders that an event is coming up.
The low cost enables advertisers to stretch marketing budgets. Kimco paid a mere $37 for a Facebook ad promoting its Christmas event at the Mesa (Ariz.) Riverview open-air lifestyle center, which featured carriage rides with Santa, a chance to play in real snow and similar activities. The sponsored post drew replies from 1,875 people interested in attending. An additional 285 respondents clicked to get more information from the website — amounting to a cost of 13 cents per click.
To get the most from Facebook campaigns, users should avoid any “set it and forget it” approach, sources say. Conversely, a live ad can provide flexibility for making all sorts of adjustments on the fly, notes Rankin. If, say, an advertiser fails to attract enough replies, a company can change the photo, rewrite the copy or modify criteria for the target audience. “All of that is really at your fingertips with Facebook, and that is something that we have tried to do to ensure that we are getting the most out of the platform,” Rankin said.
“The layers really go very deep. If you can dream it, you can target it”
Facebook offers an array of targeting options for reaching a specific audience. For a story-time event for toddlers, say, a shopping center can create a local ad directed at mothers who have children of toddler age and live within a given area. Users may also employ such data as household income or those families that have visited the center website in the past. Facebook even enables advertisers to target an audience based on the types of mobile device used. “The layers really go very deep,” said Rankin. “If you can dream it, you can target it.”
Facebook also provides data and metrics to help advertisers optimize results. Advertisers can obtain post-launch information about how ads are performing across specific user segments, isolated by such things as demographics, geographics, or psychographics and interests, notes Dhillon. During Indochino’s 2017 Black Friday campaign, data showed that males between the ages of 25 and 45 responded positively to a “Shop Now” promotional and that they required fewer ads before deciding to make a purchase. Males in the 46-to-60-plus demographic, on the other hand, favored the less-aggressive “Learn More” promotional and were exposed to Indochino’s ads for a slightly longer time before they booked an appointment or completed a purchase. “This flexibility is often something that’s missing in traditional channels,” said Dhillon. “Add to this Facebook’s performance-measurement capabilities, and you have a great platform that’s miles ahead of everyone else in this space.”
Facebook is constantly adding capabilities and features and making changes aimed at keeping its audience engaged. “They are constantly changing their algorithms and how content is presented and what content they are favoring over other content,” said Maisch.
But not all change is good from the advertiser’s perspective. Facebook announced in January that it would favor posts from friends and family in an individual’s news feed over public content posts from businesses and media. The company also said it would prioritize content that generates positive social connection around such things as live videos or material related to TV shows or sports teams. Some of those changes could certainly affect advertising strategy.
Of course, there is always risk of oversaturation, as the paid content can be a turnoff for some Facebook users. The more ads Facebook users see, the less likely they are to even want to interact, notes Maisch. This is why it is important to make sure content is relevant and targeted to the right audience, she says, because content delivered to people who lack interest can mean that they will start to ignore everything.
By Beth Mattson-Teig
Contributor, Shopping Centers Today