Social Media Tools, Facebook

Silos, Facebook Advertising, and Opportunity

I was pissed.

When I first heard the news that The Washington Post was spinning off a brand-new company to do Facebook-only consulting, I was incensed. Given that the future (and present) of marketing is multi-channel, multi-modal, cross-platform, and other hyphenates, why would an organization that theoretically “gets it” create a siloed professional services firm to be – by definition no less – a one trick pony?

Sure, Facebook is the Justin Bieber of social media, so hot you start to question when the other shoe is going to drop. But to hire an agency to do only Facebook for your business felt myopic and lazy, like hiring a Yellow Pages specialist, or a food taster.

I absolutely believe that as social media grows the accompanying professional services will splinter. Even today, what does a “social media consultant” do? There are so many possible answers the words “social media consultant” have lost all descriptive value.

Integrate, Don’t Disintegrate

Eventually, companies will look to hire consultants for specific skills like social CRM, blogger outreach, content marketing, etc. The same thing happened in online marketing. I owned several agencies that did “online marketing.” And ultimately, we stopped selling “online marketing” and started selling what companies specifically needed, such as email marketing, SEO, landing page optimization, usability, and so forth. When companies start asking for particular services, rather than general expertise, it’s a sign of market maturity. We’re mostly not there yet in social, but it will happen.

And when it does, I still don’t believe that companies should hire a company to consult on their Facebook page in isolation (despite the great work my friends at BrandGlue are doing in that arena). That’s because I see your Facebook program as just one part of a larger social communications ecosystem that includes blog, Twitter, Facebook, email, YouTube, your brand community (if applicable), and possibly a bunch of other stuff. If you carve out a single piece of that ecosystem and give it to one agency, you’re setting yourself up for a nightmare of disconnected, uncoordinated, over-priced nonsense. Imagine if companies hired one company for radio, one for TV, one for outdoor, one for direct mail. Madness.

Worthy of Specificity

But then I took a look at the website for Social Code, the agency in question, and realized that perhaps my frustration was misguided. It turns out, that while Social Code will help companies with apps and tabs and that jazz, their real area of focus is Facebook advertising – a different animal altogether.

I changed my mind about Social Code.

Facebook advertising is most definitely an area where I can see specialization being prudent right now. It doesn’t relate to other elements of social media because it’s advertising. It’s much closer to Google and Bing PPC ads than it is to blogging and content marketing, or Twitter, or YouTube.

There’s a TON of opportunity in Facebook advertising, but there’s an increasing chorus of people who say it ain’t so. What they consistently fail to acknowledge is that Facebook advertising is an incredibly immature program, as it’s been barely three years since it’s inception in late 2007.

To suggest that Facebook advertising is today what it will become tomorrow is to ignore the history of self-serve digital advertising. I can tell you from personal experience that running ads on Google in year 3 versus what you can do today is massively different. The targeting, tracking, testing, and ad placement mechanisms have changed fundamentally since the early days of Google PPC, and they will continue to evolve.

Facebook Advertising: Context is King

It’s important to realize that even with a very nascent advertising system, Facebook will do nearly $2.5 billion in advertising in 2011. And it’s easy to see why, as their targeting capabilities exceed Google’s as much as Anne Hathaway’s Oscars performance exceeded James Franco’s. Imagine if you went to Google to do a search and a box popped up that read “Before you search for “Bloomington Indiana chicken wing restaurants” please tell us your name, your age, your gender, your relationship status, your high school, and upload some photos and videos of yourself and your friends. Thank you.”

Essentially, that’s how Facebook works, but in reverse. We gave them the data, and now they can use it to target ads.

I own a condo near Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. I needed to rent it last summer, so I bought Facebook ads with these targeting criteria: “women (more reliable), students of ASU, sophomores/juniors/seniors (don’t want any “first time away from home” hijinks), from Phoenix area (so Mom and Dad are close by).”  True, I probably violated the Equal Housing Act on several different levels, but you CANNOT do that kind of targeting anywhere else.

What’s amazing to me is how little chatter and thought leadership there is around Facebook advertising when it’s a powerful, emerging, $2.5 billion business. Most of what we know about Facebook advertising is anecdotal whispers and urban legends. We need to add much-needed science and testing and case studies and know-how to Facebook ads. (I’ll have a case study soon on the ads we ran for The NOW Revolution).

Meanwhile, I’m happy for companies like Social Code that can add some deep thinking to making Facebook advertising pay off.

What’s your experience with Facebook ads so far?

(image by Shutterstock, a Convince & Convert sponsor)

Facebook Comments


  1. says


    You rock — this post nails it!

    I ran some Facebook Ads for a Facebook Page, just testing it out and taking FB Ads for a test drive. This was before Facebook Success Summit 2010 in October. I loved the targeting ability — Awesome! I also LOVED the ability to adjust the ad as it ran — with no extra cost. Where can you do that in print?? (Nowhere!!) I spent very little money, got a decent result.

    Like it’s so good, people don’t believe it when you tell ’em. Facebook Ads are really under-used by small business, Main Street, and non-profits here in my area. (Working on that).

    I’ll be curious to see your report on results for Now Revolution. In the mean time, thanks for writing this article! :)


      • says

        Hey Jay. Good post. I am a social media manager, and I am often advising clients on advertising. I am unsure whether Google Adwords or Facebook ads are better, I am running a little experiment to see. Google Adwords seems to be ignored as “paid junk” by viewers, maybe facebook seems to seen less as advertising? In my circles, we are continually be advised to specialize in a service niche, and I could see facebook as being one of them, Look at Mari Smith.

  2. Mark W Schaefer says

    I’m really looking forward to your case study. I know there have been success stories but my experience has been mixed and the feedback from a lot of young folks I work with is that Facebook ads are “invisible” to them. While more targeted than Google, at least on Google, you are basically LOOKING for the ads as you seek advice and help. I think people are on facebook to play Farmville and are sick of being marketed to. More difficult nut to crack.

  3. says

    I think it’s actually way safer for Washington Post to actually focus on Facebook Advertising as online advertising is something that they actually get. It would have been pretty misguided, as you pointed out, for them to do Facebook marketing.

    In terms of ads, I’ve actually given up Adwords completely in favor of Facebook Ads. Adwords has just become too expensive and too complex for quick, small scale campaigns. The CPCs I get on Facebook are up to 5 TIMES cheaper than Adwords and CTR are higher.

    So Washington Post have an easy winner on their hands, I’m sure customers will love the ROI.

  4. says

    Use raise a good point Mark, about Google ads reaching people in active search mode, while Facebook reaches people in social mode.

    Those worlds continue to collide, however, and I suspect we’re just scratching the surface.

  5. says

    LOVE the article Jay !!

    In respect to Facebook advertising i also agree that the beauty of being able to target your audience is without parallel … i snickered when you brought up the idea about what if Google made you type in all the data about yourself before you search … but then i thought about Gmail … there is a product that Google has that does have your information (if you have an account with them) and targets those ads specifically to your data – and even more if you have a Google profile …

  6. says

    We were able to run some pretty targeted run Facebook Page adds to build the fan base on our Team Cbus page leading up to Chevy’s SXSW Road Trip and the results were great. For less than $300 we nearly doubled our numbers (and that was without doing any split testing like we had initially planned.)

    For driving users to Facebook pages and getting likes, I think there’s little question as to how FB ads preform. From what I’ve seen though, using FB ads to attempt to take a user to a site outside of the context of Facebook has lack luster results. Any idea why that is?

    • says

      Session interruption. People are on Facebook because they want to be on Facebook. Taking them to a different site interrupts their user session.

      • says

        Which is exactly why I get annoyed when Twitter users try to drive me (or prospects) to Facebook! Particularly promotions. It’s kind of insulting. Like saying “If you were on the right social platform you could participate in our contest”. Well, why don’t they learn to run one on Twitter? It is almost like being placed in a social phone tree.

        As for specialists, I completely agree that you don’t want 6 spokes that aren’t working together. I just wonder if some businesses try one or two platforms at a time and might be attracted to someone that specializes in those platforms.

        I don’t know, I just wonder.

  7. says

    I’ve seen some Facebook case studies come out of the SMB, but the big brands are holding their experiences close to the vest in order to avoid educating their competition.

  8. says

    To be honest I have struggled with FB advertising. I know I’m doing something wrong at the moment as everyone is raving about it. I’ve had a bit of a free tutorial from someone who knows their stuff and am going to give it another go. Will take on board the comments about not directing people out of the platform. Really helpful, thanks :o)

  9. says

    An interesting look at Facebook. In my experience many business people in the B2B sectors aren’t up to speed on the Facebook potential, whereas B2C is a whole different ballgame. Will the B2B ‘early adopters’ (it’s not that early?) really have to make a killing before the cynics and the Luddites jump on the bandwagon? I’m encouraging people to consider Facebook as a real winner right now basically because you can target the audience you really desire, but also trying to explain that success won’t happen over night and that traditional sales and marketing tactics just won’t work. There’s some serious learning curves for business to cope with! Thanks Jay, another great post! Peter

  10. says

    I have never really looked into Facebook ads. I’ve read blogs and aritcles about why they can be beneficial, or heard webinars about using them as way to build some engagement. I’ve never felt the immediate need to use them, or even felt how much they would benefit me. I really enjoyed what you said about them here, and realized perhaps I’m not thinking about them in the right way. I can really see Facebook ads taking off, once it goes through some more trial and error.

  11. says


    Facebook advertising is something for sure to keep an eye on however I start thinking about the Forrester research where they found that teens are less likely to trust a brand’s FB ad vs a tv commercial and search engine ads. This research was very interesting as (which you did discuss below) with session interruption. Could this be a factor with the results? We are expecting ads on tv and in search results but on facebook? It is still too new for us. The interruption can be intrusive as depending upon what you have in your profile, it is going to be swarmed and attacked with ads.

    Could it be that the focused targeting is what is making it not as trusted? When we are watching a tv show we are getting the same ads and can discuss it whereas with Facebook we are getting different ads. Sure some teens may be getting some of the same ones but probably not all. It could be also that they were taught that tv commercials are trusted and with FB being so new that the trust has not been proven just yet.

    Great post as FB advertising will grow as it is the beginning of purely targeted messages.

    • says

      Good point. Targeting can be too good sometimes, making us wary and suspicious.

      I’m not as worried about teens, as the newest Forrester research shows they are abandoning Facebook in droves.

  12. Jerilyn says

    This is a great article, I’m with a small start up company and we are currently debating on whether or not to advertising on Facebook. I think it would be a good idea for us to do it.

  13. Anonymous says

    Hi Jay,

    This post touches on a global issue when thinking of integrated marketing. You took the time to dig deeper so you understand why they have a siloed approach (and then shared it with us. Thank you.) Your point that Facebook ads are different is spot on and can be applied to other marketing tools and tactics. An effective integrated marketing strategy keeps specialists in areas where they are needed and requires them to work with others to provide a seamless customer experience. Thank you for providing an excellent example of this at work.

  14. says

    Jay I don’t know that I buy into a specialized filed for just facebook. That said we are seeing facebook in 3 ways.

    1. Message support – there are times where the message you have can be supported and shared on facebook with a PPC campaign EX: A special employer discount for a vehicle like Ford A plan.

    2. Cause Marketing – Times when you’re supporting a good cause with special pricing or discounts. EX: Free oil change with a toy donation to Toy For Tots

    3. Friends & Family – A message or offer you allow only your facebook followers to share with their friends and family.

    In the end I see facebook a lot like an old sales proverb for gaining rapport.



    These were the 4 topics you could talk to a prospect about to gain rapport, after all the intent of the facebook audience is still social. If you marketing efforts are not social in nature you are not playing to the audience intent.

    Your thoughts?

  15. says

    I like Facebook advertising due to the targeting capabilities. But for some of my niche clients I can’t get to the depth I want with the likes and interests, because Facebook doesn’t have it in it’s database for whatever reason (and therefore you can’t input it as an option). I see this evolving over time though

  16. says

    I couldn’t agree more Jay. Facebook advertising is a mystery worthy of the Scooby Doo gang. I have had limited experience with it but found that the image that I used in my ad was just as strong a variable as the ad itself.

  17. says

    We’ve had incredible results advertising on Facebook. Cut our cost-per-lead in half vs. Google. I still use both, but it’s very effective. And, we’re driving users off of FB btw.

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