sponsored results FB“Who the heck searches for anything on Facebook?” was one of the comments on a TechCrunch article where Optimal shared some early results with Facebook’s new Sponsored Results ad product. The commenter’s point was this: people aren’t searching on Facebook in the way they search for things elsewhere across the web; they are finding things on Facebook when they search for certain people, places, or brands on Facebook – and this difference is reflected in how you can currently buy Sponsored Results.

 

When an advertiser specifies the targeting for a Sponsored Results campaign, he/she must do so by choosing one or more Facebook objects that will show up in the results. It is NOT about what keywords generate those matches (though that is a precursor step that SEM-experienced advertisers will definitely want to think about).

 

The aforementioned article mentioned an important finding from some of Optimal’s analytics for early Sponsored Results campaigns – namely, that only 7.7% of the users who are targetable as having searched for major brands were also targetable by the existing Facebook targeting for those given brands. That may sound like a mouthful – but what it means is that Sponsored Results targeting is largely incremental to the existing Facebook targeting.

 

On the cons side of this new ad vehicle, targetable searchers for any one term or group of terms are still fairly small. Part of that is because Facebook is not a search-oriented platform today (though I do believe that will change as they improve the search experience).

 

On the pros side, click-through rates are high. Conversions, however, will be low until companies start to optimize their strategies specifically for the unique nature of this new ad unit. So without further ado, and with the caveat that Facebook could always change how this stuff works, here are a few tips for using Sponsored Results:

1.      You’re not bidding on Searches; you’re bidding on Searchers. This is the biggest distinguishing philosophy of overall Facebook media buying. It often trips people up when it comes to interest targeting (since that seems to look like keyword targeting), and now it extends to Sponsored Results. You’re bidding on users who have searched for certain things.

2.      Don’t simply translate SEM keywords to your Facebook strategy. Not only are you not bidding on searches for specific keywords, you’re bidding on the searched-for Facebook objects that are showing up when a user searches. You have to think more about what objects show up when you search for a specific keyword, and then also note that the search results any one person sees will be influenced by his/her own unique social network and may be different than what another person sees.

3.      Overlay demographic and interest targeting on top of search query targets. Naturally since you’re bidding on searchers, you get to leverage all the other Facebook targeting data. This is a very unique and powerful part of Facebook advertising, and it can help you get away from searchers who are not your real target – not by means of negative words, but by moving “towards” other things like related interests or whether they are friends of existing fans (for example).

4.      Sponsored Results go to your Facebook Page – so build custom tabs where you can send your customers! Right now, it’s just like the good old days when we’d all send traffic to our homepage. Over time, we’ve built and invested in custom landing pages as SEM and display traffic destinations, with far better results. Sponsored Results impose the same need because traffic is directed to a Facebook object, and for most advertisers that is going to be a Facebook page – although you can send traffic to any specific tab, and, as you know, a tab can basically be any HTML content inside of an iframe.

Creating and optimizing tabs is going to be an important new competency for serious Facebook marketers, especially those seeking to leverage Sponsored Results with something more customized than a “one size fits all” customer offering.

5.      Beware of High Frequency and Creative Burnout. Given the small reach numbers, you’ll want to keep a close eye on the frequency with which users are seeing your ads. Performance may start to drop off very quickly, as we’ve found in the early going. Make sure your optimization software or agency has frequency optimization in place – again, this is something that becomes relevant in the audience-based Facebook marketing sphere that traditional SEM folks might not think of immediately.

6.      Test, test, test – and plan for it all to change. The way these ads work today might not be the way they work in six months, so start engaging soon, and keep your mind open to the chance that some of your learnings may not apply for ever. We’ve always told clients to “test early, test often,” but this applies doubly to social media, which is changing at a very rapid pace.

 

A final note: looking at how searchers for a given brand or property diverge in demographic and interest profile from users targetable via traditional Facebook targeting for those properties can be a powerful way to learn something about your target audience. PPC Associates and Optimal have a data product called the Search Matrix that can help – if you’re interested, ping PPC Associates to learn more.

Any tips to add? Leave a comment!

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3 Comments

  1. Quora September 11th, 2012

    What results are Facebook advertisers seeing when running Sponsored Results Search Ads?…

    We actually just posted some tips on the subject this morning…still pretty early for results. http://fbppc.com/how-to/6-tips-for-facebook-sponsored-results-its-the-searcher-not-the-search/

  2. Marketing Day: September 11, 2012 September 11th, 2012

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Rob Leathern
Rob Leathern is CEO of Optimal, Inc., a leading social media advertising and data platform.