Yesterday, I was talking with a large retailer about how to optimize Facebook ad campaigns. They had successfully moved down the curve – building fans (they now have 16 million), then building engagement (their PTAT is about half a million), then driving conversions (playing with offers and contests).

They began by optimizing to a cost per fan, then moved into a cost-per-engagement model. They know that comments are worth more than likes and that posts are worth more than comments, so they bid appropriately, as any good search marketer would.

facebook brand impressions

But then they wanted to measure the organic and viral lift of their Facebook ads. For each post, how much amplification were they getting? How about new users they’ve never seen before?

When optimizing to CPF (cost per fan), were they inadvertently going after the lowest-quality fans? Perhaps this didn’t align with the demographics of real-world fans.

And were they dumbing down their content accidentally by blindly promoting posts only on which drew the most interactions? Maybe they skewed towards photos of puppies/babies/bacon? Different posts should have different objectives– not all lumped into the same bucket for comparison.

At the core of the problem is that search PPC marketers are trained to go for immediate conversion – the search box provides immediate demand, against which you compete against other vendors trying to satisfy that query. You pay each time to show in the auction.

Yet social PPC marketers go for many lightweight interactions over time, like a dating ritual. There is value in getting the other person’s phone number, going on a first date, and other steps prior to consummation. In Facebook, we pay to get the initial engagement, but then get the benefit of being able to talk to that fan later without necessarily having to pay.

facebook page engagement

This distortion causes many search PPC marketers to be short-term thinkers when it comes to social. These are some tenets we live by:

  • There is investment cost to generate relationships that pay off over time, yet are still measurable.
  • The power of social ads is amplifying what customers are saying about you, not by directly marketing at them.

If you’re a direct marketer, have you adjusted your attribution model to account for this? How about the impact of a fan influencing their friends in the real world (not in a string of comments on a Facebook post), which drives loyalty and LTR?

How effectively can influence be measured in impressions, clicks, and CTR/CPC?

brand reach facebook

Worth considering.

– Dennis Yu

1 Comment

  1. Quora October 2nd, 2012

    Is Facebook turning into a performance (CPA) advertising network? Is CPA slated to become the mobile industry’s advertising standard?…

    We’ve covered a couple of angles of this question on FBPPC (FB advertising blog). First, Facebook ads are still a long play: I think the company is working hard on a couple of …

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Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu is the Chief Technology Officer of BlitzMetrics, a digital marketing company which partners with schools to train young adults. Dennis’s program centers around mentorship, helping students grow their expertise to manage social campaigns for enterprise clients like the Golden State Warriors, Nike, and Rosetta Stone. He’s an internationally recognized lecturer in Facebook Marketing and has spoken in 17 countries, spanning 5 continents, including keynotes at L2E, Gultaggen, and Marketo Summit. Dennis has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Fox News, CBS Evening News and is co-author of Facebook Nation – a textbook taught in over 700 colleges and universities. He’s a regular contributor for Adweek’s SocialTimes column and has published in Social Media Examiner, Social Media Club, Tweak Your Biz, B2C, Social Fresh, and Heyo. He held leadership positions at Yahoo! and American Airlines and studied Finance and Economics at Southern Methodist University as well as London School of Economics. He ran collegiate cross-country at SMU and has competed in over 20 marathons including a 70 mile ultramarathon. Besides being a Facebook data and ad geek, you can find him eating chicken wings or playing Ultimate Frisbee in a city near you. You can contact him at, his blog, or on Facebook.