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Facebook’s Ads: Relevant or Missing the Mark?

Are Facebook's Ads as Targeted as They Should Be?

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I’ve always seen a great deal of potential in Facebook’s advertising offering. The premise is that ads are highly targeted based on users’ profile information. Theoretically, the more a user adds info about the kinds of things they like, the better idea Facebook has about what they are actually interested in, and can serve ads accordingly. 

Does Facebook serve you ads that you find relevant? Let us know.

To be honest, it’s been hit or miss with me. I see a lot of ads for things that I actually do like, which is more than I can say for ads in other channels, but I see a lot of ads that make me wonder why I was possibly targeted for them as well. 

Facebook Ad - I am a fan of filmmaking!The question is: how good at targeting is Facebook? I stumbled across a post from Robert Brady at Righteous Marketing talking about the problems he’s having with Facebook ads. 

"I’ve set my relationship status to single," he explains. "Therefore, I see ads for dating sites, dating sites, and more dating sites. Based on my ads there must be at least a bazillion different dating sites that feel I am exactly who they want on their site. Asian girls, girls who golf, christian girls, desperate girls. You name it, I’ve seen an ad for it." 

"The only problem: I don’t use dating sites," he adds. "So I give Facebook my feedback and hope for some different ads. Something I might be interested in. Every time I see that little message and have a little hope that my ads will improve. Do they?"

Why have you removed this ad? The answer would appear to be no. The message he’s referring to is when you click the "x" on a Facebook ad and Facebook delivers a dialogue box asking why you didn’t like the ad. Again, theoretically, Facebook should get the message that Brady doesn’t like ads for dating sites if he’s clicked that x on enough of them. One could argue that clicking the x on one should’ve been enough, though there are different target audiences for different dating sites. 

Is this just limited to dating sites though? Probably not. 

Even if Facebook’s targeting isn’t always perfect, the concept behind it still does have a great deal of potential, and like I said, I still find ads on Facebook that are more relevant to me (at the consumer level as opposed to say, B2B) than probably on any other channel. This is the main reason it seems to me that an AdSense-like network could be a goldmine for Facebook. If they could deliver that kind of relevance on sites across the web (as users are logged into Facebook, which they will likely be on many, many sites) it could be pretty powerful. 

But how much progress does Facebook have to make in targeting? Do they have a long way to go? How much of it is in the user’s hands? The more information you give Facebook about your interests, the more targeted your ads should be. Facebook’s new profile redesign already appears to be coaxing a lot more info out of people. 

What do you think? Comment here.

Facebook’s Ads: Relevant or Missing the Mark?
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  • http://www.poweryourmarketing.com Joel

    My feelings run hot & cold on the effectiveness of directed social media advertising. I work for a Kansas City website design company and we have spoken in length about the ethical considerations regarding privacy over the past couple of weeks. Although I appreciate the effort to target ads, I think they just miss the mark so often that it’s a waste of time and money. I’m fairly certain that the sites will improve the way they do it.

    • Chris Crum

      I can’t call it a complete waste of time when I personally see ads on a fairly regular basis for products I could see myself buying (not that I always end up buying them). These tend to be products that I wouldn’t necessarily actively seek out, which is interesting in itself.

  • http://righteousmarketing.com Robert Brady

    Thanks for mentioning my post. As an advertiser I love the options for targeting in Facebook. However, as a user the ads sometimes frustrate me, even as I offer my feedback. I know that Facebook will improve the experience, but you can tell they’re still figuring things out right now.

  • Guest

    I totally ignore the ads. I am not on Facebook to buy anything.

  • http://www.freedmaxick.com Eric

    In general, I would say the advertisers are missing the mark, not Facebook. Advertisers need to better understand the complete targeting abilities of Facebook.

    • http://www.faceformers.com Brenda

      I agree with Eric. Advertisers generally don’t know how to excite the Facebook community. We all know that nobody likes lame ads. A clever lead gen strategy or an interesting offer, product, event or creative expression will get people to do something, not a plain “buy this now ad”.

      With that said, Facebook should offer the planning of a strategic ad campaign for their advertisers. Facebook should know how to best reach their audience.

      • Chris Crum

        You both make some good points, but I think even for the “buy it now” kind of ads, Facebook’s targeting strategy has the potential to be very effective.

  • http://myalmanac.blog.ca/ R. Hiebert

    Whether Facebook ads miss the mark or are relevant is my problem. I use two accounts in Facebook, one for strictly family & friends and the other for promoting my ventures. If there is a lack of relevance and hitting the mark in any social network is it’s the inability for me to trace the source of a lead to the ad that was effective.

    • Bill Holt

      Bad Advertiser, R. Hiebert! Facebook clearly prohibits the maintenance of more than one account by a single entity. However, I applaud your rebel style.

      I agree with your view of the need to intelligently map an ad’s path out to an effectively targeted consumer and back to the advertiser. Without that type of tracking detail an advertising ‘campaign’ amounts to little more than the business world equivalent of a firing squad: which gun delivered the bullet?

  • http://BouwJeEigenGitaar.nl Rudy

    It’s not facebook missing the point, it’s the advertisers. You can, as an advertiser, target your audience very well. I’m running facebook ads for my online store and narrowed down the audience to only a small group of people (about 60,000 living in the Netherlands and Belgium) using some specific keywords and country selection. That works best anyway! As well as for me, as for the people looking for my products and the facebook users.

    I see a lot of promotion for datingsites on my own profile too, while i’m not single. So this meens these sites don’t do any targeting at all. That’s stupid and a waste of good money. On the other side,.. you’re paying per click, so many advertisers probably think: why bother “targeting” anyway.. it doesn’t cost me more. Sort of like the newspaper ads: run them in all papers to get as many eyeballs.. good old “name branding”!

  • dizazter

    i think someone already hit the nail on the freakin head!
    No one is there to buy or to look for services, period! thanks.

    • http://assistingaffiliates.com Jan

      I agree that people using FB aren’t there searching for goods or services. I believe the ad has to ‘catch their eye’. I think many advertisers use ‘the scatter gun’ approach and run their ad hoping they will ‘hit’ something.

      As for dating ads running randomly, just think how many people who are married will still use a dating site for some extra-curricular activity? I am not inferring that you or everyone cheats, but I am saying that there is a very high percentage of people who will and do.

    • http://www.txhomeschooling.com Guest

      I have used facebook ads a few times but they don’t have the affect I am looking for. Sure I get multiple clicks but as for anyone purchasing that is another story. I agree that people are not on facebook to go shopping. They are there to say hello to their friends, in some cases all the way back from highschool. The mindset is not on shopping. Yes, they will take a look at the website and they may join your facebook page but the time will not be taken to look and go shopping . Again I say, that is simply not the reason they are there. It’s best to advertise on blogs and other sites related to your product.

    • Chris Crum

      I also agree that people generally aren’t using Facebook to shop (though that is likely to change as e-commerce becomes more prevalent within the social network), but effective ads don’t have to be where’re you’re shopping. You don’t necessarily watch television or read newspapers to shop either, but that doesn’t mean that some of the ads you see there won’t be effective. I think the best Facebook ads are for things that you may have not even known you wanted or even known existed.

      • Bill Holt

        So it’s still a roll of the dice. I want a loaded pair!

        I cannot be ‘sold’ any item — period. Experience has convincingly shown me that innately intelligent people cannot be programmed or persuaded to purchase any product of which they are not already genuinely desirous. Fortunately for marketers, the world is teeming with fools and their money with which they are inevitably parted.

        I’m a newcomer to facebook advertising. Even without statistical evidence to support my claim, I doubt that I have a profile which would resemble one of an ‘average’ advertiser. That’s not an arrogant claim: I mean to say that my campaigns are horribly low-budget out of absolute necessity and I don’t know what I can reasonably expect for a return on investment.

        Is impact truly commensurate with effort? Barring a totally ludicrous product and promotion package, will a million blindfolded swings at a pinata guarantee an eventual bounty with facebook advertising? I’m operating as an affiliate (no laughter, please) and I was led to believe that I should routinely experience conversion rates of 5-15%. Ain’t happenin’ — perhaps because I’ve not been financially able to unleash the ‘ad-fury’.

        I know that my ads are imaginative and clever. Minus a focus group and a crystal ball, I have targeted them with enough precision to anticipate a yield beyond a mere click-through-rate, but my accounts remain stagnant. I know I need to monitor and adjust, and I didn’t venture into this foray with an unrealistic pipedream of amassing an overnight fortune. I simply need SOME income from these efforts! I’ll put the time and energy into making the sand castle. Just give me some sand!

        I will ‘lather, rinse, repeat’ with regard to my facebook ad presence, and I’ll draw this post to a close with an apology for its length.

        To conclude I must say that I find facebook‘s advertising policies to be arbitrarily, obsessively and unrealistically restrictive.

        Short of including death threats, recognized vulgarity, deliberately and/or demonstrably false claims or malicious commentary, a paying advertiser should be allowed to use any text or grammar conceivable to convey a message within the meager 135-character limit. “Slang…” such as “Gonna” is impermissible, yet common barbarisms of the language, like “chillin’”, are fine. This content is referred to as “Ad Creative”? Idiots. Take my money AND cause me grief. Thank you very much, facebook, but I can go out and find other means by which to add insult and injury to my life.

  • Gianni

    I think the ads on facebook are right if you have the right stuff that could work to the proper target (children products, jewels and more for example to couple married)

  • Guest

    The thing its, it’s the advertiser who sets who sees their ads, not facebook. When advertising you can choose to target your market specifically or basically have your add seen by everyone so unless facebook actually requires advertisers to only target a relevant market then this issue will be an ongoing one.

  • http://www.kbgoldbiz.com/xmoning Horace Moning

    I have a gold and i need enroolers do have a package for this.

  • http://www.bnicentralsewa.com Guest

    Find almost all the ads irrelevant. Find the same thing on WebProNews, by the way.

    • Bill Holt

      Thank you for the tip.

  • Guest

    the problem is not from facebook but from the person who used the facebook ads, he might be didn’t used a target when used the facebook ads

  • http://www.custom-t-shirt.biz Guest

    I feel Facebook ads are wildly unpredictable. Not only that, but they have grown expensive. Of course from their own perspective its a money-tree. But they have to be careful not to price themselves out of the long tail market or they’ll end up just being used by people selling high end products that support big budgets and branding. Nothing wrong with that if that’s where they want to go I suppose, but for me it’s an opportunity wasted if they price themselves out of the reach of the majority of their own audience.

    Shame they can’t keep the ‘social-sentiment’ and really offer something of value to advertisers of all sizes which would set themselves apart from the usual overpriced, overgoverned, overbearing big boys of PPC.

    Oh well… Next please…

    • Bill Holt

      I like how you think, Pardner!

  • Joybell

    As a buyer and computaphile, I hardly ever look at ads. They’ve become very much the background nuisance noise rather like the crickets currently singing in the trees outside the studio.

    If I want to buy something, I’ll search for it on the search engine and then I always skip the ads at the top and the side and go straight down to the search results.

    I think as a buyer, I can find the supplier I want without being pushed in the way that advertisers on the web jerk around from site to site like frenzied junkies looking for a hit! I shop on the web a lot and I can’t remember a time when I bothered to click on an ad……

    Ads remind me of chicken pox, there’s too many, there proliferating an a ridiculous rate and they’re as irritating as hell……it’s better to turn off from them completely which is what a lot of people are doing!

    • Bill Holt

      You’re killing me, Joybell! ; ) I echoed your sentiments for the most part in my reply to Chris’ December 13 post. I’ll take those crickets off your hands if they’re money-makers…

  • http://www.libertymarketing.com.au Paul Murphy

    Facebook to me is about contacting family and friends. I do not really look at the ads as I am interested in catching up with whats happening in my social life. If I want to look for products I am mostly searching on the search engines because I can focus more directly on what I am looking for.

  • http://w1z11-campfirecontent.blogspot.com Guest

    I find many of my FB ads served are often about something I’d been searching about, even outside of FB. Looks like they’re tuning even into non-FB habits too? Dunno, but I’m just sayin’.

  • http://www.get-business-online.com/ Get Business Online

    If you click away ads targeting you by relationship status, you may still get ads for dating sites because dating site advertisers use targeting by something else you’ve got on your profile. Also, like other American companies, Facebook may have only implemented the user interface for the advertising preference update feature, but not the actual function…

  • Travis – Local Kennect

    Look – this whole article is missing the mark. It’s not Facebook’s ability to target…it’s the “so-called” marketers who are totally mis-targeting their markets. If the person who is setting up the campaign can’t figure out who their target market is within 1 week or less of running a VERY broad Facebook Ad campaign….then they need to hire someone. If you are getting Ads that are irrelevant to your interests…well that’s because numb-nuts who doesn’t know how to target people interested in his/her services and/or products, THINKS that something in your profile would make you in interested in their product.

    Point: Facebook is not the targeting problem….it’s horrible marketing skills of the individuals creating their Ad campaigns.

    Travis Gutierrez

  • http://booksreviewsbyangy.com Angy

    For me the ads fail because they do not include phone numbers. I can find compan websites for mself – ads which allow one to bypass that step and contact the company directly are more useful. I also get ads targeting me by age bracket – which means ads for retirement villages and medications; very boring, never click.

  • http://www.mmlakah.com ??? ?????

    I can’t call it a complete waste of time when I personally see ads on a fairly regular basis for products I could see myself buying

  • http://www.goagency.com/ Micah Gaudio

    And they have consistently performed better than Google Adwords for us especially in the local small business category where Google has failed miserably at making affordable. The impression is worth far more in Facebook than Google because of the image. We have targeted niches as small as 1,000 people who like… or competitors of a entire fan base, teachers of a certain school, or team, horses in Fla, smokers, golfers, wakeboarders, lesbians and people who like a certain rock band – Oh my… We even helped a bank get 740 contracts on a 46 unit condo foreclosure – in less than two weeks. Over 10,000 likes for a Wakeboard shop and spent less than a grand – they have more likes than the manufacturers. Now sending an update to fans is more important than email.

    Try using A & B testing for Urls and Like pages…. amazing!

    If you are not getting results with Facebook – you aren’t trying hard enough or thinking like a marketer.

    • Bill Holt

      Thanks for the enlightenment. Your revelations bolster my confidence that I’m not necessarily wasting my input. What exactly do you do? I would presume you’re a PR or Advertising Consultant.

  • http://simplyevolve.com Daniel

    The reason why you’re seeing ads that aren’t relevant is really the fault of the advertisers, not of Facebook. Too many of them just aren’t using the targeting options.

    Also, FB advertising is very different from Google and other search advertising. The CTRs are much lower.

    Personally, I’ve found it’s great for getting fans of pages, but not so great for converting. That said, if you’re going to use FB, you have to make sure you get the targeting right. Otherwise, you’re just throwing away money.

  • http://www.sitebyjames.com/ James

    I am not big on using facebook, but what ads that have been targeted towards me have in many instances been associated with the page I am visiting rather than myself.

    I am not sure everyone is fully aware 100% of the time that the adds are targeted at them, but rather in some cases, they could perceived as content targeted.

    As an example, when visiting a page of someone else who may be balding, knowing that I myself am not, I associate the facebook profile as being older and perhaps deceptive regarding their youth. Not sure what that means in the great scheme of things, whether it is poor targeting at me, or whether it is an unknown which can be unsettling for people having unknown content placed over “their” pages.

    • http://www.sitebyjames.com/ james

      Sorry, I forgot to mention I was talking about balding advertisements.

  • Chris Crum

    Many have pointed out that it is the advertisers who are failing to target well, rather than Facebook failing. Facebook is still serving users similar ads, when they’ve indicated they are not relevant to them. The premise of the discussion started by Brady (quoted in the article) is that Facebook would seem to be ignoring these indications from users.

  • Guest

    Facebook has ads? Never seen one. AdBlock is the most amazing thing ever.

  • http://righteousmarketing.com Robert Brady

    From the comments I notice that many blame the advertisers for irrelevant ads, but when I wrote my post (mentioned in the article) I also wanted to point out that I was clicking the “X” to tell Facebook which ads I wasn’t interested in. So after awhile the blame shifts to Facebook for not listening to my feedback. I fit the target demographic for dating sites perfectly. I recognize that and tried to “opt out” by giving feedback on the ads I was seeing. However, Facebook didn’t seem to care as long as they could keep charging the advertisers (I would wager good money that the dating sites I see ads for are using CPM bidding).

  • http://www.milatova.com Mel

    I live in Israel but do not really read Hebrew. Altough my FB page is in English, most of the ads I receive are in Hebrew. So there is no way I acan gauge whether tthey are relevant or not. There should be a way to target user language when targeting viewers. Especially in Israel, where there are large clusters of speakers of a language other than Hebrew, it woud certainly enable far more accurate filtered targeting.

    • Bill Holt

      To facebook‘s credit, their targeting options are quite extensive, including the availability of a few more widely used languages. I don’t recall if Hebrew is among those options.

  • http://www.edandtrish.com Trish

    i have tried several ads. several sending them straight to my website and 2 sending them to a facebook page for our products. I got thousands of views but no hits. My ads are compelling. They are the same ones that i use on google with awesome results. My results with FB ads are producing no hits and no sales so I stopped all FB ads.
    Trish

    • Bill Holt

      Ouch! Rock. Me. Hard Place. Thanks for sharing, Trish.

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