Chandler Bruns, Social Media Manager, Rooster Strategic Solutions

Most of our clients already include Facebook in their media mix, and for good reason: With 2.7 billion active users, it’s the largest social network worldwide. And it continues to be a great way to engage with farmers and agribusiness professionals.

Having said that, only a few of our largest clients are able to dedicate full-time employees to social media, which means the majority of small- to medium-sized ag companies rely on marketing managers or administrators to plan, execute, and measure social campaigns – often in their “spare time.” Knowing this, I recommend three practical, easy-to-implement strategies designed to improve performance with Facebook users.

Target more precisely. It’s not uncommon for marketing managers, strapped for time, to focus on organic posts with company announcements, product updates, new services, or a variety of “how-to” posts. If it’s considered a particularly interesting post, they’ll throw in an additional $50 or $100 dollars to boost the post. But unless your company has a very narrow footprint, such as a local car dealership, hitting boost on posts won’t deliver the kind of ROI you should expect.

If you’re not already documenting your execution, start there. Create a simple spreadsheet that lists every post, date, type of ad, spend, and how it performed. (See below for more on metrics). Being aware of who you’re trying to reach – and whether or not you were effective – allows you to start experimenting with the many ways Facebook Ads Manager can help you pinpoint specific groups.

This includes:

  • Custom audiences. Work with your sales team to identify a persona for your typical customer or key prospect. Clicking “Create a custom audience” lets you choose the geography, age, gender, and interests that best match this persona you created, allowing you to deliver messages to the folks most likely to engage with your posts.
  • Lookalike audiences. You can then branch out to reach people who are similar to your audience. Again, Facebook makes it easy; there’s a button that lets you choose “this audience and friends of this audience,” allowing you to target potential prospects who have the same interests as your primary persona. And with Lookalike audiences, you don’t have to know which data points you’re trying to match – Facebook will do that for you.
  • Competitors’ fans. I typically recommend using a third-party service to reach competitive prospects, but there is a DIY option using Facebook’s Audience Insights that helps you target your competitors’ existing followers.
  • You can – and should – target people who have already shown an interest in your company by visiting your website or interacting with previous digital efforts.
  • Combine unique audiences. As you make your selections, Facebook shows you an audience size indicator to suggest the potential ad reach. If you only have a broad idea of who you’re trying to target, the population might seem too large. You can narrow it down by combining it with a second audience, even if that audience seems to be unrelated. Consider adopting this strategy when the creative allows; for instance, if your post mentions March Madness, deliver it to farmers who also love basketball.

Keep track of the audiences you’re targeting, when, and with different messages. Often, you can use your gut to see if some messages are outperforming others to varied audiences. This analysis is priceless.

Choose the right ad type. Most of the ads I see these days are simple Image Ads – a photo with a line of copy or two and a link. There’s nothing wrong with this, although most companies would benefit from spending a little more time choosing more striking images and ensuring their copy is engaging and free of company-speak.

But there are number of other options that, with a little effort, have been proven to significantly outperform Image Ads.

This includes:

  • Video Ads. A short, compelling video clip will almost always do better than a static photo. But you typically only have 5 to 8 seconds to capture a user’s attention, so make your video is short and sweet, and that you lead with the product/feature or main point in the first few seconds. Include a link to your website where a user can find a longer video or more details. And remember that Video Ads don’t have to include filmed footage. Creating a GIF often allows you to get a message out quicker than a traditional video. And even if the user doesn’t click on the post, it’s likely that they’ll stop and watch the GIF before they move down the page.
  • Carousel Ads. I see more and more of these, which allow you to use up to 10 images or videos to highlight multiple products or several features of an offering. People like to scroll to see what’s there and what’s available, which is good. But Carousel Ads shouldn’t be used as a crutch for not having a single, Unique Sales Proposition (USP). And don’t make the mistake of using the same photo multiple times in a single Carousel; your images should be carefully chosen to work together, building on each other to tell a story.
  • Lead Ads. Available for mobile devices, these are designed to make it easy for folks to give you their contact information without having to type a lot. They’re ideal for newsletter or blog subscriptions or signing up for test drives or free trials.
  • Poll Ads. I hesitate to include this type because most Poll Ads are gimmicks designed to increase engagement metrics. However, if there’s information you want to collect – and you already have a plan for using the data to change your products, services, or marketing practices – then Poll Ads can be a quick and relatively cost-effective way to obtain this information.

Don’t skimp on metrics. We know we should measure performance. But it’s honestly hard to make the time. So, make it easier on yourself by choosing the right metrics.

Here are three of my favorites:

  • Someone saw your message. That’s the most important, and fortunately, the easiest thing to measure.
  • Click Through Rate (CTR). This is simply the number of clicks divided by the number of impressions. It tells you if your message was successful, and as you adjust messaging and targeting, a better CTR improves your quality score while lowering costs.
  • Traffic activity. You want to know how your Facebook ads add to the overall traffic on your website. A spike in web activity can show if the ad was effective, as well as who it reached – first-time visitors, for instance. When I have time, this is one metric that I always look at.

One thing to remember about metrics – and this may seem counterintuitive – but don’t overanalyze them. Look instead for patterns and trends. If you normally get 3000 impressions and this one got 6000, what was the difference? Use your instincts, as well as the spreadsheet you created. Try new audiences, different cadences, posts at different times or on different days. A/B testing – such as sending the same message to two different audiences – can also provide useful insights.

Hopefully you’ll find these strategies easy enough to adopt and that they’ll lead to improved Facebook execution. But if you need further explanation, or a second opinion, I’d love to start a conversation.