shutterstock_250329685-web John ringAs its recent set of financial results show, Facebook ads are becoming a hugely important source of revenue for the company. But how good are they for companies looking for leads, asks John Ring.

Back in April 2015 we saw the advent of ‘mobilegedon’, when Google famously changed its algorithm to favour mobile-optimised websites. This was the final nail in the coffin for clunky outdated sites and perhaps a catalyst for Facebook’s new native approach to advertising. A few months later, Facebook launched ‘lead generation’ as a campaign objective. This new ad format was originally rolled out for mobile-only placements and addressed a common pain point for advertisers: the poorly performing landing page.

No one likes filling in forms

This is unfortunate for marketers, as much of modern-day marketing is predicated on collecting valuable customer information submitted via forms. The importance of a well-optimised landing page with a compelling call-to-action and a painless contact form cannot be underestimated.  No matter how great your marketing strategy is, if your landing pages are weak, you will be throwing money down the drain.

We are unreasonably impatient online these days and the majority of us will abandon a web page if it takes longer than three seconds to load. Facebook lead generation ads address this drop-off, by allowing advertisers to create their own customised forms within the platform.

Facebook has now extended its lead generation ad placements to include desktop. It also recently included the option to use video and image carousels, making the ad format even more attractive to advertisers.  Many businesses are reporting that these native lead ads are outperforming click to website ads in both number of leads and conversion rates. The average cost per lead from lead generation ads is also significantly less, and since it is in Facebook’s interest to keep people on its platform, lead generation ads also tend to get a higher reach.

shutterstock_293765597-webIs it too easy?

Getting more leads is all well and good but are they good quality? Lead generation ads have been criticised for making it too easy for people, resulting in accidental sign ups, or people signing up to offers without having enough information. Ironically, Facebook’s solution to this problem was to add an extra step to the process. It is now possible to add a ‘context card’ between the ad and the form, which gives a brief overview of exactly what the lead will receive in return for their details. This helps to clarify the objective of the ad and to reduce the number of leads with low intent.

Where do the leads go?

Facebook does not yet offer native integration with CRM. Without relying on a third-party platform, in order to retrieve your leads, you must manually download a CSV file from Facebook. Admittedly, this is a problem.

If a potential customer reaches out to your business, you want to be able to respond as soon as possible. Statistics show that if you don’t engage with new leads almost immediately, their interest will diminish and they will be less likely to convert. Facebook endorses a range of integrated marketing companies who will set up lead ads to sync with your CRM, helping you keep up with customer expectations. This ever-growing list includes the likes of Marketo, Oracle Marketing Cloud and Salesforce. Recent newbies to this group are ConnectLeads and SyncSumo, who appear to offer the most competitive rates. Another option is to set up custom integration between your CRM and the Facebook API, which would allow you to collect leads in real-time.

Test, test and test some more

As with all social media, testing and experimentation is key. Lead generation ads won’t do all the work for you and there is, as always, an element of trial and error. The good news is that Facebook likes when you experiment. If you continually test new ads and audience groups, Facebook will reward your efforts. It is possible to significantly lower your advertising costs by creating several versions of your ads – tailoring ad copy and imagery to be relevant to smaller distinct audience groups. When it comes to creating your form, keeping it short and simple will generally result in more leads and subscribers. This will keep the conversion rate up, while minimising the cost per lead.

Are lead generation ads right for you?

Lead generation ads lend themselves to a variety of business offers, from newsletter signups and quotes, to booking appointments, test drives and e-book downloads. The Facebook Business website refers to case studies such as that of Land Rover, which used lead generation ads to encourage mobile users to get a quote. It reported that the ads resulted in a “4x reduction in cost per lead compared to previous social lead generation tactics.”

Of course Facebook is delighted if you keep your audience on Facebook all the time, but you also want them to visit your website. Once a lead has signed up, you have an option to include a link to a relevant landing page. This a great opportunity to convince your audience of the value of what they have signed up for and to make them aware of any additional offers.

While there is no denying the effectiveness of lead generation campaigns, they work best as part of a holistic Facebook strategy. An overall Facebook strategy should always include publishing and promoting quality and engaging content, elements of brand awareness and continual experimentation with remarketing and custom audiences.

In conclusion, the more user-generated content published on Facebook, the more powerful Facebook targeting becomes. Although SnapChat may be biting at its heels, for now Facebook has no serious contenders for the social media throne. With its costs per acquisition undercutting all other social media platforms, it is by far the preferred platform for sophisticated marketers. With all this data and advanced targeting options at your fingertips, generating leads through Facebook may no longer be the most pertinent question, but rather – how do you turn those leads into customers?

John Ring is managing director of the digital agency TinderPoint

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (July 2016)© to order back issues please call 016611660

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