(Hint: the future is pay-to-play)
By Colleen Malloy
It used to be easier to promote your business on Facebook. In the good old days, all you had to do was post funny pictures that you found on the Internet, the likes would pour in, and that was enough, right? “Getting exposure” used to be the name of the game, but now it’s more complex than that. To get your dealership ahead in today’s social space, you need to come up with a strategy to maximize your return on investment.
The “good old days” ended when Facebook changed their algorithm. Now popular and sponsored posts come to the top of followers’ feeds in a much more sophisticated way, and it’s not just about the “likes” anymore. Facebook has built, and continues to build, its platform to promote the posts that it feels are the most relevant to what users want to see. That could leave your dealership behind.
The sad truth is that social organic reach is pretty much dead. Facebook algorithms don’t favor brands anymore; half of all content sees zero shares and now your funny posts have less than a 1-percent conversion rate.1
But there’s still opportunity. More than 30 percent of all time spent online is spent on social media2, and Facebook is still the social media giant, with more than 1.65 billion active monthly users worldwide.
The audience is out there! The difference is now Facebook has become more business-savvy and wants you to pay to get your dealership seen. Here are five simple steps to create effective Facebook ads that drive engagement and conversions.
#1 Know your audience
Use Facebook Insights to learn about your followers. It’s a free tool that offers you insights into the demographics that follow you and engage with your ads. Gender, age, interests and region — all these factors are important when you select your ad reach and make your dollars stretch as far as possible. Let’s say I own a dealership named “Bob’s Mower Shop.” I might know the main demographic that comes into my shop is married men over 40 years old, but I’d like to double-check that against my followers on Facebook. Maybe I’d also like to expand my market to gain more female customers.
#2 Set your goals
After you’ve identified the audience you‘d like to target, define the goal for your paid Facebook ads. It can change over time and from ad to ad, and that’s fine — as long as you think about why you’re paying to create this ad instead of just throwing it out there and hoping for results. Building a wider audience is a good way to start, but all the likes in the world won’t grow your revenue, will they?
After you build your following, you’ll want to focus on engagement and conversions. Consider ads that simply introduce and explain your business to start, and then consider ads for offers later on when you’re focused on conversions. For example, if I as the owner of Bob’s Mower Shop want to foster engagement, I might say, “Experience the best mowers and best service.” Then, I’d link my visitors to my website with a “Learn More” or “Shop Now” call to action. That way, I’ll be able to measure not only likes and shares, but actual traffic that went to my website, thanks to the ad.
#3 Know your advertising options
Now that we’ve established that exposure on Facebook is essentially a pay-to-play endeavor, it’s important to know your options. Facebook offers a variety of affordable ad options to suit your goals, including:
- Boosted posts: allow you to turn a relatively small budget into a vehicle to get your post seen by your audience
- Link ads: allow you to drive traffic to your website with added variables and testing that increase engagement and conversions
- Carousel ads: allow you to add up to 10 images and links that give you more engagement and conversion ammunition
- Video ads: allow you to create an engaging experience for users that gets more attention than static images
- Canvas ads: allow you to add a mix of video and image media that drive engagement and conversions
I’ll create a simple link ad to start for Bob’s Mower Shop.
#4 Gather your content
Once you understand your audience, goals and ad options, you’re ready to post. Gather your content, including the text you want to use, videos, blog links and so on, and get it organized. Come up with a plan on how you want to release the information and manage your campaigns.
Here are some tips: choose your images wisely, and use strong calls to action. Posts with images — especially popular images that get a reaction from audiences — see a 120-percent increase in engagement and 53-percent increase in likes than posts without images3. Don’t forget to use strong verbs such as “share,” “like,” “follow,” “learn more,” and “shop now.” It’s an important tactic that forces action from users.
For my link ad, I want to show the mowers available at Bob’s Mower Shop, along with a helpful employee. My call to action will be “shop now” to drive traffic to my website. Here’s what my link ad for Bob’s Mower Shop looks like:
Here’s a helpful checklist to look over when you create ad content:
- Is my ad relevant to my audience?
- Is my ad visually appealing?
- Is my ad clear and concise?
- Does my ad include a strong call to action?
#5 Test and retry your ads
There’s no magic recipe to successful marketing — you have to try, test, try again, and test again. This is especially the case with social media platforms like Facebook, which can change the entire structure of its advertising platform on a whim.
Thanks to Facebook Ads Manager, you’ll gain a comprehensive insight into the results of your paid ads. The tool allows you to view performance summaries and analyze variables such as your total spend over a given timeframe, impressions, track offline conversions and more.
It’s easier than ever to advertise on Facebook
Facebook’s ad tools make it easier than ever to create goal-based campaigns that work. All you have to do is know your audience, set your goals, choose your options, and gather your content, including a strong call to action. Once you’ve defined how you’ll measure results, you’ll be able to test and retry your ads, and tweak your campaigns to make them even stronger in the future.
Now that it takes a little more effort to promote your dealership on Facebook, the businesses that advertise will rise to the top. You can be one of them.
Colleen Malloy is the director of marketing at ARI Network Services. Prior to joining ARI in November 2013, Malloy served as the editor of Motorcycle and Powersports News. She is dedicated to the mission of helping dealers improve their operations through the implementation of ever-evolving best practices paired with ARI’s suite of award-winning data-driven software tools and marketing services that help dealers “Sell More Stuff!” — online and in-store. ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine, RV, automotive tire and wheel, and white goods industries. More than 22,000 equipment dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website (www.arinet.com) and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!”