I have been advertising on Facebook for West Boca News and for other projects. Facebook advertising shows substantial promise, and is it far better than it was in 2010.
With that said, here are three problems that are frustrating as an advertiser.
1. Poor Version Optimization
Up at the top of this article is a message Facebook shows on my home screen, recommending that I try multiple versions of ads. I do. Facebook’s advertising system fails to run effective comparisons of different versions. Below is a report on two different types of ads I’m running now, each with two versions:
The first ad is for sponsored stories, which show up in the news feed. One version has been shown over 5,000 times, while the other has barely been shown 100 times. The second is for ads that appear on the side of the user’s window. The first version of that one has been shown over 6,000 times. In the same period the other version has been shown less than 100 times.
Google’s AdWords interface is far more sophisticated. An advertiser can let Google optimize, or the advertiser can choose to run the ads in equal proportion. With equal proportions, the advertiser can figure out for himself which ads are more effective. If Facebook allows this, it’s not easy to find out how to do it.
To work around this, I pause the “dominant” ad version (the one Facebook shows heavily) which then effectively forces it to start showing the disfavored version. This is not ideal. To effectively test multiple versions of the same ad, the advertiser should be able to run them in roughly equal proportions at the same time.
2. Targeting Inconsistencies
During the process of setting up an ad, Facebook has an interface that allows you to choose who you are targeting. This works well most of the time and in the long run will be one of the great strengths for the company. But its implementation is spotty.
I’ve done some ads where the same targeting results in dramatically different audience sizes. On the right you can see that one of my ads reportedly targets only 20 people.
I have an ad with very similar targeting that Facebook says targets over 12,000 people. It’s not a perfect example because the first ad is a sponsored story and the second is a regular ad. But the sponsored story should reach far more than 20 people under the circumstances. I’ve had other experiences with identical ad types and targeting options that led to bizarrely different numbers.
3. Weak Customized Reporting
As you can see above, the options for viewing reports of advertising numbers are very limited. The user has a choice of a 1-day, 7-day, or 28-day period, running back from a chosen date. Google’s AdWords is a far more robust interface allowing advertisers much greater flexibility. One could argue that it’s not fair to compare to Google, which has been around much longer. But the AdWords interface was better that this back in 2006, and Facebook has the advantage of being able to see how Google blazed the trail ahead of them.
Despite these concerns, the effectiveness of advertising on Facebook is compelling. They will make this experience better for advertisers like me, and that will lead to dramatically increased revenue for the company over time. I’m so confident of it that I recently bought stock in the company.