Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with fresh links and content.
Original Publication Date: September 7, 2017
Have you ever heard marketers talk about “vanity metrics” in the PPC advertising world? As the thinking goes, you should be focused exclusively on conversions, not things like Facebook brand awareness.
Let’s say you took this advice to heart, and you’ve shifted your focus to the bottom of the funnel.
But your Facebook ads still aren’t driving the results you want. What’s the deal?
Most people assign blame to one of a few reasons. “Because Facebook ads don’t work” is one of the most popular. Beyond that, they look at on-site factors, like a poor CTA or landing page design.
Your page design and CTA might be contributing to the problem. However, it’s probably not the problem. In fact, your problem might not be at the bottom of your funnel at all; it might be at the top.
Remember, you still want your pipeline to be full, so brand awareness and top-of-funnel investment are still important. Because despite your best intentions, your conversions will continue to suffer if no one knows who you are.
Here’s why underinvesting in Facebook brand awareness will hurt your lead generation — and how fixing it will improve your ROI.
Google Ads And Facebook Ads Aren’t the Same (Duh)
People go to Google to find something specific. They go there to buy something specific.
That’s not how it works on Facebook, though. People don’t go there to shop. They go there to kill a few minutes, talk with their friends or family, stalk their exes, and avoid doing their next TPS report.
People discover ads on Facebook the same way they find anything else: by stumbling onto it. Something catches your eye and interrupts your scrolling just long enough to grab your attention.
This means that throwing an “Irvine Tax Professional” ad on Facebook will obviously bomb (unless you’re running a retargeting campaign for those who showed interest in such a service off the platform).
Nobody’s initial intent on Facebook is searching for a tax professional. And the same ad that would work on Google is just too sales-y on Facebook. On social media, you can’t ask a total stranger to buy your product or service right away. There’s a longer, drawn-out funnel that needs to do its thing.
What Are Facebook Brand Awareness Campaigns For?
Your awareness campaigns have one and only one job: to generate custom audiences as quickly as possible.
In other words, they don’t sell. They lead people into your Facebook marketing funnel ASAP. And that all starts with a site visit or simple page engagement.
It’s like using SKAGs. Your primary goal is to increase conversions, but a byproduct of SKAGs is a higher Quality Score, which can translate into better costs.
This works largely the same way on Facebook with their Relevance Score.
First, you want MOAR sales. And second, better audience targeting that gives you a lower effective CPC.
Not a bad little bonus, right?
You can use this to your advantage by starting with interest-based audiences on Facebook. That means leveraging your existing contacts, customers, and database to get a better idea of who to go after next. Then, you’ll want to switch over into creating new custom audiences as fast as possible.
Here’s where to get started.
13 Facebook Brand Awareness Hacks
Awareness and interest are intrinsically tied together. Because it’s not just about whether or not someone knows your brand name. It’s about whether or not your brand matters to them personally.
So, let’s look at how you can fill your funnel by focusing on brand awareness techniques.
1) Start with Your Audience Demographics
Chances are, you sell different products and services to different people.
That means you have more than just a segment of customers. You need buyer personas to bring each audience member to life.
Fortunately, you can start with the Insights that Facebook already provides.
This will give you a quick breakdown of gender, age range, and locations. So, you can already start making assumptions.
For example, how are the older people from the midwest different than the younger ones on the coasts?
Google Analytics can also provide demographic data when you’ve enabled the report.
Demographic data is a nice start. But it’s not nearly enough.
The only way to flesh out these customer personas is to understand their motivations. You need to know what their aspirations are. You need to know what’s holding them or preventing them from reaching it.
Only when you know that level of granular detail can you accurately sell them the solution.
So, you’re going to need additional data points by carrying out real-life conversations.
“Now, hold on,” I hear you saying. “I can just ask customers questions to see what they like best? That can’t make any sense.”
Apparently, if you’re willing to fall for this or take a leap of faith, there’s Google Consumer Surveys. It’s a pay-as-you-go model to help you actually get surveys answered.
You can also personalize question strings based on the answers they provide. And you can get select granular entry criteria to only allow the right people to answer.
Now you should have a little background knowledge on each persona. It’s time to start finding out where those people hang out on Facebook.
2) Research Your Persona’s Interests
We need to find out where these people are on Facebook.
Facebook’s interest-based targeting gives you the ability to target wide-ranging interests, like “football.”
But as you can imagine, that’s not exactly helpful. You’ll get hundreds of millions of people when your specific buyer persona is only a tiny fraction of them.
Facebook allows you to shortcut this by selecting the fans of other brands, bloggers, and media personalities.
This provides two major benefits:
- You can instantly get a cross-section of like-minded people, and
- You also know who to potentially partner with down the road (more on this later)
But where should you start if you don’t know many brands in the space?
Go look at who’s already advertising or showing up for top queries. You can run these searches in Google with big, generic phrases — or you can head over to Amazon.
For example, let’s say we want to sell to an outdoor crowd. They like to hike, run, fish, and, uh… you know, whatever else people do outside when they’re not in front of a computer for fifteen hours a day.
As you can tell, I know nothing about this group. But you can start with the obvious targets, like big-name magazines.
You can also pull up Amazon and start searching for things that these people probably need, like “shoe deodorizers.”
A half-hour of this basic research can help you compile a dozen brand names to start with.
You can create a new saved audience on Facebook by targeting each of these and building out a massive list of your exact persona matches.
3) Get Your Existing People to Self-Select
Selling to multiple personas is tricky because the complexity can escalate in a hurry.
You’ll now need not one, but two (or more) interest-based audiences. Mixing those people up will tank results, otherwise.
One trick is to help people tell you exactly who they are. You see this a lot on pricing pages. MailChimp’s pricing page setup, for example, is perfect for this:
You can gather data about a person based on what plan they select, what page they view, or even what post they click on, so that you can reverse-engineer which ‘bucket’ they fall into.
Admittedly, this is a little more complex. But you can test this in small doses with organic posts, first.
For example, you can publish different content types that might be of interest to each persona. Then, you can sit back and watch what happens.
You’re looking for clues for where you should start and which topics resonate most. That way, you’ll know exactly what to do in a few minutes when it comes time to decide on a creative direction.
4) Fine-Tune Your Interest Audiences Sizes
Brand Awareness campaigns need to hit a sweet spot with audience size.
Too big, and you’re going to waste money on advertising to untargeted people.
If your campaign is too small, however, it will never get off the ground. You’ll never reach enough people to make a dent in sales down the road.
The solution is to start with a size of around 500,000 – one million people.
In the beginning, you keep adding interests and brand names from above to build up that list over a million.
But once your list size peaks, you’ll want to start reducing the number by adding audience exclusions.
Let’s go back to our example from a few minutes ago.
We want to reach outdoorsy people. But only the ones who can afford our super-duper expensive shoe deodorizer.
We’re going to sell these puppies for $100 bucks a pop. They’re going to be the next trendy clothing item. I can feel it.
So let’s add exclusions to remove anyone who makes less than $100,000 from our list.
Continue fine-tuning this audience by selecting more interests or adding more exclusions to hit the sweet spot.
You might need to repeat this process several times if you’re going after multiple personas–or if you’re going to test similar audiences against each other (yes, you should).
Now, it’s time to talk creative.
5) Go Big To Be Shared Wide
Under Armour’s “Rule Yourself” campaign with Michael Phelps became one of the most shared ads ever weeks after it debuted during the 2016 Summer Olympics.
A single Olympic games generates over $1+ billion in ad spend. That eclipses the amount spent during each year’s Super Bowl.
So, there’s a ton of competition. Every brand imaginable is going after the ~4 billion eyeballs watching around the world.
The interesting part about this ad was that it didn’t feature a single product shot — or if it did, it was well disguised.
The only goal of this ad was to resonate emotionally with their customer personas.
Viewers who watched this Michael Phelps ad told AdWeek that they felt “inspired,” “amazed,” and “prideful.”
Obviously, the size and scale and scope of this Under Armour campaign is off the charts.
The good news is that you don’t need to go anywhere near it to get many of the same benefits.
Remember: Facebook awareness campaigns don’t sell a single thing. Your custom audiences will do that down the road. Instead, your goal here is to reach as many people as possible so that your custom audience fills up to the brim.
If your ads emotionally resonate, they’ll stand a better chance at getting shared or remembered.
Your fans will do the distribution for you, so you can come back to target their friends later on.
6) Problem, Agitate, Solution (PAS)
Big, emotional campaigns don’t always work.
But there’s still a powerful, built-in motivator for dry, technical sales, too.
People in dry, technical industries still have problems. And when you boil it all down, those problems can hurt them financially.
Maybe they won’t be promoted. Maybe their job will be in jeopardy.
Whatever the case, most B2B customers have an intrinsic motivation that you can leverage.
That’s where the classic copywriting formula, PAS, comes into play.
Here’s a perfect example from HubSpot:
The problem is that sales can be stressful. They agitate the problem by mentioning how spreadsheets can only make the problem worse. The solution is what you get when you click.
Once again, the ad doesn’t focus on the tool itself. That would be more appropriate for a middle or bottom of the funnel customer.
Instead, they focus intently on the problem.
They get you to resonate with that, first, because that’s what top of the funnel audiences care about most.
Your solution might not be the right fit for them. But everyone who’s done sales can empathize with the guy in this ad.
7) Branded Content to Leverage Influencers
Do you know how many customers trust influencer messages more than a brand?
That means if people aren’t getting their product or brand introductions through a display ad, it’s coming from a third party.
Women-focused athletic brand, Oiselle, sponsors athletes like Kara Goucher to help get the word out.
But traditional influencer relationships can be expensive, tough to measure, or both.
Facebook’s introduction of the Branded Content ad type gives you a platform to help get in front of new audiences. And because it’s an ad unit, you get transparent metrics on all interactions. So, you know exactly what you’re getting for the money spent.
For example, there’s a little handshake icon on new updates that allow you to loop each other in. You can select that, add the partner in one click, and fire up the new campaign ASAP.
You can run the same exact ad creative here, but leverage the influencer’s testimonial.
Or better yet, use a platform like ShortStack to create specific contests or giveaways for each influencer’s audience to drive extra engagement.
8) Event Sponsorships
I have a trick question for you.
What the best way to reach out to one of your buyer personas?
You don’t. Instead, you get their friends to do it for you.
That’s why branded content in the last section works so well. You incentivize the people who do know you to help share that message far and wide.
And that’s the beauty of using ads for Facebook brand awareness.
In marketing-speak, your initial paid impressions and reach are amplifying. You’re getting organic (read: free) impressions and reach on top of the paid spend when you do it right.
Offline, think about event sponsorships. You’re paying for access to a huge audience of people who share the same interests.
But you can take this so much further.
For example, Oiselle created their own Facebook group, complete with their paid runners (influencers) as the admins.
Then, they also planned to set up shop on a specific corner of the marathon, too.
Why are we talking about offline events?
Because people need around a dozen ‘touches’ with a brand before they buy anything.
You can’t just run a one-and-done Facebook brand awareness ad campaign and call it day. You need to follow up, multiple times, with different messaging, to eventually create that lead or sales opportunity.
This example brings the last few together. It’s a big campaign, transcending one channel to loop in ‘friends of friends’ and leverage the power of influencers.
You can create all kinds of event-specific Facebook brand awareness ads by using urgency and other tactics to transform someone’s interest in this event over to buy their first product.
9) Reach People for Less with Mobile Ads
Your goal isn’t to advertise everywhere. You want to advertise in the places that make the most sense (and cents) for your brand.
For example, if high-priced desktop ads are a concern, you can exploit mobile ads and right-column Facebook ads instead.
More people browse the internet on their mobile phones than on desktop devices.
And where’s the majority of that time spent? Eighty-four percent of it is in apps like Facebook.
That makes Facebook the perfect place to grab the attention of people who are browsing for a few minutes. Here’s what AdEspresso co-founder and CEO Massimo says about consumer behavior on mobile:
“Mobile users tend to ‘Like’ a lot. Users will discover your product on their phones… then buy it the next day on their desktop.”
Go for the click at this stage, not the sale.
Your space is limited and time is short. Use creative that leverages this small, on-the-go placement.
10) Interactive Facebook Brand Awareness Experiences with Canvas Ads
The mobile newsfeed ad is static. You can drop in a nice image, but otherwise, there’s not a lot of room to work.
Canvas ads are completely different.
They’re interactive ad units that allow you to showcase all kinds of media, from videos to GPS data.
According to TechCrunch, “53% of Canvas users view at least half of it, while the average time on site is 31 seconds.”
Big brands have been using this interactive ad type for everything from product lookbooks to storytelling.
For example, L’Occitane used it to show people exactly how they source ingredients while Lowe’s used it to deliver DIY projects.
In other words, it’s a content-play to introduce new people to your brand. Its interactivity on mobile also gets people to stop and take notice while they’re mindlessly browsing.
11) Right-Column Facebook Ads
Facebook’s right-hand column ads also don’t get much love.
However, they’re excellent if someone has already interacted with your brand at least once.
For example, you can use colors, fonts, and design patterns to be instantly recognizable. Check out this one from XFINITY.
However, there is one thing to consider.
The right-hand column ads are much smaller than desktop placements. What works on one, might not work on another.
Here’s a perfect example of what not to do, courtesy of Verizon Wireless:
Don’t try to ‘sell’ in this ad placement. Otherwise, you run the risk of creating an illegible ad.
These ads are perfect if they’re mostly image-based. That’s especially true if someone already recognizes your branding or offer–or if you lead with one, compelling message. That’s what Sumo does here with their social proof:
12) Use America’s Favorite Word: Free
“Free” is about as close to a magic word as you can get.
It’s the gateway to a response. It lowers the entry barrier for new leads so that you can earn their trust.
But the key to ‘Free’ is that it has to be used as a way to offer something of real value and validity that supports your core offer.
The perfect ‘free’ value proposition is a bit of a moving target.
In the beginning, it can be anything from content to lead magnets:
Once again, SumoMe leverages social proof and “100% Free” to grab your attention. If you’re at all interested in growing traffic, there’s no way you’re passing this one up.
The same applies to something like a webinar. Setting it out a few weeks from now will only make everyone who signs up forget about it.
Instead, keep the deadline shorter to drive urgency to show-up.
13) Smoke Test New Offers
Facebook brand awareness ads are designed to produce leads.
But how are you supposed to know which one will work best?
You could spend the next few weeks creating them–or you can save yourself this time by smoke testing them instead.
For example, start by creating unpublished posts that you can use to build up social proof in the meantime. This will help add credibility to the ads once they go live.
We did this with one client before actually sitting down to create the offers. We wanted to see which introductory campaigns worked best. Then, we could use that initial data to eventually build it out and scale up our ad budgets.
‘Best practices’ work most of the time. But not all of the time.
Testing your own scenario is the only way to know if following the crowd is worth it (or not).
Facebook Brand Awareness Campaign Wrap Up
As we’ve established, Facebook brand awareness is the key to generating leads and filling the earliest stage of your sales funnel.
You have to raise the bar for how people see you, where they see you, and how they interact with your brand.
To do this, start by going where your ideal audience goes. Find out what they’re interested in, what they’re struggling with, and who they follow.
Now, show up in all of these places.
Your custom audiences will do all of the heavy lifting later, at the end of the day.
And if you’re concerned about your budget, you can always use mobile ads or right-column ads to offset costs. Just remember that when it comes to brand awareness, it’s all about connection.
When creating ads, focus on relationship first.
You need to attract them and nurture them before you can convert them on Facebook.
And don’t be afraid to offer something for free.
What are you currently doing with your Facebook brand awareness campaigns? What have you seen work (or not)?
We would love to hear from you in the comments below.