A colleague asked for my thoughts on Facebook ads for public affairs clients. She noted GM‘s high-profile corporate exit from paid media on the social networking site may signal it’s a tool to be avoided.

I believe Facebook ads are well suited to issues of public affairs, particularly when part of a mix of other traditional and digital communication and outreach efforts.

Consider these points.

  • Gathering place – Public affairs matters are great fodder for discussion and debate. Like a coffee shop, Facebook is a platform for (among other things) discussion and debate.
  • Impulse – Social networking sites like Facebook are best suited to impulse purchases and impulse conversations. It didn’t entirely surprise me when GM pulled its advertising budget away from Facebook. A car seems out of scale for a digital hang-out.
  • Targeting – Facebook offers a great deal of control over paid media budgets, specifically in how ads can be targeted. That means being able to reach specific geographical regions, age groups, genders, lifestyles and interests (e.g. sustainability, energy, natural resources, government, politics, etc…).
  • Components – Issues can be broken into niche-specific component pieces  suited to the size and character restrictions imposed in Facebook ads (and other platforms such as Google Adwords). This helps limit the degree to which the advertising effort becomes noise.
  • Measure – The impact of any paid media campaign can be monitored and measured in real-time. Facebook Insights and Google Analytics provide amazing amounts of information.

Of course, these points alone do not dictate the reach or impact of a campaign. That depends on a lot of other factors including timeliness of the issue, presentation (such as ad copy and creative), integration (how the ad fits into a larger effort), structure (budget, selected time period, targeting etc…), and the goal (does the ad inspire a particular and reasonable action).

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