Study shows Facebook ads relatively ineffective

Last week, I went on a small rant about the big difference between social media strategy and ads on social media sites. Yesterday, a Mashable story entitled “Facebook Ads Perform Half as Well as Regular Banner Ads” reinforced my belief that advertising on Facebook is, for the most part, a waste of money.

The main problem is that there’s just too much compelling content on Facebook to allow our attention to focus on ads, even those that are well conceived or well targeted. After all, Facebook is all about us–and what’s more interesting to us than us? Compare that to a news site, and traditional banner ads become a little more interesting, because the content is a little less interesting that the average Facebook page. In summary, it all goes back to what Jakob Nielsen says about “banner blindness”: “if users are engrossed in a story, they’re not going to look away from the content.”

I do believe there are exceptions. If you’re discounting a product that the audience knows and loves, or if you’re discounting a new product from a brand that people love, you’re likely to get great click-through rates. And because Facebook allows “friends of targeted consumers to give their thumbs up” to your ad, you’re likely to do even better on Facebook. But if you’re already a customer favorite, lowering prices will probably get you a good response no matter where you advertise.

There’s a pretty basic lesson in all this. Make it about me–my needs, my interests–and I may give you my attention. And if you don’t, there’s no way you can compete against all the stuff out there that is aligned with my interests.

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