Have you ever noticed the ads on the right side of your Facebook homepage? I bet it seems like they are directed to you and your interests, right? This is no accident. The efficiency of Facebook ads is made possible by Facebook’s Reaching and Targeting Initiative, which captures specific profile information and ensures your ad reaches the right audience.

Eureka! This means that Facebook, the social networking giant, has given you the opportunity to advertise your brand to millions of consumers online with precise targeting.

Why should you use Facebook ads? In case you missed the memo, there are nearly 1 billion people worldwide on Facebook. Each month, those billions of connections form a digital map of people’s real-world networks of family, friends, co-workers, hobbies and even products.

For an advertiser, profile data is a gold mine for reaching customers. User profiles outline important demographics such as status updates, birthdays, occupations, hobbies, location and relationship status. Because Facebook ads can access this information, you can target exactly the right people.

As an advisor, you may be looking to reach engineers 55 and older who like to travel, play golf and live within a 20-mile radius. Facebook can put your targeted message in front of these people. It eliminates the guessing games and puts an end to wasting money by reaching the wrong audience. This opportunity is way too good to pass up, so let’s get started.

Step 1: Choose what you want to promote. Do you want to promote your page, event, app or a website outside of Facebook? If you decide to promote your page, you can take several routes. You can promote a new ad about your page, a post on your page or each time someone “likes” your page.

If you want to drive more traffic to your website, consider promoting your brand with a link to your webpage and/or Facebook page. You may also consider promoting an important event or article. Regardless of what you decide to do, make sure your ad aligns with your marketing goals.

Step 2: Target the right people. Who is your target? Think about the profiles (timelines) of the people you want to reach with your ads and select criteria based on what your audience is interested in instead of what they might be looking to buy. With Facebook ads you can target using criteria such as language, location, work, education, age, gender, birthday, relationship status, likes, interests, connections and friends of connections.

When you select a criterion, you will be given an “estimated reach” that tells you exactly how many people within your target demographic will potentially see your ad. If you have the goal of reaching a broad audience, aim to have a higher estimated reach number. If your goal is to get a more localized return, aim for a more narrow reach.

Step 3: Design your ad. Just like other forms of advertising, trial and error is inevitable. Create multiple versions of your ad with different images and ad copy to find out which combinations are most effective. Some tips to remember: Include your business or page name, a question or key info in the title; provide a clear call to action and highlight the benefits (not features) of your brand; use simple, eye-catching imagery appropriate to your title and copy; and target different audiences to find those most responsive to your ad.

Step 4: Your Facebook budgeting options. Facebook will allow you to pay according to a cost-per-click (CPC) structure (you are charged when people click on your ad) or a cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) structure (you are charged per 1,000 times your ad is displayed). Whether you choose the CPC or CPM option depends on your goals. If you want to increase brand exposure, you should select the CPM option. If you want to increase “likes” or traffic to your page, you should select the CPC option.

Step 5: Metrics. After you launch your ads, you can check out detailed metrics and reports to help you improve your performance. Ads Manager will help you to create, edit and optimize them. This feature will allow you to obtain basic data, such as impressions and clicks, learn more about your audience’s demographics and view your ad’s performance during specific time periods.

Facebook ads are designed to increase brand exposure, drive more traffic and build your online community. If you are looking for bottom-line results, you may want to shift your Facebook goals from building revenue to building rapport. But before you waste thousands of dollars on print ads, fancy e-marketing campaigns or fliers, take some time to seriously consider Facebook ads. Their simplicity, cost-effectiveness and efficiency are unmatched in the online world.

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