Very often you will read that the two main sources to get paid traffic are Google Adwords and Facebook social ads.
I advise to set up small campaigns on both networks (in the tens of USD) from the early days of your startup development, even in pre-launch mode, to see whether people beyond your inner circle are interested in the product/service you’re crafting in your bedroom (your mother / wife will also say you are awesome but this won’t necessarily translate into business success). But you have to understand the main distinction between both platforms, the difference between “intention” and “interest”.
On Google Adwords you can dip your fingers into the most powerful stream for any marketer: the river of live purchase intentions or at least intent-loaded (re)search activities. This marketing wonder applies mainly to Google’s search network, not to the display offering, which would be closer to the type of targeting you will get from Facebook social ads, i.e. interest-based targeting, broadly determined by the context where your ads will be displayed (site category, keywords on pages,…). I usually get a far better traffic quality from search-only campaigns than from search + display. I have still to experiment with remarketing, which would probably improve the display results since, in that case, participating websites are merely used as billboards for a campaign determined by the retargeting cookies, which reflect a past (aborted) intention of the surfers confronted with your ads.
On Facebook, people come to hang out, play casual games, have a sneak peek into the life of their friends, ex-partners or neighbours, engage into conversations, briefly browse what the artists, shows or brands they follow are talking about but it’s not a platform where they will actively search for products or services with the strong intention of making a purchase. It’s closer to TV, press or radio, with the additional value of granular targeting, which spares you from paying for the whole readership (as in newspapers) to reach a fraction of the audience.
What you’ll target via Facebook ads are more interests than intentions. It will be your job to convert Facebook users’ interests into purchase intentions (make sure you have a good landing page). You can add demographic parameters (male/female/education level,…) to the interests you will define in your targeting and potentially complement your targeting with your existing customers lists (to create custom audiences, a subject we addressed (in French) in a previous article).
Try to find a good balance between focusing on a laser targeted audience and opening the field to people who might be interested in your offering through the affinities defined by the character of your product. Think about brands whose values are aligned with yours, think about the type of products your existing audience is raving about on social networks. Try to define the persona of your customer.
When running a promotion on Facebook, design strong visuals but pay attention to the size of the text you’ll insert into your creatives since Facebook has a rule which restricts the distribution of visuals where the text occupies more than 20% of the surface. Their platform gives you an easy tool to check whether your creative complies with their guidelines.
My experience shows that you will get better results in terms of conversions from campaigns generated in “post boosting mode”, reinforcing a normal post on your page wall, than from pure advertising. When properly crafted, the vibe of those sponsored posts, reinforced by your existing fans engagement, serving as social proof to newcomers, gently blends with non-commercial content from Facebook users. That’s the essence of what marketers call “native advertising”, i.e. a format seamlessly integrated with the usual user experience. The viral factor from your posts will depend on the value you will provide to the readers, so don’t try to be too pushy, make people laugh, attach awe-inspiring visuals, remember that efficient communication is all about triggering and reinforcing emotions.
By mixing intention- and interest-based advertising, you will be able at an early stage to assess the potential of your product and later, hopefully, to drive purchases. If you’re not a data geek (I confess I am in love with statistics), hire one or find a co-founder who is mad about %, since constant data analysis will be critical to the long term success of your advertising efforts. There’s nothing worse than splashing out ad dollars without a proper evaluation of the ROI (return on investment). And when you attach your credit card to a Google Adwords or Facebook account, the spend counter can tick very quickly.