Tag : facebook

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204: What Happened When I Got a Taste of My Own Medicine?

Hair Club for Men

Most of us are old enough to remember the awkward Hair Club for Men TV commercials of the 80’s and 90’s. Even if not, you’ve still probably heard the spokesman’s iconic tagline: “I’m not just the president. I’m a client.” Sy Sperling was trying to combat the perception of snake oil sales by taking his own medicine. He forwent some of his dignity with the before picture for the payoff of the after picture and what it stood for.

Dr. Barry Marshall took this concept a step further when trying to prove to the world that stomach ulcers are caused by bacteria and not stress. The physician, who would later win the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (and eight other medical research awards), drank a solution of ulcer-causing bacteria, knowing it would lead to days of discomfort with stomach ulcers before treatment could alleviate his pain. He knew the science would work. He changed long-held assumptions by using himself as the guinea pig.

Don’t we all wish we knew our program would work that confidently?

One of the challenges of my consulting sessions over the past decade has been the difference between my business sensibilities and those of my clients. Auctioneers are much bigger risk takers than I am. I get anxious when asked, “What would you do here?” for an auction I wouldn’t have signed. I feel ill equipped when asked for direction in the frequent interesting situations where all I’ve got are educated guesses. I get nervous spending other people’s money to throw noodles against the wall to see what sticks, because I wouldn’t want other professionals doing that with my money.

At the same time, that’s why I’m bullish on the strategies you’ve read in the last several years’ worth of my blog posts. I’ve tested this stuff multiple times per week for different clients selling various asset categories in multiple geographic markets. Maybe just as important: I’ve tested this on my own company promotion. I’ve changed my advertising headlines to focus on auctioneer pain points and solutions. I’ve positioned myself as a guide to make auctioneers heroes rather than as a hero for hire.  And I’ve used the advanced Facebook ecosystem tools I use for my clients every day.

 

Biplane graphs

Biplane Productions opened for business 16 years ago this week. You can see in the charts above that this triumvirate shift not only halted downward trends but also grew my quantity of auctions and billable work far beyond my previous high points. Before and after this transition, I taught for the National Auctioneers Association (NAA). Before and after this transition, I wrote articles for state and national auctioneer publications. Before and after this transition, I blogged and forwarded those blogs to hundreds of industry subscribers.

What changed was the messaging and how I delivered that message. Those are same two things I suggest auctioneers change about both their auction advertising and their company promotion.

I’ve also long told auctioneers that their best company promotion is consistently-good auction promotion. Fantastic sale prices create buzz and confidence. Taking good care of the transaction at hand brings more transactions. Following that advice has brought me new business, especially for my Facebook services. I get tagged in comments within auctioneer discussions all the time. My clients are sharing their success stories so much now that I’m working for dozens more auction companies per year than I was just a few years ago. People who’ve not seen my actual work and even auctioneers I’ve not met in person want to hire me as a vendor—in part because now my auction advertising is blowing up their friends’ commissions and/or lowered their auction budgets.

This past summer, a schedule conflict caused me to miss the NAA’s Conference & Show for the first time since 2002. Since I couldn’t mingle or teach a class, I relied on Facebook and Instagram to keep me in front of the auctioneers in Jacksonville. I built three ads to appear to auctioneers and NAA fans within a mile of the convention center. Along with those, I designated a fourth one to appear to auctioneers and NAA fans across the country.

Conference & Show ads

I got several inquiries and two new clients out of those ads that week. (Between you and me, I rarely get new clients from Conference & Show.) I didn’t try to wow an audience with a continuing education class that took hours of prep work and days out of the office. I didn’t treat anyone to dinner or breakfast. I just succinctly spoke to perceived needs and wants in a convincing way. My acquisition cost was a small fraction of my typical outlay for travel, lodging, and conference registration.

Does this mean I drop NAA events from my routine? No. Just as with auction advertising, sometimes inefficient marketing pays long-term dividends. Not every auction can afford expensive advertising, though. Efficient advertising comes in handy when the budget is small, when the campaign requires a lot of experimentation or guerrilla tactics—especially if you know what made it efficient.

Facebook ads (and even more so Instagram ads) force us advertisers to get to the point. Ads that make that point about the consumer instead of about the auction turn already-cheap website visits into ridiculously-cheap website visits. It’s not enough just to have advertising on the right platform. You have to speak the language of its audience when you get there.

This summer, I A/B tested a client’s requested headlines, audiences, and photos against my selections for those auctions. With the same assets in the same auctions, my cost per click ranged from 33% to 55% of the costs of their ads. I was able to get 45% to 67% more people to their website on the same budget.

How did I know something like that would be the result? What gave me the confidence to bet on myself? It wasn’t that I had some secret knob to turn or switch to flip. I just knew what to expect from what I’ve observed across hundreds of auctions and dozens of my own company promotions. I’ve benefited from drinking my own Kool-Aid and taking my own medicine for the past three years. I’m a convert and a missionary, the doctor and the patient, the scientist and the test subject. I don’t think I’m the president of the club, but I’m most definitely a member of it.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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203: Two (Misguided) Questions Auctioneers Ask About Facebook Advertising

At the end of July, a Wall Street selloff knocked $119,400,000 off Facebook’s market capitalization. Over two days, the Silicon Valley giant lost almost 20% of its estimated value (though only back to its stock price as of April). Hunted by European litigators and questioned by the United States senate, the company has spent the summer rebuilding its brand.

Facebook stock price

With the largest social media platform in the news almost every day this summer, I’ve seen auctioneers asking two questions:
• What are you doing to ensure you don’t have all your eggs in the Facebook basket?
• Where will you advertise if/when Facebook goes away?

Facebook Market Cap

As someone who spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on Facebook advertising and makes a third of my income from Facebook marketing services, you’d think I’d be asking these questions, too. I’m not. Here’s why.

Facebook isn’t going away any time soon.

Even with the big drop, Facebook is still one of the wealthiest, most profitable companies on the planet. This isn’t a MySpace situation. For one thing, even a fraction of Facebook’s market share would make it the most robust platform on which to pursue clients. LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Reddit, and Twitter combined have only as many users as Instagram, Facebook’s secondary platform. 1 Almost one out of every three people on Earth have a Facebook account. That’s amazing by itself but even moreso when you consider that only 54% of the world’s population uses the Internet. 2 In the United States, more adults check Facebook each day than read all American newspapers—combined—during the course of a week.

Facebook comparison

The next thing will be easy to spot.

There’s a case to be made that social media as a media category might decline someday when people grow tired of the comparison game it represents. Facebook, being the biggest player, would probably take the biggest hit. Nothing happens in a vacuum, though. If you remove social media from daily practice, something new will grow to fill that space. What won’t occupy that space is traditional media. It definitely won’t be newspaper, as the American attention span continues to shrink. Nobody confidently knows what’s next or when it will get here, but it will require at least as much adaptation and intuition to operate there as Facebook demands now. Whatever moves into that space will approach with lots of buzz and probably fanfare much like Facebook did more than a decade ago.

Facebook isn’t monolithic.

Facebook isn’t just Facebook. It’s not just Instagram and WhatsApp and Messenger, either. Facebook’s Audience Network spans scores of the prominent news and entertainment sites on the Internet. Like Google’s display ad network, Facebook ads appear all over the web to visitors with Facebook accounts. So, even if someone deletes the Facebook and Instagram apps from their phone or just never uses them, they can still be targeted by Facebook’s ads. In fact, on a per-ad basis, Facebook daily analyzes from which of its platforms people are most efficiently coming to your website and adjusts your daily spend proportionally. If you’re eggs are all in one Facebook basket, it’s a lot bigger basket than you might realize.

Facebook isn’t the only go-to pitch now, anyway.

There are some rare auctions where I advise a campaign to have at least 90% of the budget allocated to Facebook, but those represent the exception and not the rule. What you’re selling, where you’re selling it, and how you’re selling it influence the media mix. This is also true of the resources available to you like (1) email subscribers and (2) past bidder registrations for the same asset category being advertised. Sometimes, a public relations campaign does your heavy lifting on a truly unique auction. Sometimes, a purchased mailing list is the most targeted tool available. There are even a handful of newsprint outlets I still recommend. Often, media choices aren’t based on efficiency or efficacy but on assumptions and perceptions the seller has to feel like you covered all of your bases. If you are avidly tracking all media individually in Google Analytics for every auction, you’ll know what media you use for buyers & sellers and which ones you use for branding or showmanship. You’ll also be able to see trends as they happen.

When I look at the Facebook accounts of the auctioneers asking these questions, I typically find people who aren’t well-versed in Facebook advertising. I wonder if they are hoping for the seemingly-complicated reality of Facebook’s paid advertising to go away so they can get back to the set-it-and-forget-it nature of traditional media. If they got the efficient results my clients do on Facebook, I’m not sure they’d wish for this strike-out pitch to disappear. Even if their wish came true, though, it would be a long, slow decline.

The more important questions to ask are:
• How am I adapting to the changing buying culture?
• What have my experimentation and analytics shown me recently?

Marketers who don’t continually ask themselves those questions will eventually be replaced by those in companies who do. That should worry every auctioneer far more than the future of Facebook.

1 “Top 15 Most Popular Social Media Sites and Apps [August 2018]” by Priit Kallas, Dreamgrow.com, August 2018.

2 “Internet Users in the World by Regions” by Internet World Stats.com, December 21, 2017.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com. All other images linked to their respective sources.

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Why Facebook’s Big Step Back Helps (Some of) Us Auction Marketers

Almost all of my favorite movies fall into the heist genre. I met my Hollywood crush, Jessica Biel, in The Illusionist. I have been driving a MINI Cooper since soon after I got The Italian Job on DVD. The strategy and choreography of fictional thieves intrigue me, and I love the slight of hand stuff. The end-of-movie reveals make me feel unobservant, even as they wow me.

The Trump presidency has offered a similar unveiling, particularly when it comes to Facebook. I’ll explain that in a minute.

2016 Presidential General Election

First, let’s time travel back five years—two years before Donald Trump declared his candidacy for President. Facebook gave access to Global Science Research (GSR) to do some academic research amongst its users. 300,000 Facebook users opted in to take part in a study. Exploiting an application programming interface (API), GSR grabbed data from somewhere between 50 and 87 million Facebook users who were connected to those 300,000 volunteers. GSR then—against Facebook data policy—sold this data to Cambridge Analytica, which used it to create psychographic profile groups it would later shop to multiple political candidates.

Facebook discovered this data breach in 2015, shut down the API in question, and demanded both parties delete the data they had harvested. A year later, having not complied, Cambridge Analytica used its data as part of its digital marketing for the Trump campaign. Once officially gaining the nomination, Trump abandoned their data, having access to the Republican National Committee’s database. (Hillary Clinton refused Cambridge Analytica’s services from the start, instead using the mirrored resource of the Democratic National Committee’s storehouse of data.)

A few months later, candidate Trump became President-elect Trump. As many have sought to explain his uncanny rise to power, intense blame and scrutiny have been levied on all sorts of possible culprits. Much of that blame has fallen on Facebook—whether for Russia’s incredibly efficient interference or for Cambridge Analytica’s data deal.

Over the past month, tens of thousands of Facebook users—including Elon Musk and Will Ferrell, Pep Boys and Playboy—have left the platform in protest. Pundits and journalists have been whipping consumers into a frenzy, telling them their data isn’t safe or private, that the proprietary algorithms that run Facebook need to be shared with the world. Few of the stories I’ve heard or read have made much of the fact that this data breach is half a decade old and that it wouldn’t be possible to duplicate today and hasn’t been since April 30, 2015.

Mark Zuckerberg

In response, Facebook brass has recently invited regulation and offered some seemingly-draconian proactive changes to their platform. One of the biggest measures Mark Zuckerberg offered was the phasing out of Partner Categories. If you’re not familiar with this data set, it’s information from third-party sources like Acxiom, Experian, and Oracle Data Cloud. Facebook has been taking up to 15% of advertiser spending to buy matching data from these sources. That data includes all the stuff in your credit report and other public information. That’s how Facebook knows users’ income, net worth, cash accounts, home values, purchase history, and likely-to-move status (among hundreds of other data point). When matched with its user accounts and/or advertisers’ uploaded lists, this data helps create highly targeted lookalike audiences. These free lookalike audiences have allowed small businesses to compete with Fortune 100 companies in the marketplace.

While removing these data sources seems like consumer protection, the opposite might actually be true. That’s where the slight of hand comes in. See, that data is still available. Right now, I can buy a lot of this third party data from my mailing list broker for $100. I can buy even more robust data from Experian and Axciom, too. Then, I can upload that data to Facebook to create custom audiences to use as filters for my other lists.

With this new move, Facebook now doesn’t have to charge advertisers for these third-party data sources, and they can show regulators that their advertisers are using only audiences based on user-revealed interests and the advertisers’ proprietary lists. That third party data will still get leveraged in the advertising system, and now it won’t raise any red flags.

As a consumer, I don’t care either way. Personally, I prefer my ads tied as closely to my interests and realities as possible; and I know this data is pooled as anonymous aggregates that no advertiser or hacker can see. As an advertiser, I’m a little bummed that I’ll now have to buy that data separately and at prices not negotiated by one of the biggest companies on the planet.

Because Facebook currently allows your lookalike audiences to remain in tact even after your original audience criteria has been removed, those of us who’ve been leveraging this third-party data for years should have an advertising advantage until Facebook closes that loophole—should they eventually close it. Either way, I don’t mind suddenly getting a new advantage in Facebook advertising.

Mark Zuckerberg took days to respond to the uproar online and on TV news networks so that he could follow the advice of J Daniel Atlas, the protagonist of Now You See Me, a flick that featured illusionists plying their craft to perform Robin Hood-type heists: “First rule of magic: always be the smartest person in the room.” Zuckerberg offered an olive branch to the media, the government, and Facebook users. Along with that he secured Facebook’s place as the most advanced, intuitive advertising platform for the foreseeable future.

Even Terry Benedict’s casinos aren’t sophisticated enough to have seen this brilliant move coming. But now your company is. You’re welcome.

Stock photos purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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200: What the Mueller Indictments Can Teach Us Auction Marketers

This past weekend, my social streams filled with news and opinion stories regarding Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s big revelation. He indicted more than a dozen Russian individuals and organizations for illegally interfering with the campaigns of U.S. presidential candidates.

As a marketing professional, several things stood out to me in the stories I read.

• Facebook was referenced 41 times in the indictment documentation, compared to other social platforms like Twitter and YouTube, which maxed out at 12 mentions. 1

• The primary Russian culprit spent only $46,000 on Facebook during the campaign, compared to the $81 million spent by the two political candidates and the millions more spent by political action committees on their behalf. 2

• Most of the Russian ad spend on Facebook occurred after the 2016 presidential election. 3

• 10 million people saw paid ads, but up to 150 million people saw fictional content from fake accounts. 1

• Organic reach led to 340 million cumulative shares but only 20 million original post interactions.  1

• The propaganda work started roughly two years before the campaign started—just to learn targeting information for when the campaign would start—before the Russians even knew who the candidates would be. 1

These foreign actors, whether treasonous colluders or just anti-American antagonists, got fantastic organic results and incredibly efficient paid reach. One of my Virginia senators, Mark Warner, noted this in a public hearing: “If you look back at the results, it’s a pretty good return on investment.” 4 They accomplished this by spending years trying to understand their target audience. Then they leveraged advanced tools to exploit those revealed psychographics.

Social Media Options

My clients and I spend far more per year on Facebook than these indicted advertisers did. So, I’m astonished by their results. We couldn’t do anything that advanced, if we tried, though. The Russian operatives were spending $1.25 million per month cumulatively in the research, development, and eventual paid advertising for the fake news entities. 5 That goes beyond just about any auction company’s capabilities.

So, what practical insight can we in the auction industry draw from the Russian election scandal?

I’ll answer that in a minute. First, can I take you back to the Cold War?

Half our action movies were about communist operatives or former communists turned independent villains. In real life, our military complex was built during a seismic contest with the U.S.S.R. We engaged in proxy wars as far away as Vietnam and as close as Cuba. As walls came down, elections were held, and unused armadas sank into Arctic Circle harbors, we Americans claimed victory over the reds.

Some chalked it up to our culture being our greatest export. Others attributed the historic fall to our freedom blasting a clarion call behind the iron curtain. Yet others pointed to our bigger, better, more advanced military as the intimidation that forced the issue. After all, isn’t that how wars had been won since the beginning of time? Either you killed your enemies with your numbers or new technology, or you intimidated them into surrender (and often slavery). No matter what you think of war and no matter how you think we did it, most historians will probably consider America the winner of the Cold War from a traditional military perspective.

With our military supremacy established, our open culture and personal freedoms have since attracted terrorists to attack us physically and our temporarily-vanquished foes to attack us digitally. Sony can well attest that cyber targets have gone beyond government entities. Whether we saw it coming or not, the next battlefield has become culture itself.

Blind Justice

Someone must have asked insidious but brilliant questions.

What if a nation could exploit another country’s democracy, another state’s corruption?

What if a foreign entity could divide us with an exacerbated political war?

What if they could pour gasoline on the fires between our moral relativists and our fundamentalists, between our sports fans and our professional athletes, between our recent immigrants and the children of past immigrants?

What if they could make our diversity a liability instead of a strength?

What if they could harness our ubiquitous entitlement and take advantage of our fat smugness?

What if someone could move the theater, weapons, and combatants of war from trained military to unsuspecting citizens and our mass & social media?

What if they knew our elections were, “may the best marketing team win,” and could then beat one or both parties at their own game?

The Russians studied their target culture and adapted their strategies to it.

They saw the inherent shifts and movements that coincided with the immutable realities of our humanness, our selfishness—our brokenness. They unearthed the thing behind the thing.

This is also why Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google became behemoths. They saw past the obvious changes in retail, devices, online communication, and search. They read the culture and developed technology around intrinsic needs and wants—before we even knew we needed or wanted it. They understood our addiction to dopamine and the new ways we “keep up with the Joneses.”

Statue of Liberty

I’m seeing that now in the auction industry (including too often in the mirror).

The difference between the haves and have nots isn’t bid calling or even bidding platforms. It’s bigger than advertising, too. The growing chasm is between those who are reading culture and aligning their values and services around the rhythms and reasoning of the marketplace. The game-changing companies are those who don’t try to improve their systems as much as those who adapt their whole approach to business to the unchangeable realities of a melting pot of 300 million consumers. They’re purging jargon and changing sale terms. They’re learning their customers, segmenting their audiences, and customizing their messages. They’re starting from the customer’s needs or wants and working backwards to their auction rather than the other way around.

The auctioneers who look to use Cold War-era mindsets with post-9/11 media will be left in the shock known by many Americans 15 months ago. They, too, will wonder how they were undone, how they weren’t understood, how they couldn’t outsell the competition.

On the flip side, the first ones to see what the actual game is will be the only ones who can win it.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

1What Trump Still Gets Wrong About How Russia Played Facebook” by Louise Matsakis, February 17, 2018.

2Trump and Clinton spent $81M on US election Facebook ads, Russian agency $46K” by Josh Constantine, November 1, 2017.

3Facebook Vice President of Ads Slams ‘Main Media Narrative’ of Russian Interference” by Timothy Meads, February 17, 2018.

4Why Russia’s Facebook ad campaign wasn’t such a success” by Patrick Ruffinia, November 3, 2017.

5A Russian troll factory had a $1.25 million monthly budget to interfere in the 2016 US election” by Brennan Weiss, February 16, 2018.

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199: Why Manure Spreaders Are In Increasing Demand

Recently, I was consulting a non-auction business that had an incredible business opportunity, especially for their geographic market. I’m talking about the kind of concept I’ve seen featured in viral Facebook videos and profiled in Fast Company. I was excited for them until I heard their brand message, saw their visual branding, and learned their marketing strategy. They had adequately identified their ideal prospect but somehow totally misunderstood their prospects’ various levels of needs, habits, and expectations. I mean, like 170º in the wrong direction.

As I gently questioned these misalignments, they dismissed my concerns. They wanted to know more about the tools and tricks I use on Facebook to reach more people. They just wanted to get their bad message cheaply in front of more prospects like their ideal customer.

I see this all the time, actually—just not so drastically. I’ve seen it from people I’ve consulted in emails or phone calls, in conference hallways or Facebook threads. Entrepreneurs don’t want to improve their advertising; they just want more targeted places to put it.

Apparently, lots of folks want a more efficient manure spreader.

Dung Spreader

Knowing where to be on a platform or in a specific media outlet is important. Targeting makes advertising more efficient. But content is advertising’s linchpin, especially on social media. Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms reward ads with compelling and empathetic content by giving them lower costs per click.

The problem most auction marketers (like other small business marketers) face is our inherent bias. We wrongly assume our ideal buyers and sellers are just like us. We assume the marketplace looks at auctions and the assets in them through the same lens we do. “If we talk about us and our stuff louder and in front of more people, we’ll get more customers.” We don’t say that. We just operate from that mindset.

This can work in spite of itself, but you’ll get more efficient results from your advertising if you delve into the thing behind the thing.

What problem does your auction’s assets solve?

How will their life be easier or better after the purchase?

What aren’t they able to do that they will be able to do after a winning bid?

What dream could come true if they are willing to pay more than anyone else is willing to pay?

For instance, most real estate investors don’t want to own more property. They want more cash flow and/or more financial security. Most sportsmen already have access to a place to hunt or drive their UTVs. What they want is to avoid asking anyone permission or having to call in any favors. That twenty-year-old John Deere 9600 is easier to work on than a newer combine, even if it is less efficient and autonomous than one you have to take to the dealer for service.

A collector wants to complete their collection, find the item nobody else has, or even make their peers jealous. A young mom wants her children in the right school system. Many startups don’t care if the furniture matches or if the equipment is new, if they can operate with lower overhead. Flippers want to make money quickly with a little elbow grease or ingenuity.

When you advertise to targeted audiences, does your advertising speak to their needs and wants?

Even if your advertising doesn’t leverage this progressive, psychological analysis, you can still benefit by sticking to the asset over the event. People don’t buy auctions. They buy assets, and they hope to buy at “auction prices.” (The exception: at benefit auctions, they’re buying ego, belonging, participation, an eased conscience, and/or a sense of altruism.)

When you implement the tools for targeting but then give those prospects a faulty message, you might actually drive business away—whether from imminent or future customers. The American advertising legend John Caples posed this reality in his book, Tested Advertising Methods. “The wrong advertising can actually reduce the sales of a product. . . . George Hay Brown, at one time head of marketing research at Ford, inserted advertisements in every other copy of the Reader’s Digest. At the end of the year, the people who had not been exposed to the advertising had bought more Fords than those who had.”

When we push our agenda, our brand can become seen as a source of unwanted content—white noise surrounding content consumers want.

If we’re trying to sell people something instead of meeting their needs, we become that screaming mattress or carpet or used car salesman on TV. Even if someone wants what we’re selling, current and past impressions might detract from buyer willingness to interact with our brand.

You can stick with “AUCTION!!!!!” as your headline and the date as your subhead. You’ll still have your cadre of wholesale buyers, but you could confuse or annoy your retail buyers out of the process. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer commissions on retail prices rather than wholesale prices.

Avoiding that buyer disconnect is difficult, but it’s not expensive. In most cases, it doesn’t cost more money to have the right words in your headlines than it does the wrong ones. When it does, there’s a good chance the extra cost is outweighed by the extra benefit.

Don’t get me wrong: I know how to upgrade your manure spreader to hurl waste farther or place it more strategically. It’s just that I grew up next to a farm, and I come from a family of dairy farmers. Trust me. Your buyer community already has a perception of how your advertising will smell.

Stock image(s) purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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198: Will Facebook’s Big Algorithm Change Hurt Your Auction Business?

I don’t know if you’ve seen this, too; but a number of my professional peers have expressed worry about the pending major changes in Facebook advertising. I’m not worried, and I’d like to help assuage any fears you might have.

A couple weeks ago, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will be changing their Newsfeed algorithm to emphasize “meaningful” content from your Facebook friends at the expense of publisher content. Whether or not the inventory of paid advertising will be reduced, what will definitely be on the chopping block is organic business reach—“free advertising” to the people who like your Facebook page.

Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs have grown entitled to free advertising. I’ve seen auctioneers complain that they shouldn’t have to pay to market their services or products on Facebook. Facebook is a business, though. Somebody needs to pay for all those coders and servers.

Zuckerberg’s initiative is just a continuation of a trend. Organic reach has been gradually dropping for years. For most business pages, unpaid reach has dropped below 50%—and in many cases below 25%—of the people who at one point liked those pages. Facebook has been testing zero organic reach in six foreign countries. It’s reasonable to assume that we’re months—not years—from zero or near-zero organic reach here in the States.

This isn’t just a money grab, though. Two other factors are at play here. First, Facebook has just about reached full saturation in the United States; and they’re seeing many users leave the platform. (I have a Chrome extension that shows me when my Facebook friends close their account, and I’ve had several friends shutter their profile just while I’ve been working on this blog post.) The algorithm didn’t serve these deserters content compelling enough for them to stay. That’s one of the reasons Zuckerberg wants to make Facebook content more “valuable.”

Second, the proliferation of fake news has brought public pressure on Facebook to remedy the problem. Whatever the motivations of foreign actors have been in giving Americans fictional, divisive content, they are sustained in part by the ad revenue generated from all that frothing traffic. One way to discourage their malignant content is to make them pay for it to be seen.

Even if zero organic reach becomes reality, there’s no reason to panic. Facebook marketing isn’t going away; they want to keep the lights on as much as we advertisers want access to Facebook’s users and its data on them. It might not even grow much more expensive, if you know how to use the platform.

How good is your content?

Facebook will continue to reward advertisers whose content achieves user interactions. That’s in both your best interest and theirs. The less annoying content there is in the Newsfeed, the more likely people are to stay. The more likely users are to stay and the longer they use the platform, the more advertising slots become available. So, if your content is compelling, the algorithm notices the uptake. If you know how to appeal to buyer needs and motivations, you’ll see less impact than your competition, who’s still pushing digital sale bills and their equivalents.

How is your marketing optimized?

Even organic posts aren’t optimized by Facebook to get people to your website. Neither are boosted or promoted posts. The stated objective of all of those options is to get you more likes, comments, and shares on Facebook; and Facebook’s algorithm serves your posts to people most likely to take those actions. That means people who don’t want to leave Facebook. In contrast, Facebook optimizes sponsored ads to actually leave their platform and go to your website. We don’t make money until people leave Facebook. So, in most cases, a sponsored ad—which isn’t going away—is your best bet, anyway.

Is your organic audience even your best audience?

The most efficient advertising is rarely to people who at one point liked your page. Are those folks your most likely buyers? The assumption by many is yes, but the reality in many situations is no. They may have hit like after seeing an event or asset or announcement that interested them. They may have bought what they wanted and satiated their need for further like-kind assets. They may have liked your page when you had an event in their area but not be interested in events in other geographic markets. They might have been friends of sellers. They might even have been people who clicked the like button on accident. So, why fight for free advertising to the wrong people?

Are you tracking bidder acquisition costs?

Finally, what happens if your Facebook actually does double or even triple in cost? It will still probably be your most or second-most efficient medium for getting bidders to your website. What’s your cost per website visitor from newsprint, signs, or direct mail? Are you even tracking that? How confident are you that your relatively-cheap email list contains the best prospects for what you’re selling? What’s your next best advertising medium when you book an asset outside your wheelhouse or an event outside your normal geographic market? Facebook will continue to be a valuable tool—if not the most valuable—in your toolbox.

If you were a publisher like Buzz Feed or Fox News, you should be worried by the loss of free distribution. A savvy marketer like you, though, has no reason to lose any sleep over Facebook’s pending changes.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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197: How Much Should You Spend on Facebook Per Auction?

Every week, I’m asked one or more of the following questions:

“How much do we need to spend on Facebook to get bidders?”
“What should our Facebook budget be for this auction?”
“How many people would [dollar figure] get us on Facebook?”

Facebook rookies seem to believe that there’s a set, static amount—or some price grid—that Facebook charges for results; and they seem to think I know where to find that grid. It makes sense: other media are sold that way. Sadly, though, neither of those assumptions are correct. That said, we can learn to make educated guesses. I’ll tell you what I recommend per campaign, but first I want to show you how I arrive at that suggestion.

Algorithm secrecy

Algorithm secrecy

First, you need to know that how far your money will go on Facebook does and will change. Its ad inventory is dwindling, as more advertisers transition their dollars from less efficient media. Facebook is constantly tweaking its tools and options either to better target your known prospects or to protect advertisers from taking advantage of their options for nefarious goals. Victim litigation and the fight against fake news have actually caused Facebook to scale back some very convenient options—including some that were available even several months ago. So, we advertisers have to keep experimenting. Then, we must continuously measure and compare our results to plan our next campaigns.

Geographic density

Geographic density

Like Google AdWords, part of Facebook’s ad pricing is determined by an auction system. Facebook offers a finite number of ad spots in a consumer’s Newsfeed. So, advertisers must outbid others who want that same space. Advertising costs vary, depending on the physical area you want to target. Typically, rural areas require far less money to saturate than suburban or urban areas—not just because there are fewer people in those areas but also because many products and services aren’t marketed to the demographic realities of those who live there.

Facebook budget penetration

No matter what geographic area you choose, Facebook will always serve your ads first to those most likely to engage with your content. The more you spend, the deeper into the prospect pool you go within the geography you target. The size of your geographic net you cast is thus affected by the distance a prospect would reasonably be willing to travel to purchase an asset or have it shipped. Also, whether or not you offer online, phone, or proxy bidding influences the geographic settings of your Facebook ads.

Prospect accuracy

Prospect accuracy

Connected with physical proximity is interest proximity. Your ideal buyer might not be determined by geographic nearness but by how close you can be with demographic profiling of your perfect buyer. This is especially true with collectibles, niche commercial/industrial items, specialty farming equipment, and some trophy real estate properties. This reality makes harvesting your buyer data so critical.

Facebook budget prospect density

That data is now even more valuable because of Facebook’s Lookalike Audience tool, which can take your bidder and email subscriber lists and turn them into the kind of targeting data formerly available only to Fortune 100 companies. This allows you to cover large geographic areas without having to pay for saturation. You can cherry pick your most likely bidders—not just in America but around the world.

Holiday proximity

Holiday proximity

Because of the competition with other advertisers, holiday seasons raise the bidding price for your ads. You’ll notice a rise from the Monday before Thanksgiving until the day before Christmas. Depending on your target audience’s demographics and geographic location, you might also see cost increases the two weeks before both Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. If you have large cultural events in a specific metro area at a specific time each year (like the Boston Marathon or Indianapolis 500 of Bike Week), you might see a small impact as well. I’ve not analyzed Facebook ad costs during the Olympics, but it wouldn’t surprise me if advertising rose 5% or even 10% during those weeks.

Content relevancy

Content relevancy

Maybe the biggest factor in the cost of your ads is the content of your ads. Facebook, like its advertisers, wants paid promotion to seamlessly blend with the user-generated posts in the Newsfeed. Neither the platform nor its users want interruptions; instead, they connect with products, services, and stories that are truly interesting or valuable. They don’t want ads that make audiences flip to a different app or site. So, Facebook rewards ads with high interaction rates with lower cost per click (or other desired action).

Thus, the more your text ties into consumer desires, the cheaper your ads. The same holds true for photo quality, video brevity, and the perceived value of the asset (or service) at hand. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the beholder that determines your ad costs is not you. It’s the viewer. The less you think and act like a traditional auctioneer, the more potential bidders you’ll reach for the same money.

Facebook efficacy

Facebook efficacy

Finally, all of the above assumes that Facebook is the most effective and/or efficient way to reach your target audience. That’s not always the case. There are still some audiences whose demographic factors are not available selections to advertisers on Facebook. This makes these folks less likely, or at least less efficient, to reach there.

So, here’s my standard answer when auctioneers ask me how much they need to spend: “I would spend 25% to 75% of your auction’s advertising budget on Facebook, depending on what your Google Analytics reports show you.” If you’re tracking every medium you use—both online and offline—in terms of the traffic they drive to your auctions’ pages on your website, your Google Analytics will answer that question better than I can.

To shorten this post, know that you can use this method to determine what your overall auction budget should be. You can take that information and drop it into this formula to determine how much of the overall budget to spend on Facebook. If you don’t yet have that data, I would incrementally start shifting more of your budget to Facebook until you reach a point where you don’t get more bidders or higher relative sale prices from more Facebook spending.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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Facebook’s New Targeting Tool Comes with a Catch

For several years, advertising agency publications have been complaining about transparency and accuracy of Facebook’s self-reported results. I dismissed those headlines as Fortune 500 problems until an email from Don, one of my Kentucky clients.

Don asked me why there was such a big disparity between how many visitors his Google Analytics had shown to originate from Facebook and how many Facebook had claimed. I answered something along the lines of these points:

• the difference lay in how both entities define a click/view/visit;

• I would take Google’s word over Facebook’s stats; and

• the true numbers should still be somewhat proportional to each other.

In my post-campaign correspondence with clients since that first email from Don, I’ve often advised clients that they need to compare the results that Facebook reports with what their Google Analytics shows—and work off Google’s numbers.

Facebook wasn’t trying to mislead advertisers.

It just had limited measurement. One of their newer tools combats that limitation and gives advertisers better data.

Facebook previously counted people who clicked on any or all links in your ads and promoted posts. Four people make that a problem.

(1) the accidental clicker, who clicks right back to their newsfeed after seeing it disappear to a link screen

(2) the impatient clicker, who won’t wait for a page to load (often on cellular service)

(3) the indecisive clicker, who decides they don’t want more information after all

(4) the double clicker, who could be any of the first three but clicks a second time

I’ve been all four of those clickers.

Facebook’s solution was to get what Google has: measurement on the other end of the link.

Facebook built measurement into their pixel code. Now, advertisers who use the free code on their website can give and receive anonymous reporting through that pixel. In so doing, Facebook affirmed the disparity of results but offered transparency. That removed most of the suspicion of inflated reporting.

Then this summer, Facebook added a tool to bridge the gap of the disparity between link clicks and page views. They added the ability for us advertisers to optimize ads for people likely to visit a specific landing page. For auctioneers, this might be an auction even page, online catalog, or even a seller services page.

Facebook Ad Optimization Options

Facebook’s algorithms know who is likely to click on advertising. Up until 2017, that was the best you could get when prospecting. Those algorithms now also know which Facebook users are most likely to visit landing pages—those who do more than just click. What this means is that you can prioritize your ads to serve to the segment of your target audience most likely to actually visit your website.

For the auction industry, that’s what we want. We need to get people off Mark Zuckerberg’s platform and onto ours. We want people to move through our sales funnel, and we want those to be the right people for what we’re selling. The option to optimize for landing page views allows us to find more and/or better needles in the haystack.

This incredible opportunity does come with a catch—four of them, actually.

You must have a Facebook pixel installed on page where traffic is heading.

If you use Facebook’s Business Manager, this would be your business’ pixel. If you use Ads Manager, this would be your pixel and/or your vendor’s pixel. (You can have multiple pixels installed at the same time, and they don’t interfere with each other.) Fewer than half of my clients have installed a pixel of any kind. It’s a shame, too, because the pixel offers some other mind-bending abilities. Rather than insert the pixel code on each page, it’s a lot easier to paste the Facebook pixel code into your site’s header, where it will automatically and invisibly populate to every page on your site.

You must be prepared for fewer clicks from your ads.

I’m only a few months into this tool, but my sample size indicates that these ads will get fewer clicks than ads optimized simply for clicks. They’ll be better clicks from more qualified clickers, because you’ll be paring out the unproductive fluff. Unfortunately, that means that any of your past case studies or results reports that emphasize clicks—inflated numbers—will seem to overpromise results from ads optimized for landing page views. Depending on how many auctions you do a year, it may take a bit to rebuild your case studies for clients.

You’ll have to educate your sellers.

It makes sense to assume that someone who clicks to your website inherently becomes a visitor. Now you know why that isn’t true. So, you’ll have to be careful not to call clicks “people coming to the website.” I used to pass along that assumption—before Don’s email.

You can’t optimize for landing page views when using boosted posts or promoted posts.

Even if you have the pixel installed on your site, you can’t use it to optimize posts for landing page views. You can still use it to create custom audiences and lookalike audiences for promoted posts, but only ads can be optimized for clicks to your website or for landing page views. If you don’t know the difference between an ad and a post, I created this guide for (1) telling them apart and (2) knowing when to use each.

The benefits of optimizing for landing page views outweigh the above considerations. In most situations, the more targeted our audience, the better; and I’ve found Facebook’s algorithms to outperform my educated guesses most of the time. That doesn’t mean I would optimize all my Facebook advertising for landing page views. Each auction and its various target audiences require different goals, and I currently use all five optimization options for ads and posts in different situations. That said, this will probably be my default setting when available going forward.

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191: How an Embarrassing Failure Led Me to Marketing Success

Back in 2004, I became an author. I released a book of 41 discussions of interesting Bible characters. In 2003, it was the highest-rated manuscript on a service that faith-based publishers use to find authors without agent representation. At the one publisher who legitimately considered it, the editorial staff loved my writing and the compilation; but their accounting and marketing teammates did not. I ended up using a self-publishing service to print the manuscript.

By commercial standards, the book was a flop.

Failure to Success WOTS7,904,412 different book titles have sold better on Amazon. A horrible salesman, I’ve sold fewer than 200 copies across all retailers; and many of those were copies I’ve bought to give to people. My church, where my wife is on staff and where I’ve lead multiple environments, sold one whole copy of Word on the Street during the years it was on their bookstore’s shelf. That wouldn’t be so embarrassing, except that more than 3,000 people attend our church on most Sundays.

Oh, it gets better: that bookstore’s manager found a signed copy of my book—at Goodwill. When Amazon showed a “collector’s edition” of the book, my curiosity pushed me to buy it. When the box arrived, I learned that someone else with a signed copy had hocked it. So, I had probably bought that same book twice.

My book’s failure became one of the most important marketing lessons of my life. It cemented an unpopular platform from which I’ve taught auction professionals for the past decade. It became one of the underpinning premises of the Auction Marketing Management designation program. See, one of the primary reasons my book failed turned out to be the reason so much auction marketing doesn’t reach its full potential.

The audience determines what gets read.

If the people we want to interact with our content don’t like it or engage with it, our message will not get heard. That applies to both authors and advertisers. No matter how much of ourselves we put into the creation, we don’t determine what people like, what gets absorbed, or whether something sells. No matter how much we believe in something, we can’t make the world want it.

Also, it doesn’t matter what our peers think of our work or how many industry awards we win. Editors loved my prose, but they got to read it for free. My capstone writing portfolio became the first to earn a perfect score from the Dean of Education at my alma mater, but she didn’t buy a copy of my book. I won an adult poetry contest in high school and a medal for writing achievement in college. My undergrad internship included authoring a magazine cover story about the first school administrator to participate in Florida’s voucher program. None of that mattered.

Thankfully, I got to see the big, fat failure.

I’m grateful it was so obvious. Many auctioneers don’t get that same opportunity. They don’t know how many postcard recipients didn’t become bidders but would have with different messaging or design. They don’t see how much money they didn’t make off Facebook scrollers who might have clicked on a better ad. They don’t know how much their auctioneer-centric email subject lines kept them from bigger commissions.

For auctioneers, the auction method is their instinctive headline. Auction and open house dates are the rhythm of their lives and get most of the real estate on their advertising media. I’ve even seen auctioneers put their office’s address in prominent or multiple locations—not the auction site’s address but their return mailing address.

The problem with all of these emphases is that those aren’t priorities to consumers. It’s not that this content isn’t important. It’s just that people only need that information after they already want what you’re selling. That tertiary information can be shown in smaller font lower on the piece—or on your website.

By the way, the same holds true when prospecting for sellers, who don’t primarily care how many years you’ve been in business. They don’t care if your chant won a bid calling contest, especially if you’re selling their asset online. They don’t know what those letters behind your name mean and don’t really want you to take their time explaining them. They don’t want clichéd, ambiguous tag lines or unsupported claims. They want empathy to their specific situation, their pain points. They want evidence that you consistently solve the problems of other sellers in their same situation.

Our audience wants the book to be about them.

Our prospects will give us only a few seconds to prove it’s about them. If we don’t connect to their need or want in that time, we may not get more time. It doesn’t matter how pretty the inside of the brochure is behind a horrible mailer panel. It doesn’t matter what’s in the email hidden behind an “AUCTION!!!” subject line. It doesn’t matter how robust the content is on the other end of the link from an uninteresting Facebook ad. All we’re trying to say doesn’t get said, if nobody reads it.

George Bernard Shaw summed it best: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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190: Your Direct Mail Is Trying Too Hard

Over the past three years, creating Facebook campaigns for auction companies has grown to become more than 20% of my billable work—and the only work I do for 29% of my client base. Because of my success with Facebook and the inexperience or tentativeness some auctioneers have in that medium, I’m often given free reign to choose the photos, determine the target audience, and write the advertising copy.

Facebook Clients

Candidly, that control scares me sometimes. From what I’ve heard from my clients, they regularly feel that same fear, too. The stakes are high; so are the costs of advertising. “This seller really needs this to go well.” We can’t afford to tell the wrong people, not to grab the right people’s attention, or to spend the money in the wrong place.

One benefit of this editorial control, though, is that I get to adapt the headlines to what I teach at CAI and AMM. Facebook’s limited space forces brevity. It makes me focus on only the most critical information a potential buyer would need to take the next step. Because my methods typically woo hundreds, thousands, or (in some cases) tens of thousands of website visitors to an auction, I continue to win that scary freedom of content generation.

Here’s a dirty little secret: every auction manager has (1) that freedom and (2) access to those guiding principles. That’s true of almost any and every medium you leverage to find buyers.

Your direct mail has the same job as your Facebook ads—and any piece of your advertising. It only has to get the prospect to the next step. More than likely, that step is to visit your website—even if the auction is conducted offline. In some communities, that next step might be to call, text, or email you. In a fraction of cases, the next step might be to attend an open house, broker seminar, or lender luncheon.

You don’t have to tell the prospect how many hours are on a piece of equipment or what the annual taxes are on a piece of real estate. You don’t need to transcribe driving directions or list all of the lots in the catalog. I know auction marketers who don’t include preview dates or even auction dates in their advertising. I already hear your “Blasphemy!” Technically, neither of those pieces of information are necessary for a potential buyer to know whether or not they want more information about the asset or benefit event at hand.

Overloaded Bicycle

Appropriate mystery is your marketing friend. You can show and say far more on your website than you can in any other medium. All that extra space is free. Pro tip: free’s a lot cheaper than bigger newspaper ads. That free space let’s you send postcards instead of brochures—and maybe afford to send them to more people.

Also, if you’ve got a Google or Facebook pixel installed on your website, the additional traffic from the curious can be used to direct digital marketing at people you previously could only reach in print. And, you can get more accurate data to build lookalike audiences—prospects who look demographically identical to the people on your mailing list.

Overloaded Truck

I’m seeing more of my clients pare their direct mail text to not much more than what fits into a Facebook ad. It gives the photos room to breathe. It often earns space for more and/or bigger photos—the elements doing the heavy lifting in advertising anyway.

Right now is where I typically get auctioneer pushback. I don’t shun that resistance. I get that it’s hard. This bucks status quo or, at least, auction industry conventional wisdom. This makes you feel like you’re under-advertising, under-performing for your seller. At first, it feels like you’re not fully using the space you’re buying. I won’t mislead you: restraint is stout work. Thankfully, that work is offset by a uniform message across all platforms, making the media creation and proofing process much easier. It also makes templates more efficient. It might even make your in-house or outsourced design less expensive.

If it helps, just remember who you wanted for a second date: the first date that intrigued you to know more or the one that dumped their whole life story.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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189: Are You Gambling With Your Future Commissions?

Last Monday morning, I released a controversial take on the firearms portion of Facebook’s advertising guidelines. Several in the auction industry wrote it off as a Chicken Little screech, a tinfoil-hat projection. Others wrote to tell me how they had found my assessment true for them.

The potential of that post didn’t wait any longer than the following Tuesday night. I arrived home around 10:30 to find my Ads Manager on lockdown. My advertising account had been shuttered without warning and with no explanation. All of my clients’ ads had been paused.

Facebook shutdown

This was bigger than an ad not being approved. This was a total inability to advertise on Facebook without creating a new user account, getting all of my clients to update their access permissions, and re-creating all of the custom audiences I’ve made. From what I read online by others who had suffered this fate, even those steps were sometimes not enough to get back up and running, as Facebook has measures in place to protect against serial offenders.

One Facebook advertising vendor wrote a detailed article specifically on this situation, noting that even the appeals process was a long shot. Apparently, many advertisers don’t even get specific explanations of what caused their account closure. The appeals process could take days just to get a response, let alone resolution.

The worst case scenarios would’ve cost me significant time and money. I was looking at losing the fastest-growing segment of my business, the only cost-effective tool I have for some auctions. I stood to lose confidence from my clients, prospects, and the professionals in my continuing education classes.

The exceptions from the horror stories I was reading came to those with a long track record with Facebook advertising, large Facebook spends, and a humble appeal. Thankfully, all of those criteria applied to me. My appeal email also explained how I had recently written a blog post to exhort others to comply with their advertising guidelines.

I went to bed at 1:30 Wednesday morning, anticipating tough conversations and difficult work when I returned to the office. Five hours later, I awoke for some urgent pro bono work before breakfast. Before I got out of bed I checked my Facebook Ads app on my phone to discover that—miraculously—not only had my account been reinstated, but my clients’ ads had all resumed.

I jogged upstairs to my office. My inbox held two emails from Facebook: one welcoming me back to good standing and the other explaining why my account had been shuttered. I kid you not: firearms violations.

Ironic, right? I still don’t know what post or ad triggered the closure. It might have even been my unpromoted post of last Monday’s article. Apparently, the situation struck Facebook’s evaluators as bigger than just an unapproved ad, which I’ve encountered multiple times for clients. My activity was unacceptable behavior.

So, hear me again. Putting firearms in your farm, estate, and liquidation auction catalogs has the very real potential of hijacking your Facebook advertising for your non-firearm assets.

If you believe in Facebook as a marketing tool, consider playing by their rules. If you acknowledge that culture is moving away from newsprint to digital media, understand that adaptation is more than just a format issue. If you want to keep cost-efficient mass promotion in the tool box, consider how you use your tools.

While my company will gladly still design direct mail, newsprint ads, and banner ads for auctions with firearms, I will no longer create Facebook advertising for auctions with guns in the catalog. The stakes are too high for me. Take time to evaluate whether they are for you, too.

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188: How Some Auctioneers Are Playing with Fire(arms)

Recently, my clients and auction industry peers have seen more ads denied by Facebook. The reason? The ads don’t comply with Facebook’s policies on firearms. What you need to know is that none of the ads in question included any images or mentions of guns, ammunition, hunting, or even “sporting goods.”

I’ll explain why in a little bit, but first I want to briefly show you how we got to this moment.

In Facebook’s first three years, it offered little-to-no paid advertising and thus little-to-no advertiser limitations. Organic content multiplied mostly with user policing through content reporting.

In 2007, Facebook started selling their user base to advertisers. Restrictions developed for drugs, prescription drugs, tobacco products, questionable supplements, and “adult products or services.” Societal, political, and user influence eventually pushed Facebook to put age restrictions on content for firearms in March 2014.

Twenty-two months later (January 2016), Facebook banned all private sales and commercial promotion of firearms transactions. While Facebook permitted personal posts regarding firearms and business pages & posts related to firearms, paid promotion began being disallowed with few exceptions sneaking through the cracks.

As advertisers tried different tactics to skirt the system, Facebook added to its purview. More euphemisms got added to the banned list of terms. Eventually, Facebook’s automated tools began searching the web pages to which all ads were linked. Any firearms image or reference on the other end of those links got those links black-flagged for any paid advertising.

Facebook timeline

That’s how my clients’ ads for lawn mowers, antique tractors, and comic books couldn’t be published. Estate sales, farm liquidations, and other auctions with guns anywhere in their catalogs couldn’t be advertised on Facebook because of the gun lots they contained. I even tried linking to a single item in the auction and to a page of search results in an auction catalog that would exclude the lots that had guns in them. No dice.

Facebook next step?As of right now, the best way to advertise an auction with guns is to create a separate catalog for the guns. This way, you can run Facebook ads for the other lots that will sell or sell higher because of Facebook exposure. The gun catalog can be promoted separately via email, direct mail, newsprint, etc. (Lists of both gun dealers and people with hunting licenses are not only available but reasonably priced.)

This is a hassle but nowhere near as big as the hurdle the auction industry might be facing. As you can see in this January 2017 featured answer in Facebook’s Advertiser Help Center, the potential next step in this progression will be for Facebook to refuse links from entire websites or Facebook business pages that have any objectionable material.

What this could mean is that any past auction lot could get your entire site black-flagged from any future Facebook advertising. This is an extreme forecast; and as a Facebook marketing vendor, I hope I’m wrong. At this time, it’s only conjecture; but it’s enough of a possibility that we should be preparing for that potential. That means:

• wiping past auction catalogs that contain gun content,

• moving your firearms to a separate website,

• branding your firearms sales separately, and/or

• partnering with a gun dealer for completely separate firearm transactions

Critics of Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, have pushed against his pragmatic, libertarian approach to the content on Facebook. It has taken international tragedies and media firestorms for Zuckerberg to introduce more policing, more human content reviewers. [Many would be surprised to know that Zuckerberg’s personal political contributions skew Republican (58% to Democrat 42%—to four Republican candidates and two Democrat candidates), as do Facebook’s political action committee’s contributions (56% Republican, 44% Democrat).] 1 Restrictions that took thirteen years to put in place are most likely not going to be reversed, at least not anytime soon.

What’s very clear is that Facebook isn’t getting more gun friendly. Social, legal, and governmental pressure keeps mounting on Facebook, Twitter, and Google. 2 Courts have validated that Facebook’s restrictions do not infringe on first or second amendment rights. This genie isn’t going back in the bottle.

While separating guns (including non-firearm versions like glue-, spray-, and barcode guns) from other lots will be a difficult task, it could spare more draconian remedies down the road. Even if you decide not to make any of these preventative changes now, make sure you’re at least having the conversation with staff, partners, vendors, and/or even your elected officials. An ounce of prevention just might prove a pound of cure.

1Is Mark Zuckerberg a Democrat or a Republican?” Tom Murse, ThoughtCo.com, March 25, 2017.

210 more Pulse nightclub plaintiffs join lawsuit against Google, Facebook, Twitter” Jared Morgan, Guns.com, April 5, 2017.

Stock photo purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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Why You And I Must “Uneducate” Ourselves

Has someone ever asked you why what you do is even necessary?

That’d be a “yes” for me. The most recent time was in a booth at a small-town Applebee’s. One of my auctioneer friends asked why my brand management module at the Auction Marketing Management (AMM) designation is included in the course. He softened the question by adding “as a friend” and “no offense,” but he didn’t need to do so. I didn’t take offense to it. In fact, that’s a question I’ve asked myself, which made it easier to answer.

AMM has gotten the reputation that it’s a Facebook seminar, when less than 25% of the content addresses Facebook. Others (particularly the graduates) have expanded AMM’s description, calling it advanced marketing education. While we do teach tools and technology like Google Analytics and Facebook re-marketing, the bulk of the education is actually spent on advertising principles that were true during both the Reagan and the Lincoln administrations. The resource mentioned most often from the front of the room was written in 1932.

I can’t speak for John and Robert, the other AMM instructors; but I would contend that we spend much of our time uneducating the room. By that I mean that we have to lead people out of counterproductive advertising strategies and practices that have become engrained into the industry. We do that because using new technology with old approaches just multiplies the audiences for bad advertising.

So, the simple answer is that rebuilding a holistic approach to marketing has to start with replacing or upgrading the footers. That’s where my module comes in handy. That’s also why my content comes first—before the fantastic tools and tactics that John, Robert, and I demonstrate. It’s not that my module is the best. (It’s not even my favorite.) It’s that brand management determines what auctioneers do with the rest of the content.

For those who haven’t attended my AMM module, it can be summarized with one sentence: every business decision is a brand decision.

What you sell is a brand decision that leads to marketing choices and specific advertising selections. Whether your auction is online, simulcast, or offline will change your calls to action, your advertising timelines, and maybe even your target demographics. Your online bidding platform will determine your goals in Google Analytics and create interesting strategic conversations about links in digital ads. The ethos of your brand will influence how much you spend on design and photography—and the visual styles of both. The personality of your brand will guide your headlines and advertising copy. Your personal and company goals will impact the systems and priorities of your business development, including your social media and marketing roles.

In short, brand management gives you the filters through which to view everything else in your business. It’s healthy for all of us—me included—to be regularly reminded of that truth and shown how to apply it.

I recently got a visual representation of my AMM module’s role. Two exterior walls of my house had sunk into Virginia’s “shrink swell” soil and created substantial damage on the interior of my house. Before we could resurface the concrete floors, repair the drywall, and repaint the walls, we had to make sure my house wouldn’t sink any more. Last week, RamJack installed nine helical piers under my foundation. After securing my house, the crew then used jacks to recover some of the distance my house had dropped. 

We had to get the foundation back where it should be before we could work on the aesthetics of our home. Knowing that this process was coming, my wife and I have held off of some of curb appeal projects for our house—how our house is advertised to passers by, if you will. The professionals recommended that we now wait six to nine months before making interior changes, too. Apparently, it takes that long for our house’s structural components to settle into their new normal. In other words, we can’t do the advanced things until we’ve got the underpinnings re-secured.

The same is true of our businesses, our marketing models, and our advertising—advanced or rudimentary. That’s why I teach a brand management module at AMM, and that’s why I hope to see you in my class someday.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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Being in the Right Place at the Right Time Isn’t Enough

This year, I’m intentionally reading nonfiction books from people with a different worldview than I hold: different life stages, different ethnicities, different belief systems, etc.

Recently, I read Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance, an in-depth look at dating in the age of texting, social media, dating sites, and hookup apps. The current realities struck me as daunting. It made me thankful to already have a committed relationship wrapped up. (The day this post releases is the nineteenth anniversary of the day my wife first told me that she loved me.) So, I’ve been out of the dating game for a long time.

Well, I have; and I haven’t.

You could say I’m a professional matchmaker. Everyday, I help my clients court buyers. We’re trying to find people who want what they’re offering. We’re hoping someone out there finds what they have is attractive.

Just as with today’s dating scene, much of that wooing starts online—through Facebook in particular. It turns out that the realities of successful online dating apply to our commercial courting.

Being on the right platform at the right time doesn’t guarantee a match.

Currently, around forty million Americans use online dating sites, but fewer than 20% of these site users find their true-love needle in those haystacks. The percentage is much lower when the criteria is upgraded to marriages. So, being in the right place at the right time isn’t enough.

Facebook has about 1.5 billion users, but just having your advertising there isn’t a guarantee for success. Facebook rewards ads that get quick and frequent interactions and practically hides the advertising that doesn’t (and makes it more expensive). If you don’t know what you’re doing on Facebook, your haystack can grow that much more intimidating.

Unlike the passive lead-qualification process of dating sites, Facebook matching is more active. With the capabilities of its lookalike audience tool, expanding the perfect selection is not only possible but easy. If you’re boosting posts instead of strategically launching targeted ads or posts to custom audiences, you’re
(1) not benefitting from many of the free, premium tools available,
(2) not taking advantage of advanced targeting options, and
(3) wasting money.

Content matters.

Successful online daters know how to appeal to specific candidates, and they adapt their photos and descriptions to appeal to those potential matches. Apparently, the people who get the most dates and the best matches avoid generalities. They don’t hide realities and eccentricities. They pre-sort out the unqualified candidates by candor and specificity of their content. They take strategic pictures from specific angles. They don’t overshare details but instead create intrigue.

The most successful Facebook campaigns I manage for my clients focus on the recipient’s needs and wants instead of the generic auction construct. Instead of cliches and generalities, we highlight specific aspects or items. We tailor the message and/or photos from one ad to the next—for the same auction—according to who will see it. We use only enough content to get people to take the next step.

Right Place Right Time insert

I regularly hear from auctioneers who believe they’re giving their sellers the best marketing possible just because they use specific media like Facebook. They assume the ensuing bidders they register and the prices they achieve are the best the market has for their sellers. I’ve also talked to auction marketers who previously thought they were successful—and were by relative standards—but who’ve recently seen their sales numbers jump after they changed their media mixes and their advertising content. (Twice, I’ve received emails that reference “blowing up our website.”) These professionals didn’t change what they sell, just how they sold it.

Like our American culture that has adapted in how to meet potential romantic partners, these progressive auctioneers have evolved according to cultural realities and consumer demands. If you’re trusting that being in the right place at the right time is enough, know that those pragmatic auction marketers are connecting with more and better prospects than you are.

They might even be stealing your dates.

Sources consulted for statistics in this post:
“5 Facts about Online Dating,” by Aaron Smith and Monica Anderson (Pew Research Center), February 29, 2016.
“Online Dating Statistics,” by Statistic Brain, July 1, 2016.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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Facebook’s “Next Best Thing” Helps Us Little Guys

The combination of the Facebook pixel and the Lookalike Audience tool is one of the most incredible marketing innovations since the Internet was invented. I don’t know of anything that has democratized business so much in my lifetime. Now, mom ’n’ pop organizations and even sole proprietors can spool their customer bases to rival that of Fortune 100 companies and then unleash Facebook’s machine learning process to hone that list into a mind-boggling resource.

Unfortunately, for many of my clients, even just installing a code into their website header is a big ask; and many new companies don’t have the few hundred customer names required to start a Lookalike Audience.

Thankfully, Facebook invented the next best thing within the past couple months. I’ve been experimenting with it on behalf of several clients, and it’s killer.

Within the Custom Audience menu—where you upload lists and/or connect to your website pixel traffic—advertisers can now create an audience of people who recently interacted with your Facebook content. You can even indicate specific interactions, though I don’t.

Custom Audience Facebook interactions

For auction companies who sell the same or related asset categories, this audience is extra valuable. It functions similarly as the pixel, except that you can’t create lookalikes from website traffic that originates from other digital and offline sources. Also, you can’t create an audience that got to a specific action on your website like a pixel can. This new audience allows you to get people who interacted with your advertising but didn’t go to your website. As of right now, that’s something the Facebook pixel can’t do.

In only a few weeks of testing, I’ve found it to help both click through rates and cost per click. For one auction company, we recently had two auctions within a month for the same seller with the same inventory. Our average click-through rate jumped from 3.1% to 4.7%—with one ad hitting 7.8%. Our average cost per click dropped from $.47 to $.34.

These gains don’t cost anything, either. Like all of the other audience tools, Facebook gives this one away for free to help your ads be more relevant.

If you sell an asset category where your buyers might be sellers, this tool allows fantastic cross-marketing opportunities. In my early testing, this new audience has been successful for consignment auctions. For one of my clients who works a lot in agricultural real estate and equipment, I used to achieve really good results serving ads to people who liked their company Facebook page. I’ve switched those ads over to this audience—since recent activity trumps a one-time thumbs up.

You can designate this interacting audience for up to 365 days in the past or as short as you’d like. For auctioneers, you can create timelines that capture traffic going back to specific auction campaigns.

So, here’s to us small business marketers getting even more access to Facebook’s users! Here’s to us capturing our advertising traffic in a new way. And here’s to the marketing and re-marketing potential now available at our fingertips.

Stock photo purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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181: What Kind of Facebook Advertising Should You Use?

The biggest confusion I encounter when teaching people how to advertise on Facebook is the difference between an ad, a promoted post, and a boosted post. Part of that confusion comes from Facebook using similar buttons and terms to describe all of them. Don’t be fooled, though. These are very different tools with different purposes for savvy advertisers to use.

Origination

One of the biggest differences between the three is where the posts are built. Ads can be created only within Ads Manager (or Business Manager). Posts can be created only on your business page’s timeline. Ads do not show on your timeline at all, which often leads my clients to ask, “Did you build the ad already?” Both ads and posts can be scheduled for a specific release time.

Organic Distribution

Ads show organically only to the Admins and Editors of your page. Posts show organically only to 2-10% of the people who have hit the like button on your page.

Paid Distribution

Both ads and promoted posts are distributed through Ads Manager (or Business Manager). The confusing part is that the first step for both is to click the green button that says, “Create Ad.” Boosted posts are distributed from the “Boost” button under the post on your Facebook page. Boosted posts do not have all of the targeting and optimization options available to ads and promoted posts.

Content Formats

Ads can distribute with a photo, photo carousel, slideshow, or video. Ads can also leverage the Facebook canvas tool or the adaptive single-image tool. Boosted and promoted posts can be single images, a photo album, a video, or a link. On the photo albums, you can determine which top images get shown in the collage preview.

Buttons & Links

On an ad, the illustration (photos, slideshows, and videos) are all clickable to your website. So is the headline and link description. The viewer doesn’t see the URL, and the advertiser doesn’t need to include the URL in the text of the ad. In boosted and promoted posts, clicking on a photo advances the viewer to the next photo—not the advertiser’s link. URLs must be pasted into the text portion of your post and/or your photo captions. Posts do not have clickable buttons, either.

Facebook design comparison insert

Default Optimization

Facebook knows our tendencies as consumers, whether we’re likely to click on links or try to stay in the newsfeed. So, it allows advertisers to choose how advertising is targeted (“optimized”). The default setting for ads is link clicks. For promoted and boosted posts, the default setting is for engagements: likes, comments, and shares. Both ads and promoted posts can also be optimized either for impressions (showing to the same people as many times as possible) or unique reach (showing to as many people as possible). Boosted posts offer no options for optimization and are inherently aimed at engagements that keep the viewer on Facebook.

Distribution Platforms

Ads can be distributed to Facebook’s newsfeed, right column, Instant Articles, In-Stream Videos, or Canvas. They can also be pushed out to Instagram and the Audience Network (selection of editorial websites that show Facebook ads). Promoted posts can publish only to Facebook’s newsfeed & right column and to Instagram. Boosted posts can publish only to Facebook’s newsfeed and to Instagram.

Primary Measurement

Facebook’s default reporting tends to focus on total audience size and a single column of content results. For ads, the results are clicks to your website. For posts, results are measured in terms of combined engagements—likes, comments, and shares. Cost per engagements generally run much lower than cost per click. To compare apples to apples, make sure your reports for both ads and posts show the cost per click. Within Ads Manager (or Business Manager), you can customize which analytical data you want to see in your reports and in what order. Below is a recent sample showing the standard columns I use for my personal and client reports.

Anonymized Facebook report

Click to enlarge

Strategy

Ads prove a high stakes game of risk/reward. Single-photo and video ads have one first impression that must get someone to click to your website. Carousel and slideshow ads give you slightly more content to attract a buyer or client. Promoted and boosted posts offer the option of the photo gallery, which allows consumers to meander through your content before deciding to leave Facebook for your website. You can and should have different copy in the captions for each photo; and you should have a link pasted in the description, too.

Because of their content and distribution models, each kind of Facebook advertising has a different use. Ads align best with the pursuit of the most motivated consumers. Promoted posts appeal to consumers whose interest can be developed. Boosted posts are best suited for community awareness; that community can be either interest-based (fans of your Facebook page) or geography-based (people in a specific location).

Know that results will wildly vary. For the most efficient and effective Facebook advertising, you have to experiment with different Facebook tools and then measure their effectiveness.

Facebook comparison chart full size

Click to enlarge

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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179: 5 Ways to Make Your Direct Mail Effective in a Digital World

I’ve written about Facebook so much in the past year that an auctioneer recently questioned whether I was still in the direct mail business. The short answer: yes. The longer answer: no two external media go together better than Facebook and direct mail.

It won’t surprise most of my readers that an auction company hired me to design more than 120 different postcards last year or that the people on their mailing list purchased millions of dollars’ worth of assets from them in 2016. What might surprise you is that this client mailed each postcard to less than 1% of their mailing list database—or that this same customer spent at least three times as much on Facebook per auction than they did on that very successful direct mail.

If your direct mail isn’t that efficient or effective, consider making some of the following adjustments.

Use first class postage to a few instead of standard mail to many.

Outside of Every Door Direct Mail, there’s rarely a reason an auctioneer should use standard mail. The USPS is allowed to take weeks to deliver it. It’s particularly sketchy when it crosses state lines. If you can’t afford first class postage, trim your mailing list. The time savings of switching to first class postage will give you extra days (or even weeks) for taking photos, writing copy, and processing proofs with your designer and seller.

Don’t mail to satiated buyers.

What is the buying cycle of the asset you’re advertising? If someone just bought a primary residence from you, there’s no reason to send them residential auction postcards for several years. Unless you’re marketing to investors or dealers, a list of recent buyers in a particular segment won’t be as efficient as finding new people who need that same thing. Your best bet is to market to past bidders who didn’t buy. That data can be curated in a few minutes per auction with just an extra column in your spreadsheet.

Send teaser postcards instead of brochures.

You have to trust your website. It’s your marketplace, even if your auctions are still offline. If someone isn’t motivated to get more information on your website from your postcard, (1) they aren’t motivated to purchase and/or (2) you need better content on your postcards. Since we can only use one subject line in our emails and about three sentences in our Facebook ads, it should be fairly easy to know how to be succinct with direct mail.

Or mail prestige pieces to maintain premium brand identity.

While Facebook is certainly efficient at keeping your brand in front of prospective sellers, it’s limited in how far your content can be differentiated from that of other brands. Direct mail, on the other hand, can be different shapes, sizes, textures, and colors (including metallic and neon). If you want to create a visual expectation for your brand that is superior to your competitor’s media, direct mail can effectively prove that.

This isn’t just for luxury brands and expensive assets. You can set the bar for any asset category or price point simply by design differences, but you have to consistently mail pieces that look similar in order to build that visual brand equity.

Leverage segmented lists and variable data printing.

Most auction software allows you to sort your bidder lists by purchase history. It only takes a few minutes per auction to add asset category data for each of those bidders or buyers. You shouldn’t have just one real estate list or one construction equipment list, because there are a number of subcategories within each segment. Once you have your lists segmented, you can use variable data to tailor each piece to the recipient’s interest.

While I recommend Facebook solutions for a lot of advertising challenges, I’m still bullish on direct mail. Well, to clarify: I’m bullish on attractive direct mail that gets to a targeted recipient quickly with a succinct message. Thankfully, for me, so are my clients.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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176: A New Tool to Learn More About Your Offline Bidders

Facebook recently launched a new tool called Offline Events that auctioneers can use to gain insight on their offline bidders.

Business Manager Mini-menuHow it works

When you create an ad on Facebook through Business Manager, you now have the option to tie the ad to a specific offline event (an auction in our case). After the auction, you can upload a list of auction attendees to Facebook’s database; and it will match as many of its users as possible and tell you how many of the attendees saw one of your Facebook ads.

You can categorize the list as Purchase (buyers), Lead (bidders), and Other (attendees). In fact, Facebook requires you to pick one of those fields per list. For most auctioneers, it will be easiest to just upload all registered bidders; but it’s good to know you can get further analytics, if you want them.

Facebook will not give you the names or further information about the Facebook users it matches. It only aggregates the data for comparison. Also, it will match only as many as it can with the data you collect. The match rate will vary depending on how much contact information you gather.

Why it’s useful

While it might not be able to match every registered bidder whose information you collect, the good news is that it will never over-report. If someone saw advertising in another medium as well as on Facebook, this information can supplement current auction polling with real data. This tool is especially useful for those who don’t have proprietary online bidding platforms for which the Facebook Pixel can do all of this (after initial setup).

While I’ve not yet got to play around with this tool, its potential is exciting—especially for auctioneers who issue post-auction reports to sellers. The more data point you can use to validate your marketing strategy, the better.

Offline Events Overview

Who it benefits most

This will especially benefit those who sell the same asset categories over and over again and/or those who sell multiple asset categories but in the same geographic area all the time. It will be easier to find trends in this data, if you have bigger bidder pools (typically personal property and commercial equipment) or many auctions per year.

If you’d like to experiment with this tool, you can get a free, quick tutorial here.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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175: How to Get National Advertising on a Local Budget

Have you ever been asked to market anything that had a national appeal, but the asset value didn’t allow a national advertising campaign? It happens to my clients on a regular basis. My advice for that situation has recently changed, as a burgeoning technology helps solves part of that problem.

Let me give you an example.

One of my high-volume clients just booked a deal to sell the furniture, fixtures, and equipment from a two-year-old frozen yogurt shop near Buffalo, NY. Having limited experience with this niche asset category, John called me for ideas on how to attract the most amount of bidders to assets that together were worth only about as much as a new pickup truck. (I had zero experience with this asset type; so, I actually had more questions for him than he had for me.)

Before John called me, he had reached out to our mailing list guy and found a list of thousands of frozen yogurt stores in the country. National List Research was able to split the list into chains and independent operators and even provide the name of an executive for many of them. The bad news: a mailing even just to the independent operators would break his budget.

After a couple phone calls, we hatched a plan.

First, John bought the full mailing list of just the independent frozen yogurt shops along with their phone numbers. At 13 cents per person, that was a small expenditure.

Next, John uploaded that direct mail list to Facebook to create ads to those independent operators. Facebook matched about two thirds of those prospects. John could reach that complete national list of matches for about $20 per ad. So, we planned for a series of ads with different photos and headlines.

Then, John created a lookalike audience of Facebook users who demographically looked exactly like those independent operators.

Using a free Facebook pixel, he also created a list of Facebook users who visited that auction’s page on his website. Then, he had Facebook build a lookalike audience of people who looked just like the people who came to that page on his site. All three of these additional audiences got Facebook ads served to them—again for a small outlay. (John creates these three audiences for almost every auction.)

This YoBerry shop was in a Buffalo suburb; but the Northeast doesn’t have anywhere near as many frozen yogurt shops as the South does. Texas, especially, is chock full of them. John’s budget didn’t allow him to mail to the whole national list, but he didn’t know where the biggest demand would be. So, I recommended he run the first round of Facebook ads and then use Facebook’s and Google Analytics’ geographic reporting tools to see the aggregate data for those who visited the auction’s page on his website. That would tell him which states to select from his list for direct mail reinforcement.

The plan worked. John ended up mailing the postcard I designed to 253 of the 3,000 or so purchased names, saving thousands of dollars in printing and postage. Hundreds of people visited the auction’s page. Grafe Auction found scores of registered bidders from multiple states.

So, here were our takeaways from this low-budget experiment:

• Skip newsprint, unless it’s an asset only with local value.

• Use Facebook to help you sort your direct mail list.

• Leverage lookalike audiences to find the people that list brokers don’t have in their database.

• Implement a Facebook pixel to re-market assets to the original prospects and/or to serve ads to people who look just like your early investigators.

• Follow the data, not your instincts or industry status quo.

This complete process may not work for you, if you don’t offer online bidding of some sort. The individual tools we leveraged, though, are tools we use every day for live and online auctions. In concert, they solve a problem auctioneers regularly face.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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174: 6 Things That Make Your Facebook Ads More Expensive

I regularly get asked to estimate the cost of a potential Facebook campaign off the top of my head. That can be difficult because the cost of advertising on Facebook can vary greatly depending on a multitude of factors. (Even in the same campaign, some ads are drastically more expensive than others.) Because what my clients and I advertise ranges greatly in category, value, and geographic market, the audiences vary accordingly.

Facebook advertising is billed in terms of cost per click (CPC), but that price isn’t uniform. CPC is determined by algorithms and invisible auctions. Ads compete for eyeballs, as Facebook allows only a certain number of ads during a user’s time on the service. Facebook wants ads to be appeal to its users, so that they aren’t annoyed off the platform. Because of this, the world’s largest platform wants paid content to match user interests as much as possible; and engaging ads are rewarded with lower cost per click.

But enough with the ambiguous factors, here are six specific reasons some of your Facebook ads cost more than others.

Unattractive asset

Let’s face it, you wouldn’t buy what you’re selling. You’re just crossing your fingers it sells. Or maybe the item at hand is less attractive to its local area (like a snowmobile in Orlando) or in the current season (like a motorcycle in December). If someone is less likely to purchase something, they are less likely to click on an ad for it. This isn’t a matter of asset value—just asset appeal. I’ve seen ads for small, rural estate sales significantly outperform expensive commercial real estate.

Unappealing copy or photos

You might have a fantastic asset, but the ad copy doesn’t evoke interest in potential buyers. The fault can be the wrong message, too many words, or a missing call to action. Also, the photography could be unprofessionally captured or otherwise underwhelming. It’s not that all images have to be snapped by commercial photographers; they just need to appropriately match the current, reasonable expectations of the consumer public for that asset.

Compressed time frame

Because ads compete for space, forcing them into a small window of time means that Facebook has to push your ads ahead of others with longer timeframes. To win the auction, you have to outbid every other advertiser. So, cutting line costs more. Sometimes, it’s very much worth it, if you are advertising to people at an event: say during the Super Bowl, a car show, or even a competitor’s auction.

Highly-competitive time frame

Certain times of year attract more advertising, because more retailers are advertising their wares. Think: Black Friday. I haven’t tested it, but I would imagine the week of Mother’s Day and Valentines would be more competitive. If you’re going hyper local in a metro area, there might be more advertising during festivals or perennial times of tourist activity.

Your prospect pool and its Facebook habits

Some desired audiences don’t interact with Facebook as often as others. That might be a factor of age, Internet availability, population density, or something else. Or you might be chasing a frequent Facebooker from a specific demographic or geographic area that a lot of marketers are chasing. Either way, supply & demand will make getting in front of them more expensive.

How the ad is optimized

Facebook offers multiple formats for your paid content to be presented. Each is inherently optimized by Facebook for different types of interactions—only one of which is getting people to your website. Also, even those intended for website traffic can be optimized for largest viewing audience, multiple views per prospect, or people most likely to click on links. So, even premium content can be more expensive from a cost-per-click standpoint due to how that content is ordered.

While we should all pursue more relevant ads, it’s important to note that efficiency is a secondary goal to effectiveness. Regularly, in my Facebook reports to clients, the ad that is most effective (got the most clicks) isn’t the most efficient one (lowest cost per click) we used in a campaign. Again, I regularly have huge swings in cost per click in the same campaign, using the same images and headlines.

Some audiences are worth their heftier cost. It only takes one click from the right person to have a buyer and two website visitors to have an auction.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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