NOW THAT FACEBOOK’S going public, I’ve been thinking a lot about FB and it’s power, and wondering
about FB ads and what exactly FB does for authors, or for any business for that matter.
While I do think it’s important, I’ve only bought three books from recommendations from FB friends, and never one from an ad.
Then again, I’ve never bought a book based on a book trailer (no matter how great the trailer is), the now ubiquitous Author trading cards or ads in Time Magazine or Cosmo for that matter.
I buy books based on the recommendations of close friends, other writers (I’m a member of Austin Romance Writers–a group with an obscene percentage of talented, successful published authors), author interviews and books from authors I already know I love (like Robert B. Parker–who recently died, dammit).
So I listened with great interest to an article on NPR’s All Things Considered, about the affect of an FB ad for a very good but out-of-the-way pizza place in New Orleans–Pizza Delicious.
The shop is a little hole-in-the-wall takeout window and open only two nights a week.
Their first idea was to target the friends of people who already liked Pizza Delicious on Facebook. But that wound up targeting 74 percent of people in New Orleans on Facebook — 224,000 people. They needed something narrower.
The Pizza Delicious guys really wanted to find people jonesing for real New York pizza. So they tried to target people who had other New York likes — the Jets, the Knicks, Notorious B.I.G. Making the New York connection cut the reach of the ad down to 15,000.
Seemed perfect. But 12 hours later, the pizza guys said “It was all zeroes across the board.”
Facebook doesn’t make money till people click on the ad. If nobody clicks, Facebook turns the ad off. They’d struck out.
So they changed the target to New Orleans fans of Italian food: mozzarella, gnocchi, espresso. This time they were targeting 30,000 people.
Those ads went viral. They got twice the usual number of click-throughs, on average. The ad showed up more than 700,000 times. Basically, everyone in New Orleans on Facebook saw it. Twice. Pizza Delicious got close to 20 times the number of Facebook fans they usually get in two days. The guys were stoked.
The campaign cost them $240 — almost $1 for each new Facebook fan they got from the campaign.
“Is that feeling of exhilaration worth $240?” the boys said. “I don’t know — hopefully that translates into new business.”
After a long night of asking every single customer where they found out about Pizza Delicious, not one said it was through Facebook.
But while Greg took the garbage out, he checked his phone. And there was a message:
“Just found out about you guys via a sponsored Facebook ad if you can believe it. Super excited about your new place — happy to toss in a few bones over the top.”
That guy kicked in $10 to support the new restaurant.
“And that was cool,” Michael said. “We got some return on our ad.”
That return — $10 on a $240 investment — isn’t much.
Maybe at some point, the new Pizza Delicious fans will show up and buy some pizza. But social advertising is so new that nobody knows for sure. It’s still unproven, untested and largely unstudied.
Some companies, like Ben and Jerry’s, say they have gotten a big return. Others say they haven’t. On Tuesday, GM said it was pulling its Facebook ads because the ads haven’t done enough to generate new business.
But, as Facebook roars through the cyber water in Google’s wake, it’s doing what Google did–collect information. It tracks your “Likes” your friends, and other information we’ll probably never know about. And that’s where the money is.
So until FB comes up with an advertising model that targets your core audience, I’m going to stick with chatting with my FB friends, who I value and appreciate, and will work at getting my FB “Fan Page” (though I really hate the “Fan” tag) up and running.
And I’ll put my money in books I love, and hope others do, too.