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Social Media Marketing for Business

Dennis Yu


April 12, 2013

Why Your Facebook Ads Absolutely Stink

April 12, 2013 | By | 11 Comments">11 Comments

For the last 6 years I’ve run ads on Facebook (yes, all the way back to Facebook Flyers in early 2007), and it was fun to go head-to-head against traditional PPC players.

They would create hundreds and hundreds of ads meticulously over days, just like they’d do on AdWords, while I’d just create one ad in 10 minutes.

We’d wallop them every time.

Why Your Facebook Ads Absolutely Stink

No amount of multiplication of headline, image, and body woud make up for poor targeting and copy that wasn’t clever. One well-placed ad could drive more fans, better CTR, or whatever metric you wanted.

Using job title targeting, Facebook search ads, custom audience targeting, and all other forms of micro-targeting made it an unfair game to compete against folks who were used to selecting keywords as their only target.

The search guys would make their large batches of ads and then let them sit. The “set it and forget it” tactic works well in AdWords, since it’s not the same people searching those keywords from day to day. But on Facebook, we knew we had to rotate our ads every few days.

But in the last year, things have changed.

The newsfeed has become so important, as well as sponsored stories, conversion spec, the offsite pixel, putting paid media behind ad dollars, open graph integrations, email collection paths to conversion, and so forth. And the traffic costs a lot more now– no more penny fans, at least not in the US.

The newsfeed has forced us to become publishers who have to constantly write fresh “ads”. They’re not even ads, so much as genuinely interesting content that is worth sharing– or at least interesting enough to warrant filling out a form to get more info.

And because it’s so much harder to get into the newsfeed, we have to pay our way in. Then we have to run page post story ads to amplify user interactions on top of our page post ads. One of these is to get into the newsfeed– the follow-on is to amplify interactions from that exposure.

The net result of these interests multiplied against multiple postings and put into sponsored story combos is that we have to now create hundreds of ads if we’re going to be effective. Posts in the newsfeed live for 60 minutes, as opposed to a whole day, so we have to keep producing. We have to chain ads together to create impact.

Some people call this “programmatic ad buying”– the idea that we now need computer systems to generate ads based on rules, and that fuzzy logic can automatically find the look-alike audiences that we’d never be able to create manually.

We’re running ads for a fast food chain where the ads are triggered by the temperature hitting a threshold in any of the hundreds of cities they have stores in. We’re pulling in weather API data to trigger these targeted messages.

Another client has ads that automatically amplify posts that are especially engaging. We call this “throwing gasoline on the fire”. Nobody has the time to watch every post and hit the button if things get hot.

You could run ads that trigger when a competitor becomes active, so you could surf on their popularity. I’m sure you have some ideas in your head on what criteria you’d have your own ads trigger.

Dorothy, isn’t this a long ways from Kansas?

I’m excited to see how we can work together to help the small business community and agencies adapt to these trends. We don’t want to see the big guys have all the fun. Love to hear your experience with Facebook ads in the comments below.



Dennis Yu is the Chief Technology Officer of BlitzMetrics, a digital marketing company which partners with schools to train young adults.

Dennis’s program centers around mentorship, helping students grow their expertise to manage social campaigns for enterprise clients like the Golden State Warriors, Nike, and Rosetta Stone.

He’s an internationally recognized lecturer in Facebook Marketing and has spoken in 17 countries, spanning 5 continents, including keynotes at L2E, Gultaggen, and Marketo Summit.

Dennis has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Fox News, CBS Evening News and is co-author of Facebook Nation – a textbook taught in over 700 colleges and universities.

He’s a regular contributor for Adweek’s SocialTimes column and has published in Social Media Examiner, Social Media Club, Tweak Your Biz, B2C, Social Fresh, and Heyo.

He held leadership positions at Yahoo! and American Airlines and studied Finance and Economics at Southern Methodist University as well as London School of Economics. He ran collegiate cross-country at SMU and has competed in over 20 marathons including a 70 mile ultramarathon.

Besides being a Facebook data and ad geek, you can find him eating chicken wings or playing Ultimate Frisbee in a city near you.

You can contact him at, his blog, or on Facebook.