Facebook offers small businesses greater access to potential customers than any other social network in the world. With more than 1.23 billion users, Facebook has an enormous user base (1). As that audience has grown, so have the options for advertisers that want to reach them.
Facebook started out as a social network for college students back in 2004. Now, more than a decade later, the platform is used by almost everyone who has access to the Internet. Although the company does not release official data about its most popular age groups, a Pew research study suggests that Facebook reaches a mature audience with nearly 71 percent of adults online using it (2). Although usage tends to be lighter with groups on both ends of the age spectrum, marketers can now reach significant audiences of varying characteristics.
Before you can understand the advantages of Facebook advertising, you should examine how it compares to other online advertising platforms. Facebook's greatest competitor for ad dollars is Google Adwords, on which a business can buy advertising messages to display in search engine results pages (SERPs) when a user searches for a product or service. This method of advertising is called demand fulfillment (3) - the user searches for something, and the business offers a solution that the user will hopefully buy.
The first challenge with demand fulfillment advertising is that the number of related keywords that users might use to search is usually limited, and because of this, businesses often have to bid on the same keywords, which drives up the cost to advertise. The second challenge is that businesses can only market their products and services in the moment a user has an existing demand.
Facebook advertising, on the other hand, uses a demand generation model where businesses can target users based on a variety of attributes - including age, gender, interests and careers - instead of what they are searching for. An average Facebook advertising campaign often costs less than search based advertising, and it offers a greater variety of campaign goals.
Facebook offer three basic tools that allow businesses to reach consumers. Each one serves a different purpose, and many businesses combine them to maximise their efforts:
Facebook isn't just a powerful network for reaching new and existing customers. It's also a versatile marketing tool. It allows you to mold your approach around the unique aspects of the desired audience, the goals for your business and the budget you have. As Facebook marketing has matured, the time for dabbling has passed for most industries. Facebook is quickly becoming an indispensable component of business growth, and companies that invest the time to learn it will have a competitive advantage in social media.