Marketers know the ropes of online advertising: they know how to boost SEO, they understand the power of geotargeting, and they can do a pay-per-click analysis like it’s no big deal.
But advertising on Facebook is a whole different ballgame.
That’s because when people log on to the social network, their brains enter Facebook mode. People behave differently on Facebook than they do anywhere else online. And if your ads don’t reflect that difference, you’re operating from an expired field guide.
Whether you’re trying to improve conversion rates, get more page likes, or boost your installs, you need to know why people behave the way they do on Facebook. If you want people to click on your ad, everything from your images to your copy needs to reflect how the “Facebook brain” thinks.
Here are 5 ways to get you started.
1. Remind Them That They’re One in a Billion
Facebook has about 1.5 billion monthly users, each with a unique profile and network of friends. The site simultaneously asks users to assert their individuality (by posting photos and sharing statuses) and to conform to the crowd (by joining groups, liking pages, and sharing prescribed “life events.”)
Facebook users are constantly locating themselves within and defining themselves against their peers. And a well-crafted Facebook ad capitalizes on this mentality.
Call Attention to Social Norms
Research reveals that people tend to conform to social norms, especially when this behavior is positively reinforced.
Calling attention to these norms—and how the individual consumer measures up to them—has a powerful effect. One study found that issuing energy “report cards” to households along with their monthly energy bill significantly changed household energy use.
By indicating where consumers’ energy consumption ranked in relation to their neighbors, households who used more than the average amount decreased their usage. Turns out it is easy being green.
Take this Social Security Administration ad from Adespresso’s gallery of Facebook ad examples. It uses the “herd mentality” technique to encourage people to sign up for their service. The tag “Are you in?” presses people to conform to the group, but does so in a friendly manner.
Know When to Target
Facebook marketers can pinpoint a super specific audience. Tools like custom audiences and relevance scores let you narrow an ad’s scope based on consumers’ location, demographics, and even their browsing history. But a lot of marketers aren’t using these tools intelligently. While targeting can be an effective way of getting your message to the right people, it can also result in nasty backlash.
A recent study revealed that people got angry when they learned that their browsing, search, and shopping history had been used to target them. It felt like a violation of privacy, and resulted in a negative association with the brand that had targeted them.
No one likes being spied on.
However, the study also revealed that consumers don’t mind being labeled or targeted, so long as it’s to something with which they have a positive association, like being a voter, or an elite member of a service.
Whereas 40% of consumers reacted negatively to ads based on their search history, only 21% reacted negatively when they were labeled based on their interests, hobbies, and pastimes. In fact, about 43% of consumers liked it. Researchers posit that this happens because it targets peoples’ “aspirational self.”
The design site Touch of Modern used this research to target Star Wars fans (and made it sound like an exclusive club by saying their products are “only” for Star Wars fans). Because users had opted in to being a Star Wars fan, perhaps by liking the franchise’s page on Facebook, they were less likely to have a negative response to it.
2. “Like” Your Way to $220 Million
The “like” button is one of Facebook’s trademark and most-used features. By clicking it, users affirm their identity, their interests, and their tastes. Some sociologists posit that Facebook’s popularity is because it operates around social affirmation.
And while users have been clamoring for a “dislike” button, CEO Mark Zuckerberg is instead introducing a series of other reactions users can share (including “love,” “yay,” “wow,” and “sad”), largely because he wants to keep negativity out of the platform.
Even with the upcoming changes, there won’t be a thumbs-down icon. This information should impact your ad.
The Positivity Principle
Strong emotions stay with us. It’s why ads often try to invoke positive or negative feelings. Studies regularly show that we remember experiences based on the high point, the low point, and the end. Everything else is just fluff.
A number of successful Facebook ads are associated with joy rather than negativity, as it is closer to the Facebook brand, and much easier to “like.” This ad for the ALS Association, for example, capitalizes on an incredibly successful fundraising campaign: the Ice Bucket Challenge.
By showcasing joy rather than the pain associated with ALS, they draw Facebook users in… and maybe get you to dump ice water on your head.
The Big Benefits of Small Wins
Research consistently shows that consumers are enticed by small gains. Chunking big rewards into smaller ones gives consumers a positive feeling, even if it’s the same benefit they would have been getting otherwise. This ad for littleBits, for example, uses small gains to entice customers. It offers people a free lights bundle valued at $40, and free shipping.
3. Boost Conversions 17X by Nailing the Timing
Paying attention to the clock is an important way to influence consumer behavior. And it goes well beyond making sure your ads run at an optimal time of day.
The mere exposure effect tells us that the more people are exposed to an ad, the more they like it. But seeing the same ad over and over again isn’t the most powerful tool in your belt.
A study conducted by Facebook and the retail site Refinery 29 reveal that sequenced ads are significantly more powerful. Sequenced ads allow you to tell consumers a story. And they’re much more effective.
When Refinery 29 showed customers a series of different ads, rather than the same one over and over again, they had a much higher conversion rate.
Creating a sense of urgency is an old trick, but an effective one. Just as people use Facebook for a social calendar—allowing it to remind them of important events, anniversaries, or upcoming parties—you can use it to set a timer on when choices can be made.
This ad from Greenpeace tells people that they need to act now, using key words like “breaking,” “catastrophic,” “ANY DAY” and “before it’s too late.”
However, urgency only works when there’s a call-to-action. And right now, only 56% of ads use a CTA button.
One study passed out brochures explaining the dangers of tetanus, and instructed readers to get shot immediately. Both contained the same information, and readers had the same reaction, but only one group did anything about it: the group that was given a call-to-action.
4. Make Your Story Worth Following
Narratives are powerful. Not only do they draw us in to an ad, they allow us to attach emotion and meaning to numbers and figures. Making sure that your ad is playing the right role in the story is important.
Mind the Curiosity Gap
There’s a reason there’s so much clickbait online: people are drawn to it. It’s like a cliffhanger, asking readers to turn the page to find out what happens next. But there’s a great deal of pushback from sites that use the technique too often, or in inappropriate contexts, such as this CNN post that turned tragedy into clickbait.
The problem with clickbait is that people are building up a tolerance for it—and getting frustrated.
Take a look at this terrible Facebook ad for the site Get It Free. It promises something surprising by saying “You won’t believe what they sent me!” However, the image is of six jars of peanut butter and the text reads “Free Jif. Tap Here.”
So what did they send this person?
You guessed it: peanut butter. Not only is the payoff disappointing, it insults your audience’s intelligence.
But there is a way to create a curiosity gap that interests consumers without insulting them.
Titles or questions have the ability to pique users’ interest in the story, and make them want to turn the page. Using the curiosity gap (mindfully) is an excellent way to tell an interesting narrative, and get consumers to click through.
Nostalgia is Your Friend
Nostalgia is a big part of Facebook. It’s the reason people are interested in apps like Timehop, or the “On This Day” feature.
We love looking at stories about the past. And it’s a good way to get people interested in your Facebook ads.
This MTV ad, for example, gets people interested in a story: what the red carpet looked like in 1995. By enticing people with the promise of something that will really excite them—like the good old days—they can get users to click through to their page.
5. Make The Decision For Them—They’ll Thank You
Making choices can be difficult, especially when consumers are constantly asked to choose, choose, choose. Simplifying options in your Facebook ads—and offering helpful nudges—can take a load off the consumer’s back.
Avoid Decision Fatigue
Though it sounds counterintuitive, the relationship between choice and well-being is not linear.
Having a lot of choices can be stressful, and lead people to make irrational decisions.
This study examining voter behavior revealed that when people got to the end of the ballot, they made choices that didn’t align with their interests, purely because they were exhausted from making decisions.
But as it turns out, customers are happier with their choices when they select from a smaller pool. In a famous experiment, psychologists set up a table of jam samples outside a supermarket.
The first day, their display had 24 varieties of gourmet jam. The set up drew a large volume of people, but not many made a purchase. The second day, there were only six varieties. But people were more likely to buy. What’s more: they were more satisfied with their purchase.
This ad for Lay’s shows that consumers have a lot of options. Everyone likes some choice. But it doesn’t overwhelm them with 24 varieties, because it knows that sometimes, too many choices prevents us from making any decision at all.
Lay Out the Options to Build Trust
Facebook customers are definitely going to compare your brand to similar ones. They want to know how you measure up before they make a choice. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to do the work for them.
Trust is an incredibly important part of consumer behavior. Companies that admit a mea culpa after making a big mistake do much better in the long run. In fact, companies that admitted to their faults were more likely to have a higher stock price in a year than competitors who swept their mistakes under the rug.
Take for example, this Progressive ad that ranks itself as #2—and does it with a smile. They’re not the cheapest, but they have something else to offer you: trust.
Understanding behavior is tricky. There’s because a lot factors into why we act the way we do. But whether users are stalking an old friend, planning an event, or looking at car insurance pages, they’ve entered a Facebook-specific mindset.
Even though Facebook ads take up a small amount of real estate, understanding how this mindset works will help you design an ad that’s a real winner. Getting more people to click through to your site, sign up for your service, or like your page isn’t that hard—you just have to know why we like the things we “like.”