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Facebook Exchange: Unstructured data mixes business with pleasure

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Real-time bidding for display advertising has truly been a game-changer for digital advertising. The ad exchanges offer lightning-speed auctions to give advertisers the ability to buy highly targeted ad inventory aimed at highly targeted customers on a per-impression basis. For b-to-b marketers looking to generate qualified leads and achieve strong ROI on media plans, RTB puts display advertising back in the media mix. Last year Facebook launched an RTB exchange called Facebook Exchange. Because the social media giant has more traffic than other exchanges combined, it offers significant reach. And it's very sticky: The average American spends almost seven hours on Facebook every month. Because Facebook runs in the background of our daily lives, the odds an advertiser's message will be seen on the site exponentially increases. Yet not every marketer has embraced Facebook Exchange for one reason: B-to-b marketers aren't certain that Facebook—which tends to have a personal, social connotation and seems more suited to b-to-c advertisers—can deliver quality impressions for their brands. But the reality is that Facebook is prime territory for b-to-b. After all, businesses are comprised of people, and many of those people increasingly commingle the professional and the personal on their social media sites. Many Facebook members not only connect with co-workers and clients on the site but follow companies they've interacted with and identify ideas to bring back to their workplaces. This means that Facebook potentially offers b-to-b marketers high-quality inventory with significant value, especially if advertisers have access to transparent data to show where conversions are taking place and why. The secret to b-to-b success on Facebook Exchange is smart data strategies. B-to-b marketers typically have many types of data they can use to craft relevant ads and serve them to the right user at the perfect moment. Virtually all Facebook Exchange ads use data for targeting; your efforts here will have nothing to do with social marketing. This is not a campaign based on Facebook "likes" and other behavior. Instead you'll be using first-party data such as site retargeting data, offline data such as CRM information, and unstructured data about your audience and their online behavior gleaned from search retargeting. Retargeting users through Facebook Exchange allows b-to-b marketers to combine audience data with Facebook's massive scale to reach more qualified, highly targeted prospects. Third-party b-to-b focused criteria such as title, relevant search terms or demographic data can also help you reach your desired audience, as can utilizing your own first-party data like previous clients, site visitors or people who've downloaded resources from your site. With the transparency afforded by unstructured data, you have insight into the recency of business-related activities, enabling a b-to-b marketer to separate business intent from personal intent and only target those who are more likely to engage with a b-to-b display advertisement. Yet, while data is the key ingredient in high-performing campaigns, marketers must understand basic best practices as well to maximize the value possible on the exchange. Consider these tips:
  • Use multiple types of data, such as first- and third-party data to target users in various stages of the purchase funnel.
  • Build appropriate attribution models that give Facebook Exchange ads credit for conversions.
  • Customize timing and recency to reach consumers in the right frame of mind and maximize your message's impact for the highest probability of conversion.
  • Mine transparent reporting for actionable insights to help you dial elements up or down on the fly, driving campaign performance.
  • Track conversions and use that data to optimize in real time, allowing spending to be allocated where it will have the greatest impact within the campaign.
  • Remember the necessity of testing and ensure that you have the budget to test and evaluate your campaigns. Don't let just one campaign determine whether the channel is a good investment.
In many ways, social media has merged the personal and professional digital landscapes, and this is nowhere as evident as it is in b-to-b marketing. By advertising to Facebook members, b-to-b marketers can enjoy the same opportunities their b-to-c counterparts have without sacrificing a profitable ROI. Frost Prioleau is CEO of digital advertising company Simpli.fi (www.simpli.fi). He can be reached at frost@simpli.fi.
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