The effectiveness of targeted advertising on Facebook

  • It’s easier to ignore those right-hand ads, but Suggested Posts can be strangely compelling
  • It all depends on Facebook’s analytics, and being in the right place at the right time

The effectiveness of targeted advertising on FacebookFACEBOOK has evolved a lot over time. I was one of those who hopped onto the bandwagon early on, in 2007.
Back then it was simple. I uploaded photos (slowly, via the not-too-sophisticated upload method, and we could only do it one by one) and added friends sparingly as the rest of the population started discovering the new social network craze.
Fast-forward to today, 2013. Many things have changed – both for Facebook and for myself.
I stopped working a while back, quit my fast-paced and stressful job and settled to be a stay-at-home mom for the meantime (no, I am not a tai-tai).
Today, this popular social network is my tool to stay in touch with the world – with my family foremost, and then to catch up with the rest on what they are up to.
Even the way I am accessing it has changed dramatically – more on the mobile compared with back in the day when I did on the PC.
Which brings me to the topic of advertising.
When Facebook introduced ads on the right-hand side (when accessed through the computer), honestly, I never bothered to click. Ever. They do advertise interesting things, but I just never bothered. Back then, I was too busy working.
 The effectiveness of targeted advertising on Facebook
I’m still not interested in clicking on the ads now, despite the free time on my hands. It just turns me off knowing consciously that it is an ad.
Then, a miracle happened.
Magically, I would get ‘suggested posts’ on my timeline, whether I was on my mobile or accessing through my MacBook. Because of their positioning, I have no choice but to see the post.
Do I hate it?  No, not really.  ‘Hate’ would be too much of a strong word. Most of it is uninteresting, and I would just skip through it.
I suspect Facebook’s engine for analysing all this stuff is getting better because what I thought was impossible just happened to me … I ended up purchasing something!
How did it all happen? I saw a suggested post, which came out at least three times in different days over a span of two weeks. I got curious after seeing the significant number of likes it had and read some of the comments.
After its third appearance on my timeline, I finally clicked on the link which brought me to the advertiser’s website. I quickly breezed through the contents of the site.
Just at that moment, my three-year old daughter needed my attention and I abandoned my curiosity. However, that ‘suggested post’ had already succeeded in planting a seed of interest.
The suggested post I saw was about ordering a personalised CD. I have never been a fan of CDs. I rarely bought them at the store ages ago when they were all the rage.
 The effectiveness of targeted advertising on Facebook
This one was different though. It had the Disney Princesses singing and mentioning my daughter’s name in each song.
Parents are such softies when it comes to these things! Seizing the moment one quiet evening with my husband, I brought up the subject of what I saw.
I asked him to look through my Facebook timeline to check it out, and he looked at the linked site more thoroughly than I did. He then brought me the good news: Reasonable price and the possibility of shipping to Malaysia.
With that, the deal was sealed. He ordered online and we are waiting for the shipment.
It is amazing how a ‘suggested post’ works better than an ad on the right-hand side, when in fact both are paid-for ads in reality.

What exactly is a suggested post?
The ads themselves are simple and appear almost like a friend’s update, which makes us more receptive. The difference: There is a ‘Like Page’ tab situated after the username, and it displays statistics within a one-liner (number of likes, comments and shares). Right beside the quick statistics, it also declares in grey fonts the word ‘Sponsored.’
It works almost like a friend’s page: When you hover over the username, it shows you a quick pop-up preview of its thumbnail and cover photo, a miniaturised version of the top of the brand’s page.
A slight difference on the pop-up: You get to see how many Likes it has and how many people are currently talking about it, plus quick-action tabs: Like, Message and Invite Friends.
So, the question remains. Are the targeted ads via Suggested Post more effective?
Like in all things in life, it’s really about being in the right place at the right time. In this case, that ‘Sing Along With Elmo’ post hit the spot.
Anabelle Co-Martinent is an expatriate who loves the KL lifestyle. She carved out more than a decade of marketing with stints at companies like Microsoft, HP and Nokia, plus a short media adventure with BFM 89.9. She is currently enjoying her time off doing the things she loves and can be reached at her blog:
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