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Revenue & Features Editor, Co-host of Content Lab, 15+ Years of Writing and Teaching Experience
April 2nd, 2020
As COVID-19 continues to affect our daily lives, its impact is sometimes unexpected.
Paid ads on social media platforms, for example, are suddenly coming at a steep discount as some businesses pull their content and more at-home workers hang out online.
Facebook Ads expert Ali Parmelee explains what’s happening, what your business should do, and why this might be the perfect time to get started with social media advertising.
Facebook Ads right now
John: Can you talk to me about the paid ad landscape right now?
Ali: Things are certainly volatile and up in the air because the paid ads landscape has to take into consideration how businesses are feeling.
A lot of businesses instantly think "I'm going to cut marketing back," which we absolutely understand. You need to make the decisions that are right for you.
However, this is an interesting time. Some clients are absolutely on fire right now, and others are starting to see pullback.
So this is a time where we're going to see a lot of things shake out for brands.
Their humanity is important. What the post is important. It all affects their organic traffic and performance.
If people are liking their organic posts, we're going to see good engagement, which Facebook likes, and that helps affect how you do in the bids in the auction.
John: Is a sudden retreat a good strategy?
Ali: A lot of people have a knee jerk reaction: "I've got to cut back my paid social, my Facebook ads spending right now," but what they're not necessarily thinking about is all of the real estate, the inventory on Facebook.
The more eyeballs that are on Facebook, the more inventory Facebook has to sell.
If all of a sudden everybody is not at work and they have the ability to be on social media, you have doubled and tripled the "inventory" that's available.
More people are on the platform to see your ads.
And then, add to that the fact that other businesses may need to pull back, now you have extra inventory and less competition.
I absolutely have some clients who are feeling the pinch and others who are actually scaling up their spend because they are having some of their best days in months.
The paid ads landscape
John: Is what's happening on Facebook indicative of the broader marketplace? Are people who are working with Google ads or LinkedIn ads seeing the same thing?
Ali: So, I've been working really closely with our Google Ads Specialist, Jason Linde, on what he's seeing. There are some areas in which he's seeing similar things happen.
What we’re both telling clients is this: If you have to scale back, Google Shopping should be one of the last places we do it because it takes 30 days for it to normalize again after an abrupt reduction or stoppage.
You can't just cut your budget in half, because you're going to totally throw the algorithm for a loop and it's going to take time for it to normalize.
With Facebook, because the algorithm is always finding patterns, if all of a sudden you cut the budget in half or make any big moves, it's like a spinning top that just doesn't know which way to look first — and it takes time for it to actually recover.
Then when you start ramping back up, you're most likely looking at a total re-optimization, which could be four to six weeks to get it back to where you were. But Google can be way faster.
The numbers say its a great time to be running Facebook ads
John: So, what sort of discounts can be had right now?
Ali: It is actually a great time (if you can swing it) to be doing Facebook ads. I have a client who, during the holidays, saw CPMs up around $14.40. For the last seven days, it's down to $4.40. That is amazing.
John: Can you explain what a CPM is and how those numbers strike you, as an expert?
Ali: CPM is cost per impression or how much it costs you to reach 1,000 people.
It’s a key metric that we always want to watch. Think of it like billboards — you are potentially reaching 1,000 people for a certain cost.
The higher that goes, the more it's costing you to actually reach people.
To see the CPM be cut by more than 50% means we're reaching twice as many people for the same amount of money.
How businesses should proceed
John: If a company is currently spending to advertise on social media, what do you recommend they do now?
Ali: It depends on what their product is and what their services are, but one of the most important things to do is to be human. How can you help? Is there anything that you can do for people who are suffering or are scared?
We've seen some really good examples out there of people who are donating, who are volunteering.
I think because there is an understanding that since we are all in this together, there's a lot of understanding and leniency with brands.
We have a client who has showrooms they need to close down. They're interested in trying to do some virtual appointments but are worried that it's not going to feel really polished.
Our advice is it's okay if it's not polished.
Everybody understands you're pivoting and trying to keep your business afloat, and keep your employees. So, this is a good time to be creative.
We have another client who trains life coaches. Since their overall service is intertwined with mindset, they are launching group events on Facebook every weekday at 11 am including guided meditation, intention setting, and more.
Even if you have to pull back, you should leave your content amplification aspect of the strategy on to reach as many people as you can.
By doing that it allows us to keep all of those audiences primed that we've spent so much care and time building.
John: If you are not advertising on social media, is now a good time to jump in?
Ali: Oh yes, it definitely is. Start with just the basics. Make sure you have your pixel installed, and start building out some base level audiences.
Look at your Facebook engagers, Instagram engagers, all your website visitors, and your email list. Build those four simple audiences, create lookalikes off of them, and then you can be spreading your organic content out to both of those.
Focus on top of funnel and middle of funnel — just make sure you're staying top of mind with people and sharing good, relevant, and non-self-serving content.
John: I'm sure your advice about staying human and being sensitive is a blanket statement for all businesses.
Ali: Yes. Businesses are hurting, your customers are hurting. Remember that people’s worlds have flipped upside down. Make sure your messaging is sensitive to that.
At the same time, people need distraction, they need to shop and feel normal.
Businesses have to find that balance.
Ali’s advice for all businesses
John: Can you speak broadly, Ali, and give one piece of advice to all businesses out there right now?
Ali: I would say don't disengage. You need to stay relevant, stay top of mind. There are ways that you can help, even just for your own sanity.
And don't be afraid to put a face to the brand.
Don't just think, "Oh, well now I'm not in the office. I’m stuck in my house. I'm not going to do something." Everyone is just like you. News anchors are reporting from their kitchen tables and basements. We’re all pivoting and in this together.
Our advice is to talk to people about what you're planning. Stay engaged with everybody and I think it's going to make normalcy start to feel like it can come back.
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