Tips for Facebook Advertising During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Adding to all the ways that COVID-19 has impacted our lives, the virus has also transformed the digital landscape. Going out to bars or restaurants is no longer an option, so users and consumers are naturally spending more time on social media.

Businesses are also rethinking their marketing MO. Incentivized to tighten their purse strings, they’re reassessing and cutting back paid social. As a result, industry giants like Facebook have reported slumps in their ad-based revenue.

These shifting circumstances raise the question of what the protocol should be with paid ads. With no precedent to refer to, and with businesses offering a disparate range of products and services, there’s no single answer.

While companies shouldn’t disengage entirely, they should be ready to pivot. With Facebook specifically in mind, this article seeks to help you navigate paid marketing campaigns during this crisis.

Understand the Landscape

First, let’s examine the state of Facebook advertising.

Analysts report that Facebook’s cost-per-thousand (CPM) — the cost for your ad to reach 1,000 users — has dropped by 35–50%. This means that if you had a budget for paid advertising, you can now reach up to double your normal audience with the same amount of money.

In what Facebook Ads expert Ali Parmelee calls a “knee-jerk reaction,” many businesses are also pulling back their paid advertising in response to the crisis. As a result, there’s increased “real estate” because there are less ads that take up the digital space you’re competing for.

Another critical part of the equation is a boost in social media engagement. With the elimination of outdoor activities and social gatherings, some regions even report a 30% increase in Facebook usage.

To summarize: ads are cheaper, there’s less competition, and there are more people to see your ads. These aligning conditions suggest that it’s an optimal time to be investing in Facebook ads.

That being said, the expert cited in the Wall Street Journal recommends spending to goal instead of to budget. Rather than depleting your funds, you should save money for later in the year when ad prices may shoot up again.

Pursue Brand Awareness

Despite reduced competition and increased ad reach, conversion rates are still likely to drop. With the future being uncertain, consumers are driven to be more careful with their spending.

In light of that, we recommend shifting your strategy to focus on brand awareness, which one marketing expert describes as a “low-cost objective”.

Brand awareness ads are a recent addition to Facebook’s ad platform. They work to create brand recall within your target audience by generating as many impressions as possible and testing users’ ability to remember the ad.

Brand awareness campaigns keep your brand top-of-mind, even when customers aren’t purchasing. You’ll benefit from increased brand recall when things return to normal. These campaigns also yield results for only a few cents, so they’re an attractive choice for when you need to scale back your budget.

Adopt Reactionary Strategies

Volatile times mean that businesses must adapt to changing circumstances. Be ready to take an alternative approach if your usual marketing protocol is disrupted.

For example, if your business is slow or currently closed, switch from promoting immediate sales to collecting new leads via email marketing. Emails and newsletters will keep your audiences engaged and up to date, even if you aren’t operating as usual.

Take advantage of Facebook lead ads, which collect information from qualified leads. Facebook pre-populates most of the sign-up form, so people are more likely to finish opting in for emails. This will help foster an audience that you can remarket to at a later date.

It’s also a good time to prioritize remarketing campaigns, especially if you’re an e-commerce or food delivery business. Studies indicate that 75% of online shoppers abandon their shopping cart before completing the purchase.

Remarketing campaigns are a great way to successfully push on-the-fence customers through the funnel. User-specific discounts and promotions for free shipping are bound to be effective in reengaging previous site visitors.

Be Human

A crisis calls for a heightened sense of humanity, even from businesses and corporations. Consumers will appreciate messaging that’s sensitive to the current climate.

The New York Times cites a consulting firm’s chief executive who effectively illustrates this point. “People don’t want to see, say, a Pantene ad next to their loved one who is in the hospital.”

To revisit Ali Parmelee’s advice, the expert urges businesses to find the balance between providing users with distraction and offering COVID-related support. Highlighting the universality of the current struggle, she reassures businesses that it’s OK if their makeshift virtual appointments and relief initiatives don’t seem polished.

By changing your approach to one that’s empathetic and compassionate, you’ll ultimately win the trust and loyalty of your customers. Offering real value in a time of need will benefit your business in the long run.

Adapt and Pivot

Facebook advertising currently offers businesses a rare opportunity for increased exposure in a less competitive arena. That being said, it’s unwise to carry on business as usual. Instead, reorient your marketing operations to accommodate what makes most sense for your brand in the long run. Take heed of both financial and human perspectives in crafting your campaigns.

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Emily Landkamer
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