What We've Learned About Facebook

It’s no secret that the financial world wants to embrace Facebook, but there aren’t many companies figuring out the art and science of using the platform within your vertical, or for that matter how to reach the 50+ demographic. And if they are, they might still be in an initial experimentation phase and have not yet developed best practices. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about the benefits and obstacles of the platform, and most importantly, what it takes to deliver results in the financial services industry.


Why have we invested our time and energy into Facebook?

We know Facebook is a huge platform: 65% of people between the ages of 50 and 64, and 41% of people 65 and older are on Facebook,[1] And, this percentage grows as the demographic becomes more tech-savvy and wants to stay connected with kids and friends who move away – The number of American 65 and older on Facebook had doubled in the last seven years.[2] In the financial industry specifically, it’s important to note that college educated and high income earners are also more likely to use Facebook: 75% of people making $75,000 or more are on Facebook, making it a viable platform to reach the high-net-worth demographic.[3]

It’s a powerful platform for several reasons: Facebook use becomes habitual – 74% of American Facebook users visit the site daily, and just over half of those go on multiple times a day. This means the likelihood that you’re reaching someone who is “in market” increases tremendously. Facebook users also have an emotional attachment to the platform based on the content, not to mention that they literally hold it in the palm of their hands.

Unlike other mediums like TV and radio, there is limited commercial clutter on a user’s newsfeed, which is mostly made up of this emotionally engaging, personal content. And, it’s an extremely targeted platform; you can pinpoint-target users based on a variety of interest and demographic filters like age and location for specific, personalized messaging.


So what role does Facebook play in the grand scheme of marketing?

First and foremost, we look at Facebook much like other platforms, as a reach and frequency platform to help guide lead capture. We consider when the best times to post are, how people engage with an ad, and take advantage of when users experience an important event, like a birthday. We’ve run special ad campaigns around peoples’ birthdays as a way to target people who are hitting important age benchmarks in the financial business. For example, using a free content offering specifically for people turning 59 and a half (the age at which you can start withdrawing from a retirement account without penalty) we can engage people who we may not reach on radio, or with mailers.

Affordability is another big benefit: It’s far less expensive than advertising on radio, TV, or through direct mail, and we can still reach a specific section of a large audience using Facebook’s filters. It’s easy to supplement radio, TV, and direct mail advertising with Facebook, and sometimes it’s not so much a matter of increasing a budget, as carving out a relatively small portion of it to use on Facebook. Right now, our advisors are spending way more on radio than Facebook. According to the law of diminishing returns, adding to an already large radio budget won’t help much, but adding the same amount to the Facebook budget could have a huge impact.

Along with its strengths, Facebook has its obstacles like all other platforms. It takes a significant amount of time to manage ad campaigns and keep up with the constantly changing algorithms: What worked well for one campaign could deliver different results for another a month later, making it hard to make promises about how effective a campaign will be. And, since every market is so different, predicting how a similar campaign will do in another market is even more difficult. But despite these variables, we have determined factors we know make an ad more likely to attract prospects.


Good creative is important

We always hear that attention spans are shrinking, and the fact that Facebook users spend an average of 2.5 seconds on a piece of content viewed on desktop, and only 1.7 seconds on content viewed on mobile supports this.[4] This means that it’s important to immediately capture someone’s attention with a bold, short statement that has a similar affect to a “breaking news” headline. Possibly even more important than an attention-grabbing text are the visuals. With such a short view rate, a high quality, authentic image is important. We also make sure our ads look as good on mobile as on desktop, since 88% of users regularly view Facebook on a mobile device.[5]


Continuing to develop best practices

 Advertising on Facebook is part art and part science, and with that in mind we’re continuing to perfect our approach. Unlike radio and print, you can see how an ad is doing in real time and change it. The mechanics of Facebook makes it “easy” to actively A/B test all campaigns and adjust accordingly. By monitoring campaigns on a daily basis, we’ve gained valuable insight into what makes a Facebook ad successful. At the end of the day, we want to get more leads for our advisors at the lowest cost possible.