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Focusing Facebook August 08, 2018 (0 comments)


What is Facebook?

To describe it in analogical terms, Facebook is a bulletin board. It’s a bulletin board that’s only shared between friends, but it shares essential similarities with the corkboard of yesteryear. Perhaps it’s the simplicity of the notion that appealed to people, or maybe it’s the way that the metaphorical bulletin board allowed friends and relations to comfortably share their innermost lives with each other, but regardless of the reason, Facebook is the power player of the social media sphere. Zephoria updated a list in February 2018, “The Top 20 Valuable Facebook Statistics”, in which several relevant facts about the social media site were presented: For example, there were over 2.13 billion monthly active Facebook users in the fourth quarter of 2017, which represents a 14 percent increase year-over-year. Seventy-six percent of all women and 66 percent of all men use Facebook. Fifty percent of millennials log onto Facebook immediately after waking up. One out of every five-page views in the U.S. is captured by Facebook. The takeaway for retailers should be that, regardless of the nature of Facebook, ignoring it is the equivalent of leaving money on the table. But how can retailers get a good ROI on their Facebook advertising? Too often, retailers assume that the simple process of purchasing advertising space through Facebook and slapping up any old ad will provide a sizable ROI, but nothing could be further from the truth. The most important factors for retailers looking to maximize their Facebook presence are: brevity, curiosity, call to action, honesty (or sincerity), imagery and videography, and localization. That may seem like a lot to keep track of, but when broken down step by step, the science of Facebook advertising becomes quite a bit more straightforward.


Brevity, as the saying goes, is the soul of wit. The Association for Psychological Science, in a July 2006 article, “How Many Seconds to a First Impression?”, claims that in the span of one-tenth of a second, human beings form value judgments about the trustworthiness and attractiveness of a subject. In other words, a Facebook advertisement has one-tenth of a second to assert its quality before an internet user moves on. AdEspresso, in its September 2015 study, “We Analyzed 37,259 Facebook Ads and Here’s What We Learned”, found that the median headline length for a Facebook ad was only five words long. So, “Delish Recipes for Blackberry Tarts” is, according to this standard, a far better title than “Find New Recipes for Blackberry Tarts by Following This Link and Reading More”, for example. The average Facebook ad, according to AdEspresso, has a median ad-post text length of 14 words, and a link description of 18 words. We understand that Facebook ad space is expensive, and the appeal of filling it with content is apparent. But alienating the attention of one’s audience is a constant risk on Facebook. The process of tightening the copy in a Facebook ad requires adhering to basic principles that editors have been successfully employing for generations: Omit needless words, for one. William Strunk Jr.’s “The Elements of Style”, a century-old style bible for writers and editors, contains the following: Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. When advertising, retailers should ensure that their writing selectively uses adjectives that evoke emotion (“courteous”, “astonishing”) or convey sensory experience (“glittering”, “fiery”). One should practice skepticism toward adverbs (words that modify adjectives or verbs, such as “quickly”, “very”, or “wonderfully”). And, at the root of all this, the retailer must remember that the copy serves to promote a product—don’t bury that product under irrelevant words!


A cocktail of the hormones cortisol, dopamine, and serotonin; the nucleus accumbens and caudate nucleus in the brain; and the memory and attention responses all work together to create that wonderfully human experience called “curiosity”. Curiosity is one of the most powerful human drives, and if the reader is skeptical of that, then, we wonder, what’s prompting the reader to continue reading this article? That jocularity aside, curiosity can be leveraged into a remarkably powerful tool for the retailer looking to advertise on Facebook. The “curiosity gap”, a term for a lack of knowledge that drives people to learn more, is an epistemic form of curiosity that people instinctively engage in to improve themselves. Consider the case of BuzzFeed, which has become a media powerhouse, thanks to its articles targeting the curiosity gap of potential readers. The titles of the top four articles on BuzzFeed ranked by reshares on social media are "Here’s The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read To Her Attacker” (> 1.8 million reshares), “18 Photos That Won’t Make Sense To Sisterless Families” (> 1 million reshares), “24 Dump Dinners You Can Make In A Crock-Pot” (> 800,000 reshares), and “The 61 Best Teacher Memes On The Internet” (> 600,000 reshares). Social justice, family, food, and comedy. Those are the four themes of these articles, and there’s little to no connectivity between them. And yet, these posts on BuzzFeed were all shared hundreds of thousands of times between people. The common element here isn’t thematic; it’s buried in the very titles of the pieces—they all promise to sate some deeply instinctual curiosity held by the readers. A retailer’s Facebook ad can take advantage of the curiosity gap by using a headline that creates or speaks to a question in consumers’ minds. For the jewelry industry, that can take the form of common questions that people have about materials used in the construction of jewelry. For example: “15 Special Reasons Why Diamonds Have Their Unique Inner Fire”—or something along those lines that invites a potential customer to scratch their innate urge to know.

Call to Action

The reader may have heard of something known as “the bystander effect”, which is a psychological phenomenon in which bystanders who witness crimes, accidents, or catastrophes neglect to come to the aid of the injured, even if it’s within their ability to do so. While knowledge of the bystander effect isn’t necessarily relevant to Facebook ads, the psychological solution to the effect is: Psychologists have discovered that one of the simplest cures for bystanderism is to target individuals, rather than a group, and make specific demands of them, such as picking a person from the sidewalk and telling him or her to call for an ambulance. Psychologists Rosemary K.M. Sword and Philip Zimbardo Ph.D., who wrote the February 2015 article “The Bystander Effect” for Psychology Today, note that when people feel like they’re part of a large group, the individual feeling of responsibility to do something diminishes. A similar phenomenon happens with ads on the internet—when ads make a vague or generalized request, the targets do not feel as though they are specifically asked to respond. Retailers must include a strong call to action in their Facebook ads that feels as though they’re speaking to an individual and making a specific demand. For instance, instead of saying, “Do you think this is a perfect ring for a wedding?”, the retailer may profit more by simply adding a strong call to action that makes a specific demand, such as, “Do you think this is a perfect ring for a wedding? Click ‘like’ if you think so!” Momentus Media, a social media consulting firm, compared 49,266 Facebook page posts, comparing interaction rates for posts that called readers to action by asking them to “Like” and “Comment” to those that didn’t. Surprisingly, only 1.3 percent of the status messages had a call to action attached, yet the small percentage of “demanders” showed a 216 percent boost in their interaction rate. While designing aspects of one’s ad, the simple step of adding a call to action “button” of some kind (not simply a naked link) may prove a profitable addition.

Honesty (or Sincerity)

People love being promised the moon, but to follow up on that promise by giving them a MoonPie is only going to make them furious. It’s almost axiomatic that human beings prefer trustworthiness to insincerity, but too often retailers forget that fact when they’re attempting to present their business in the best light. Modern advertising, particularly on a bastion of personal expression like Facebook, is served better by retailers treating potential customers like they’re friends or colleagues, rather than targets for a sale. Retailers can ask themselves this simple question: “Is what I’m saying true?” Consumers may not have an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject at hand, but if something seems off, the skeptical mind will respond with immediate hostility, rather than doing the research for more information. According to the Carl Obermiller-, Douglas L. MacLachlan-, and Eric Spangenberg-authored paper “Ad Skepticism: The Consequences of Disbelief”: Study 2 [of the experiment] supported the hypothesis that informational appeals are less effective with high skeptics than are emotional appeals. Thus, advertisers may be advised to avoid direct informational approaches to skeptics in favor of emotional appeals, which were shown to work equally well for high and low skeptics and no worse than informational appeals for low skeptics. Skeptics are not immune to advertising. In addition to an openness to emotional appeals (Study 2), Study 1 provided limited evidence that high skeptics respond well to products for which they are highly involved. … The implications for advertisers, however, may be limited, suggesting merely that marketers have special need to find ways to show how their products are important and relevant to skeptical consumers. This study shows that not only do customers respond poorly when faced with an “informational ad” that’s short on legitimate information, but even skeptics respond well when faced with an ad that motivates them emotionally. In a Facebook ad, this can take the form of a presentation of positive (and true!) statistics related to one’s business—positive quotes from customers, awards from one’s local Chamber of Commerce, and so on. Relatability, responsiveness, and a sense of vulnerability are key to generating ties between advertisers and potential customers—those putting an ad up on Facebook need to understand that by treating their ad like a piece of commerce, there’s little incentive for a potential customer to connect with it. By putting oneself on the same level as a potential customer, that individual feels less alienated by being sold to. Thus, to cultivate humanity, retailers must first begin by understanding the “face” they’re presenting to their potential audience.

Imagery and Videography

Human communication falls between two poles: “visual” and “verbal”. Social media, as a product of communication, takes advantage of this dichotomy like any other interactive media. So far, we’ve discussed Facebook ads from the “verbal” (which includes written language) perspective. However, Facebook is a strongly visual medium too, and neglecting the pictorial aspect of one’s ad can have the same effect as neglecting the words. There are many successful strategies that can be utilized to not only create a Facebook ad’s aesthetic, but to keep it fresh with every iteration. However, many of these strategies boil down to a common factor: A great aesthetic design is one that draws the eye and stimulates customers’ interest in one’s product. One of the most important factors is the use of humans in one’s imagery. The November 2013 article “Faces in advertising and on packaging: what effect do they have on consumer behaviour?” from Lexology highlights that among human faces, there are three major categories that draw interest: attractive men, attractive women, and babies. What should be of interest to retailers is the fact that, while most men in the audience are drawn to images of attractive women, that isn’t the case for most women; most women are drawn to images of attractive men. Paradoxically, it seems, jewelry retailers (in selling a product to women) should think about adding attractive men to their Facebook ads. Additionally, the retailer should keep in mind the color utilized in an ad. A paper from Volume 44, Issue 6 of Emerald Insight, “Impact of color on marketing”, informs readers that up to 90 percent of impulse decisions made about a product can be traced back to the colors used in that product’s design. One may find success in picking jewels, precious materials, and model accoutrements that spark a desired response in the audience. In general, colors can be divided into warm colors (red, yellow, orange), cool colors (blue, green, purple), and black and white. But beyond that generalization, specific colors trigger different responses. For example, white is associated with purity, cleanliness, and calm; whereas purple is associated with creativity, intelligence, and regality. Also, the retailer should ensure that the chosen image is striking. The methods of creating a “striking” ad are too numerous to list (which is ultimately a positive for retailers, since it allows them a myriad of opportunities to try something new to shake up their Facebook ad), but there are some elements that are frequently used by powerhouse advertising agencies to make ads, including minimalism, exaggeration, illusion, and appeal to the emotions of the viewer. Aesthetic experiences that are genuinely unexpected trigger a sense of play and pleasure in the minds of people who go through those experiences. It may be an obvious thing to state, but retailers should always make sure that their images are optimized for Facebook. Images should be the highest resolution possible, uniquely selected for Facebook (rather than cribbed from the retailer’s other social media accounts), and appropriately sized for Facebook on both desktop monitors and mobile-device screens.


In 2014, then-Prime Minister of the U.K. David Cameron spoke to workers at a John Lewis store in Cheadle, near the city of Manchester. Cameron offhandedly said that he preferred shopping at Waitrose supermarkets, which are regarded in the U.K. as a “high-end chain”, because he regarded the chain’s customers as “friendlier” and “thoughtful”. Cameron continued by saying that he only shopped at his local Sainsbury’s (another U.K. supermarket chain, this one commonly regarded as a choice for “everyday people”) because there weren’t any Waitrose stores near him. The response from the public was immediate and scornful, with a huge segment of the country decrying the prime minister’s comments as classist, out-of-touch, and snobbish. While this article isn’t about U.K. politics or supermarkets, the backlash against Cameron speaks to a larger trend in human nature that’s relevant to those designing advertisements: “Know your audience.” Fortunately for the owner of a jewelry retail store, the process of localization is only as difficult as taking a step outside and talking to the people of the local community. The benefit of localization in Facebook ads is tied to the fact that Facebook is a deeply “community based” social media site (as opposed to one like Twitter, which is more “globally” oriented). The network created by a person through Facebook tends to include the local social circle directly around that person. Therefore, when a retailer utilizes Facebook ads that target a given percentage of a local population, it can safely be inferred that the information will be disseminated through a wider social network that is also local to the retailer’s brick-and-mortar stores. Facebook ads can bridge the gap between digital marketing and brick-and-mortar sales. Facebook, according to its own sales pitch, can be used to host ads and company pages that promote special offers, which can be invaluable for a jewelry retailer looking to tailor special sales to the traditional “jewelry” holidays, such as Christmas, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, and birthdays. The Facebook environment also provides a sense of legitimacy and “small-town” sincerity to one’s business, particularly because Facebook pages can respond to local events (such as graduations, local sports-team victories, and so on) and offer contact information for local customers. Additionally, Facebook allows a retailer to assist customers in the local environment more easily share information through their interpersonal networks. Understanding localization also means understanding the language and culture of a given area. For example, while 237.8 million Americans are “English only” speakers, 40.5 million Americans are Spanish speakers. Working in an area rich with “hispanohablantes”—such as the majority of New Mexico, Miami, and Los Angeles—means that it’s good policy to open the door with Spanish-friendly ads and pages on Facebook. Or, the reader can consider the “Coke/soda/pop” divide in American English, which is linguistic shorthand for the major regional divides in the country’s “Englishes”: Southerners are likely to call sweetened, carbonated beverages “Coke”; Northeasterners and Southwesterners, “soda”; and Midwesterners and Northwesterners, “pop”. These are merely linguistic examples, but understanding how one’s community speaks is fundamental to saying the right thing to the right people.


Using this article as the first step into understanding the intricacies of Facebook ads, retailers can utilize this information as a jumping-off point for deeper examinations of using the “digital bulletin board” to the advantage of their jewelry retail business. The next step is turning to the analytic tools offered by both Facebook itself and by third-party sites to understand how certain demographics are interacting with one’s offerings. But the reader shouldn’t jump to the statistical-technological aspect of ad design without the fundamentals that we’ve discussed today: A retailer’s ads and page must be aesthetically designed, tied together, and accessible to local shoppers (both off- and online). With that focus in place, well-prepared readers can begin to see a good ROI on their Facebook experiments—and we wish them good luck!

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