For a long time, Facebook ads were the go-to for marketers looking to maximize digital customer engagement and get the most from social media in business. The platform promised precise targeting and insane reach, seemingly like no other. But, studies are now showing that those promises haven’t been kept, leaving marketers with the question: “is social media worth it?” To help you decide, here are some facts (and our take) on Facebook ads today. 

How Accurate Are Facebook Ads?

Before we can determine whether these ads are indeed worthwhile, we need to establish how accurate Facebook is at showing your ads to your intended audience. Well, on this front, we can take it from Facebook’s own employees; their targeting is not that great. 

In fact, an internal Facebook email that ended up being publicly circulated said this: “Interest precision in the U.S. is only 41% – that means more than half the time we’re showing ads to someone other than the advertisers’ intended audience.”

The email also noted that Facebook tells advertisers its platform allows them to target audiences with 89% accuracy, but the real accuracy figure is as low as 9%. That’s a huge disparity if we’ve ever seen one, and it feels like false advertising (pun intended).

What Type Of Advertising Are You Doing?

Accuracy isn’t the only factor to consider in this equation. The results you get are also driven by how you’re advertising and the goals you hope to achieve. If you’re a brand advertiser and are trying to increase awareness of your company, ad efficacy isn’t easily measured (and neither is the efficacy of audience targeting). So, you could end up directing a large portion of spend toward Facebook ads over time and getting poor ROI, without really realizing it until you’ve already spent a lot.

If you’re a direct response advertiser, alternately, you have better (and faster) insight into how your ads are performing. You can quickly determine whether Facebook’s audience targeting is getting the job done to your liking by seeing how many desired responses you get from your ads. If you don’t like the results, you can cut the spending.

Key Takeaways 

Facebook’s inaccurate audience targeting is a bummer, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s not even really that surprising. And, given that digital advertising is always changing, marketers must be prepared to adjust course when needed based on new information. That said, for the time being, here’s what we recommend with Facebook ads: 

  • Consider your overall marketing mix, and how much you’ve historically dedicated to social media ads (including Facebook). 
    • Were you able to determine ROI? If so, was it good? 
    • How did the ROI from your ad spend compare to the ROI from other marketing efforts? Based on this, could you reallocate in a more effective way? 
  • Take claims about Facebook ad targeting accuracy with a giant grain of salt (especially if the claims come from Facebook itself). If you’re expecting results that sound too good to be true, they probably are. 
  • All things considered, advertising on Facebook can still be useful. If you do pursue this advertising channel, we recommend exploring a direct response strategy so you can quickly measure whether the ad spend is worth it – and adjust if not. 
  • Remember to optimize your ads as much as you can on your own, including being more specific with your audience parameters,  as well as using audience insights and filters. 

Still wondering whether Facebook ads should be a part of your digital customer engagement strategy? We’d love to help!