by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Do you market your ag operation on social media? If you do, the quality of your content greatly affects its efficacy. Ashlie Woods, account manager with J. Scott Marketing, presented “Pro Secrets to Killer Social Media Ad ROI” as a recent webinar on the topic.

Woods began by asking, “Why should you consider Facebook and Instagram ads?” Cost is a big factor, as these are cheaper than other forms of advertising. They also reach more people, as “organic reach” continues to decrease, meaning fewer people repost things they see on social media.

Woods added that social media ads allow marketers to target the right people. Plus, the competition is advertising on social media.

“They’re getting in front of your customers and potentially stealing them away if you don’t have social media ads,” Woods said.

Social media ads offer plenty of benefits. You can set your budget and get tons of data on ROI, Woods noted. The real-time data can show how ads are helping or not helping the business.

“Ads can drive website traffic, capture leads, build your email list and remarket to your website visitors,” Woods said.

A good ad has a clear, strong message; a quality, compelling image; a descriptive headline (for Facebook ads only); and a call-to-action (CTA) button which leads users elsewhere, such as to your website.

The layout of the ad is important. “If you have too much of your image with text overlaid on it, Facebook will reject your ad,” Woods said. “They want you to be succinct with your text.”

Woods advised creating a sense of urgency on any action that users should take, such as a limited-time offer for something the users want – a sale that ends in a week or a gift-with-purchase for buying a certain amount of items during the season. But make the benefit clear.

“Make sure the content you’re spending money on has a clear message. What do you want to tell the viewer?” Woods asked. “And a clear call to action – what do you want the viewer to do?”

She said ads should use quality images, correct spelling and information and promote topics that affect the bottom line.

“If you go to your Facebook business page, you’ll see a bright blue button, ‘Boost Posts,’” Woods said. “Sometimes it says ‘Promote.’ You’ll then choose your objective, like sending people to the website, or getting people to like, comment or share. It could be creating a new audience.”

Targeting for boosted posts can break down the audience by gender, age and location and further by demographics, interests and behaviors. For example, if the target market is local women aged 25 to 55 who have children at home and are interested in wholesome, local food, a producer can target them with pinpoint accuracy instead of randomly advertising to everyone.

Woods said the ads manager structure begins with the campaign: What is the objective? Next are the ad sets. Who are the targets? For a farm, the objective may be to raise awareness of its CSA shares. The targets of the ad sets may be families interested in eating local foods and organizations interested in supporting local businesses.

“You want people to recognize your brand or reach a lot of people,” Woods said. “The reason why Facebook has you choose that objective is their algorithm chooses who will see the ad.”

The Custom Audiences feature works like Google Analytics and tracks activity on the website. Woods said this can offer remarketing possibility, insights into who is visiting the website from Facebook and Instagram and it will work with or without ads.

“You know they’re interested in your product because they’ve been to your website,” Woods said. “You can also create a lookalike audience from your customer list. That will find people on Facebook who are most similar to the profile of your business shared data like your email list. You can upload your email list to Facebook to find people in the same demographics and behavior. That’s how Facebook builds the lookalike audience.”

By engaging with followers, businesses can reach people who have connected to the business in the past.

For those new to social media, Woods said to wait on running ads until they’ve posted content for three to six months. “Facebook won’t know enough about your audience” before that, she said. She noted it takes Facebook at least 24 hours to populate a Custom Audience.

Once an ad posts, “let it run a couple of days, go back in and tweak it a little bit. We see a huge drop in the cost of running these ads,” she said. Changing it too soon will not allow time for user response.

“It’s critical when you’re investing in Facebook marketing that you build in time to analyze your results or you’re leaving money on the table,” Woods said. “You’re empowering your team to get better results at a lower cost.”

Results of an ad can be measured in reach per impression, click-through rates and engagement. Engagement may include likes, shares, comments or clicks. “Click-through rate is a good measure of ad quality,” Woods added. (This shows who clicks on an ad.)

“Engagement is really important for the social media algorithm,” Woods said. “The average for Facebook is 0.9%. If you have 1% or higher, you’re above average. You want a lower cost for results.”