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Five tips for effective Facebook marketing

By the time you read this article, hundreds of companies will have started turning prospects into customers by advertising for the first time on Facebook. Will your flight school be one of them? If no, ask yourself why not. It may be the most important marketing question you'll answer all year.

There are currently more than 4 million advertisers on Facebook, far more than any other social media site, and that number is growing every day. Many of these companies have been very successful with Facebook, making it a key part of their marketing program. Entire brands have been built on Facebook exposure, and thousands of companies have grown and prospered through judicious use of the platform.

Others have tried with mixed or poor results and have given up, choosing to go back to more traditional print and electronic media to deliver their marketing messages. For them, Facebook was a much-ballyhooed flop, delivering disappointing results and leaving sales pros and managers wondering what went wrong.

Just what is it that makes some Facebook marketing soar while other efforts go down in a fiery ball? The answer is complicated and often connected to poor messaging, unappealing offers, and/or bad targeting (e.g., trying to sell surfboards to Nebraska lumber jacks). Gobs of research have been done on just what works on Facebook and what doesn't, and entire books have been written to help get newbies (you?) going in the right direction.

Here are five ideas to help kickstart your Facebook planning and, importantly, avoid the risks and dangers that await the unwary advertiser venturing into the Class B airspace of social media.

  1. Have a goal. It’s surprising how many marketers miss this tidbit. Sure, your goal is to make more money, but that's not the goal of your Facebook advertising. Here your goal is smaller, more immediate, and measurable. Maybe your objective is to sell more introductory flights. Or maybe it's to promote a Learn To Fly day at your school. Or maybe you're promoting a free newsletter, or a contest to win that new Citation X. Facebook ads start with one simple goal. Whatever that goal is, write it down. Use it to assess how well your images and ad copy work to achieve that objective. A written goal forces you to focus your creative juices.
  1. Focus your efforts. Know your target audience. How old are they? How much money do they make? Where do they live? Have they ever posted anything about flying, or becoming a pilot, or airplanes? With Facebook, you can drill down to an almost scary degree to find just the potential customer you want—a prospect who touches all the bases for being a good target for your messaging. Avoid the temptation to go all shotgun here; Facebook and other online marketing provide the ability to target only those viewers who stand a chance of being a buyer. And, oh yeah, you only pay for those readers who fit your specified profile. No wasted dollars.

Keep in mind, however, that different campaigns can target different audiences. For example, one series of ads might target young people considering aviation as a career. Another might go after older folks finally able to realize their dreams of flight. Still another might reach out to women (a giant untapped market) who just need an invitation and reassurance that they are welcome in the pilot community. Whatever the case, make sure you tailor your message to your audience. Don't even think about pushing the go button on Facebook advertising until you have identified clearly defined target markets.

  1. Test, test, test. Once you've identified your target market(s), it's time to start testing your messaging. It's amazing how different headlines selling the same product or service can produce dramatically different results. Simple “A-B” testing is a good start. Let's say you want to sell more introductory flights and want to determine the best message. You could do two ads, one that said “Introductory Flight $99,” and one that said “Fly a Plane for Less Than a Hundred Bucks.” Run both ads on Facebook with a budget of $200 each. Both have to run during the same timeframe and in the same rotation, and feature identical graphics so you know it was the headline that made the difference. Keep track of the responses. This testing will help you refine your messaging and build more sales through science rather than just flying by the seat of the pants. 
  1. Have a compelling message. In the advertising world, headline writers make the big bucks. Why? Because if the headline doesn't grab 'em, nothing will. Poorly written headlines or weak marketing offers will bring a campaign down faster than water in the fuel tanks. Make it worth your viewers' time to read your message and consider responding to it. “Flight school” is a much weaker headline than “Learn to Fly Here,” which is weaker than “Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Pilot?” 

Certain buzzwords are tried-and-true attention grabbers. Sure, they're used a lot, but that's because they work. Words and phrases like “free,” “now,” “limited time,” and “trial” are powerful and should not be discounted because they seem trite. They seem trite because you've seen them a lot, and you've seen them a lot because they're effective.

 

The biggest sin in TV production is to be boring. The same goes for social media. Get creative, maybe even a little wacky. Use slang where appropriate, and humor is a great sales tool if done well. Creativity gets noticed, and being noticed means your phones will ring and your propellers will turn. Need help in this department? Hire a pro.

 

  1. Make it visual. Pictures are not only worth a thousand words, but they'll sell your services better, too. Use photos of airplanes and pilots, and lots of visual imagery that evokes a positive emotional response in your viewer. Going after career students? Show jets and young people in uniforms with epaulets. Older audience? Use photos of cockpits with backdrops of exciting places to fly. Match the imagery with your target, and make the photos as literal as possible; this is no place for subtlety or symbolism. Hit your target over the head with your photos. The internet is full of great photos you can rent. Good ones will cost a few bucks, but worth every penny. Google “stock images” and be amazed. 

In the second installment of this article, we’ll share five more Facebook marketing tips pertaining to budget, calls to action, videos, and tracking results.

William Woodbury is a flight instructor and freelance writer in Southern California. 

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