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Facebook Targeting Works Like 18th Century Newspapers

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Targeting is a concept in marketing that goes back to the beginning of media.

Even newspapers in 18th century America and elsewhere knew the concept of targeting — topically and geographically.

Topical targeting appealed to groups with a like-minded interest, especially politics. Geographic targeting of course reached out to the citizens in a town or city. The Boston Gazette, which lived from 1719 to 1798, obviously appealed only to residents of Boston.

Facebook targeting in that sense is no different than an 18th century newspaper.

Anyone who has built a Facebook page will get visitors to that page based on a common interest.

Businesses that advertise go through a process of setting up ad campaigns with a series of options that allow them to target based on interests, locations and demographics, i.e., age, gender and income.

What has been shown over and over again in marketing is that trying to reach an audience too broadly results in a diluted message with lower effectiveness.

Newspapers long have charged high advertising rates for their ability to reach mass audiences.

Advertisers had no choice but to use newspapers for decades, even centuries, because they provided the only vehicle to reach an audience.

“Facebook targeting in that sense is no different than an 18th century newspaper.”

Then radio, TV, magazines and cable came along, and they provided more refined and narrow forms of targeting.

Smaller advertisers could then spend less money for mass reach, see better results and get a higher return on investment.

Newspapers survived anyway because plenty of larger advertisers still wanted mass reach.

Online services such as Facebook have taken targeting to a much higher level and at the same time have provided a pricing strategy that traditional media couldn’t provide — cost per click. In other words, the advertiser only pays for a measurable response.

Facebook Targeting Strategy: A Tale of Two Pages

The following description is a real-life scenario of two Web sites owned by the same company. Both sites have their own Facebook pages.

The first site is a niche travel site with an English-speaking audience, meaning that it appeals to people not only in the U.S. but also Canada, Great Britain, Australia and anywhere else in the world where people can speak English.

Because of the broad international appeal of the subject matter, this site has intense competition in the same category.

It is probably no surprise that this site’s Facebook page struggles to pick up any likes, no matter how much it promotes the page. The page provides few clicks over to the parent Web site. The audience is low quality, and the return on investment is low as well.

The second site is statewide in focus and narrow in its subject matter. It has few competitors for the content it provides.

Likewise, it should be no surprise that this site’s Facebook page picks up likes without even trying. It even adds likes without posting to the page for weeks at a time.

The strategy lessons: breadth and high competition create a diluted message and diluted appeal. Narrow focus, depth and low competition create a targeted message and attract a loyal, high-quality audience.

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