There’s a famous quote about advertising from early 20th century retail magnate John Wanamaker that goes: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

Not much has really changed over the last 100 or so years. Methods have changed. Media has changed. In fact, there’s been a huge dynamic shift in the way advertising is done. But there’s still an uncertainty that hovers over every dollar spent.

And, of course, one of the biggest changes that has taken place in the last decade is Facebook. One billion people are online everyday sharing their likes and dislikes, opinions, wants and desires, and little details about their life that the Mad Men guys would have killed for.

Still, even with all this data and information, it’s nearly impossible to know for certain if you are getting the most out of your advertising dollar. Some of your money will undoubtedly be “wasted” on Facebook, but by following some practical rules you can get something out of every dollar spent.

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An Ongoing Learning Experience

First of all, treat Facebook advertising like an ongoing experiment. Don’t just create an ad, set an audience, and sit back and wait for the results. Create a goal, formulate a hypothesis, and then get to work meeting that goal.

Setting a Goal

So how do you set a goal? The first thing to determine is what you want to achieve and how much it’s worth to you. Do you want people to click to your website? Or do you simply want your message in front of people? If you had to hand someone money to go to your website, how much would give them? A nickel? A dollar? You can search for industry standards and there are all kinds of formulas out there, but this is ultimately a very specific decision based on your particular goals.

Coming Up with Variables

The next thing you need are variables. And Facebook allows for a nearly infinite number of them. The trick is to find combinations that actually work. It’s amazing how much information people give out about themselves and how willing Facebook is to sell it you. Do you want to reach people 25-34 within a 10 mile radius of your store, who like to exercise, make over $50,000 a year, and own a pet? Facebook let’s you do that. You can tweak and adjust and try a thousand different combinations to find your target audience “sweet spot.”

Keeping Things Organized

Of course, it helps to keep it all organized. Say, for example, you want to know whether people who jog or bike are more likely to buy your product. Or maybe you want to know about people who own a dog or cat. Perhaps you’re even curious about women aged 29-32, who own a labrador, jog at a specific park, ride the bus to work, live within 10 miles of your store, vote Democrat, like a certain television show, and recently bought a new pair of running shoes.

You can see how keeping things labeled and organized becomes vital. If you’re not careful, you’ll soon have your variables in an almost impossible to untangle ball of yarn that is difficult to make any sense of.

Only Focus on Few Variables

With that in mind, try not to let yourself get overwhelmed by the number of choices in selecting your audience. There’s another old phrase in advertising: “Keep it simple, stupid.” This applies here as well. Start small and then begin slowly segmenting your audience based on results. Don’t dive in right away with twenty different variables. Gain knowledge as you go and build upon experience.

The Most Important Thing: Set a Budget

And stick to it! If you have 5 (pristinely labeled) ads running at $2 a day each, it might not seem like that much, but in a month that’s $300. It adds up quickly. You also have to realize that, right at the beginning, half your money is going to be wasted. You will be learning, of course, and figuring out your audience, but it’s not going to turn directly into sales. Treat it like an investment. Calculate the risk and ask yourself, “How much am I willing to invest and does the best-case-scenario outweigh the worst-case-scenario?”

The Old Rules Still Apply

Another important thing to remember is that the tried-and-true rules of marketing and advertising still apply. We may be using technology, but we’re still dealing with human emotion and basic needs and wants. You still need to tug on heartstrings, make people laugh or cry, and establish a real connection with people. No matter what the medium, the message is always paramount. You might even want to get a book on advertising and give yourself a basic overview of the fundamentals. Might I suggest: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confessions_of_an_Advertising_Man

Conclusion

Facebook itself has great resources and tutorials on how to use its advertising tools. You can learn all about them there. They also have pixels and codes and sequences to add to your website and track behavior. But this article is about practical ideas that can be applied to any campaign and help you get the most out of your Facebook advertising from the get-go. Facebook is an amazing tool for business, but if you’re not careful it can quickly become just another money pit.