For a social media platform with nearly two billion daily users, there’s sure to be a lot of hype. This is especially true for digital advertising. The thought of placing ads in front of an audience as large and engaged as Facebook’s makes most marketer’s eyes light up. We understand the sentiment! As a digital marketing agency, we help a lot of different healthcare organizations use Facebook Advertising to drive serious results.
We also tell a fair amount of clients, new and old, that, despite the hype (or the perception that they need to be running Facebook Ads), Facebook Ads don’t always make sense. For healthcare organizations without a deep understanding of their digital maturity, budget, and goals, Facebook Ads can at best fail to deliver quality leads and, at worst, blow a modest marketing budget in a hurry.
What is Facebook Advertising?
Facebook Ads work the same as any other pay-per-click (PPC) ad: you’re only charged if someone clicks on the ad. All Facebook Ads campaigns run through the Facebook Ads Manager, where you can define the ad objective, customize your target audience, and set your budget. Your ads can appear throughout the Facebook experience, from video feed to marketplace and messenger. There are numerous types of Facebook Ads, including:
- Video poll
- Instant experience
- Stories augmented reality
Why Facebook Advertising Isn’t Always the Best Choice
It helps to remind ourselves that display advertising and paid social media are upper-funnel channels. That means the audience seeing your Facebook ads will likely be in the awareness stage. During this first phase of the buyer’s journey, your job is to make people aware that you even exist. That said, this is not exactly a “high-intent” target audience.
Why? Well, think about your own social media usage. You might hop on Facebook to check in on family and friends or scroll through various feeds (personally, I like to watch videos). You’re in the awareness stage, at most, and unlikely to have a product or service in mind at all. You might notice ads, but you’re not actively seeking a new dentist, plastic surgeon, or urgent care facility.
Organic search and paid search, on the other hand, are channels used by people at the bottom of the funnel. People at this stage are actively searching Google for specific healthcare services. It’s at this stage of the funnel that people perform high-intent searches, such as “Best dentist near me,” “24-hour urgent care”, or “physical therapy specialist”. These searches have high intent. They’re solution-orientated and local. The people performing them might be ready to click and convert today, right now.
Translation? You’ll return a lot more bang for your advertising buck by targeting this high-intent audience on search.
Not all healthcare organizations have the same budget considerations. If your marketing operation happens to have a limited budget, you need to make the right decision on where to invest it. And while Facebook Ads doesn’t have to be a total cost sink, it can create some runaway ad costs that could prove disastrous for smaller budgets.
There’s also your website to consider. When we get marketers approaching us about Facebook Ads, the first thing we do is evaluate their website. Because your Facebook Ads have to point somewhere, right? What hope do you have for strong conversion rates when you send click-throughs to a clunky homepage with no clear call to action?
Now, it is true that some brands use Facebook Ads to build brand awareness. While this can certainly be effective, building brand awareness does not immediately result in leads and revenue generation. Can your team withstand the budget outlay that’s needed to ramp up the kind of brand awareness campaigns that eventually create leads? If not, you’re better off focusing your budget on the channels and funnel stage that deliver real business results.
Whether you’re a small or large healthcare organization, you’ll have a lot more success with Facebook Ads if you take care of your paid advertising foundation first. This is definitely a walk-before-you-run scenario. Focusing on three core areas, to begin with:
Define what you want to be known for. We see even well-established healthcare organizations skip this critical step. Others think they’ve got their unique selling proposition (USP) nailed down. Without it, you’ll find it difficult to achieve consistency through your marketing activities (especially Facebook Ads). For more, read How to Define Your USP and Improve Your Healthcare Marketing.
Invest your time and money into your website and SEO. There’s no point in driving traffic to your website if it’s not ready or able to convert leads. If you have both Facebook Ads and a website overhaul on your to-do list, move your website up. Get your site structure and messaging right. Clean up redundant content. Optimize everything for SEO and conversions.
For more on how to get your website squared away, see:
- How We Analyze and Rank Websites
- What to Expect from a Technical SEO Audit
- Why Did My Website Traffic Decrease?
Build your organic social media presence. Before jumping into paid social, build your organic social presence in house. Identify the social media channels you want to have in your mix (Instagram? Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn?). Share the content you’re creating on your website, blog post, and elsewhere. You’ll need to build a strong presence on social media if you want your ads to be effective.
When Facebook Ads Work
Once you have a solid SEO foundation, strong organic social strategy and presence, and Google Ads delivering a consistent pipeline of action-ready leads, then it’s time to consider Facebook Ads. This assumes that you have the right budget! In our experience, you’ll need the budget to put a minimum of $2,000 toward Facebook Ads a month.
For those organizations that meet these foundational criteria, we find two Facebook Ads best practices to be particularly effective:
- Brand awareness campaigns: People need to know about you before they trust you with their care. Use custom audiences to create lookalikes of existing consumers, increasing awareness to qualified prospects.
- Use a full-funnel strategy: This means structuring your Facebook Ads campaigns around patient intent and awareness to move people towards conversion more effectively. We wrote a whole blog post about how to create a full-funnel Facebook Ads strategy.
We share because we care! Unfortunately, too many agencies will try to sell you on Facebook advertising, ignoring the fact that it might not be the best fit for your goals or marketing maturity.
This blog post is not meant to scare you, or to permanently steer you away from Facebook Ads. It’s meant to show you why you need to take care of a few things before diving headlong into Facebook Ads.
- Build a well-optimized website
- Churn out a cadence of solid content
- Start ranking well for target keywords
- Build your lower funnel pipeline
Once you’re well-rounded in these four areas, it’s time to consider using upper-funnel tactics like Facebook advertising. At that point, be clear about your objectives, including the max monthly marketing budget you’re willing to put toward Facebook Ads. What kind of return on investment are you looking for from that budget? You’ll want to be clear about that, too.
Otherwise, the quality leads you do generate (if any) will be unsustainably expensive. That’s at the very best. At the very worst, you’ll let the leash off of an underdeveloped Facebook Ads program—a recipe for runaway costs and poor results.
Who needs that?