The Content Strategist

The Marketer’s Guide to Facebook

Table of Contents:

Introduction

I. The Evolution of Facebook

II. Facebook’s Role in the Marketing Universe

III. Crushing It on Facebook: A How-To

IV. Facebook in the Future

 

“The Age of Facebook has only just begun.” — Ben Thompson, Stratechery

When you search for case studies on Facebook’s advertising page, one thing in particular sticks out: the diversity of companies. Best Western, Scotiabank, Obama for America, Activision… Sure, these are the kind of advertisers you might expect. But then there’s also Race the Reaper, an extreme race event; Delaware River Railroad Excursions, which sells steam-train tours; and Morgan Miller Plumbing, a family-run Missouri plumbing business.

And that’s only one page.

Scrolling through these case studies, it becomes clear that Facebook has become an advertising platform for just about everyone. That’s partly because a large portion of the world is on it—one out of every five people, to be exact. It also doesn’t hurt that the social giant drives 38.2 percent of all traffic to content sites, eclipsing Google, according to a recent report by Parse.ly.

Add the dominance in mobile time spent that Facebook holds over the coveted 18- to 34-year-old demographic, and you have yourself a titan of social advertising.

Whether you’re a multibillion-dollar conglomerate or a mom-and-pop store in your local town, the world’s largest and most influential social network has made itself useful to you.

Take Salesforce, the omnipresent cloud computing company that organizes and tracks customer relationships. The company ran a Facebook ad campaign to drive registrations to its Dreamforce mega-conference and ended up outperforming its registration goal by more than 2.7x, thanks to highly targeted ads—a tactic you’re going to see again and again throughout this e-book.

Facebook accounted for 75 percent of all global social spend in 2014.

Consider Wendy’s, which used targeted Facebook ads to attract that highly coveted generational group, millennials, for its latest sandwich.

Or perhaps MetLife is more your speed. The insurance company managed to halve its cost per lead using Facebook ads and saw a 2.4x increase in lead-to-sale ratio relative to the next best-performing channel.

These are all very different companies with very different goals—and they’re all using Facebook, which has built the world’s go-to social ad network. In fact, Facebook accounted for 75 percent of all global social media spend in 2014.

What started as a humble social network for Harvard students has now become the most powerful platform on the Internet, with plans to eventually consume the Internet as a whole.

Suffice it to say, if you’re in marketing, you probably use Facebook. And if you don’t… Well, you probably should. Either way, we have the guide for you. In this e-book, we’ll run through everything from Facebook’s rapid evolution, to figuring out what kinds of posts are best, to understanding Facebook’s critical—but often confusing—targeting features. We’ll conclude by looking at the future of Mark Zuckerberg’s dominate creation, which will likely change as dramatically in the next five years as it has in its first decade-plus of existence.

I. The Evolution of Facebook

Facebook has changed a lot since it launched in a dorm room almost 12 years ago. What started as a humble social network for Harvard students has now become the most powerful platform on the Internet, with plans to eventually consume the Internet as a whole.

In the beginning, there were no pages, no ads, not even a News Feed. All three features, however, were added quickly after Facebook’s initial launch. Today, they’re the social network’s defining features.

For most marketers over the age of 25, this is what their first Facebook experience probably looked like:

Now, it looks something like this:

I chose that image for two reasons. For one, it shows Facebook on an iPhone. Secondly, the image features in-feed ads. These get at two of the biggest transformations happening at Facebook: the movement from organic to paid advertising, and the movement from desktop to mobile.

From organic to paid

In marketing lore, there hasn’t been a bait-and-switch technique quite like the one Facebook employed in the early 2010s. Whether it was nefarious or not is still debated, but either way, its ramifications are still being seen.

Starting around April 2012, Facebook’s organic reach started to plateau at around 16 percent, a fact Facebook acknowledged in an update encouraging people to sponsor its posts. By 2014, Social@Ogilvy was publishing a white paper dramatically titled “Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach.”

So what happened? Facebook had begun to slowly taper off organic reach for brand pages, much around the same time as it began to restrict posts that made use of tactics like like-baiting, reposting content, and anything it considered spam.

Even with organic reach all but cooked, Facebook has emerged as one of the best—if not the best—ad platforms out there, much to the delight of the marketing world.

By the time Ogilvy published its report, organic reach on Facebook had dropped to around 6 percent; for large pages with more than 500,000 likes, the number was 2 percent.

Simultaneously, Facebook started directly telling agencies and brands they’d have to pay for the same reach. Brands bristled, but Facebook had plenty of legitimate reasons for the move. The spam had gotten out of control, and as a social platform, Facebook had an obligation to optimize its News Feed to show content that people most wanted to see. Still, it was a hard pill for marketers to swallow.

Even with organic reach all but cooked, Facebook has emerged as one of the best—if not thebest—ad platforms out there, much to the delight of the marketing world. A recent Forrester report named Facebook as marketers’ favorite social ad platform by a wide margin.

Facebook’s other big shift of the past few years—from desktop to mobile—is one of the main reasons why.

From desktop to mobile

Though the first iPhone hit stores all the way back in 2007, it wasn’t until a few years ago that the mobile revolution reached its zenith.

“I don’t really see any other mobile ads doing the same sorts of things that Facebook ads do,” explained Webster.

As Mary Meeker’s “Internet Trends” report makes clear, vertical viewing (i.e., time spent with content on mobile) has grown from 5 percent of the total in 2010 to 29 percent this year. As that number continues to grow, desktop media is stagnating and TV is declining.

Facebook has been well aware of the where the Internet is headed. For years, the company has been focusing almost entirely on its mobile app and its mobile advertising business.

As the above chart from Business Insider makes clear, Facebook’s revenue growth has come almost entirely from mobile. Now, when a marketer wants a mobile ad that will actually function well, they turn to Facebook.

“I think it’s a really great mobile platform,” said Deacon Webster, CCO at digital agency Walrus. “It seems to me that Facebook is the first place that properly cracked mobile. Mobile video on Facebook does incredibly well in terms of engagement. I don’t really see any other mobile ads doing the same sorts of things that Facebook ads do.”

Mobile video has been yet another huge pivot for Facebook, as the company continues to monopolize all video content under the banner of its native video player—undoubtedly another huge part of Facebook’s plans for the future.

From referral to native

Despite some controversy, Facebook’s native video player, first introduced in 2014, has been an unbridled success. Beyond the big numbers (4 billion views a day!), anecdotal evidence is enough to demonstrate this point. Go on Facebook and count up how many videos are posted via Facebook’s player versus YouTube’s or a rival player. I’d be surprised if you found more than one that wasn’t a native Facebook video.

Brands have slowly but surely adapted to the trend. According to Socialbakers, a social media analytics company, the number of Facebook videos uploaded by brands increased by nearly 50 percent from May 2014 to December 2014. That’s the most updated number out there, unfortunately, but that percentage has likely only grown exponentially since. The 4 billion daily video views reported in April 2015, for example, is up from 3 billion in January of this year and from 1 billion in September 2014.

In case you needed more proof of how seriously Facebook is taking video, take a gander at this juicy quote from Facebook’s ad product lead, Ted Zagat: “A year or two from now, we think Facebook will be mostly video.”

Video isn’t the only kind of content Facebook is folding into its product. Instant Articles are quickly taking over the News Feed, as media publishers like The New York Times, BuzzFeed, and The Atlantic, among others, post their own content, and native ads on behalf of publishers, directly on to the platform.

Just a few months after its initial announcement and test run earlier this year, the Instant Articles product is on its way to making referral links obsolete, much like Facebook video did with links from YouTube.

This could have big implications for marketers. For those who use Facebook as a publishing platform, referral links may become less effective as people are drawn to high-quality content that loads instantly; for those who use Facebook as an ad platform, Facebook will only become more powerful as users stay on the platform instead of going elsewhere.

II. Facebook’s Role in the Marketing Universe

Of course, Facebook is only one small—if rapidly growing—part of the marketing universe. How exactly Facebook will fit into your overall marketing strategy will vary greatly depending on your industry, your budget, and your brand. Nonetheless, there are some general guidelines to follow.

According to Randy Parker, founder of Facebook marketing tech company PagePart, Facebook’s value to you and your business will depend on how much leverage you get fromthe social graph. In other words, as long as your business relies on building long-standing relationships with a reasonably large audience that you can target, Facebook ads are worth a try.

Industry concerns?

That even applies to industries with smaller audiences, such as B2B companies. We at Contently are a great example. We use Facebook for targeted paid distribution of our content—the specificity of the targeting and relatively low CPC allow us to reach potential leads and grow our audience effectively.

MetLife has seen similar success on Facebook. According to Facebook’s case study, the insurance company saw a 2.4x increase in lead-to-sale ratio compared to the next best-performing channel, and a 49 decrease in cost per lead.

This is true for B2C companies as well. Banana Republic (retail), Zynga (gaming), and Verizon(telecommunications) have all seen success. Your industry shouldn’t determine Facebook’s place within your larger marketing universe.

Within a larger marketing mix

Still, even though it’s effective across industries, Facebook shouldn’t be your only channel. Using it in chorus with the rest of your marketing repertoire is critical for success.

“I don’t think it’s the most important marketing channel,” said Webster. “It completely depends on what your brand is. There’s some brands that I would say one hundred percent shouldn’t be using Facebook. But more and more people are spending time on mobile devices, and if you need to get in front of those people, Facebook’s a really good way to do it.”

Using Facebook in conjunction with other channels is a key part of understanding the platform’s overall place in your marketing plan. For big brands, using Facebook as one part of a larger media campaign can be a valuable way to take advantage of the network’s unique capabilities, while some brands may be better off creating Facebook-only campaigns.

“It’s always good to have a mix of different mediums happening,” Webster said. “People have a different reaction to seeing something on their phone compared to TV or interacting with outdoor or wherever else. I think it’s part of the mix, but it’s not the whole mix.”

Ubisoft, the Montreal-based gaming company, took this to heart in a recent campaign to increase the reach of a TV ad for the launch of its new game. Because its core user base, 18- to 34-year-old males, tends to be less active on TV, Ubisoft used Facebook to extend the effectiveness of its expensive TV ads to the digital sphere.

Brad Goldberg, vice president of of advertising operations at OrionCKB, believes that Facebook should also only be one part of a digital marketing strategy.

“I don’t know if I would say it’s the most important,” he said. “Obviously, you have to have the right mix of different digital strategies because Facebook is still very much a social channel, and is about building a brand. That’s opposed to something on the search side, where people are typing in exactly what they are looking for. You have to have a good kind of mix between the two.”

Goldberg sees Facebook as “top two” in terms of digital importance for marketers, but it’s not necessarily more important than that other behemoth, Google.

Facebook for mobile, targeting, rech and video

For mobile, targeting, and digital video, it’s hard to beat Facebook; if that’s your marketing goal, Facebook is your place. Its vast reach makes it appealing for any campaign aimed at a broad audience, while its targeting features makes it worthwhile (though somewhat expensive) for a campaign aimed at a very specific one.

As TV slowly dies, Facebook has been positioning itself as the next platform for TV ad money.

Facebook’s video ad push is an excellent example of how these kind of campaigns—targeted, mobile, video-based—are an excellent fit for Facebook, whether you’re using the platform as a supplementary or primary marketing channel.

As TV slowly dies, Facebook has been positioning itself as the next platform for TV ad money. Socialbakers revealed that marketers plan to spend more ad money on Facebook video than on any other platform.

Lexus, for example, recently ran a campaign with an astounding 1,000 unique video ads in order to utilize Facebook’s granular audience targeting features—something that could never be done with a traditional TV ad. Campaigns like this one, which make explicit use of Facebook’s unique features, are worth experimenting with, but otherwise it’s likely best to keep the platform within a larger marketing mix.

Again, this all depends largely on your brand’s idiosyncrasies. Once you understand both Facebook’s evolving model and its place in your marketing strategy, it’s time to start building your Facebook presence.

III. Crushing It on Facebook: A How-To

Now that you understand how Facebook has developed and its role in the marketing universe, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of how to succeed.

We’ll start with the all-important Facebook page, then move onto the many strategy and formatting choices, and conclude by looking at analytics and the tools that’ll help you become a powerful, effective marketer on Facebook.

The power of the page

Pages first appeared on Facebook in 2007, when “over 100,000” brand pages launched with the first version of Facebook’s ad network. Facebook declared it a “new era for advertising,” which, for once in the history of public relations, turned out not to be hyperbole.

“There are a lot of businesses now that even use their Facebook page as sort of their main, almost like a website substitute.”

That was a long time ago (Blockbuster holds the first spot on the list of “landmark partners”), but pages still remain a central part of marketing on Facebook. The pages themselves, however, have changed dramatically, and are now packed with features for business. Reviews? Check. Customer service? Got it. Built-in insights, email sign-ups, calls to action, and promotional opportunities? It’s all there.

Some, such as Randy Parker, believe that Facebook pages are replacing websites for many businesses.

“There are a lot of businesses now that even use their Facebook page as sort of their main, almost like a website substitute,” Parker said.

Parker believes that perhaps the greatest feature of a Facebook page, and one that gives it a significant leg up over websites, is its built-in mobile optimization. (Facebook, after all, is a mostly mobile platform.) For small businesses in particular, that mobile readiness is huge, and will only continue to grow in significance as our mobile Internet usage grows in the coming years.

All of which is to say: Get a Facebook page, and take it as seriously as you would any website. Facebook’s closed ecosystem means that pretty much anyone can set up a page—most of the work is simply filling in information forms—but taking particular care with the copywriting and design (i.e., your profile picture and cover photo) should be a top priority.

Content vs. advertising

One of the stranger things about Facebook is its dual nature of being both social network feed and advertising machine. For most people, Facebook is a place to connect with friends and family, perhaps catch up on the news, and organize events. For marketers, though, it’s a treasure trove of data and highly targeted advertising opportunities—and it’s sometimes even a publishing platform.

Indeed, for many marketers, particularly content marketers, Facebook is an excellent place to post your publication’s latest article and boost it to bring it traffic. That’s what we do here at Contently, and it works quite well.

But for a lot of marketers, Facebook is more of a traditional advertising platform. It’s where you post videos, in-feed ads, and right-rail ads with more traditional CTAs and KPIs. You create some sort of creative, target an audience, and put money behind it to get it seen, much like a traditional web display ad.

Marketers’ Facebook strategies are often a combination of the two.

“We’ve had to change the thought process of our publishing,” said Adam Lasky, head of North America marketing at Spreadshirt. “Overtly promotional posts exist as ads, while engaging content exists as timeline posts. But Facebook is really now just another advertising platform.”

If you want to promote a piece of content, make it a timeline post and then promote it. You want it to fit naturally within the context of a user’s News Feed. To serve more traditional display ads, use an in-feed ad or right-rail ad.

Deacon Webster believes that whether you use ads or posts depends largely on your brand and product.

“If I’m Pampers or a dental floss company, something like that, there’s only so much out there that I can really talk about,” he said. “Then it starts becoming weird manufactured things. Ninety percent of people don’t have enough to say to be talking about it on a regular basis unless they’re a magazine. They’re going to have to do something that’s more ad-like.”

Whether you publish posts or ads, know that either can work. Ultimately, though, a combination of the two is probably the sweet spot.

“I think both are good. Both together are best,” Parker said. “You’re going to need to run things that are more traditional offers, right? But at the same time, the best kind of thing you could do is make your page stand out—write about things that create value for your customer.”

What format should I choose?

There are a lot of different ways to post a piece of content on Facebook. We already discussed ads versus posts. But what about images versus video? Or in-feed versus right rail? Or even desktop versus mobile? These are all important considerations, and I’ll go through them one by one.

Image versus video

For images versus video, there’s a clear winner: video. For emphasis, I’ll say it again: Native video on Facebook has exploded in the past year, with views and engagement skyrocketing to (somewhat controversial) numbers no brand could resist.

“If an image says 1,000 words, then a video is worth 1,000 words times 1,000 words.”

Webster says his company can’t put out enough videos on Facebook.

“Our engagement rates on a good post, on a good static image post are, let’s say, three or four percent. On a video post, it’s like nine to twelve,” he said. “We’re doubling and tripling engagement on posts just by being videos. If we do good ones, which we like to think we do, you can see the video completes, we get ninety percent of our views watching the whole thing. It’s kind of amazing.”

Of course, not every brand has the kind of budget to do video—or, at least, do it right. That’s something Parker cautions smaller brands or marketing departments with smaller budgets to be particularly wary of.

“Video is expensive,” he said. “They can run up a budget fast.”

Still, he said, “If an image says one thousand words, then a video is worth one thousand words times one thousand words.”

Ford’s amazing Facebook campaign from 2014 makes this clear. The car company ran a mobile video ad campaign targeted at a Hispanic audience, and saw massively successful results: 27 percent of all U.S. Hispanics aged 18 and up were reached, the CTR was 6x that of rival car campaigns in the same time period, and the videos saw a 71 percent completion rate. Needless to say, if your brand can do video, you probably should be doing video.

In-feed versus right rail

We talked a little bit about in-feed versus right-rail ads earlier, but let’s now go a little deeper. On Facebook, those are the two main slots for paid ads: in-feed looks like this first picture, while right rail looks like the second.

In-feed ads

Right-rail ads

In-feed ads look like posts, but slightly offset from your normal updates from friends and pages and with a small “Suggested Post” disclaimer in the top left. They show up in the News Feed as you scroll, and once you scroll past them it’s likely you’ll never see them again.

Right-rail ads, on the other hand, scroll with the News Feed, though their placement makes them easy to ignore: Only ads appear there, so most people have probably trained their eyes to ignore that section of the site entirely. Facebook revamped them last year in order to make them fit in better with the rest of the News Feed, while decreasing their frequency—and caused right-rail ad rates to jump considerably.

Our social media editor reports that the CPCs of our ads are generally much lower on right-rail ads than on in-feed ads, though that obviously varies widely from brand to brand and campaign to campaign. (Reports from social media analytics companies like Nanigansconfirm that in-feed ads routinely see better ROI.) Adam Lasky also points out that controversial ads, such as for political campaigns or any sort of hot-button issue, are best suited for the right rail.

“We ran an in-feed ad for U.S. presidential candidates and targeted based on political affiliation, which got a decent amount of complaints from people who saw the ad but were not initially targeted,” he said. “In the future, we’ll leave the controversial stuff on the right rail.”

Parker believes that both the right rail and the News Feed are key sites for retargeting ads.

“I think both of those are going to be great places for retargeting,” he said. The in-feed will be a great space to be getting a feed of the things that you are going to maybe engage with, and then the right rail has a lot of spaces that kind of catch my eye.”

The big problem with right rail is that the ads don’t show up on mobile. Considering that about 40 percent of monthly Facebook users access the social network solely on mobile, that’s a problem.

Mobile vs. desktop

In fact, that’s another big decision to make when it comes to posting or advertising on Facebook: Do you want to post on mobile or desktop?

For most brands, mobile is the place to be. It’s where the majority of Facebook users access the social network, and it’s the future of the platform. Facebook’s unrelenting focus on optimizing its mobile app (and subsequently ignoring its desktop site) demonstrates the company’s commitment to adapting to (and pushing along) the user exodus to mobile browsing.

If you choose neither while setting up a campaign, Facebook generally defaults to a mobile-heavy mix, usually because the CPM tends to be more efficient, as this Salesforce reportmakes clear. Still, not every brand should focus on mobile—namely, any business that doesn’t have a mobile-optimized website.

“A big thing that a lot of companies big and small forget, is don’t buy mobile ads if you don’t have a mobile page,” Parker said. “That’s just a way to waste money. If you run an ad while I’m already doing something else, and the ad entices me and I click on it, and I get some page that looks like crap, I’m out of there.”

If you’re not optimized for mobile, though, take this moment to make that a top priority. Google is already punishing non-mobile websites, and pretty much every much Internet company has been preparing for the mobile migration for years.

“You should be ready for mobile,” Parker said. “The time to get ready for mobile was a year and a half ago.”

Another important thing to keep in mind? Length. Despite its lack of restrictions on post length, Facebook users like posts that are pithy. How pithy? About 40 characters, according to a study by social media tools SumAll and Buffer. That’s pretty short, but it’s a good rule to follow for social media in general: Keep it short, sweet, and to the point.

After taking all these choices into consideration, it’s time to make your posts and ads rock. And that’s where the most important part of marketing on Facebook comes in: data.

Targeting

There’s no way around it: Data is what makes Facebook, well, Facebook. Without the data of its 1.55 billion users, Facebook would be nothing from a business perspective (something that was explored hilariously in this art project).

“Google knows what you want, but Facebook knows who you are.”

What’s true for Facebook as a business is also true for marketing on Facebook. Targeting, or the use of customer data to advertise to a desired audience, is what makes Facebook such a unique and powerful ad platform for marketers.

“I can tell you that, yes, absolutely [targeting is] one of the great parts about Facebook,” Webster said. “It’s not only great, it’s huge. You know so much more about the people you’re talking to than you ever would [in the past].”

Parker concurs.

“No question, it is a big deal,” he said. “Google knows what you want, but Facebook knows who you are.”

Put simply, if you’re going to boost posts or run ads on Facebook, you should be targeting. There’s really no reason not to. The feature is best run through the Power Editor or a your preferred third-party tool (more on that later), with which you can create audiences as specific or vague as you want.

You can target by age, gender, location, job (very useful for B2B marketing), page likes (similarly useful), and so on. Every expert has their favorite restriction to target by, and the campaign itself will largely determine the parameters you set up. If you’re marketing a CPG product, specific targeting is less necessary, while lead-gen campaigns require a great deal of targeting—though there are exceptions in either case.

There are two key tricks that apply for anyone, however:

Lookalike audiences: Deacon Webster points out that modeling an audience on that of a closely related competitor—say, Pepsi modeling Coke’s audience—can be a winning tactic. Simply target that company’s fans, and you have an audience pretty much guaranteed to be interested in your product.

You can also upload your top customers’ data through their emails, something that Google has recently allowed marketers to do as well. Brad Goldberg recommends using the top 10 percent of your audience in terms of engagement, and then creating a “lookalike” audience similar to that set of people.

“It’s just hugely successful for prospecting campaigns where you might not know exactly what the keywords would be that people are interested in yet, but you know who your best customers are already,” he said.

Location targeting: Parker recommends using the geolocation parameters to their full extent, especially if you are marketing for a regional or local business.

“The big thing a lot of people forget about is that you definitely want to do some level of geography,” he said. If you’re a local business, when you’re running an ad [without targeting] you’re paying to reach people who might not even be on your continent. At least exclude them. It doesn’t cost you anything.”

Salesforce took advantage of both of these features to promote its Dreamforce conference. For lookalike audiences, Salesforce used keynote speakers from the event, such as Arianna Huffington and will.i.am. For location targeting, it limited the ads to a constricted 30-mile radius of the Bay Area. By the end, Salesforce had reached its goal with 40 percent less money than it’d predicted.

Overall, it’s a good idea to make targeting the centerpiece of your Facebook strategy. Take time to do research and optimize based on previous campaigns, and carefully pick the best parameters. Targeting, after all, is what separates digital advertising from traditional advertising. Without it, you’re just running a highway billboard—except the highway is filled with more than a billion people. (Insert Los Angeles joke here.)

A/B testing

Unfortunately, Facebook’s A/B testing features are not quite as renowned as its targeting. A/B testing—the process of testing multiple headlines, images, copy, and so on to find the most effective version—hasn’t quite received the same level of attention from Facebook’s ad platform so far, and many marketers I talked to reported using outside tools to help with this important step.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use A/B testing, even if you can’t afford external tools. A/B testing on Facebook goes something like this:

1) Create a campaign with a target audience and upload multiple versions of the same ad (with different images, headlines, etc.).

2) Run the campaign.

3) Let Facebook automatically optimize your ad based on its effectiveness.

In terms of the number of ads, Facebook recommends between three and six—not a great amount of options, especially for more high-end ad campaigns.

The automatization, while making things easier, also means you have less control than you might sometimes desire.

Goldberg says that he can find the rolling nature of Facebook’s A/B testing frustrating, especially in comparison to what he calls a more “straightforward” process used by Google AdWords.

“It’s kind of more of an ongoing process where you have pushed out your ads,” he said. “You’ve got a couple different options out there, you let the data roll in, you pause your under-performers and then you kind of keep that cycle going—testing and moving, and testing and moving.”

What tool(s) should I use?

Behind all of this are the tools. Whether you post and boost or advertise using highly customized audiences and A/B testing, you’re going to be using some sort of software tool to get the job done.

You can sort of think of Facebook’s built-in tools like a cake. On the surface, there are the easy-to-use tools made accessible on your brands page: the “Boost Post” option, the “Insights” tab, and the “Publishing Tools” tab, among others. Below that layer is the Ads Manager, and below that layer is the aforementioned Power Editor. And if you want to add even more layers, there are plenty of external tools some Facebook marketers swear by.

If you plan to use Facebook only as a publishing platform, and/or only put money behind it sparingly, the surface-level tools can do the job. Boosting posts directly gives a decent amount of information (such as forecasted results and mobile previews), and includes key features like audience targeting and budgeting. You can also boost the page itself to garner more likes (which are less important now that organic reach is all but dead, but are still nice to have).

The front-end tools

The front-end graphs available on the Insights tab do an excellent job of providing key information, such as likes, reach, and engagement. It also includes my personal favorite feature: “Pages to Watch.” Pages to Watch allows you to add competitors’ Facebook pages to Insights, and then compares your performance with theirs. This allows you to easily see just how well your strategy is doing compared to the competition’s. (As an aside, this is extremely helpful information to have in meetings: “We’re kicking Evil Rival X’s ass!”)

If these surface-level tools aren’t enough, however, it’s a good idea to dig deeper into the Ads Manager, which is basically a more concentrated hub of the front-end tools. Our social media editor suggests going all the way to the Power Editor if the front-end tools aren’t enough.

The Power Editor

The Power Editor is the big kahuna of Facebook marketing. This is where most serious Facebook marketers spend most of their time. And despite its intimidating appearance, the Power Editor is relatively intuitive.

Put simply, what separates the Power Editor apart is customization. You can customize the UI using filters, customize the metrics you see, and further customize your posts and campaigns. The Power Editor is also where you can create audiences, an integral part of Facebook’s targeting features, as well as where you’ll do sophisticated A/B testing.

The Power Editor runs more like a piece of software, à la Microsoft Excel, than the Ads Manager or the front-end tools. That means more time and effort spent learning its ins and outs, but ultimately a bigger payoff.

Helpful external tools

Of course, there are plenty of external tools to supplement or even replace the Power Editor. Buffer has a nice list of (mostly free) tools to aid the Facebook marketer, and all the experts I talked to recommended testing out different tools depending on your goals. Goldberg believes they’re 100 percent required for any sort of serious campaigns.

“We’ve used all of them,” he said. “We’ve used the basic tools, the internal Power Editor, Ads Manager, all of them. But I think what you’re getting with the third-party platforms is a better way to break down your data.”

He explains that when it comes to more traditional ad campaigns with different creative assets, Facebook’s internal tools simply don’t do enough to differentiate between creative options. They also don’t provide the kind of detailed feedback more high-end advertisers like OrionCKB expect.

“You are getting a lot more in terms of just straight data analysis than real insight,” Goldberg said. “You don’t get advice where, if you are seeing strong results from an audience, that you should be pushing more to that audience. If you are seeing one image that is really doing well within a specific audience, [these external tools] help push it out across the rest of your campaign.”

In fact, that “pushing” referred to by Goldberg is largely done automatically by Facebook itself—which makes it easy for time-strapped or less savvy Facebook marketers, but isn’t enough for agencies or campaign managers with big clients, such as OrionCKB. Here are the two software tools he suggests, plus some other particularly helpful ones routinely recommended to me by marketers:

Nanigans: A Facebook Marketing Partner that’s very expensive, but probably worth it if you can afford it. It’s almost entirely focused on Facebook. It also a super weird name.

Kenshoo: Like Naningans, but it works across basically every social advertising channel. Still really expensive.

Buffer: What we use to schedule posts. A simple, widely used tool that can scale its utility depending on whether you’re a one-person business or a full-fledged agency. Prices scale as well.

Smartly.io: A Facebook and Instagram Marketing Partner that automates and optimizes your posts. Fee is based on your Facebook spend.

BuzzSumo: A social analytics tools that follows competitors and identifies influencers. Particularly helpful for content-driven marketing operations—we use it regularly—and at a defensible price.

Naytev: An A/B testing and optimization tool that supplements Facebook’s mediocre functionality in that arena. More useful for content than advertising, and somewhat expensive for large operations.

That’s a lot of tools, and a lot of choices, but I recommend experimenting with all of them and more—many offer short-term free trials—to find the ones right for your marketing strategy.

IV. Facebook in the future

As much as Facebook has changed in its lifetime, it’s going to change even more in the coming years. Ben Thompson, one of the most insightful minds in tech and media, recently declared,”The Age of Facebook has only just begun.”

Thompson argues that in the coming “mobile epoch,” Facebook is uniquely positioned to dominate user attention—and advertising spend:

This, then, is why I think Facebook is underrated: a company’s potential is first and foremost measured by its market, and Facebook’s potential market is, when you consider both sheer numbers and time spent, an order of magnitude greater than the PC-based Internet market ever was. Then, on top of that, you increasingly have brand advertising dollars—also an order of magnitude more than direct response dollars—looking for somewhere to go other than TV, and it just so happens that Facebook is the perfect brand advertising platform.

Mobile is the key here, as Facebook’s prescient focus on its mobile app and its messenger app Facebook Messenger—as well as its purchases of mobile platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram—means that it can control practically every form of communication and networking on mobile. And here’s the kicker: Facebook can make all these networks work in tandem, as it has begun to do with Instagram’s recent API opening. More networks, more profiles, more data, more money.

“The Age of Facebook has only just begun.”

For marketers, this means even better targeting across a variety of platforms; and as we’ve already seen on Instagram, some audiences are better reached on the photo-centric network than on Facebook, and vice versa.

Facebook has also invested in virtual reality, which, according to many experts, is set to explode in 2016. Virtual reality could be the next frontier of browsing, and it just might replace desktop in the process.

E-commerce is yet another big focus, as Facebook plans to roll out a shopping section with select retail partners in the coming months.

And don’t forget Instant Articles, which will bring news media directly onto the platform—concentrating user behavior even more while also creating more and varied opportunities for ad placements. The form could also be rolled out to brands looking for more engagement with their content, but perhaps on a pay-to-play basis.

Needless to say, all these product innovations are pointing in one direction: Facebook as the dominate hub for our mobile, connected lives. Zuckerberg’s creation may seem powerful now, but if all these innovations come to fruition, Facebook’s dominance in our our digital lives will reach unprecedented levels—for marketers, even more so.