Advertising your library online is tempting. The expertise required to set it up is minimal, and the allure can quickly overwhelm you when you realize that most of it is PPC (pay per click), meaning that you only have to pay for what people actually click on. Why not just do it?
Staff time is just as valuable as your library’s budget. (Time costs too, after all.) Is it worth it? First, a quick (and very simplified) rundown of the two major ad venues for most libraries:
- Facebook. The cost varies per campaign, which you define based on campaign length and cost per click. Much like Google AdWords (below), there is a bidding system. You bid for likes and interests on people’s profiles. Return on investment is usually measured in actions; clicks and likes. More in-depth engagement can be measured using Facebook Insights, the built-in metrics tool. Ads appear based on Facebook’s awareness of user profiles for certain tendencies. If someone mentions reading magazines, for example, your ad might show up if it mentions magazines. Some people are reluctant to click on Facebook ads, due to privacy concerns.
- Google AdWords. You bid on certain key terms that you specify. Your ad will appear in the search results if someone searches for something that uses that keyword. Ads can be set to appear to people in a particular city, region or country. Keep in mind that ads are closely tied to searches. If someone in your local area is looking for their local library, your library is likely to come up, regardless of whether or not it has a Google ad. If you want to use Google AdWords, it may not be worth time or money to simply advertise the existence of your library.
Both platforms have a few things in common. Both Facebook Ads and Google AdWords involve bidding for keywords and are primarily PPC. Both have a large potential audience. Also, both are mostly self-service for smaller advertisers (which would probably include most libraries).
Take a moment to consider this quote, from 3 Deadly Sins of Social Media Marketing:
After several quarters of experimenting, advertisers are left scratching their heads and wondering about return on investment (ROI) and business impact. Some big advertisers are realizing that the banner ads simply don’t work – General Motors, for example, publicly stated that it is cutting its $10 million of Facebook ad spend and the associated $30 million of agency, content, and creative costs. The “soft metric” called “branding” is just not good enough anymore, especially in light of click-through rates being a “rounding error to zero.” Awareness alone is no longer enough to get modern consumers to take action.
Then, to top things off, a new study has found that, when it comes to mobile advertising, four out of ten mobile ad clicks are worthless.
So, what do you think? Is online advertising worth it for libraries? Even the libraries I’ve spoken with have mostly ambivalent views about whether or not online ads have concretely produced any results. Please post your comments and experiences–I and many others are curious.