The numbers have come in and Facebook is the most effective social media channel for referral traffic—by a big margin. What can retailers do to maximize marketing ROI on Facebook?

Facebook’s reputation for marketing effectiveness has taken a beating lately. Last year, the company admitted it had been losing a significant percentage of its teenage users. Then there was an investigation about Facebook click farm fraud. More recently, social media marketers scratched their heads over how to overcome Facebook’s changes which throttled the organic reach of business page posts – a signal that Facebook is now intent on ramping up their ad revenues. 

Despite all this, the numbers prove that Facebook is the leading social media platform when it comes to traffic referral. According to Shareaholic, Facebook gained market share in Q2 of 2014, with 23.39% of referral traffic – a 150% increase since June 2013. Facebook is responsible for driving almost a quarter of all referral web traffic. This leaves second-place Pinterest far, far behind, at 5.2%.

Do the numbers offer any insights for retailers?

Adobe’s Social Intelligence Report for Q1 2014 shows that the percentage of referred revenue traffic to Retail sites from social media channels dropped drastically quarter-over-quarter, except for Facebook, where it grew by 2%, thanks to consistent performance outside holiday shopping seasons. Furthermore, the report found that Facebook produces 75% of traffic to Retail sites.      

How Can Retailers Do Better on Facebook for Free?


With all the competition to get on a fan’s News Feed, it’s not that easy to capture your target audience’s attention these days. Plus, Facebook has obviously moved to the next phase of their business plan, which is to convert businesses from just posting for organic engagement to paying for ads. The free ride is over.

So here are some data-driven ideas for how to engage more effectively on Facebook without resorting to cat videos:

Post at peak engagement times. The main takeaway from this survey by Buffer is that Thursdays and Fridays deliver 18% higher engagement rates. That’s a big general conclusion, so if you feel that your target audience operates on a different cycle, run your own simple tests.

But wait. Why do your own testing when Facebook Insights has that little tab that says “When Your Fans are Online”? Because those numbers show when your fans see any Facebook Page’s content, not just yours.

So pick three or four times of the day to test and schedule your posts. To keep the content as similar as possible without annoying your audience, use a theme (“Summer Fashion Tip #1, #2, #3”) and a simple headline. Then use analytics or just jot down the Likes and Shares you get for each of those times. Repeat for each day of the week. Repeat this process at intervals until you are confident of what the data is telling you.


Alternatively, paid subscription social media management tools such as SproutSocial, Hootsuite, or Actionly provide analytics for engagement.

Optimize word count. Facebook has a 60,000-character limit, which gives you more room for creativity than Twitter, but don’t get carried away either. Some social media managers use the same text for both Twitter and Facebook, but that means optimizing for Twitter’s 140 character limit. We’ve seen stats that say 80 to 90 words for a post, others that say 40 characters (!). Clearly, shorter is better. Test for word count, anyone?

Remember to keep the audience focused on your message text by minimizing distractions:

  • Remove the URL that you’re sharing from the text of your post. The user is going to click on the Facebook-generated thumbnail to navigate to that web page anyway. Save your precious real estate.
  • Shorten your link titles. You know how Facebook displays a thumbnail, a title, and some text from your links? If the original post has a long title, Facebook cuts it off at 100 characters. Get in there and edit the title before you hit Post. Make sure readers see a meaningful message.

Use visuals. Photos on Facebook get you more likes than just text. 53% more likes and 104% more comments. So, optimize work count and punch up the effectiveness of your post with a meaningful, quality visual. Make the image self-explanatory by embedding your message text in the image (“Stock Up on Basics at 15% Off”).

A note to those who use Facebook Albums: post photos to your Timeline first, then move them to an album. Facebook Albums are great for organizing your images, but engagement is really poor if you post there directly. If you like to maintain albums, upload the image first to your Timeline. After a day or so, when initial engagement dies down, you can organize your album.   


How Can Retailers Do Better with Facebook Ads?

Facebook ads are not the same as Google ads. With Google Adwords, the consumer finds you by searching for relevant keywords. With Facebook ads, you find them. Facebook is about targeting to discover new customers and filling the top of your sales funnel. So what works?

Target your audience. Facebook Ads allow you to target your demographics very specifically, so run your ad campaign for ROI and best impact by knowing exactly who falls into your ‘sweet spot’. What would work best for you?

Gender, location and age are the traditional demographics, but you can also select your viewing audience by interests, activities, groups they belong to, pages they’ve liked, job title, and education. Whatever information users have shared on Facebook in fact, including: job change, relationship status, recent travel, birthday, recently move. Plus, you can combine these to target even more precisely. If your store sells high-end natural cleaning products, you can target members who have Liked pages for organic products who live in your city.

Target People Who’ve Visited Your Web Site. How would you like to target Facebook users who have been to your company web site? Not your company Facebook page, your web site. Website Custom Audience (WCA) is a great targeting feature, so read the FAQ carefully, especially all the ways you can specify that audience.


Target Similar People. One of the best reasons for putting some effort into defining a WCA is that now you can take advantage of Facebook’s Lookalike Audience targeting feature. Facebook generates this for you based on your WCA(s). Its algorithm finds Facebook users who are demographically similar and lets Facebook serve up your ad to an expanded audience, thus filling your funnel with potential new leads.

Use ads for promotions and giveaways. Market research from Lab42 shows that 34% of users have Liked a brand because of promotions and 21% because of giveaways. That’s 43% of users. And the number one way they interact has been to print off coupons. So make an offer.

Give your Facebook ad the same treatment as you would a print ad. In other words, don’t skimp on design or copywriting. Create for conversion. Is the headline catchy? Is there a value proposition in the offer? Are you using images of people? Do your colors contrast with Facebook’s blue and white? This is a highly visual medium, so get their attention with an image then convert with your value proposition.


Facebook Ads help attract new fans, but it’s your content and interaction with fans that keep you on their News Feeds. Two-way interaction for follow-up engagement is the one big benefit Facebook has over Google Ads or paid print advertising. Once you’ve converted a visitor into a fan, that person can like, comment on, and share your posts. It’s visible endorsement that builds brand awareness and trust. From this perspective, the fact that Facebook drives so much Retail web traffic is just a bonus.

advertisement is a digital consulting agency based in Vancouver, Canada.