The Power of Facebook Ads, The Fear Rule, and What Advertisers Can Learn From Russian Trolls

Image Credit: The Daily Beast

How powerful ARE Facebook ads? Whoever paid The Internet Agency what looks to be millions of dollars during the recent US Election believes Facebook ads are powerful enough to sway a nation of over 300 million.

The Internet Research agency, “described by the New York Times as “an army of well-paid ‘trolls’” based in St. Petersburg, Russia … have tried to spread misinformation through coordinated Internet campaigns to interfere with U.S. foreign policy and boost Russian president Vladimir Putin.”

At Follow Us D, the campaigns and clients who succeed with Facebook ads fall into one of two categories:

1) products that deal with emotionally charged issues or content
2) impulse purchases and brands that also appeal to emotion.

When we are on social media, we are in an emotional place. The algorithms on Facebook are developed to keep us on as long as possible. Facebook uses machine learning to figure out what content keeps each person online and engaged. As anyone who has launched a campaign knows, Facebook actually puts ‘learning’ on new ads to signify when it is learning which audience members respond best to the ads. FB quickly stops showing us the content that makes us shut down Facebook.

Studies have shown dopamine, the happy “love” chemical produced by our brains is increased when we are on social media. In this vulnerable, dopamine-addled state, when we see an ad promoting an idea or a product that appeals to us, we are much more likely to engage and ultimately to purchase.

The flip side of this situation can be frustrating for advertisers. If we don’t create ads that are engaging and contribute to this positive feedback loop, Facebook will not show them. When I work with financial clients, I quickly discovered the “Facebook fear rule”. We could not talk about the fear of being poor in retirement to sell financial products because that particular fear creates negative feelings and makes people turn off Facebook.

Some fear does perform well on Facebook. As in journalism where the rule is if it bleeds, it leads, violent and disturbing stories sell. Some frightening content keeps people engaged and appeals to our desire to share our feelings with our friends during moments of crisis. The content on Facebook is kind of like a two-drink minimum at a comedy club. A well-lubricated audience is more likely to laugh, have fun, and make the communal comedy experience better for the whole audience.

Emotional content and ads keep users online, liking, sharing, loving, making angry faces, and ultimately, buying or voting based on what they see.


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