Here’s Why Facebook Ads Don’t Seem to Work for Etsians – And 5 Steps to Fix It!

Ask Etsians and about 90% of the time you’ll hear that Facebook ads are bad. And it’s kind of true because Facebook ads – no matter how lucrative they sound – don’t lead to sales magically.

I see a lot of people complaining about Facebook ads and “boost post” feature. “I spent a bunch on Facebook ads, a bit of traffic but no sales,” is a common theme.

Facebook Ads for Etsy - A Negative Comment

I’ve also heard some sellers from the other side of the fence: Facebook ads brings them a lot of fans (to their pages) and also traffic to shops (and sales). However, I’ll admit that there are not many people who have tasted success with Facebook ads.

Facebook Ads for Etsy - A Positive Comment

There is a fundamental problem with Etsy sellers trying Facebook ads. It’s in what you expect as a seller.

You see, as a seller, you want to sell more. That’s the ultimate trackable goal. So that’s what you expect out of an ad that you spend for. Place a Facebook ad, sell more for the ad-spend. Positive return-over-investment.

But that’s the wrong way of approaching Facebook ads and that’s why most sellers who try FB ads are disappointed.

Let’s clear out certain perceptions first.

When you log in to Facebook and browse through your newsfeed, what’s your primary intention?

It’s not to buy things. It’s to just catch up with photos and status updates from your friends, from pages you like, to discover new, interesting things. The intent is to read or watch, not exactly buy. A person browsing Etsy (or any other marketplace and, we have learnt, even Pinterest) may be more ready / intent on buying than someone just browsing her Facebook newsfeed.

And that’s one of the reasons why, when you set up a Facebook ad to promote a post about that handmade wood carving, it resulted in exactly 0 sales.

So does that mean Facebook ads are a strict no-no for craft sellers?

On the contrary. Facebook ads work wonders if you figure out a couple of things and change your expectations (because Facebook ads are really good at something and that something may not be sales).

1. Research your market’s presence on Facebook before you place an ad

While there is definitely a market for craft items, it’s not uniformly spread across all channels that you can think of. Meaning, fans of handmade jewelry might be very active (and therefore responsive) on Facebook but people interested in buying craft supplies may not be. Instead, you might find them active on Pinterest.

The first step before you even think about Facebook ads is to test the waters.

If you’re selling handmade wooden spoons for the kitchen, you’ll search “wooden spoons” in Facebook and check out what sort of posts people/pages share related to this term.

It is surprising how many interesting nuggets of info can come up in this very basic research.

Facebook Ads for Etsy - Research your market for engagement

For instance (taking the case of wooden spoons):

  • I noticed that there are quite a bunch of posts very specifically about wooden spoons from various shops.
  • I noticed that a lot of “engagement” (likes, comments, shares) happens on pages related to Food and Cooking.
  • I could come up with a lot of pages that specifically talk about wooden spoons (useful much later in understanding targeting).

The idea is to find out three things:

  1. Are a lot of people (or pages) posting about things in your market? “Yes” is an indication that there is some engagement already.
  2. Are a lot of people engaging in those posts? Check comments, likes, shares on the posts. You might find very little or no engagement on individual posts but check the same for Fan pages.
  3. Finally, what does your intuition say? Planning to use Facebook ads is not a try-it-once-to-see-if-it-works thing. By now, you probably know that it takes research like a true marketer and it’s a different hat you have to put on. If your gut feeling tells you that it’s probably not a good idea, you should listen to it.

If you’re with me so far and want to dive deeper, let’s go right in!

2. Target to get fans who can eventually become customers. Don’t target for sales.

When you setup a Facebook ad, you have a bunch of options.

Facebook Ad options

As a seller (on Etsy or other marketplaces), the first three option makes most sense.

Of course, as a seller, you want to use #3, send people to your shop or #1, boost the reach of a particular post that has the link to the Etsy item page.

Hold it right there.

Like I said before, Facebook is not about sales. For everyone out there, Facebook is a place they login just to check out things. Interesting things.

As a seller, your primary goal at this point should be to convert their interest into followership (or fandom or whatever you choose to call it).

If you try to convert a visitor into a sale, you might lose the sale and worse, you might lose a potential future customer. That’s why marketers talk about capturing emails. In our case, you just need to convert this viewer (who sees your ad) into a fan!

So your aim is #1: Boost your posts (if you definitely want only to make sales – high risk of very little or 0 conversions) or #2: Promote your page (not much to be had in short-term but very high long-term benefit)

I know what you’re thinking: “why would I spend money to earn likes to my page?! It sounds so unprofitable.” And you’d be right about it too. Why would someone spend money for likes when you can earn likes organically without spending a penny?

Here’s why: if you place an ad for a post, you have very little chance of making sales unless you get other parameters right. Every sale lost is also a lost potential customer.

But if you place an ad promoting your page, a higher conversion can be achieved (relatively easier) and every conversion means you have a fan that likes your page. A fan that you can promote your product to whenever you choose to! Higher reach = higher chances of conversion.

Here’s a general rule:

  • Use Boost your posts if you are planning to increase the reach of your posts – only if you have a lot of fans already (hundreds if not thousands).
  • Use Promote your page to get more followers interested in your offering (akin to collecting emails which you can then promote to)
  • Use Send people to your website sparingly.

3. Become super specific with your target audience.

Whether you promote your page or boost a post, what matters more is who you target. And this is one of the places where sellers fail and rightfully so because Facebook somehow makes it confusing.

Note: if you are using Boost a Post, make sure you study the impact of promoted posts well. Great photos, fantastic headlines and Call-to-Actions may make or break the success of your ads.

The first rule of ad targeting on Facebook is simple: don’t listen to Facebook’s suggestion (which is, try to reach as many people as you can). You should really reach only a very core group of people. Not just because you’ll spend less but because you’ll convert better.

To do this, go back to market research based on your experience (and partly based on what you find on Facebook).

Find out:

  • who is more likely to purchase your item: men or women?
  • what age group do people who buy your item belong to?
  • where do they live?
  • and this is the most important bit: what do they list in their “likes” section on their Facebook profile that is close to your market?
  • when do they check Facebook in the week? And what time?

It’s super hard to figure out some of the things on that list.

For instance, to find out what people “like”, you might have to check out a few profiles of people who comment on fan pages. The easiest way to do this is to use Graph Search. If your target market is wooden spoons, you should do a search for something like “Interests liked by people who like Wooden Spoons Kitchen” [Wooden Spoons Kitchen is a real Facebook page]. This helps you come up with keywords for “Interests” in the Ad tool. The narrower you get with the interests, the better your target market.

Facebook Graph Search Example

For instance, you could be thinking of “Kitchen supplies” as an interest but with Graph Search, you could come up with things like “Organic food”, “camping” etc. which may expand your reach while still being relevant.

As for the best times to share on Facebook, you can find that out using market research that’s already available.

In the interests, try to get as specific as possible. Here’s rule #2: avoid Facebook’s Suggestions. Coming back to the example of “wooden spoons”, don’t limit yourself to Facebook’s Categories (Cooking, Recipe etc.). You can enter keywords too. For instance, over 600,000 have mentioned that they like “wooden spoons”.

Facebook ads for Etsy - Interests and keywords

The trick is to find out keywords (a bit of imagination, a bit of looking at people’s profiles, a bit of guesswork) that have a sizable chunk of people liking it.

Some marketers think very highly of the ‘Connections’ parameter – and rightly so – because the Advanced Combinations allows you to target friends of your fans. We know through years of research that “friends of friends” convert way better than a random stranger.

Facebook Connects and Ad Targeting

4. Be consistently present on Facebook.

While this is a no-brainer, people still think you can do Facebook ads without a consistent presence on Facebook – wrong! By consistent presence, I mean posting regularly, being active on Facebook (as a page), replying to comments/messages etc.

There is another advantage to promoting your page (instead of boosting a post) at first: you will have a bunch of fans that you can promote a post to at a later date. (Facebook ads has an option where you can target ads only to your fans – usually, this has a ridiculously better level of engagement).

Being consistent on Facebook is vital because Facebook’s algorithms have become so complex that the number of people you reach on Facebook (organically, not via ads) depends – besides other factors – on how much engagement you already earn for every post you share.

Being consistent also means your page is seen as an active place.

5. Be willing to test

Like I said before, you can’t really know if Facebook ads work for your shop or not with a single ad-run for a week. There are people who’ve lost a few dollars and earned nothing in return (except tens of likes to their post). And then there are people who spent some $30 and got about 2000 visitors to their shop. Further down the funnel, you have people who spent a little and earned a few hundred fans to their page: fans who you can reach instantly, whenever you choose to.

You have to be ready to test Facebook ads over a longer period if you want to milk the cow for better ROI.

Look at how many variables there are that you can tweak: age group, interests, behavior, ad-showing metric etc.

If one interest group doesn’t work for you, you have to try another interest group. Even for a $1/day ad-spend, there’s so much you can tweak to get a different set of results every time you change your ad parameters.

At the end of the day…

Facebook ads are not evil by themselves. The problem is, they work in a limited market, in clearly-defined goals and only with the right kind of targeting. If you wrap your mind to it and use Facebook ads for, say, getting a lot of fans to your page, it can create “wins”.

Always remember the intent: Facebook users are not looking to buy, they are still far away from the buying intent.

And have clearly defined goals with a long-term vision.

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