Facebook recently announced its 1 billionth user and has seen its advertising revenue grow steadily along with its user base. According to eMarketer, brands spent nearly $4 billion on Facebook marketing in the last year and are on pace to spend more than $6 billion in 2014. The social network’s staggering size offers marketers an unprecedented opportunity to engage with existing and prospective customers. As a result, there has been a tremendous amount of enthusiasm from marketers as they quickly dive into this nascent media channel.
Along with all this excitement, however, has come an equal amount of debate as to how to drive value from Facebook advertising most effectively. So, we at Kenshoo Social decided to dig into the data and see what the numbers tell us. We looked across nearly 65 billion ad impressions and 20 million clicks as part of a 12-month, joint research study conducted with Omnicom’s Resolution Media. You may be surprised by what we found. We’ve published the results in a series of white papers, but I want to focus on one topic in particular in this post: gender.
Gender Differences in Facebook Advertising Performance
There is a wide body of research that suggests that men and women use social networks differently. Women tend to use social networks more for maintaining existing social relationships, communicating with friends, and sharing photos. Men, on the other hand, tend to use social networks more for seeking out and making new relationships. In other words, men and women tend to approach social networks with different mindsets; women more from a sharing, agenda-driven perspective and men from an exploratory, seeking perspective.
In our research, we found significant differences between men and women in terms of ad engagement and key performance indicators (KPI) on Facebook, and these seem to align with the gender differences in social networking behavior that have been described by others. Yes, the battle of the sexes is alive and well in social media marketing, and it turns out that…men are cheap!
Women outnumber men on Facebook 58 percent to 42 percent, respectively. Yet marketers in the study spend an average of 53 percent of their total advertising budget targeting men. As a result, men are served significantly more ads than women, and they click more often. Perhaps men are more willing to engage with and explore advertising messages because of their “seeking” mindset. Women, on the other hand, seem to be more cautious than men in this regard, or may simply be better at maintaining focus on their immediate activities, i.e., communicating with friends.
It’s a Fact: Men Really Are Cheap
Curiously though, men tend to be cheaper to target than women for both cost per thousand impressions (CPM) and cost per click (CPC)-based campaigns on Facebook. Average CPM for ads targeting men is $0.16 versus $0.20 for women. Similarly, average CPC for ads targeting men is $0.51 versus $0.68 for women.
This is counter-intuitive given our understanding of supply and demand in efficient, auction-based markets. A smaller audience targeted with more advertising budget should lead to greater competition for ad views, resulting in higher prices, not lower. Perhaps the reason is that the Facebook algorithm credits high click-through rates (CTR) with lower CPCs, as is the case in search engine marketing (SEM). Facebook’s secret sauce has been discussed at length elsewhere, so I will not go into it here. Whatever the reason, savvy social media marketers need to consider gender differences in CTR and CPC/CPM when formulating their campaign strategy and plan.
Because CPC/CPM tends to be lower when targeting men, marketers can generally use advertising budgets more efficiently by segmenting campaigns by gender. They can also afford to achieve a higher exposure rate or percent reach against male target audiences and display messages to men more frequently. It turns out this is a very good thing! Since men tend to have shorter attention spans than women, the ability to display a message to them more frequently is key to extracting the best performance from male-targeted campaigns. – - – Wait, I’m sorry…What was I saying?
Oh, right. Now, I remember…Our research shows that KPIs like CTR and conversion rate for Facebook ads increase with higher exposure rates and just the right level of frequency. Of course, optimal exposure rate and frequency will vary by brand, campaign, and ad creative, so taking a “test and learn” approach is key. From what we see, an exposure rate of greater than 75 percent of your target audience and a frequency of 6 are good goals to start with. Optimize from there.
So, what’s the bottom line?
Understanding the differences between how men and women use social networks and engage with social marketing messages is critical for achieving maximum efficiency and performance. Marketers need to formulate their overall campaign strategy and plan with these gender differences in mind.
Start by creating finely targeted ad segments that separate men and women and segment by age and other demographics and interests as well. Smaller, highly targeted audience segments enable more relevant and cost-effective messaging. Once a marketer identifies high-performing target segments, he/she should systematically expand the number of these to scale up reach while maintaining desired efficiency.
Likewise, men and women respond differently to ad text, images, and landing pages, so these should be customized whenever possible in order to maximize response rates for your gender-targeted campaigns. In general, men are highly visual, so the images are especially important to achieving best performance.
And finally, marketers should take advantage of the opportunity to leverage the higher impressions, click volume, and relatively lower CPCs that the male audience on Facebook offers. But they shouldn’t overbid on male-targeted campaigns!
Remember, men are still cheap on Facebook, but they may not remain cheap forever. If marketers are not currently using gender-targeted campaigns, they need to start testing this opportunity today.
- Todd Herrold