Updated November 28 at 6:25pm

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Facebook ads don’t work


Should small-business owners advertise on Facebook? While some who’ve tried it seem satisfied, others are convinced it’s a bust for most local businesses. When USA Today ran an article recently on Facebook’s effort to attract small-biz advertisers, many business owners responded to say their experience with such ads was negative.

The point is this: While online marketing is something all businesses should consider, using social media channels for paid advertising simply doesn’t work well for some types of businesses. Dry cleaners, for example, might be better off focusing on getting people through the door with targeted emails and direct mail offers rather than spending a ton of time tweeting.

Raed Malhas, who is CEO of a small, online business called MiNeeds (www.mineeds.com), was disappointed with his experience placing ads on Facebook. Malhas breaks down Facebook’s failings as a small-biz advertising platform into several categories:

• Demographic dilemma. Facebook’s approach to advertising is largely based on targeting certain demographics. And while that works well for some businesses and especially national brands, it’s far less effective for local businesses. By contrast, Google Adwords and various local search sites such as DexKnows, YP.com and SuperPages let you target specific keywords. Thus, local business ads will show up for specific searches for an attorney in Atlanta, for example, or a plumber or pet store in Portland.

As Malhas points out, targeting demographics is tricky for small-business advertisers because it means you are trolling for customers on Facebook based on such things as gender, age, location, marital status, schools attended or other details. For local advertisers that’s a big problem because of what you DON’T know – i.e. the prospect’s “intent” or “needs” at a given time.

• Ad Fatigue. Even if you do manage to create a successful Facebook ad, it could be difficult to sustain your momentum. “Let’s say I’m targeting males in Seattle between 28 and 40,” says Malhas. “Even if my ad is extremely appealing to that target audience, the same audience will soon get bored with seeing the same ad again and again.”

This fatigue factor is especially troubling for small businesses with a limited local target audience. On the other hand, search ads tend to attract mostly fresh eyes. I might search for a locksmith this week, but not next. And you might need one a month from now. So the locksmith advertising on search platforms will catch both of us and there’s no fatigue factor. •

Daniel Kehrer can be reached at



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