My small business clients have a lot to do and they tend to viscerally resist adding items to their plate that require ongoing maintenance.     So, Facebook pages are often not even considered because of the requirement to maintain them going forward.   It is worse to have an abandoned Facebook page than no Facebook page at all.

An alternative is to run a Facebook ad targeting your specific audience and drive the traffic to your website.   So, yes, Virginia you can have a Facebook ad without a Facebook page.

The demographic targeting available is really quite remarkable on Facebook and is one factor in the very rapid growth of Facebook’s dominance in the display ad publishing world.  They now serve almost a third of the US online display ads!  Double what it was a year ago.

Top 10 U.S. Online Display Ad* Publishers
Q1 2011
Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore Ad Metrix
Total Display Ad Impressions (MM) Share of Display Ad Impressions
Total Internet : Total Audience 1,110,448 100.0%
Facebook.com 346,455 31.2%
Yahoo! Sites 112,511 10.1%
Microsoft Sites 53,592 4.8%
AOL, Inc. 33,454 3.0%
Google Sites 27,993 2.5%
Turner Digital 18,050 1.6%
Fox Interactive Media 11,697 1.1%
Glam Media 10,207 0.9%
CBS Interactive 9,208 0.8%
Viacom Digital 9,051 0.8%

*Display ads include static and rich media ads; excludes video ads, house ads and 
very small ads (< 2,500 pixels in dimension)

For local businesses, you can target people in your geographic area (per their profile information).  You can target them based on their gender, their age, their interests- which groups they like; which companies they follow; etc.  In many ways it is the holy grail for marketers.  Custom messages for each very narrowly defined segment.    You can even target ads for people to see only on their birthdays!

And remember- Facebook inventory is growing as more people use Facebook and spend more time on it.  So, unlike Google Advertising which has gotten much more expensive over time, my clients are finding that Facebook advertising often decreases in price over time.    Of course, it operates quite differently than Google ads.  People who see Google ads are searching for something similar to the ad.  People who see a Facebook ad aren’t actively searching but they are in a segment that the advertiser thinks will benefit from the offer.    In my opinion, this makes Facebook advertising perfect for building awareness and interest.   Google is a better fit for getting the buyer to take an immediate purchase action.

The next blog post will address why you might want to consider the time and energy in a Facebook page in addition to a Facebook ad!