For a long time, ads on Facebook were less effective the more local a business was. It’s easier to target to an audience of all young women in America than it is to market all the young woman who live near a boutique that’s advertising on Facebook. At least, it was hard. Facebook recently introduced Local Awareness Ads specifically made to help small local business owners connect with Facebook users near their location.
“With local awareness ads, businesses can quickly and easily find new customers by showing ads to groups of people who are near that business’s neighborhood,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the new feature. “Local awareness ads are built to be more cost-effective than traditional advertising channels like newspaper while offering more precise targeting and greater reach.”
Since Facebook had very good targeting options in the past, it’s worthwhile to explain what is different. Before, a brick and mortar store could only target to a city or ZIP code. It was possible to capture a large part of the potential audience for a business this way, it would also include a lot of unnecessary areas and serve ads to people who probably couldn’t act on them. With Local Awareness Ads, business who have their physical location listed on Facebook can run ads that are targeted a certain radius from that spot.
This can be a valuable tool when combined with Facebook’s resources for advertising to mobile device users on the Facebook App as well as on games and mobile sites in the ever-growing Facebook Ad network. For stores that rely on foot traffic, Local Awareness Ads can be used to steer customers their way as soon as they get in range.
Besides the usual ads for specials, discounts, and the like, Local Awareness Ads can also be used with “Get Directions” call-to-action button. Facebook noted that in conversations with local business owners and advertisers, clicks for directions where more valuable than traditional metrics such as Likes and Shares.
In the blog post, Facebook tried to assuage fears that the new ad format would be intrusive. The Local Awareness Ads won’t be able to target specific people just people in specific areas. And users can still opt out of sharing their device’s location with Facebook.
“Local awareness ads were built with privacy in mind. Advertisers select locations, not specific individuals, for local awareness ads,” the post stated. “Facebook does not tell advertisers which specific people are in any audience and, as with our other advertising products, all audiences must meet a minimum required size.”
Most consumer advocates would consider these points as mere semantic arguments. But with most eyes focused on the reintroduction of Atlas, slightly better geo-tracking isn’t raising many activist eyebrows. But local business owners and marketers should pay attention. Local awareness ads may be the solution for their local internet advertising needs.
If you don’t have a Local Awareness Ad option in your ad creation tool, keep an eye out for it, it’ll be there soon. Facebook says the feature will roll out across the US over the next few months. Every business owner in America should probably have it by November (they wouldn’t want to miss out on all that Black Friday ad revenue). The rest of the world may have to wait a little, but it should be released globally within the next few months.