The Short Lifetime Of Facebook Ads

Chris Trayhorn
by Chris Trayhorn
February 2, 2011

There’s so much hype around Facebook right now that it would be easy to think that they are an immediate threat to Google’s business model, but the reality is that they’re not even close. Not only does Google still make at least six times more revenue per user than does Facebook, but Facebook’s advertising model is still very much a work in progress.

Webtrends Report
A report from Webtrends this week underlined this point with an eye-catching takeaway: Facebook advertising has a very short effective lifetime. Over an aggregated 11,000+ campaigns the authors found that CTR dropped by half within 48 hours of an ad going live. CTRs of 0.2% could be achieved pretty regularly for highly targeted ads during the first few hours, but reduced quickly thereafter. The decline would continue over a period of a few days until finally CTR became so low that Facebook killed the ad.  

Webtrends released their report on Facebook advertising performance earlier this week. It presents data accumulated over more than 11,000 campaigns that served over 4.5 billion impressions. There is a lot of detail in the report itself (available here for free download but unfortunately a dead link at the time of writing).


Now Webtrends benefits from a lot of intelligence in running Facebook campaigns. They build and sell their own analytics tools and they white-label campaigns for other agencies. They know their stuff and so their results are likely to be better than those for a typically "average" Facebook advertiser. As a result they were able to present 523 million unique impressions, meaning that they only served an average of nine ads to each user – this is a much reduced number than we have heard of being achieved in most other Facebook campaigns. And Webtrends recommends that using friend-of-fan and non-fan targeting to keep ads alive a little longer: these techniques bring in fresh users as they join and also help to avoid users that are already friends.

Facebook Advertisers vs. Google
All of this means that Facebook remains a terrific ad platform for ads that benefit from demographic targeting – at least until the next Acai-type products come along that can be thrown against the wall of the entire world population. But Facebook advertisers have to work harder than those who can make their campaigns work on Google or other search engines. Search ads can run for months with little change because they’re only presented to new users searching on a keyword.

Revenue Performance Recommendation
So there is the choice: spend time on optimizing a PPC campaign and let it run and run, or go for Facebook and create fresh ads every few days. Both techniques work, but if you’re using Facebook you can’t just create one ad and let it sit there if you wish to succeed. More here.

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Chris Trayhorn

About Chris Trayhorn

Chris Trayhorn is the Founder & Editor of Revenue Performance magazine and the CEO of mThink LLC, a performance marketing services company based in San Francisco. Chris has worked on marketing campaigns with over 200 of the Forbes Global 2000. Friends say he knows a lot about a couple of things and a little bit about everything. He likes motorcycles, Manchester United and making pictures.

View all posts by Chris Trayhorn

6 Responses to “The Short Lifetime Of Facebook Ads”

  1. jminkler Says:

    CTR rates diminish quickly because they are highly targeted and shown over and over (because people sit on FB all day), unlike Google. If a user sees the same ad a second time, they are even less likely to click the ad than the first time they saw it, and so on and so forth.

    It’s best to keep it fresh, keep the user interested. Run the ad for a day, change the image, change the call to actions. Rinse, repeat, until FB get more advertisers.

    One thing that FB does have over Google is the targeting, Google doesn’t know if you “hate it when the ice bunches up when your drinking” FB does.

  2. Taylor Says:

    I’ve been in the brand marketing business for over 15 years now and sometimes I long for the days when things were much simpler. When we only had great catalogs, commercials,direct mail and email blasts. I’ve been working with our social media group to have a lot more campaigns for FB and Twitter. They were also issuing the same warning that you are, if we go with FB we’ve got to keep changing things up each week, if not more. I’m not complaining, this is definitely giving more meat to my job.

  3. jjc Says:

    I have never gotten good results from facebook ads. I will not be using them in the future.

  4. jonz Says:

    Geno Prussakov’s new baby, Affiliate Management Days, launched today in San Francisco. The new two-day conference aims to educate affiliate managers in a professional environment focused on the needs of merchants and advertisers. The show opened with landing-page guru Tim Ash as keynote, with sessions featuring luminaries such as Todd Crawford, Karen Garcia, Jason Spievak and Sarah Bundy running through the day. 

  5. kevinmiller Says:

    Not only does Google still make at least six times more revenue per user than does Facebook, but Facebook advertising model is still very much a work in progress. I have some research work regarding this topic and this may help me for sure.

  6. inter4522 Says:

    I have never gotten good results from facebook ads. I will not be using them in the future. I would look for alternatives like google.