Facebook has recently begun to push its new ‘Local Awareness’ more heavily as a critical aspect of its advertising for small local businesses. As any smart local business should always be on the lookout for ways to get ahead of the competition and leverage its geographical specificity, is this something you need to take notice of?

What is Local Awareness?

In some ways, you can think of Facebook’s business pages as similar to Google’s ‘local business directories’. On Google, searching for a product or service in a certain area will often result in filtered results to show the most relevant businesses. This way, you can search for ‘Wedding Dresses’ in Denver and the results will be populated by places in that area that offer Wedding Dresses for sale.

Similarly then, Facebook is now offering advertisers the option to target people from specific regions. Since their introduction, Facebook ads (which work on a ‘pay per click’ basis) have let you select the gender, relationship status, interests and ages of the people you want to see your ad. This way, you can ensure that the right people are seeing your promotions and thus that you are more likely to get conversions. Someone selling wedding dresses for instance might choose to target someone in their 20s, who is engaged and who is female.

All these features are still there, only now you can also add a local element – for instance choosing to only show your ads to people within a ten mile radius of your store. This gives advertisers and small businesses in particular a lot more precision and should help to improve conversions even more.

How to Set Up Local Awareness Ads

Local Awareness is fortunately pretty easy to get to grips with if you’re used to advertising on Facebook. You can find the full details on Facebook, but let’s go over the process briefly.

  1. First of all, go to create an ad campaign as you normally would but then head to the left hand menu option that says ‘Local Awareness’.
  2. Next you will see a map that also contains a search bar underneath. Here you can search for your local area by typing the name of your town, city or state and or you can put in your ZIP code.

Choosing Your Radius

  1. After that, you’ll then be given the option to select a radius which basically allows you to set how much of the local area you want to cover. This will be shown as a greyish circle around your location which you can then grow or shrink.

Deciding on the precise radius you want to cover might be a tricky decision at first but suffice to say the narrower the area, the fewer ‘wasted’ clicks you’ll get and the broader the area, the more people you’ll be able to reach. The correct choice here is likely to depend on the nature of the products or services you’re offering – if you run a grocery store then people are unlikely to come from miles around. If you’re selling products that are hard to find though, people might be more willing to travel especially so you can broaden your radius. As with everything in the world of PPC, it will probably come down to trial and error/split testing to see what works best for you.

  1. Once you’ve done this, you’ll then be able to scroll further to set your age, gender and other factors as you normally would. This new local element will be most effective only when it’s combined well with other filters so do spend some time tweaking your settings. This is where surveying your audience and collecting data can really pay off.

Note: When you create your Facebook page you will be automatically given a pre-selected coverage area. You need to check this to make sure it’s in-line with the area that your business actually serves.

  1. Review your ad to make sure it looks the way you want it to.

Are Local Awareness Ads For Me?

Whether or not Local Awareness is worth your time is going to depend very much on the nature of your business.  If you’re a local business and you already advertise on Facebook, then this is good news that is simply going to make it easier for you to reach an even more specific audience.

Going back to the wedding dress example, a wedding dress shop that’s in a specific part of town will now be able to target newly engaged women who live locally or happen to be in that part of town, and can come to try the dresses on in person.  This local targeting can prevent a lot of wasted clicks by people who aren’t in the area able to visit in person.

For B2B companies that work online, the ability to target locally might not be of as much interest. Though it could be used to avoiding direct competition with some of the bigger names in your industry or niche, to find business partners, or to encourage local brand awareness.  So this may be a good tactic to fly under the radar and gain some local visibilty.

Facebook Vs AdWords

In terms of the bigger picture, what does this tell us about the state of advertising on the net?

There has been some speculation that these style of ads put Facebook in more direct competition with Google. Google AdWords has always had a big advantage over Facebook for local business in the past but this change from Facebook could be enough to challenge that.

If you’re a small business trying to decide between Facebook and Google for your local ad then, which should you pick?

On the one hand, Google lets you target people who are actively searching for the thing you sell. This is an important distinction, as there’s still no way on Facebook to prevent ads showing to engaged women who already have their wedding dresses. That said, Google AdWords doesn’t take into account quite the same nuanced information such as age or interests and it doesn’t let you market ‘passively’ to people who might be tempted to make an impulse purchase nonetheless.

Again then, the best option is going to depend very much on the type of product or service you’re offering. The only way to know for sure? Give both a go and compare the results!