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Are You Bidding on your Competitors' Likes Yet?

Published: May 31, 2013

Author: Sean Quadlin

Facebook likes are a huge deal. Companies and celebrities alike hoard them, trying to outdo the competition. Bully for those who do a great job of it. And bully for us advertisers who are sneaky/resourceful enough to bid on the likes of our competitors.
Competitors have done the hard part (identifying people interested in a product and/or service), and now it’s up to us to turn that interested party into our very own customer. (And don’t forget to check out their Likes tab to get insights you can use on your own campaigns.)
“Great job getting those likes, competition! We’ll take it from here.”
bid on competitors' likes
(You’re the bunny, and your competition is the baker.)
We’ve been bidding on competitor terms for a while in the “wonderful” world of AdWords and BingAds. They are great leads and sales if you can get them. People searching for your closest competitors are potential customers pretty far down the sales funnel (as they’re either doing research on different companies or planning on navigating to a web site and making their purchase).
For me, it’s always been common practice to bid on competitor terms, but I had never thought about bidding on competitors’ likes until Kevin Lee of Didit said at this year’s Hero Conf that everyone should be doing it. (I’m trying not to be self-promotional, but I also want to cite my sources and give some context. Self-promotion gods forgive me!)
Bidding on competitors’ likes is similar to bidding on competitor terms in search engines, but there are a few things that you should keep in mind when attempting to perform Internet marketing’s version of cutting in line.

Be Transparent About Who You Are

If your only metric is CTR (which it should never, ever be – track what happens after the click), maybe it would make sense to try and confuse users into thinking that you are actually someone else – namely the competitor that you’re bidding on.  But I am of the opinion that you should sacrifice a little bit of CTR for the sake of your user.
You want them to land at your site and be excited to find out why you’re better than the company they’ve already liked. You definitely do not want someone to be expecting your competitor’s site/page, as they’re only going to be angry and bounce immediately. It wastes your money, and even more important than that, it gives people a negative impression of both you and your brand.

Identify Your (Specifically) Unique Selling Proposition

In this case, you don’t need to be absolutely unique in the face of your entire marketplace. You merely need to cite one benefit that you do a better job than the one specific competitor you’ll be bidding on. (As with almost all of Facebook’s precise targeting, I’d recommend keeping your targeting super-specific so that you’ll be able to cater your text and image accordingly. You’ll also be able to track it better, too.)
If you watch any SportsCenter, you’ve surely heard about the playoffs being about the matchups. It’s the same with trying to snag some of your competition’s audience. Identify their weaknesses and exploit them. This goes double if it’s a known pain point of your competitor. Read through some of their reviews online (which any engaged competitor would have plenty of) and identify what bothers their customers. In the brief space a Facebook ad affords you, tell everyone how you do a better job of it.

Recognize the Industry You’re In

Before you devise a way to tackle your competition, decide if you compete directly with that competitor or if you can complement or supplement them. It really varies by industry and product, but in many cases it’s not a one-to-one tradeoff.  Decide if you’re even capable of sharing a customer.
It’s sort of like this:  people can eat all sorts of different candy bars (I’ve heard. I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THIS FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.), but that candy bar company can only have their product made in one factory. If Sam-O’s Chocolate Co. likes Dubby’s Candy Factory, bidding on Dubby’s likes doesn’t make as much sense for rival factory Couch’s Confection Connection (although it’s never a bad idea to be in the back of Sam-O’s head in case Dubby’s Factory ever fails them).
However, it would make a whole lot more sense for Carrie’s GooGoo Clusters to bid on people who like Sam-O’s Chocolate Co. People are capable of eating both chocolate and googoo clusters. (AGAIN, I’VE ONLY HEARD THIS.  I HAVE NEVER FOUND OUT FOR MYSELF AS I AM VERY FIT.)

Get Some Insight Into Where Those Likes Came From

Just as not all leads are created equal in quality, not all likes reflect a supreme sense of customer loyalty. Part of your competitor research should involve seeing their page and what type of content they’re putting up. If it’s mostly catered toward social engagement, those likes would tend to be on the softer side.
People like the types of engagement that the brand is providing; the page like can reflect that. If the page is basic and no frills, almost a holding spot for the company on Facebook, then those likes are going to be a lot more difficult to capitalize on. That’s a direct like on the company and not their content.
The good news for us scheming advertisers, though, is that the pages that are driving the most likes are going to have the biggest coattails for us to ride. Steer clear of those with an obviously loyal following, and capitalize on those that are doing the most on Facebook.
Facebook’s recent launch of new targeting options is an impressive step in the right direction. But there are still some things that can be done with their old-school precise targeting that are worth further investigation. Bidding on competitors’ likes is a good place to start, assuming of course, that it makes sense for your brand.

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