Do you use Facebook advertising? Do you know how to target your most relevant audience? Do you know to create and market to lookalike audiences from your existing email lists?
If not, then you’re not alone. A lot of small businesses don’t know why exactly they’re running Facebook ads. By taking your most liked, commented, and shared content and then advertising it, you multiply your success.
This week, we chat it up with author, digital marketing consultant, and Huffington Post contributor John Haydon, to learn more about how to use Facebook as an secondary strategy to compliment our existing content.
How did you get involved with Facebook?
- I guess it’s the place where everybody is. Working with non-profits, a lot of them eventually are asking, “what do I do with Facebook?”
- I’ve been involved in Facebook and MySpace when it first came out; Twitter when it first came out. So I tend to be what you might call an early adopter.
- With Facebook I saw a lot of non-profits having a lot of success, so that’s how I got into that, but my background is really marketing and sales.
- For for-profit, I work for software companies, health care companies, traditional media companies. I feel like that experience is what I’m bringing to non-profits because they generally don’t have a marketing headset.
What do you say to small businesses and non-profits that say, “Facebook should be free. I can’t believe we have to pay for this?”
- I say that it’s a non-issue. That’s not a discussion because it’s not free.what a
- Some people say, “why, why isn’t it free? Why is our reach declining?” It’s good to understand why, but in the end it’s happening.
- Facebook is a public company, and knowing this is important because they actually have to make money every three months. They have to make not just money, but MORE money every three months so they’re always tweaking things and tweaking how they’re doing ads and any way they can even get an extra penny they’re gonna go after it.
- That’s the model of most public companies and they do it pretty well. They’re very successful.
Once you do convince somebody they have to spend money on Facebook, how do you get started?
- My thinking about Facebook ads, and this might apply to Google ads and other kinds of ads, is that they are salt and pepper, so seasoning. You can’t just eat salt and pepper. You have to have a meal. You have to have steak, potatoes, salad, french fries, whatever you’re going to have. That has to be the meal.
- The meal in a sense, is the content – understanding your people and what gets them going. Facebook is a pretty powerful platform for learning this. You can post an update on your Facebook page and you can actually compare that content with other content that you’ve posted on your Facebook page. And you begin to learn, “wow, our Facebook fans really like it when we talk about this. Or they like it when we post pictures of new dogs that are up for adoption. Or new shoes we have in our shoe store. Or they really respond when we post pictures of pizza.”
- The first step is to really understand the community and the people. Then supplement what you’re doing with Facebook ads. So, if you do post that picture of a pizza that people are going crazy about, then you can give that more exposure with Facebook ads.
- That’s the general rule that I have. Don’t think that Facebook ads is a primary strategy. It’s more like a secondary strategy that’s going to supplement and enhance what you’re already doing.
- It’s interesting because I’ve seen more than a few examples where the cost of a Facebook ad will actually be lower if you’re promoting a post that has a lot of likes, comments, and shares.
So, should we first create this content and then if it starts to get traction, then spend money on it?
- Yes. That’s the short answer.
- The reason why is that if you say, “well, we have an event that’s really important and we think it’s important and people need to see it.” Whenever I hear that I say to myself, “geez, that’s a backwards way of looking at things. ‘What WE think. What WE want people to see…’ Well, let’s see what your people say first. Let’s get proof that that is an awesome piece of content and then go from there.”
- When you take out a Facebook ad the only thing you’re paying for is reach. In the long run, reach doesn’t necessarily matter as much as engagement.
- So the way that Facebook’s newsfeed works is that the more a user, and let’s say you, Rich, like my Facebook page, the more that you like, comment, and share my content from my Facebook page the more likely you’re going to continue to see that content in my newsfeed.
- If I decide, “well, this post is really important and I’m gonna promote it even though it’s a dog,” and it’s really just a waste of everybody’s time, but I promote it anyhow and you see it in your newsfeed, you’re not going to like, comment, or share it because it’s just not interesting.
- So what does that do? That enables you to see it, but in the long run what you really want is likes, comments, and shares. You want people that engage with the content so that their friends see that content and are exposed to the organization or business.
- You can even think of Facebook as a massive word-of-mouth monster. It’s like Godzilla word-of-mouth. The key from a strategic and marketing standpoint is to see it that way and to leverage your current community – the people who are already customers and who are already consistent donors and supporters, event registrants, and event attendees – to get those people telling their friends about you through your content.
- A lot of people view Facebook as a place to just push something out there and hope somebody likes it. There’s really no thinking.
- Let’s say there’s an event coming up like Agents of Change, I’m sure you’ve thought about this, but you could post a couple of different updates about that. What do people really care about? Like you said, you’re basically testing the market in a very inexpensive way. You see how people are reacting, what topics they like, what content they like, and then taking the best of the best and then promoting that.
So, with our Agents of Change conference, we think we have some great speakers coming, one thing we might try is to create posts about each speaker and the ones that really start to take off are the ones we want to throw money behind and turn those into Facebook ads.
- Exactly. What’s really great are the targeting selections in Facebook are so incredible. There are so many different targeting options.
- Let’s say you publish a post about Pat Flynn. People really start talking about it and it really starts to excel and becomes one of your best updates compared to the other updates about other speakers. You can actually target that update to fans of Pat Flynn’s Facebook page that happen to be located near Agents of Change. People may not come from Arizona, I don’t know, maybe they might?
- Anyhow, I call it poaching. You can basically poach the fans of another Facebook page like Pat Flynn’s page. You can put that ad right in front of those people. Of course, what are they going to do? They’ve already liked the page and they’re gonna see that post about Pat and of course they’re going to be interested in that.
- You also mentioned retargeting which is a such a brilliant approach with Facebook ads. I think that’s an underutilized feature. Someone goes and visits an Agents of Change landing page or the information page and then they leave. They say, “ah, I’m not ready now.” Then they go to Facebook and what do they see? They see the ads in the sidebar. They see that ad in the newsfeed about Agents of Change.
- So marketing 101 says to expose people from multiple angles. The more angles you have – email, SEO, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Facebook ads – the more exposure you create for people the more likely they’re going to take whatever action you want them to take.
What kinds of things should I be looking to accomplish with my advertising? Am I trying to get people to like my page? Or am I trying to drive them to take a certain action like buying something, or sending them to my web page? Where do you recommend people spend their money here?
- It depends upon the goal. In your case, you want people to go to a page and register for the event. So you want to drive traffic to a web page. You may pay a little bit more money because Facebook generally charges a little bit more of a premium if you’re directing traffic off of Facebook.
- Facebook wants people to stick around, because when people stick around they increase the page views and that’s a direct effect on their revenue. The more page views they have the happier the shareholders are. Shareholders’ happiness is the name of the game.
- The first thing is to clarify the goal. What is the goal?
- Second thing is to understand the people which we talked about before – posting and testing different updates to see which ones people like and what topics they like. Do they like a photo? Do they like closed questions? Trying different things like that is always a constant thing that people should be doing on Facebook.
- And finally, targeting; so the more you understand your people the better you’re going to be able to target that ad. It does depend upon the goal.
- So if the goal is to like a Facebook page you’re going to take out a Facebook page like ad to get fans. But even those you have to really target. If you just go based on what Facebook says. Facebook will say, “hey, click here. Two mouse clicks to get more fans.” Of course they’re gonna target very broadly. That’s not going to be effective because then you’re going to have very low quality fans. You might get a fan but they’re not going to see your updates. It’s almost meaningless and you’ve wasted money.
- But, if you target really specifically by understanding your people, you’re gonna get fans of your page that are more likely to engage and stick around.
- Another goal you could have is to increase engagement on posts. Again, in that case you’re still going to pick the posts that are performing the best and Facebook pages, as you know, has a tool called Facebook Insights. You can quickly go in there and see your top ten updates over the past week. Then based on what your business goals are, you can decide that of these ten posts, these two are really really relevant for the event that’s coming up or really relevant for this product.
- So it does depend upon the goal.
Sometimes you can advertise to get into the newsfeed or advertise to get into the side. Is there one that beats the other? Or does it depend?
- I would say newsfeed is going to beat the sidebar ads every time. They’re much more effective. They’re much more engaging. Sidebar ads are good because they have more of a permanent fixture, but the downside is that they look like ads. You look at them and know it’s a Facebook ad. Everybody kind of knows what they are.
- With the newsfeed with a sponsored story, it is literally a piece of content that hopefully is useful and relevant that’s just simply being pushed out a little bit further to the Facebook users.
Do you have any recommendations for setting a budget or what people should spend to see some results?
- Yeah. The first thing is Facebook by default is going to have a setting that says, “let my ad run from today onward.” Like literally, let my ad run forever. Maybe somebody’s hoping that you’re gonna have a heart attack and die and then making money off that. So that’s the default setting, so you always want to select a specific date range.
- For the run date, I’d recommend around 3-5 days for any Facebook ad. Because Facebook ads are kind of like relatives and fish – they last just a few days. People see the ad and then they reach this point of diminished returns and then you have to switch up the ad and do something else. You have to keep things fresh.
- The other benefit of doing a short run like 3-5 days is that you can get a test. You can test something out and see how it performs. Facebook ads does have an analytics tool so you can see how many clicks, how much exposure, what money you’re spending, and even the click-through rate (which is kind of the magic number or value of the ROI of the ad).
Do you know anything about “unpublished post” and then advertising off of that instead?
- Yeah, so unpublished posts are basically a Facebook update, a regular old Facebook update, that’s not published but is pushed out using an ad to very specific, targeted audiences. It is published on the page, but only the people you target are going to see that. It’s an unpublished post.
- The example where you might want to use that is for the people who attended Agents of Change last year and you want to offer them a discount. You want to say, “hey, this is just an early bird discount for previous registrants who came last year,” so you want to create a Facebook post about that and you want people to engage with that. But of course we don’t want everyone to see it. We just want the people who attended last year.
- That’s where you could take that unpublished post and then publish it to only the people who attended the event last year.
- How would you present that ad to only people who attended Agents of Change last year? You would do that through a custom audience. Facebook ads allow you to take an email list, upload it into Facebook ads and create an email list. In this example, you would simply have an email list of everyone who registered and attended last year. So then you’re only presenting that ad to those people that have a Facebook profile associated with each email address on that list.
So you could target any of your other email lists as well?
- Exactly. I’ve actually used this approach with a number of non-profit clients, but it applies in the for-profit world too. A typical non-profit problem I encounter is that someone donated once a year ago and we haven’t heard from them. They’re not opening our email list. They haven’t come to events. Where are they? We’ve lost touch.
- Well, they’re on Facebook. This is a way for you to get in front of them. Are you suddenly going to reignite their interest and passion? No. But you might remind them and a subset of those people you’ve lost touch with can be pulled back into the fray.
- Because guess what? You have their email. I feel like email is still the most important marketing tool. A lot of people feel like email’s dead, but I think that’s idiotic.
- So social media does it all the time. When you join Facebook you give them your email and they want the emails of all your friends too. That’s what happens when you sign up.
- Targeting to people who you’ve lost touch with, there are so many ways to use those custom audiences. You can even create lookalike audiences. So let’s say that you have an email list of customers and you really want to attract those people who are very similar to your customers. You can upload that list of a thousand people or so and create a lookalike audience which might be 10 -15,000, but they all have similar characteristics.
- Let’s say most of your email subscribers are in Maine and they like certain things like the State of Maine, fishing, biking, these different things and so Facebook will assemble a lookalike audience that will basically match the prevalent likes an interests of your email list.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you see some non-profits and small businesses doing when it comes to these Facebook ads? What should we avoid?
- Targeting too widely. If you say, “oh, I want to get more fans of my Facebook page and I’m just gonna spend as much money as possible.” There is a mindset and tendency to think that if you throw money at it it’s going to solve the problem.
- Money is just money. It’s not going to solve a problem if we don’t go about it wisely. Sometimes they’ll say, “well, I’ve got a thousand dollars, let’s just get a whole bunch of fans.” Whoa, hang on. Let’s not waste your money. Let’s find quality fans.
- So targeting is a big issue. Not targeting wisely is a huge huge mistake.
- The second biggest mistake is promoting content with an ad that’s just a dog. Like it’s just not good stuff. Why would you want to do that? Your fans aren’t going to like it. No one’s going to like that because no one has liked that in the past because it doesn’t have any likes, comments, and shares. Also, you’re going to pay a higher rate for that ad because Facebook, as a business, don’t want that junk in the newsfeed either.
- If they have that junk in the news feed, guess what? The users start disappearing and without the users they’re in big big trouble. They really are truly trying to put the most interesting and relevant content in the newsfeed even if it’s an ad.
- So targeting wisely and only promoting the posts on your page that are performing above and beyond the average performance on your page.
- Get in on the early bird discounts for Agents of Change!!
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