Notes about advertising and boosting posts on Facebook

May 30, 2014 · 6 min read

Notes about advertising and boosting posts on Facebook -- the tasselflower blog

Lately I've been dabbling with Facebook advertisement from a very small business point of view. I run a website called Stylebook with two other ladies and we do pretty much everything ourselves. Thus I have been making a bunch of homemade test drives with Facebook ads. It's good to note that our advertisement budget is very small (if you are thinking a small number, think smaller now) so I haven't been able to throw lots of money and ads in and see what comes out. Due to this I have been making very refined testing, when it comes to budgets and targeting.

I have made a couple of very different types of ads on Facebook. This has included straight forward ads as well as boosting posts. The latter means that you post something on a Facebook page, in this case Stylebook's Fb, and you pay for the post being boosted (promoted) for different target groups. The post or ad can be targeted for the people who have already liked the page, which sounds like a good idea if you have lots of likers, or for targeted group of people. The targeting is done with choosing location or locations (country, city, area, etc.), gender, age and interests.

The contents of ads or boosting has varied: I have promoted our giveaways, both on our own site and on Facebook and I have promoted Stylebook itself. All the ads and boosts have had images on them as well as text. All the ads have been tied to our Facebook page, even when they are about our website. The promotion time has varied from a week to a month and the daily budgets have always less than 10 EUR. I have also let Facebook do the work of bidding the ads, so I've only given the promotions a limited budget for a limited time. For boosted posts this is always the only option.

Is there point in Facebook advertising?

Ah! A question like this! So much fun, because the answer is always "it depends". It depends on several different things. What are you trying to accomplish, what your budget is, how much patience you have, what are you advertising and who are you advertising for, to mention some.

For us the advertising has been good and it has been okay. During one promotion we got huge amount of new likers for our page, and the ad received a huge amount of engagement (comments, likes, shares and clicks). Also the amount of people visiting our site peaked. In general all the time we have paid for Facebook to promote our site or a post we have got more people coming to Stylebook, more people have liking the Fb page and more people sharing, liking and commenting our posts. The reality is that it's not straightforward.

In average a boosted post is reaches more people and gains more engagement than a non-boosted. All the engagement however is not seen on the ad reports for different reasons. Did you know that a regular non-boosted post on Facebook is seen by usually less than 10% of the people who have liked your page or are your friends? And did you know the post will be seen by more people if those few who saw it in the first place will engage with it? It's complicated, I know. Similar thing happens with boosting and ads. One person engages with a boosted post and then a bunch of their friends will see it and so forth. It's a game of accumulation.

Basically if you have a few bucks laying in the corners of your PayPal account and you don't have better things to do with them, Facebook ads won't hurt you. Unless you do something really stupid with the ad.

Go cheap or pay a lot?

Facebook ads are considerably cheap. You get a nice amount of boost for about 10 EUR/week, if you do it smart. I have noticed that some ads keep repeating on my timeline very frequently. I assume they have very high budgets, too high for their own good. Idea is that the more the ad is shown the better it will work. This is true and this is false.

High budget promotion on Facebook can have very high cost per engagement or click and on the other hand a low budget promotion can have a high cost per engagement as well. Sounds random, but it isn't. What is very interesting is that most of our lower budget promotions have had better engagement than the higher budget promotions. This is due many different reasons and the budget is the least important thing in it.

How about targeting?

Targeting with a Facebook ad is highly important. The more narrow the targeting is the better engagement the promotion will receive. Also it will have better reach. Especially when the budget is low the targeting can improve the reach and the engagement highly.

I have noticed that when I leave gender out of the targeting the ad doesn't do as well as when I limit it to women for instance. Similarly the narrower I limit the age or location of people I want to target the better the ad will do. It might seem like you should shoot the ad to every direction, but in reality the more you target it the better it will work. Therefore it doesn't really matter if you spend a lot for a Facebook ad or if you spend really little. What matters is who you target with it.

I haven't tried limiting the ads for interests, because I don't trust that it works here in Finland very well. People here don't trust anyone and pretend to be very careful on what they tell about themselves. Many leave their relationship status open, don't tell their age/birthday publicly and most definitely don't tell their religious or political views. Similarly they can be very cautious on revealing their other interests, unless it's something they are sure is "socially acceptable". Yes, we are a bunch of pretenders trying to keep up appearances.

How long should the promotion last?

Again this depends. It depends on what you are promoting, how much you are ready to spend and all sorts of things. I have noticed though that a month is way too long time for a promotion. You will gain most of the engagement during the first week and then later it will just start to annoy people.

I for one like the short boosts. Week is a good time. Actually the boosted posts have a maximum lifetime of a week, though you can boost it again after that. However it appears that the week is quite enough and some cases it can be too long. As I mentioned above it depends. I haven't tried boosting a post for only one day. I've actually noticed that any Facebook boost or ad starts to gain real engagement around the second day it's on.

Facebook ad or boosted post?

For Stylebook the boosted posts have worked better. The cost per website click of an ad has been as much as double as high in comparison to the cost per engagement of a boosted post. It's a bit silly to compare these two like this, because the promotions work very differently. But if we look only the cost and the return, the boosted posts do much better. It makes sense. The ads look like ads, feel like ads and people just hate ads.

My biggest problem with the regular ads on Facebook is that they have very limited space for text and the actual ad cannot have much text either or it's rejected. Finnish language makes this especially difficult since we have long words and say thing in very complicated ways. If I was making the same ads in English it would be easier. Unfortunately Facebook doesn't take this in account and you have the same space for text no matter how complexed your language is.

The boosted posts however have the text space of a regular post. You can write pretty lengthy explanations, add links and do pretty much anything within the limits of terms of use and terms of promotions. It's notable that the same limitations for images with text apply to the boosted posts as to the regular ads. I don't know if it applies when the ad has a link with image that's been pulled from the site.

So there

In conclusion as with any advertisement it's a case of trying, failing, trying again and hopefully someday getting the to work. Facebook ads and boosted posts are pretty easy to set up and you can try doing stuff with them with pretty low cost. Just remember to give them a lifetime budget and an end date in near future and there won't be any surprises. The efficiency of a Facebook ad or a boost depends on so many things that there's no one perfect way to do it.

I didn't give any actual numbers here because our numbers aren't your business. And because the Facebook ad reports tell one story, the website analytics another and the Facebook page likes and post engagements yet another one. I would have to make you a full analysis of all those in order to give you any numbers that have significance in anything. Oh yeah, it's so damn complicated.


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