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Facebook advertising, an introduction and our experience

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(Updated July 2015)

Oh social media – why do you tease us so? Twitter, Facebook et al promise so much to marketers but deliver so little. And it’s only going to get littlerer – fewer Facebook friends, seeing less of your content, engaging less with the content they do see and being influenced less by you despite all your efforts.

A super quick quiz about Facebook:

Let’s say you have 100 friends. (People who have liked your page.)

Let’s say you create a Facebook post, perhaps recommending this very article.

Q1. How many people do you think will see your post when they log on to their Facebook account? And by that we mean scrolling past it as they survey their Facebook feed.

Q2. How many people will engage with it by sharing it, pressing the Like button, clicking on some pictures or a link or leaving a comment?

Answer to Q1: between 8% and 12%.

Answer to Q2: less than 2%, probably less than 1%. Depressed already?

The bottom line is this – Facebook is making it harder and harder for your content to reach people – even those who Like your page. This is deliberate and in Facebook’s interest because it encourages you to pay to get more of your content to friends and strangers. Yep – it’s time to acknowledge that without spending money your Facebook impact will be small and diminishing.

There are various ways that Facebook will take your moolah in exchange for spreading your content to more people. Facebook continues to tweak its advertising offerings, terminology and back end interface but these basics should hold true for a while.

Facebook advertising advice

The boost button is for newbies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most basic option is to Boost.

It appears below your post and gives you the option to pay as little as $5 to display your post to more of your friends, their friends or to target an audience. Once your credit card is stored with Facebook, the process is seamless – a mere three clicks. No wonder millions of people a day use this service.

facebook advertising australia

Money well spent.

Does it work? Well, yes. Here’s how a boosted post compared to unboosted posts on the Hootville Facebook page. Have a look at that top post – Facebook has let it roam cyberspace. For money.

 

boosting a facebook post

Mr Zuckerberg appreciates your contribution.

So should you use it? Yes – on occasions when it’s important for you to get word out.

Of course you’ll have to convince your bosses to allow you to boost, with no guarantee of exactly how many people will see the post.

Ideally you’ll have a pool of money which you can spend $5, $10 or $20 at a time at your discretion, reporting on the results as you go. Life is too short to have each boost approved.

But boosting is for newbies. It allows you to reach more of your friends and their friends but it allows less targeting of potential audiences and less crafting of what they see. Thus let’s talk about Facebook advertising proper.

Finances: Facebook lets you set a daily budget which can start at a few dollars. Based on your budget Facebook displays your post to the people you target (more on targeting below).

It’s an auction system so as with real estate, the more popular your audience is with advertisers, the more you will have to pay to reach them. Targeting Double Bay Sydney’s brides-to-be is more expensive than targeting Alice Springs’ residents who have expressed interest in lawn bowls because more advertisers are seeking the former.

Of course it’s more complicated than that. Facebook wants to show people ads they will be interested in so if your ad has a high click through rate (more on CTR later) and relevance score it will be shown more often, more prominently. You can decide how much you are willing to pay for each display or (as we do) let Facebook decide.

choosing facebook advertising options

You probably want all of the above don’t you?

Desires: Facebook also allows (forces) you to decide what your desired result is: getting people to click through to your website, engage with your post, become your Facebook friend etc. This step is early in the process and is confusing for new players.

The top three should meet most of your needs. Facebook displays and deploys your post differently to achieve your goal.

 

 

There are three aspects to Facebook advertising:

facebook advertising

Everyone’s at it!

1: creating the post or ad you wish people to see comprising the copy, the images or video, your choice of call-to-action button etc. AKA as the creative. It can take only minutes to create your ad (Facebook guides you through) but take the time to consider the images you show and headlines you write as they will impact on your results. Monitor the stats and make changes accordingly. Keep monitoring and tweaking. This is not ‘set and forget’.

 

What we learnt about Facebook advertising content from weird belly fat products.

facebook ads that work

Promoting specific tips and advice work for us.

Here are two ads that worked well for Hootville which we confess were inspired by those ubiquitous belly fat advertisements.

We tried some generic ads: “Visit Hootville.com for lots of advice and help.” sort of thing with no great results. We then tried some posts which were more specific to greater effect.

They were not promoting Hootville as a whole but offering very specific targeted advice and assistance – copywriting tips, story-pitching tips etc. They had an intriguing image (hamsters anyone?) and a bold, conspiratorial tone like those belly fat ads.

Suddenly each action (having people like our page) was costing less than 50c. Are you willing to pay 96c for two appropriate strangers to like your page? Would it be worth $500 to gain 1000 followers who you then attempt to keep interested? That’s your call but it’s cheaper than stamps and unlike direct mail, by the time you’ve spent your 70c you already have a ‘relationship’, albeit tenuous.

Our advice – always try two similar posts with different images and / or text to see which works best. A small change of text or image can make a big difference.

2: targeting your audience:

advertising on facebook

Given that Facebook knows everything about us, the targeting options for advertisers are a little underwhelming. You select gender, geography, age, interests etc. Advertisers targeting off-Broadway locations are at a big advantage as they will generally have to pay less and expose themselves to fewer irrelevant people.

At each point you will be told the approximate size of your prospective audience. As with all marketing, you want to find the right audience for your particular message – casting too broad a net means more people will see your post but that your conversion rate will fall. Throw too tight a net and you will lessen your potential.  Above is how we targeted one post.

You can also create custom audiences – say of people who have visited your website and target a certain ad to them. Brilliant. This is called retargeting and explains why the ads on your Facebook page are from the airline / hotel / university / musician your were Googling.

3. displaying the ad – involves choosing whether you want your ad to appear in just the Newsfeed or on the right hand side column, on desktop devices or mobile devices too. We prefer the Newsfeed option as there is less visual competition. All these will make a difference to the impact your ad has in terms of CTR and cost per action. Play around and see what works.

facebook advertising

The ad (on the left) was a HUGE success due to pinpoint targeting and exquisite timing.

When you get all three aspects – creative, targeting and display – correct the results can be glorious. We recently promoted an online petition that was aimed at the greyhound industry in light of the live baiting revelations. We were able to target women interested in greyhounds. Not just dogs – greyhounds.

We had the ad running within minutes of the ABC-TV 4 Corners report and the momentum was irresistible. It was the nation’s #1 story, people wanted action, people talk about this sort of stuff on Facebook, it was a simple request - thus we got these results.

facebook advertising guide

How sweet it is. No other form of advertising can do this.

The average cost to have someone click through to the petition was just 5c. That’s cheaper than shouting out the window.

And of course each person who signed was then an email contact of Animals Australia who were behind the petition.

After seeing these staggering results maintain themselves we repeatedly extended the campaign.  best money we’ve spent this year. (We sent Animals Australia an email outlining our results suggesting they throw big money at it but received no response.)

Note – over the course of a year many nonprofits would be able to take advantage of some similar outrage to create a voice for change and build databases and relationships. Opportunity will knock. Be ready.

The stats page or “How do I know if I’m doing OK?”

social media advertising

You are the master of all you survey.

Administrators of Facebook pages that are advertising have access to the stats which reveal all. It can be a little overwhelming at first but here’s what to hone in on:

You know that you’re doing Facebook advertising ‘right’ when you have a paying a low cost per engagement. “Engagement” might be for a viewer to click through to your website or download your app or like your Facebook page.

If this is costing $1 per action you may wish to review your advertising. If it’s 25c per action it may be a very cheap investment indeed. Keep in mind a stamp today costs 70c + plus printing and handling.

The click through rate is another key indicator. It measures the percentage of people who having seen your ad, click on it. The higher the click through, the more attractive your ad is. Less than 2% is a concern. Above 10% and you may be a genius. You will be amazed at the different CTRs to the same ad you receive from men and women even when all other targeting is identical.

Alternatively you can run differently designed ads (as above) to the same audience and compare results. You might (indeed will) find that a differing image with the same copy can yield very different results. We wrote another blog post on this monkey experiment.

This is GOLD for marketers who can now stop, amend or double-down on any ad or sponsored post at any time. Try that with off-line advertising. take a gamble on your hunch.

More observations:

You must invest time to monitor results and tweak accordingly. We find that monitoring more than a few ads at a time to be complicated but that may be our simple mindedness.

facebook advertising help

Rejection? Oh yeah – we know how that feels.

Facebook has to approve each ad or post which can be annoying. You may be surprised to find your post or ad not approved – especially when you see the deliberately false and misleading advertising they do allow. They do not like too much text – they want images and would prefer videos. This usually take 5 to 10 minutes.

Video - early results show that audiences respond more to video.

You aren’t nearly as influenced by your peers as experts claim. Let’s say your pal Colin likes our sponsored post. You might consequently see a post in your Newsfeed saying more or less: “Hey – Colin just liked this post from Hootville. Check it out.” You probably won’t. Thus targeting friends of friends may not yield results but try it yourself and see.

The image accompanying the ad is VITAL. Hamsters got us results. Media trainer Brett de Hoedt in front of a PowerPoint slide – not so much.

Results very quickly flatten out. Initial results based on small exposure of your ad may be thrilling or depressing but within 36 hours results tend to plateau for good or bad. Whatever the current cost per click and click through rate will remain largely unchanged. This means that you can quickly cease a misfiring campaign or invest more in one that is working. (Try that with print.)

facebook advertising help

One is pleased with one’s high CTR.

Warning: this stuff can be addictive. Creating the right ad and matching it to the right demographic is fun for marketers. Testing variations is interesting as it lets you scientifically gauge your instincts.

You may find yourself, staring at the columns of reporting, updating, tweaking and feeling like a Wall Street wolf. You may soon scream: “CTR up to 8% – I am the Facebook Queen!” to co-workers. We dare you.

Social media sharing: length, depth and looks matter

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Are you getting shared around enough? Probably not.

There are no “copywriters” anymore – just content creators. And those content creators are judged in large part by the degree to which their content is shared. Getting lots of shares and retweets (going viral) feels good and spreads your message. Not getting shared feels more akin to having a virus.

So how do we increase the chances of being shared on social media? Here are some advice based on a study by BuzzSumo of 100 million pieces of social media content.

1. Length matters: here’s a big important counter-intuitive fact – longer posts get shared more than shorter.

Yep – we all say we are overwhelmed with information. We all have too little time and too much to read but this data – based on people’s real behaviour not their answers to a survey question – is very revealing. It seems that when the right people are reading your content they want MORE information, not less. And the more content your provide in a single post or tweet, the more likely it is that the reader will share your work.

how long should a blog post be?
More words = more shares. Get thee to thy keyboard.

As BuzzSumo’s investigation of what gets shared via social media shows, the longer the content, the higher the chances of getting a share / retweet / link. Think 2000 words minimum. Yep – you read that correctly.

Why does this make sense? Well, when we are mildly interested in a topic a short sharp piece of content may suffice but for those readers with genuine interest in you or your issues, the longer, the better. Longer posts win by a country mile.

how to increase social media shares

This guy knew what he was talking about when he talked about talking.

Remember what Aristotle (left) said: good speakers establish their ethos (high moral standing and pure motivations) before delivering the logos (facts, figures and information) while remembering to create pathos (to stir emotions whether angry, sad, patriotic etc).

That’s hard to do with a 150-word post. Of course not all posts are conceived equal. Some pieces of content need nothing more than the usual pith – others though need planning, writing and enhancement. Go long on content that really matters.

This works for Hootville – our most shared and enduring content is always our longer and angrier pieces.

 

Thumbnails on Facebook creates more sharing.

A picture is worth 1000 shares. Use them.

2. Pictures help too. On both Twitter and Facebook content with pictures were shared much more frequently.

Finally: Content creation is hard work but if you want to create a bond with your reader you need to persuade them of your bona fides. Valuable, relevant, practical, freely available information goes a long way to securing that bond. And it also inspires people to share your work.

Read more about the sort of content that gets shared at BuzzSumo.

PS: this post include 460 or so words.

Tone deaf multinationals should know better

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One of the things we teach in Hootville’s copywriting course Copy Savvy 101 is that tone matters. By tone, we mean the vibe, the manner, the impression you create with your words.

One golden rule: choose a tone. Never let your default tone become your tone. Consider what will work for you in relation to your key audiences audiences. And for Pete’s sake – stand out.

How formal will you be? How sophisticated will your language be? How specific or obtuse will your references be? Will you sound jaded, knowing, ironic? Will you be angry, friendly, outraged, caring, urgent?

Will you presume that your reader has some insider knowledge or that they are a newcomer to your issue?

Do you engage the reader with direct questions? Do you write more words or fewer? Do you tell stories and use humour? Did you notice that we’re using this tone as we speak?

Tone is created by more than words. Headlines, images and captions go a long way to establishing your tone. People who will never be paid to write for a living can detect a tone within a paragraph or two.

Of course your choice of what to write about and the priority each issue receives is a key way to convey your personality. Do you focus on changes to legislation and regulation – or focus on a client’s story? Are you deeply detailed or short and sweet?

There’s no one right tone. Just the one that works best for you in relation to your key audiences for the medium that you are using at the time.

copywriting advice

Oh puh-lease!

When organisations get their tone wrong it hurts them. You’ve all heard of airbnb, the website allowing people to rent out their spare rooms in exchange for money. Well airbnb is in hot water. Owners corporations don’t like strangers in their apartments and more importantly tax-hungry state governments in America want to tax airbnb’s users the way they tax hotel.

(Commonly referred to as bed taxes, each hotel night booked attracts a few dollars tax for government. So far airbnb has just ignored this.)

This is a threat to the airbnb juggernaught, so its hired lobbyists, rebranded and started a campaign to persuade lawmakers of airbnb’s deep worthiness.

The 5 year old company may be valued at $ 18 billion but it claims that deep down it’s a community. (If it were a community not a business this place would be free.)

Like so many US businesses they act as if their corporate success is in fact some social movement - the “sharing economy”.  What do you think of the tone? Is it simply too, too much? We think so.

copy writing course

Cringe-worthy copy from people with money to burn and writers on tap.

airbnb is far from alone in making this error. Facebook is a regular sinner.

Little did we know that by using Facebook to stalk our exes we were supporting Facebook’s “journey”. We hate that word.

We don’t mind some poetic waxing but as soon as you’ve overplayed your hand, as soon as you’ve overstated your case, as soon as the reader knows that you’re trying one on – you’ve lost them. Then you have no chance to win them over.

This is as off-tone as Mark Zuckberg’s speech on the day Facebook listed on the stock exchange. (Kicks in about at 50 seconds or so.)

great copywriting

This copy is mo, mo good. (No that is not Ms Hamam pictured.)

But how about a positive (and local) example you ask? Sure. Friend of Hootville and leading academic Natalie Hamam recently thought that it’d be interesting to spend the month of November wearing a fake moustache whenever she was in public to show her support for Movember. She emailed Movember HQ outlining her idea. Here’s their response:

Hey Natalie,

Thanks for getting in touch and supporting Movember. We love hearing the different ways Mo Bros and Mo Sistas plan to get involved each year!

We do however appreciate the stubble trouble that Mo Bros must endure while growing a Mo that for the whole month of Movember sparks conversations, not to mention admiration, from all who lay eyes on it.

A fake moustache doesn’t have the same effect. By allowing fake moustaches we take away from the efforts of those Mo Bros who are growing pitiful Mo’s, so we steer away from them as much as possible.

We still encourage all Mo Bros and Mo Sistas to sign up whether you’re able to grow a Mo or not. Awareness, education and support are equally important to the cause. Mo Sistas can still get involved in a number of ways such as by holding events and pushing the Mo Bros through those uncomfortable times.

We hope this doesn’t put a dampener on your Movember plans and that you continue to support the cause as a valuable Mo Sista!

If you have any more ideas or questions that we can help with please don’t hesitate to yell out.

Mo-ver and out

It simply doesn’t get more “on-brand” than that. Kudos Movember. And no Natalie, did not wear the ‘tache.

Facebook’s retargetting means never saying goodbye.

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We have all noticed the recent explosion in Facebook advertising. It’s all the rage for manufacturers of dental implants to manufacturers of marriages. If you need a primer why not read our previous posts?

facebook advertising

Everyone's at it from I.T providers to NFP recruiters.

Of course nonprofits are using it too – to recruit, to solicit donations and to campaign.

Our feeling on its worth are mixed – it’s fun to put one’s marketing intuition to the test, create an ad and monitor click through rates and costs per action. It’s cool to change an element of an ad – the audience’s gender or interests and see how that impacts on results. All those columns of numbers and staring at screens is akin to daytrading which was very big a decade or so ago but is little discussed nowadays but we digress…

That said, we’re yet to see even our most pleasing Facebook advertising performances turn into business.

Perhaps Facebook casts the net too broadly. Why serve an ad up to stranger (no matter how precisely targeted) when you could have your Facebook ad appear on the Facebook page of people who have recently visited your website? This is exactly what re-targeting allows you to do.

Thanks to a cookie, Facebook will identify individuals who visit your website and later serve them up your ad when they next log on to Facebook.

The ad may be designed to refer to the fact that the recipient has recently visited you or not.

You can be even cleverer serving up very specific ads that appear to people who have visited very specific pages on your site. Eg: serve up a Facebook ad to people who have visited your donation page but left without donating with the aim of extracting that lost donation. Muse on the possibilities dear Citizens!

Let’s say you offer accredited Certificate IV courses in animal management for people seeking to work in veterinary surgeries. You could target people who visited the page of your website offering information on that course without making an enquiry with an ad featuring a cute dachshund with the headline:

“Still want to work with animals? Good. Check out our course.”

Think of your Facebook ad meeting people a cocktail party. Re-targeting takes your Facebook ad from “Hello, nice to meet you.” to “Imagine bumping into you here!”

facebook advertising retargeting

Stalking? Please - let's call it smart advertising.

Here are some re-targeted Facebook ads that have been appearing on our screens here at Hootville.

The two highlighted posts are re-targeting Brett after he visited their websites. The cunning devils!

Virgin Australia excelled itself by placing an ad on Brett’s Facebook page showing the specific dates and destination that he recently searched. Big brother? Big deal – it’s a big opportunity for you.

We’d be interested in your experiences – anyone turn Facebook advertising – re-targeted or not – into stellar results?

The Monkey or the Envelope. The choice is yours.

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Hootville continues to invest its time and dollars in Facebook advertising. Generally the results are rather good by which we mean that we are paying a pleasingly low cost for each desired action we receive. A desired action might be for a viewer of the ad to click the Like button or click through to our website or engage with the Facebook post. In other words we are getting people to interact with the ad at a low cost.

social media copywriting advice

Will the red ink take us to black ink? (Accounting reference.)

For copywriters and marketers there’s a great deal of interest in uncovering the ads which get results and those which don’t. Rarely have copywriters and marketers been able to so scientifically alter a single variable and gauge the impact. There are three key variables with which one can play:

1. The ad itself. The creative – meaning the imagery, the copywriting, the fundamental proposition, the tone.

2. Audience demographics – age, location, interests, gender etc.

3. Deployment of the ad – will it show on mobile devices only, desktops only, in the Newsfeed or on the right hand side?

Each of these factors can vary the results. Sometimes what we think will work, works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Changing one factor at a time allows direct comparison. Let the games begin.

facebook advertising comparison

Who can resist monkeys doing human things? (We read his work BTW. Not much good - basically a rehash of Jungle Book.)

We’re promoting Copy Savvy 101 (in case you don’t know) so have been running Facebook ads. This week we created two different ads which we ran simultaneously. We kept the audience demographics and deployment the same for each but the two creative approaches were entirely different.

The audience we were targeting was people like you: 28-55, any sex, interests in marketing, nonprofits and / or small business, attractive, tertiary qualified, living in Victoria.

The ads ran on mobile devices in the Newsfeed only. The Envelope ad is based on a post we wrote long ago. We think that the image is quite strong and the copy rather clever and meaningful to copywriters. The Monkey ad was hoping to interest and disarm people with a cute image. The results were very different, so much so that we stopped running one a few days in.

OK – over to you. Which was more successful in gaining more clicks? Envelope or Monkey? Place your guess in the comments section below. Have a snap poll around the office. Alienate those which guess incorrectly. We’ll reveal the answer in 48hr.

Meanwhile read our recent Facebook advertising post, which explains more of the basics.

May 1: Winner revealed:

facebook advertising that works

May I have the envelope please...and the winner is...the envelope!

As you can see the Monkey should stick to writing right wing editorials for News Corp because he’s been outperformed by the envelope.  As an advertiser you want to minimise your cost per click. 41c fore the envelope vs $1.12 for the monkey? Which would you rather pay to have someone click on your Facebook ad? Our state-educated maths shows that the envelope was about 60% cheaper per click than the monkey. That’s huge. But why? Here’s our best guesses:

The envelope image was somewhat intriguing. The monkey was just silly.

The copy accompanying the envelope was clever and knowing. We’ve always taken a tone that assumes Hootville’s audiences to be savvy (somewhat cynical) professionals. The copy accompanying the monkey was straight; maybe too straight.

facebook CTR comparison

We've always said: if you pay peanuts you'll get a low CTR.

Complications: It’s easy to assume that a lower cost per click indicates a superior creative approach but the price you pay per click isn’t the best measure the effectiveness of your creative approach. Facebook has a dynamic pricing policy akin to an auction system so the price you pay is influenced by factors beyond the appeal of your ad. Other factors include the number of other advertisers also attempting to reach your audience and how much they are willing to pay. More competition = higher cost even for the same ad.

The click through rate (CTR) is the purest way to assess how appealing / effective your creative is. This measures the percentage of people who saw your ad and then – bless them – clicked on it. Let’s compare our two ads again. Less than one in 100 people (0.792%) clicked on the monkey ad (see above). The envelope proved much more appealing with a marked difference in its power over men (1.134%) and women (1.604%). That’s a whopping 40% difference between the sexes.

facebook CTR male and female

Men are from Mars, women click through more often.

Beyond ego gratification there’s another reason to aim for a higher CTR. The higher your CTR, the less you pay. Why? Facebook wants its ads clicked so it is more likely to show an ad with a high CTR for less money, to your audience, more often. Win / win. We’d love to hear of higher CTRs. And if you’ve gained from this post we’d love you to share it. Finally; if you’ve gained from this, please share it with some friends and be sure to subscribe to our email – the Hootville Lowdown.
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