Promoting Facebook Posts

A client recently asked us, “Are there really any good reasons to consider a Facebook promotion?” (They had owned Facebook page for quite some time, but until now, hadn’t ever advertised there.) I explained that, when the circumstances are right, a Facebook promotion can be an organization’s least expensive way to engage with its followers. And that for most organizations, it’s not a particularly good place to sell.

When Facebook began experimenting with advertising (after years of Zuckerberg’s feigned assertions that he wasn’t in it for the money) the platform made it easy for organizations to engage their customers: All you had to do was sucker them into “liking” your page, and your posts were almost guaranteed to show up on their social feed. But as we know, the rules of advertising are constantly changing. Now, business posts have been relegated to the bottom of the feed, if they even appear at all, by algorithms designed to promote posts (read: “move them to the top of the feed”) when the algorithm determines the post is most likely to be found engaging. In fact, the default setting for news feeds is no longer “most recent post first,” it is “top stories,” and those are determined by several factors, including (3) how often the member interacts with the poster, (2) how many of the member’s friends are reacting to the post, and of course (1) money. That’s right, “promoted posts” happen to land very high on the member’s news feed.

So, the answer is as simple as this: If you are willing to pay, then your post is all but guaranteed to be seen by people who follow your page, and if the post gets any traction at all from readers, it’s pushed to the very top of the news feed.

Still, she was not convinced that promoting posts was worth the investment. So I decided to throw twenty bucks at a post about an upcoming event, and see how it performed.

It’s time for a few disclaimers:

    • The organization is a nonprofit with about 17,000 page likes.
    • The event was essentially a party for children.
    • The promoted post featured a video.
    • The promotion was targeted at women, ages 18-40, within 25 miles of the event, and having expressed interest in Motherhood, Family, or Parenting.
    • The promotion lasted only 2 days.

In those two days, the post reached over 4,000 people, and more than 1800 of them viewed the video. That’s less than half a penny per exposure. More importantly, the Facebook promotion elicited voluntary responses from people who were genuinely interested in their event, for about one penny each.

But the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question is “How many people who viewed the post chose to attend the event?” (i.e., “What was the real ROI?”) Since the $20 investment was just a flier, we didn’t build a tracking mechanism into this Facebook promotion. We could have, of course… and when you promote your next post, you should. Just follow a few simple pointers:

    1. Choose your audience parameters carefully.
    2. Promote posts that are naturally interesting to your audience.
    3. Use video whenever possible.
    4. Split your investment; try multiple promotions for the same post, but with different targeting parameters, to learn what works and what doesn’t.
    5. And stop sweating the small stuff. We’re talking chump change, here. Worst case scenario, you are building awareness, and chances are you’ve paid a lot more on “brand building” ads without measuring a thing.