Facebook advertising: a few thoughts on best practices

Last week, social media professionals across WGBH met to discuss Facebook advertising — how to do it, and how to do it well. Here are my notes from the session.

Before diving in, decide your goal(s) for the Facebook campaign. How does it align with your larger goals as a production or series? Your goals might be increased exposure, page views, boost your posts, promote your page, send people to your website, get video views, etc.

The Medal Quest team, who demo-ed their campaign for the group, had three goals: Increase page likes, increase video views, and increase post engagements. These were measured by likes, video views, and comments, respectively.

One of the pros of advertising on Facebook: Facebook is massive, with an active user base of 1.3 billion people. It has advanced targeting, providing demographic and behavior data. You can build a custom audience for your ad, and utilize the “Lookalike audience feature” where Facebook finds people with similar interests for you. The Medal Quest team, for example, created three separate custom audiences of hockey players, Paralympic fans, and veterans.

What’s new in Facebook advertising? We discussed some of the new tools and trends that have recently been introduced, including Atlas, Facebook’s ad platform that tracks users outside of Facebook; the Facebook Audience Network, a mobile ad network that extends onto third party apps (meaning you can display Facebook ads in your own app; a new emphasis on “Premium Video ads,” and a new campaign hierarchy that structures Campaigns over Ad Sets over Ads.

Here are some things that Medal Quest has learned from its campaign.

  • Medal Quest team members had a better experience doing Facebook ads themselves than outsourcing the task — because they could be involved in a day-to-day basis, improving effectiveness because they’re the actual content creators. For example, in the past it cost the team about $1 for one new page like. By contrast, the current campaign is getting the team 67 cents per page like.
  • We’ve been advised that it is good to spend all campaign money for the first episode (premiere) of a series, but Medal Quest found success in breaking up their spending into pre-, during-, and post-broadcast segments.
  • The Medal Quest team suggested that monitoring ad progress was a key to their success. They see what is working and redistribute resources to support that ad, and turn off ads that are not performing well. Furthermore, they have been creating three different messages for each ad, and A/B testing the resonance of the language. They found that in one instance, the message that mentioned “PBS” performed the best.
  • Other national productions have found success in a strategy for boosting posts: Post something to the FB page, let it go organically for a bit, then give it a paid boost to help it along.
  • We know that Facebook makes 70 percent of its revenue from mobile, so Medal Quest wasn’t surprised that their video ads performed far better on mobile than on desktop or “right rail” ads. They quickly moved all their video ad budget advertise on mobile exclusively.
  • Medal Quest found that it is better to target to a more narrow, specific group than millions of people.
  • They were surprised how closely Facebook monitors each ad before approving; many ads were rejected because it did not meet the requirement for images to include less than 20 percent text.

What has your experience been as a nonprofit or a news organization with Facebook advertising? Have you noticed a difference in how your campaigns have performed in the past few months? Leave your comments below.

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