I’ve always been a little skeptical of Facebook ads and boosts.
Partly this is because I’ve never been very good at running them, and partly because I’ve never felt like the traffic on Facebook was as “buy ready” as Google’s.
So what happened when a boosted post of Blog Tyrant’s received over 500 shares?
Well, the results were quite mixed and, as you’ll see below, there are quite a few lessons and ideas that I wanted to write about here because I’m sure someone out there is going to be able to do something useful with the information.
I’m not sharing the number to brag, but just to show you the kind of results that can be achieved (or not achieved!) with a simple paid promotion.
The boosted Facebook post in question
Let’s start by taking a look at the actual Facebook post that I did which then turned into a paid boost run straight from the Facebook page and not the ads area (that’s a different thing, if this is all new to you).
Please keep in mind that Facebook is not something I’m very good at and have never focused on it too much. Here it is:
Something I’ve been focusing on a bit more lately is the idea that blogging and online business is something that more and more people are turning to as traditional job roles change and artificial intelligence and robotics make whole cities redundant. I even wrote about it over on the Jeff Goins blog.
Blogging might not be the “coolest” things anymore, but it is still extremely effective and it is a fantastic way to increase your chances of making money on the Internet and it can provide a bunch of new opportunities for businesses and families that are struggling.
With all that in mind, I’ve been trying to talk about how to start a blog properly a bit more so as to introduce people to the idea that your traditional “bricks and mortar” business isn’t the only option out there. I genuinely hope this stuff helps someone out there, and I try really hard to just write about effective strategies that could work for people.
Some lessons I learned from this Facebook boost
Now I’d like to get into some of the interesting lessons that I learned while boosting this post. Some of the things that happened were really interesting to me, and I’d love to know your thoughts.
1. A higher total budget seemed to get better results
Something that surprised me was how much better this promotion performed right away, and I think it had something to do with the higher total budget.
I’ve boosted quite a few Facebook posts before for smaller sums like $20-$50 but this one I gave $1000 or so and set it to drip out over a week. Instantly it started getting a larger reach.
Now, this is entirely a conspiracy theory and I have nothing to base it on, but I wonder whether Facebook favors promotions that have a higher budget so as to encourage you to keep doing similar promotions?
This might not be at all nefarious either, it might just be that Facebook considers boosts/ads with higher budgets to be more legitimate in the same way that Google likes older domain names.
2. I’m not sure all the shares are legitimate
The next thing I noticed was that this post was getting a lot of shares. For me, even two or three shares is pretty good as it’s not a topic that lends itself to that activity (as opposed to cats or motivational posts). But if you scroll through all of those shares you start to wonder whether all of them are legitimate. Take a look:
A lot of the accounts doing the sharing are pretty “thin” in that they don’t have a lot of other posts or information. And hardly any of those shares get any further likes or comments.
I’m sure a lot of you remember Derek Muller’s video about his experience with fake Facebook likes:
Having 500 shares on the post is good for social proof in that it shows other people that the article is not complete rubbish, but I do wonder about the origin of these sharers. Perhaps they are just secondary accounts used by people to run other campaigns?
I am not someone who thinks that Facebook does this deliberately, but I also don’t fully believe that all of those shares are legitimate either.
3. The traffic acquired was decent
One of the surprising things I learned was that the traffic acquired through the promotion was pretty decent once they had clicked through to the blog. Have a look.
For example, the average time on site of over three minutes is quite good and probably means that the targeted audience matches up quite well to the content. You can also see that the bounce rate is slightly better than the average of the site.
4. Targeting audiences that are already interested works well
One thing I did was target audiences that I know are already interested in the idea of starting a blog or a website as I thought it might make it a little less difficult to convert them to the idea of subscribing or reading a long-form piece of content.
For example, one thing I tried was targeting the audiences of NPR podcasts as I know that Squarespace and other blogging platforms do a bit of advertising there. I had hoped that meant that their level of blogging education and knowledge was already quite high.
Don’t just direct target your exact keywords, think about other places on and offline where people might be encountering your topic or might be at least open to it down the track. This can lead to some better targeted promotions.
5. Managing comments rapidly is very important
Something I learned pretty quickly is that there are a lot of people out there who love to comment on paid promotions and be as critical as possible. It might be that they object to the advert, or to the content itself, but the result is some comments that you really don’t want to leave up.
These type of hateful comments used to bother me quite a lot, but these days I just err on the side of kindness and patience and try to educate the person if I can. For example, if someone expresses an opinion that blogging is a waste of time I try to show them some statistics about how it’s growing, the different forms it can take, and the new opportunities it presents different groups of people in the community.
Most of the time these types of friendly replies (feel free to be too friendly!) end up creating a new dialogue with the person or, alternatively, they just end up deleting the comment they made because the reply is so comprehensive.
Can we take Facebook ads to the next level?
Over the next few weeks I’m going to be be spending a bit more time and money running different Facebook promotions to see if I can improve the results more consistently.
Glen wrote a post on using Facebook ads a few years ago and it’s still a pretty good starting point which I’ll be using as a basis.
Specifically I’m going to be look at:
- Split testing multiple photos/images
Do photos of actual people convert better than images and graphics of people (like our Blog Tyrant character)?
- Comparing colors
Does a red image like the one above perform better than a black one? I’m curious to know how much color impacts on clicks and then conversions.
- Lowering and increasing CPC dramatically
How low can we get the cost per click down to before the traffic starts to be poor or the campaign just stops running? And does higher CPC always result in better traffic?
Budget size and effectiveness
Does a lower budget have a less successful campaign even if the daily spend limit is the same?
Changing the timing of promotions
For example, I was thinking about running an ad set right when an episode of This American Life comes out and targeting just their listeners (assuming they have a relevant sponsor).
- Use different forms of tracking
One of the things I want to really get in to is some different methods of tracking pixels and conversions using Facebook’s software but also some other programs that give you some very interesting data about what is working.
Please let me know if there is anything else you would like me to test and I will do my best to write it up in a post that will hopefully be relevant to bloggers in any niche.
Have you experimented with Facebook boosts?
Have you ever had any luck boosting posts or using Facebook ads more specifically? I’d really love to know what has worked for you or, alternatively, if you’ve ever had any strange experiences that you couldn’t figure out.
Leave a comment and let us know.
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Really interesting article. I ran a few facebook ads last year but only the small value ones to test the water. The results weren’t that great, so I didn’t take the ads any further. I found they generally targeted people in facebook groups were I was already an active member rather than seek new people.
I think Facebook’s new mission statement “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together” is a nod to ads. Give people the power…at a price. With 2 billion active members and lots of people creating small and large ads, its big bucks for Facebook.
Yeah the ads revenue for FB must be astronomical now.
I read a blog to gain knowledge. I subscribed to your blog a while back because I found you knowledgeable and thought you could add value for me in the future. I see your emails do a quick skim like this one and read more if it catches my eye. I have tried boosting a post thru Facebook in the past. I see no value in it all. People use FB for social or informational I never bought anything and think spending money is a total waste. What did you gain what was your ROI. For 1000 dollars you get shares. Sorry but I don’t see the point. What were you selling on FB. What was your goal to measure shares or get more people to sign up for your blog. For your 1000 spent how many new people signed up for your blog.
If you follow the link in the ad you’ll find your answer. I will be writing about this conversion element more in the next installment. But, it was financially profitable, and I gained lots of experience for future promotions.
You may want to engage your Fan base a bit more. We regularly ASK for shares and ask our base to share with their personal input.
Amazing how much people want to help share that which they are interested in
Results are phenomenal with average post receiving over 300 shares all the time and those going to blog/website are spending 14+ minutes and conversions are very good.
We boost as Ramsay talks about but or organic reach is usually 150-200% that of our LIKE base.
Always good value, thank you Chuck.
I know about companies that offer paid “likes.” You can see accounts that come from a town in Russia, for instance, that “like” a Fb page instantly. 10 000 likes overnight!
I also realized what you mentioned in #2 when I boosted a post about the “ideal office design for attracting clients.”
I targeted people strictly from my from my country, Greece, who are entrepreneurs or interested in interior design.
However, I got some bizarre likes, from people from other countries, who probably don’t even speak Greek.
There was someone from Syria, who seemed to be refugee in my country. He surely wasn’t at all interested to read my article!
This made me think, that for some people this may be a job for earning money.
What’s for sure, is that Facebook also showed the post to most of my page followers and this is ok.
Mania, Still not convinced that ads forFB posts work, however on the other hand to add something to your Facebook likes statement. Spending 5.00 is an excellent investment to gain likes. I have found that Google nor Facebook has found away of weeding out real local targeted likes from what I call phantom remote likes. Likes are relevant to SEO. I do not believe users can see the origin of likes on your FB page. Only you see who they are. They only see a number. Perceptions are reality baby and you want people to think you are alive and that your FB is being recognized. Dont go crazy but feel free to invest $5.00 to get 1000 likes. It pays for itself immediately in SEO especially since I have seen likes show up in a google keyword search on a FB page.
You are right about “reality is perception”, this is actually a significant part of my business as an architect and interior designer, who is also very interested in marketing and communication.
I just wrote what I noticed, this doesn’t mean that I won’t use boosting again.
Good chat guys. Thank you.
I’ve experimented with Facebook ads several times with less than overwhelming success. The posts I boosted received a corresponding increase in Likes and Shares but the conversion rate was far below that of the same posts’ organic performance.
I do wonder if the amount of daily spend would make a difference. Your excellent post has me wondering about that since the most I’ve ever laid out for a single post was $75.
Looks like some further experimentation is in order.
As usual, thanks for a great post!
Interesting. I’ll be sure to write a more comprehensive analysis on the next one.
Yes, I have experimented with FB boosts, and also setting up campaigns, I think it has a lot of potential value, but it is heavily predicated on your ability to read your audience. All of the generic information concerning FB advertising does not help people. It really is a question of treating FB seriously and understanding that it is way cheaper than most forms of advertising, like ‘T.V’, and a heck of a lot more effective if we learn how to use it.
I recently spent $5.00 to boost a post. An experiment of mine, I am in the process of launching a new mobile app. It had 330 reaches (whatever that really means – LOL) and it had 1 click thru then I maxed out . That means I paid 5.00 cpc right? which is what I would spend for a google adwords. Again do not see any value.
Maybe if I reached 2000 people saw my post, then I would say ok maybe. The 330 people that my post reached may have even been my connected friends. I would love to hear about a real successful story. Where a small business person not walmart or dunkin donuts can really benefit from a boosted post.
I really think that means the targeting is not correct. I’ll go over this in detail next time.
Thank you for a great article. It confirmed my experience using Facebook boosting for blog posts. It seemed for every legit share and like, I would get the same amount of activity from questionable accounts as well. For example, many of the questionable accounts all seemed to be based in Mexico with non-English speakers based on their pages. I guess they could have used a translation app, but I am not so sure. There were also a lot of older men without shirts on (looking at their profile pic), and they were just creepy. This was a consistent experience every time I did boosted a post, and I never spent a lot of money. So I, too, am not sure of the authenticity of the engagement for which you are paying. Also my conversion rate never matched the level of engagement on FB. I am anxious to see what else you share on this topic. Thanks again!
The thing is, how long did you spend studying the precise details of the people you seek to reach, what unique characteristics do they possess which you could include in the targeting profile you assembled?
Putting together Facebook campaigns is not just a question of splashing a general presentation and hoping for the best, you have to surgical about it. With a 2 billion user population you can’t just spend 5 bucks and determine the outcome of that!
How much would you pay to broadcast your products, services in your local area on T.V-20 grand, 50 grand for what, a late night spot on a highly un-targeted population.
I think many people simply have the wrong approach with Facebook, they treat it very casually, you have to think of it as a customer relationship building platform. Also, some business areas are more generously represented than others in terms of the right combination of characteristics.
Good discussion guys. Really appreciate this input. The audience selection really is a huge key.
These are great insights – because usually I don’t get to see from everyone how ads work.
I’ve boosted a few posts on Facebook (small amounts), because I was really investing a lot of time creating content to target the audience there. It had to be worth it.
Anyway – so I spent some money, to learn and see how it goes.
It sucked at first.
Because it was hard to target a specific audience initially. But as the response increases, the demographics become clearer.
The people who interact more with the boosted posts are likely to be the ideal audience for that kind of content. For instance, youngsters in my case.
Also, I found out that it’s better to boost a piece of content which has already performed well on your page, rather than something new. Like, I had posted some images which got ordinary response. But some were getting more attention, likes and those ‘heart’ reactions.
I thought it might be a good idea to boost them … and it was.
One trick I tried this whole time was to “invite” people who had liked my page posts (Facebook gives this option beside the ‘people who liked this’).
So most ‘post likes’ become ‘page likes.’
As for fake likes, I think there really are some fake profiles (I’m still skeptical about what’s Facebook doing). But considering that about 20-30% of the audience interactions are fake, the money spent is still worth it.
Though, the goals matter as well.
In my case, it was building a base of some new audience. You mentioned traffic. It varies.
One thing is noticed was that initial Facebook boosts work great, but once you repeat them, their effects go on lowering. Maybe Facebook does this to make you give it some more cash. I’m not sure.
As I said, I had did those ads only as an experiment – so I might have spent nothing more than 500 Rupees overall.
I made two quote images as the main posts to be boosted (because they were already doing well).
The final cost per like was about 2 Rupees per like.
I think that was fair, considering that the cost per like for my first few ads was about Rupess 10 per page like.
And yes, those ads also gave me some genuine followers (because they interact, and don’t just appear in the my ad stats).
I wish to know more about how you perform campaigns on different platforms.
Facebook is the cheapest place for advertisements, isn’t it? How well do LinkedIn and twitter compare to it?
I don’t know much about others.
Thanks for the great post 🙂
Twitter is super expensive, as far as my own experiments have gone. Haven’t tried LinkedIn but I might give that a go.
Thanks for the wonderful comment.
Our results over the past years mirror Ramsay’s experience.
We have no problem with LIKES (all of our pages enjoy 5 figure likes) but our goal is traffic to site.
Again ASKING for shares works well.
Even when boosting a post our organic reach is usually larger than paid reach and based on follows to the website, the strongest traffic is from organic.
We engage there also with one series of posts now at 9,398 comments as of this morning.
What caused that huge comment spike?
Actually not a spike……
Steady for past 7 months.
The average comments per post have been steady about 200-300.
And they are usually tiered.
Freinds have been made within the commenters.
Thank you for your insightful article. Once again, a very nice and simple yet insightful article.
I have experience with Facebook advertisements (have advertised different products for both, B2B and B2C markets) and thought I may share my comments about two concepts you mentioned 🙂
1) A higher total budget seemed to get better results
2) I’m not sure all the shares are legitimate
Regarding the first one.
The ads are indeed performing relatively better with larger budgets. This is not so much of a dark strategy by Facebook but just a logical explanation based on ad mechanics. First of all, Facebook is optimizing your advertisements for your chosen method. You can optimize your ads for higher reach, maximized CTR, greater engagement etc.
To explain the mechanics in simple example (if it is optimized for engagement (likes/comments/shares):
1) Facebook shows the ad to 100 people.
2) Checks all people who engaged with the post (their characteristics and behaviour on Facebook)
3) Starts to focus on those people
4) Shows the ad to 100 more specific people
5) checks the results again
So if you spend more money – your ads will be optimized at a greater level.
Second – more money you spend and more engagement the post gets – more social proof the post will have. People are more likely to comment on a post that already has few comments or like a post that already has 50 or more likes. It is always difficult to be the first one who comments or presses like or shares the post.
So a larger budget leads to more engagement, which leads to even more engagement. thanks to bigger social proof 🙂
Regarding the second statement about fake posts.
There’s an easy answer to that – it comes from people behaviour. Many people use “sharing” as a way to save and archive things on Facebook. They share an interesting and valuable article/video or any other content just so they could access it much easier in the future when they will need it. Of course, more and more people use “Saved” list on Facebook, but old habits die hard.
Hope this explained some of these points 🙂
Looking forward to your next articles about Facebook post advertising 🙂
Those are great insights, James. And they make a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing them with us!
Awesome contribution! Thanks so much, James.
Another well timed ad. I’m learning the time of day for my services business http://www.dev3lop.com/t is now turning 50% of the organic clicks – and only you to thank for it. It’s clear business and data users are a Monday-Thursday crowd. And I supliment traffic on bad days with different social media platforms. For example – Instagram compared to Facebook – similar problems as you… Is this real? Or are the thin because they are private accounts, or automated bots to generate more impressions from you?
Hard to say… At least on Instagram I can make a data project of it, I can message people directly, and I can quickly see the difference – in split testing direct messages…
You’re right so many people are very critical, and when I get one of those. I’ve been killing the post, and working on getting a one on one with anyone critical.
I tell them I’m eager to learn and want to understand how they can help me.
If you can step away from being the last Diet Coke in the desert, these comments will quickly become your super fan finder.
Call me crazy – but I’ve been doing sales and solutions for over a decade now! And if they are upset immediately, on your ad, then they clearly care a lot about something – drive that passion to build a better business, find some way to take their advice, and build it into your business.
For my music company http://www.musicblip.com – I’m seeing my only option is Instagram – because my Ecommerce store requires a next step offline – and I have to learn to capture people in the moment.
So I researched and thought – when do people – music? The Facebook ad idea seemed cool, it drove 6k impressions, on a 50$ budget.
But the accounts were thin, unresponsive, and fake.
Now – I use Instagram primarily for suplimental assistance. As I said above, traffic isn’t the best every day, so I keep track of my day to day, and always try to keep it growing naturally week to week – because I want to naturally grow the business without stepping on the gas – and dumping thousands of clicks that don’t so much.
Now – I think Facebook is starting to dwindle into a heavily spammed machine – when most want something legit and authentic.
I’m excited to try the bigger budget next weekend – as musicians prefer my website and usage of the website on days off.
Thanks for your insight. Running Facebook ads has never been easy for me because it seems like I am throwing money away and that is because I don’t advertise well. Now I found a friend that helps me anytime I want to advertise.
I’ve run Facebook ads before and gained a handful of followers as a result. But what’s interesting is that they didn’t convert to blog subscribers. Although they do read my blog posts when I post to Facebook and the news stories I post there, too. I stopped running ads because my blog needs a lot of work. And, also, I don’t have any business spending money on ads, for now, at least.
Comments are another story, and I wish we had the option to disable them. Because my content is about the environment, mostly, it can generate comments that I don’t know how to respond to, nor, do I have time to do so. I copied and pasted a list of prohibited words which hides comments until I’ve checked them. But I don’t like this method, either. Well, I’m off topic! I would prefer to not use Facebook at all because of the stress it causes. But that’s the only place some followers will go to read my blog posts–followers I gained by running ads.
Very nice post.
Facebook is powerful, I am using it for lead generation and nurturing and the best part is, I am doing it for B2B business which operates in an ultra niche segment.
Simply there is no first party data in Facebook Targeting option available for my business, so I run a campaign on custom audiences only and it works wonders.
I find initial 3 hours of engagement fix the relevancy score for your ad and rest of campaign performance depend on that.
The key to Facebook ads is to be specific.
Facebook, like so many other paid platforms will target the people that you’ve told them to target.
You therefore need to treat your target criteria much the same way that you would treat your keywords when writing for google.
So if you want more likes and you tell facebook that you want more likes then Facebook will target people who like a lot. … not necessarily people in your target audience.
If you tell Facebook that you want likes from people who like cats then guess what happens?
If you tell Facebook that you want likes from people who like black cats then guess what happens?
If you tell Facebook that you want more likes from people who like black cats who eat Wiskers, then guess what happens?
This may take a few rounds and a bit of money to strike gold but the key is to be very specific about what you want Facebook to do for you.
Would I now get the topless men from Mexico liking me or would I get black cat owners who buy Whiskers?
I think Facebook is the best place to share your blog post and gain relevant traffic…also if you are really looking looking for targeted audience then Facebook groups are the best place…you can get the visitors of your niche and share your blog content with them..they will then share your blog post if they like it and this will help in generating huge traffic…great post Ramsay…thanks for sharing…!!
A few days ago, I tried Facebook ads for the first time. Surprisingly, I got much more than I expected. Reach was awesome, the conversion rate was pretty decent too when the price is considered. Although not as good as AdWords, Facebook ads are still powerful to drive relevant traffic when used effectively
Your posts have really helped me a lot. Only after reading your posts I did something different (created infographics) and in last week after one month, I got five new backlinks from DA 65 and DA 40+ sites without even me reaching out to them. They linked to my post naturally and it really boosted my site ranking.
Thank you for these resourceful posts. 🙂
Can’t wait to hear more! I just split tested three different images and saw a marked difference between the results. I took out the one barely performing after two days, then let the other two run until there was a clear winner there. Honestly? I was surprised by which images performed well. Totally confirmed that we need to test!!
In my case, I can say boosting the post works better than paying Fb ads. I’ve tried different forms of Fb ads, different images, messages, countries, interests, age, sex, and so on. Boosting the post on Fb turned to be more productive for me because I paid about $50, and I got around 300 unique visitors in a hard niche (U.S. and Canada audience). The Fb ads ran for three consecutive days, and I paid almost $200, but the traffic was very small (around 100 unique visitors per day) and the results were insignificant.
Ramsay – I am really enjoying your blog but am having problems accessing articles and info. For example I just watched a youtube you did on how to add your picture to google pro. And I lost it and don’t know where to access it? It would be great if you could add a place to ask questions and an index
I’m planning to boost my blog post to see the results. I want to collect atleast 1k subscribers. My niche is same as “Blog Tyrant”. I will be redirecting them to my landing page. Can you suggest me whom I should target and how much budget I should keep in mind?
To be honest, that would be to shoot himslef in the foot
its nice information that make me seeing Facebook on different point of view, Thanks and keep update
Have learned something fresh and new about Facebook. Thanks to you. 🙂
Good to read that I am not the only one sucking with Facebook Ads 😛 I never understood how I should interpret it either so your post cleared a few things up for me. And altough I don’t spend as large sums on facebook ads as you did I think your “theory” has some truth in it. I mean it’s a good business move for Facebook so I am sure they are doing it albeit they’d never admit it obviously. Good read overall, enjoyed it!
Boosting post can work well for almost all the niches, but the title of the boosted post must have a hook in order to get visitors.
If you want to get subscribers you need to use Fb ads and set a goal.
Thanks for posting something so easy to understand and follow.