It Puts the money in the money hole: Getting Started with Facebook Ads

If you’re reading this from LinkedIn, you have any appreciable frame of reference for how Facebook makes money from organizations, or you're some kind of fancypants social media guru, this post is not for you. Well, maybe you can use this post to show your parents or your dumb bosses or something. I dunno. This post is attempts to talk through at a very, very basic level why even small orgnaizations should be advertising on Facebook.


Let the advertising begin!

This post is a quick rundown of the first set of Facebook advertisements I ran for The Watertown Players, a local theater group on which I serve as a member of the Board of Directors. I had a $25 budget (that I was donating on my own) and that’s it. I also had a passing familiarity with the content of the show we were putting on, and I knew we sold tickets through BrownPaperTickets.com.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

I decided, kind of at the spur of the moment, to spring for a few “advertisements” for the Watertown Players. We've struggled to "get the word out." We don’t have a marketing strategy beyond sending press releases to the local daily paper, posters, and word of mouth. Our website’s kind of broken. (Long story-- I won't link to it until I get a chance to fix it.)

But we do have a pretty good Facebook account. It’s got a few followers, and they're dedicated, and we probably know all of them between those of us on the Board of Directors. We typically use Facebook to tell people about events and promote the heck out of the good work we’re doing at the theater.

The problem is, if you’re an organization, Facebook pretty much doesn’t care what kind of good work you’re doing. Facebook mostly just wants you to put money in the money hole.

So, if Facebook is only going to show your posts (and only some of them) to people who already like and follow you, how do you get new people to know what you’re doing?

The answer: You pay Facebook to show people what you’re doing. It’s like any other kind of advertising. It’s not complicated, and Facebook makes it incredibly easy for you to do it. (No surprise: It’s in their best interest to make it easy for you to put your money in their money hole.)

So, I figured, why not? I do this kind of thing all the time as part of my professional life, why not give it a shot with the Watertown Players? I built and ran some quick ads that invited people to go to the Brown Paper Tickets website where we sell our admissions online.

The ads ran for about four days in total, and in exchange for about $20, I know the following facts:

  • 1337 unique individuals saw my ad at least once. (Facebook calls that “Reach.”)
  • 560 people decided to do “something” as the result of my ads. (Facebook calls that “Engagement.)
  • 51 people clicked on my ad. Which took them to Brown Paper Tickets, where I hope they bought tickets, but I honestly don’t know because I didn’t track that. I didn't have access to Brown Paper Tickets at the time. (If I knew how many people went ahead and bought a ticket because of my ad, Facebook would call those “Conversions.)

Did it work?

In all, I call the experiment a success.

Mostly because the only thing I wanted to know was if I could get $20 worth of ads to serve to theater-goers within 25 miles of our theater. And the answer is yes. That’s great. Now I can refine who I want to target, make changes to how we’re tracking the conversions, and start thinking about Facebook ads sooner in the promotional phase of our shows.

I expect the theater group’s board of directors will talking about better ways to integrate our online ticket vendor into the mix so that I can track conversions automatically. Once I can automatically know when advertising spending is converting to income, I can make meaningful choices about how much money it's worth putting into Facebook ads for our upcoming shows.

At the end of the day, even infinite posters up in infinite windows across town won't be able to do that.