Inexpensive self-serve ads on Twitter and Facebook have made advertising on social media networks more accessible to solo and small businesses. While Facebook Ads have been available for some time, the idea of Facebook Promoted Posts and Twitter Ads are a fairly recent addition to the toolbox of social media communications. While I won’t go over the mechanics of placing ads on Facebook or Twitter (that’s easy enough to figure out), I will talk about some ways to use Facebook Promoted Posts and Twitter Ads to squeeze more juice out of your online social graph. In this article I will cover my experience with using Facebook Promoted Posts with my own account. Twitter Ads will be covered in a later article.

Facebook Promoted PostsIn preparation for my ‘Google+ for Small Businesses’ book launch, I used tactics such as Facebook Promoted Posts and Twitter Ads to help gain exposure to my message. I also used this to push signups for my email newsletter subscription (which I also use to promote myself professionally as well as projects I work on). While this is far from a comprehensive test of the results gained from using paid advertising on social media platforms, it can help give you an understanding of what you need to prepare for to get results. To be honest, I didn’t create an entire tactical outreach plan for this, I just did it. Of course I have tracking, reporting, and analytics set up to measure results. Going back and looking at the numbers, it is still up to me if the the ads were worth the spend. I’ll go over my thoughts on this at the end of the article.

This is not my first forte into advertising on social media networks (I’ve been providing consulting and tactical on this for years for my clients), but it is the first time I have used them for myself. Since I am more free to discuss my own results as opposed to that of clients, I though I would make a perfect mini case study. With that said, my cumulative experience heavily influenced what I did my first time diving into paid social media ads.

Facebook Promoted Posts

As a starting point, I performed this Facebook Promoted Post from my personal Facebook account (and not a Facebook Page) with over 1,040 friends and nearly 800 subscribers in order to promote the book launch I was hosting for the release of my first book. Although officially EdgeRank is in effect for Facebook pages and isn’t associated with personal profiles, we can assume the algorithms work in a similar manner. My potential “first level” reach is about 1,800 people with a potential “total” reach of is 646,200 (using the average number of Facebook friends of 359). Facebook’s EdgeRank reduces your posts impressions/views to about 14% of all possible people you are connected with. (This depends a lot on the holy trinity of EdgeRank – Affinity, Weight, and Time). Using a similar back of the envelope calculation, I can assume any one Facebook status update I make reaches approximately 240 people when posted publicly (1,800 times 0.14.) has run some reports that suggest a Facebook post ‘lives’ on average for 5.5 hours after you post it. According to the wording on Facebook about Promoted Posts, your status update will be available to view by more people, but it says nothing about extending the amount of time until the post drops off the stream. I assume then that my $7US is amplifying my reach, not my time to live (TTL – time to live).

In this screen cap, you can see that the very limited analytics given to me on the results of my paid promotion got me 1.8x the amount of views as this post would have received if I didn’t pay $7US to promote. Because this is a personal account and not a Facebook Page, this is the best set of analytics I’m going to have to work from. If I assume 240 people at any one time will see my public posts, then I can calculate that 192 additional people saw my post (my estimated reach of 240 times 0.8 increase in impressions).

Facebook Promoted Post

End result is that I got no more shares on the content than I might have if I shared this type of content (self promotion and not ‘personal’) on Facebook without paying $7US. Two of the commenters and sharers were not Facebook friends of  mine but do subscribe to my public content. There is no telling if they would have normally seen this post and commented, or if if it was the Promoted Post at work.

Notice I didn’t provide an external link or design a really strong call to action in my post, but instead called attention to my guests on the book launch ‘show’ I was hosting. My philosophy on using social media to drive business is as easy as ABC – always be counting.

What I Would Do Differently Next Time

Looking back, I would most certainly attach a large custom graphic instead of a generic link (this one pointed to my YouTube channel). Graphics are a surefire way to get more views on a post in Facebook and I could still hand type in a link for people to click. This allows me to grab more ‘real estate’ on a person’s Facebook stream and gain a few more seconds to make an impression.

I would use a link shortner to point to information on my own website and use it to track only Facebook clicks rather than push clicks to a site I don’t own or control. It makes tracking much harder when I don’t use trackable links or I can sort this out on the back end of my analytics (I use both Google Analytics and Piwik – I don’t ever trust one set of numbers). Also using a ?source=PurpleStripe attribute on my links just helps sort through it quicker (thanks to Christopher Penn for that tip).

Based on friends recommendations I would promote a post the day before an event, not a few hours before an event. Even though my post TTL is about 5.5 hours on Facebook, giving people more time to respond to a call to action that has a deadline is a better approach. With a Facebook Promoted Post that is built as part of an ongoing and planned strategic outreach, my timing and content would be much different. (This is more in line of what I work with clients on.)

Disappointments with Facebook Promoted Posts

The one thing that I am most disappointed in is that when paying for a Facebook Promoted Post, you don’t have unlimited access to the statistics. I have to do screen captures to document my results because after a period of time (I assume when your post is no longer eligible for promotion) you can no longer view the information. Being able to better estimate when the best time to post on my timeline would be helpful to get the most juice out of the Facebook Promoted Post, but there are many resources already available to make this determination on your own. (Analysis showed that it was best to post during times when fans were not at work and between the hours of 8pm and 7am on Wednesdays and Saturdays.)

Facebook Promoted Post Conclusion

In the end I do feel it was a good $7US spent. To me, gaining 192 views (estimated) for $7US comes out to $0.036 a view. If I had more friends or subscribers the number per estimated view would decrease. Using this tactic on a Facebook Page with a decent following would most likely result in even better results. So, yes 3 1/2 cents per view is totally worth the budget and results for me and my needs for the project.

I intend to repost this article in Facebook about a week after I publish it to promote the long tail reads and get additional exposure outside of the initial subscribers. Be on the lookout for an update when I have results.