Adventures in social media advertising

I’ve been spending the last few months experimenting with social media advertising for the posts on this blog, by promoting posts on Facebook and Linkedin. Here’s what I’ve learned:

It’s still all about the content

There's a positive relationship between the money you spend and the viewers you get. Spend more money, get your content in front of more people. The more people see your content, the more people will click on it. Pretty straightforward. 

But that only holds true for the volume. The percentage of clicks is still entirely up to you. For example, I spent $50 boosting this Facebook post about silver bullet thinking. 3,423 people saw it, and 60 people clicked the link. That’s 1.7%. Darn. The silver bullet post was rejected by the marketplace of ideas. 

Compare that to this post about the sign at a scrap metal dealer. I boosted this guy for $20, but it performed a lot better than the silver bullet post - 4,302 people saw it, and 363 people clicked through. That’s 8%. The fact that this post was more interesting than the silver bullet post made 6 times more people click through - even though I spent less than half as much money getting it in front of them. 

Facebook did a lot better than Linkedin

I was surprised by this. My audience is people who work in, or are interested in, marketing and communications. Since Linkedin has very rich data about what people do for a living, I figured I would have an easier time getting my ads in front of people who cared about them. Turns out, Facebook was better at getting my content in front of people who were interested in it.

4,500 people saw my Linkedin ads, and 57 of them clicked through to the post. On Facebook, 11,000 people saw my ads, and 456 clicked through. That's a 4% conversion rate on Facebook compared to a measly 1.2% on Linkedin. 

Once you compare how you choose an audience for your ads, you can quickly see why this might be the case. Here's how you choose an audience for a Linkedin ad:

Linkedin targetting.PNG

These are mostly self-reported attributes of those individuals, and they're restricted to the information they've given to Linkedin. Maybe good if you're targeting all employees of a specific company, but not so good when you're trying to target people by their interests, the way I was.

Now let's look at how you choose audiences for Facebook ads:

Facbook targetting.PNG

Notice that this has much richer information. It's not just static things about viewers, like the university they went to. It's also all kinds of dynamic information, based on their behaviour. Linkedin audiences are based on who they are. Facebook audiences are based on what they do (more on that over here)

What's more, there's lots of inferred information here. Small business owners in the above screenshot haven't told Facebook that they are small business owners - rather, Facebook is assuming they are, based on how they use Facebook. This gives me access to people who meet my criteria, but who haven't actively said that they meet my criteria. 

Although, the explanation may be a lot more simple than that: Facebook is where people are. You don’t see people browsing their Linkedin feeds on the bus, or coordinating their meals out thru Linkedin Messenger. Facebook has more users, using the platform more often, so naturally it's going to be a better advertising platform. Or it could have been some user error on my part. Neither of these explanations are as interesting to me as the first one, though. 

It’s ultimately not worth it for me

Social media advertising is cool, and I think it’s a great way to get content in front of people quickly and affordably. But I don’t think it really lines up with my business model.

Here’s the results: I spent a total of $346 on social media advertising. 15,500 people saw my ads, and 553 people clicked on them. I'm not convinced that this is the best use of my resources. One of those views has turned into a $300 piece of work, so right now I'm $46 in the hole. This shows that I'm currently not spending enough to get a decent number of new clients through the door. To make it worth my while, I'd have to increase my spending. 

But how much to increase it by? Not enough, and I keep losing money. But spend too much, and I could quickly run into another problem. I'm not an agency - I'm just a guy working from his home office. Also, I'm usually pretty busy. This means that too many views are just as bad - or worse - than too few, because there's a hard limit on how many clients I can work with at any given time. There are only so many hours in the day. 

If I keep spending the amount of money I've been spending, I'll lose $50 every 6 months. If I spend too much, I'll get clients I can't serve, which is actually worse, because I've spent more money to get the same outcome I have now. So I have to spend just enough to get through a very narrow window of enough clients to justify the spending, but not so many that I have to turn people away.

It doesn't stack up. 

This is particularly true when you look at how I get clients - but I’ll save that data for another post. For now, just take away that social media marketing is extremely useful. It’s just not useful for me.