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How to advertise on Facebook

Facebook recently offered me a coupon for their ad service, so I decided to give it a try. Warning: This post contains actual prices, statistics and hard math.

In addition to giving myself a crash course in Facebook advertising, I decided to test something I’ve been curious about: Does the image you run with your Facebook advertising make much of a difference?

Every Facebook ad runs with a small square image next to it. If you use Facebook, you’ve probably seen some pretty strange ads with eye-catching but irrelevant images. One piece of advice I’ve heard is that a photo of a person’s face can greatly increase conversions. True or false? You’re about to find out.

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Before I get to the test, here’s a little primer on what Facebook ads can and can’t do for you. I’m only beginning to understand this new format, but here’s what I know so far.

Two kinds of ads: Facebook will gladly take your money in exchange for promoting your band. Currently there are two ways to do this: “Sponsored Stories” (which draw attention to something you’ve published on your brand’s Facebook page) and “Facebook Ads” (which you can use to persuade people to click on a link to any website, to “Like” your Facebook Page, or to use your Facebook app). You can choose whether you want to pay per click (CPC) or impression (CPM). To me, “Facebook Ads” bought on a CPC basis seems like the best setup for most situations.

Advantages of Facebook ads: You can target with incredible precision, including by location, demographics and interests. For example, I was able to target users in English-speaking countries who mention the words “copywriter” or “copywriting” in their profiles. Another advantage is that, much like Google Adwords, Facebook ads work on a live auction system, which delivers as many ads as possible within your budget. Facebook also regulates your portfolio of ads to make sure your most effective ads run more.

Disadvantages of Facebook ads: The biggest disadvantage is that it’s still very hard to measure how much a Facebook user is worth to you. You have to choose whether to have someone follow a link to your website, or stay within Facebook and interact with you there. The easiest interaction to measure is a click-through to your own website. But you probably stand a better chance getting someone to click the “Like” button, which will appear below a Facebook Ad for your Facebook page. What’s the value of a “Like” (a.k.a. a “Connection” in Facebookspeak)? Nobody knows.

Someone who clicks “Like” on Facebook, theoretically, is a person so interested in what you do that they’ll voluntarily read your messages in their Facebook stream. That person is really valuable! But Facebook’s secret “Top News” algorithm means you never know how often your ad respondents will actually see your wall posts, or how often they visit your site or take some other action as a result of Facebook. Even when someone “Likes” your page, you can’t message these people directly. Compared to email marketing and search engine marketing (SEM), Facebook’s metrics are limited.

A second big disadvantage is the limitations of Facebook’s ad format: A square image and a short block of text. You can’t run big colorful banners the way you can on other networks.

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That’s my basic primer on Facebook advertising. Now here’s how I used my Facebook coupon to set up a test. If I were working for a client or my company, I wouldn’t share these results. But since this blog is about teaching and transparency, I’m going to share some actual data.

I prepared three Facebook ads trying to get people already interested in copywriting to “Like” the Breaking Copy Facebook page. For copy, I went with something playful/retro that fits the style of this blog (“hip,” “lingo”), with a verb in command form (“read”), and a slightly unusual but easily understood benefit (“interesting”). I also tried to make the lines break cleanly in the Facebook ad size.

All my ads had the same copy, but each ran with a different image. For the images, I chose the Breaking Copy logo, a woman’s face, and a typewriter key.

The ads ran last week. Facebook gives you a variety of performance metrics, but I decided to compare CTRs (click-through rates). Here were the results:

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Logo: 0.142% CTR.

Face: 0.191% CTR.

Typewriter key: 0% CTR.

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Wow! The ad with the woman’s face was the winner by a large margin: 34% better than the logo. This was true even though the photo has nothing to do with my blog or with copywriting. (She’s a stock photo.)

The logo was a neutral, relevant image that did well enough. The question mark key was probably a bad idea—it invites the idea of uncertainty, and its connection to writing doesn’t really resonate with people (nobody uses typewriters any more).

Why else did the typewriter key flop so badly? Because Facebook automatically determines which ads are doing best, and rotates the under-performing ones out. The average user saw the woman’s face 5.6 times, the logo 3.3 times, and the typewriter 2.0 times, which means Facebook realized right away the face was doing best.

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The campaign had a budget of $50. On that, it reached of 10,566 Facebook users, leading to 130 clicks and 81 “connections.” Each “connection” cost 62 cents.

This kind of advertising is new and most people don’t share their results for competitive reasons, so I’m entirely unsure if this was good or bad. In CPC SEM advertising, it’s not unusual to spend a few bucks for a click, or even over $10 in a highly competitive category. On the other hand, I’ve seen blogs where people claim to get Facebook CPCs down to a few cents.

I feel like with a few more tests, I could get my Facebook Ad CPCs down significantly. But again, what’s a Facebook “Like” worth? For this blog, which is more of a hobby/self-promo tool than a profit center, I can’t really justify spending money on something as hard-to-valuate as social media outreach. This was my first and last Facebook ad campaign, at least for now.

Meanwhile, I’m happy to welcome any new readers who found out about Breaking Copy through this campaign. I hope you’ll stick around and let me know what you think!

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Note: Photos of the woman’s face and the typewriter key were both from Shutterstock, where I work.

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For more information: Facebook Advertising, via Facebook.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising, Social Media


  1. Renee says:

    Thanks for making the details available. This gives me some good insight.

  2. Gayle says:

    thanks for sharing your thoughts and information. i’ve considered using Facebook adverts to promote my websites but am finding a hard time justifying the cost. I’m trying to learn as much as possible so I can make the right choice. your article helped. thanks.

  3. Great information on facebook advertising! This article was extremely helpful. Thank you!

  4. Kitty Pearl says:

    Exactly the questions I wanted answered, thanks 🙂

  5. Janjan says:

    Very nice read.
    All info needed about facebook ads is writen in this post. I like it especially the Advantages & disadvantaes f facebook ads. Nerve knew there are disadvantages from using facebook ads. Thanks for sharing.

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