February 26, 2013

6 things nonprofits should know about Facebook ads

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Make scarce marketing dollars go further with targeted, tested ads

Editor’s note: We’ve combined John Haydon’s 3-minute video tutorial above on how to use Facebook Insights to target Facebook ads more effectively with the following guest post that dissects the different kinds of Facebook ads.

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, businesses, marketing pros, Facebook administrators, anyone with a Facebook page.

Guest post by Taryn Degnan

tarynIf you build it, they will come … but what if they don’t? What if you’ve done everything to build a strong Facebook community, consistently post quality content and do your very best to engage with users, but you (or, in some cases, your executive director or CEO) still want more?

With limited to no budget, you have the opportunity to grow your community organically and develop meaningful relationships with your fans, bringing them closer to your organization’s mission with each Facebook post. But with recent changes to Facebook Pages and the newsfeed algorithm that now prevents parts of your audience from seeing everything you share, nonprofits big and small are turning to Facebook ads for as little as $1 per day to ensure eyeballs and engagement. 

With so many options at our fingertips, I recently took the time to really understand how it all works. If you’re interested in considering the options, too, I hope my research helps guide you to make the best decision for your organization.

Choose a mélange of ads that work best for your organization

1There are pros and cons to all three of these, but Facebook offers one of the most targeted advertising opportunities out there today. It simply comes down to who you want to target, and how much you are willing to pay to place a bid:


Facebook ads allow you to combine a photo or logo and 90 text characters to promote a page, app, event or external website to people who may or may not yet be connected to your cause – your choice. Ads appear on the right hand side of the Facebook news feed.

Sponsored Posts display posts in the newsfeeds of existing fans who might not have otherwise seen them. They are ideal for increasing visibility of event invitations, questions, photos or important news in a targeted fashion.

Sponsored Likes invite users to like causes that their friends are already connected to, using the power of social context to consistently outperform regular Facebook ads with a 46% higher click through rate, a 20% lower cost per click, and an 18% lower cost per fan according to Inside Facebook.  And it makes sense: According to Facebook Marketing, 92% of people trust the word of mouth of family and friends, as opposed to only 47% who trust television, radio and newspaper.

Make every penny count

2If your goal is audience growth, maximize your dollars by paying only for ads that people click on (CPC) as opposed to paying per one thousand people who will potentially see your ad (CPM).  More specifically, maximize your investment by getting people to click through directly to where you want them to be. If you have a stronger daily presence and richer content on Facebook than on your website, you might want to ask users to like your page instead of directing them to an external link.

Determine your ideal audience

3As opposed to Google Ad Words, Facebook gives you the power to identify users that fit your demographic to a tee. Are you a resource center for parents of children with Autism in Los Angeles, and looking to engage with college educated, stay-at-home parents? You can create an ad that targets those exact users – and even narrow it down further by alma mater!

Test, track, modify

4You are in full control of what you put into ads and what you can expectedly get out of them. Elana Leoni, Social Media Marketing Manager at Edutopia, recently told me, “When I first started playing around with promoted posts, I invested $15 per post and I was seeing an average of 2,500 paid impressions, 650 social impressions, 5.65% click-through rate (CTR), $.25 cost per click (CPC), and $.01 cost per impression (CPI). I was satisfied with this data and I decided to continue investing more per post. With my investments of $75 or more per post I was seeing an average of 42,000 paid impressions, 38,000 social impressions, 2.5% CTR, $.08 CPC, and $.002 CPI. Even though my click-throughs were decreasing with this higher level of investment, my impressions were skyrocketing!” Keeping a close eye on your campaigns and making changes when necessary will help you reach your goal.

Knowledge is power

5Facebook has substantial insight into its 1 billion users, so to get the best results possible, determine not only the demographic you want to market to, but what you want to get out of your actions. “With back-to-school season in full swing (our busiest season), we’re trying to be a part of the conversation on Facebook about education even more, so we’re promoting at least five posts per week to our audience,” says Leoni. This is a great example of meeting people where they are, and providing value to your audience at a time when it makes sense for them.

Above all else, authenticity always wins

6As nonprofits, we have an incredible storytelling advantage — to share meaningful, mission-minded content that inspires people to react, engage and share authentically. Try reaching your Facebook engagement goals by using the power of photos, testimonials and stories to communicate your message before you dive into investing dollars and resources that might not make perfect sense (or cents!) for your organization.

Now, let’s hear it from you. Have you experimented with Facebook ads?  What have you learned from the experience? Share your thoughts and ideas to help us all.

Taryn Degnan is the Manager of Social Media and Online Community at Common Sense Media. You can find Taryn on Twitter at @tarynidana. This article (without John’s video) originally appeared at Beth’s Blog.

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2 thoughts on “6 things nonprofits should know about Facebook ads

  1. This is interesting. I’m curious to see what results different organizations are having, especially across different sectors. It’s a good reminder too that just like any part of your social media efforts, there’s not one right answer and you have to adapt your tactics over time.