I recently ran my first Facebook advertising campaign in order to promote an engineering degree course here at NUI Galway. Although it may have been run too late to change most students’ minds about what course they wanted to do, I thought it might be interesting to share some insights into the Facebook advertising process, and to give an idea of the power of the targeted advertising system they provide.
When you click on the “Create an Ad” button on Facebook, you are presented with some ad design options – namely, the URL where you want people to click through to, the title (limited to 25 characters, which requires some imaginative juggling of words and txtspk), an image, and a description for the ad (135 characters). This is standard stuff, but where it gets really interesting is when you start playing with the targeting options.
By default, you normally need to choose a target country. Choosing Ireland will inform you there is an estimated reach of 1.5 million people who are 18 or over on Facebook. Choosing the USA changes that figure to 120 million. Considering the population estimates for Ireland and the USA are around 4.5 million and 300 million respectively, that’s at least a third of each country who use the site. You can choose countrywide or city-specific targeting.
You can then fine tune in terms of demographics: age and sex. But clicking on the less obvious “Advanced Targeting Options” link shows some fascinating options: target people on their birthdays; target people interested in men or women; target people in a particular type of relationship (single, engaged, married, other); and languages. You can also target people at different education levels and in specified workplaces.
Finally you choose your daily budget, and also whether you want to go for eyeballs on ads (cost per mille – CPM) or clickthroughs (cost per click – CPC), along with a bid amount for how much you are willing to pay for impressions or clicks.
This may sound like a bit of a black art, and since it was my first campaign, I decided to adopt a gambling strategy by placing my money on different horses. I knew that parents were highly influential in their child’s choice of college course, but I also knew that I primarily wanted to show the ads to school-goers. Then I wanted to make sure that I covered other groups like teachers, relatives, etc.
So I went for a three-pronged approach:
Secondary school students
…exactly between the ages of 16 and 19 inclusive
…who live in Ireland
…who live within 50 miles of Athlone, Ballina, and about 30 other towns and cities in the west of Ireland
…selected cost per click (CPC) was 40 cents
…exactly between the ages of 40 and 55 inclusive – (I was estimating an age range of the teenager’s age plus 24 to 36)
…who are married – (I know this often may not be true, but it helped cut out many wasted ads to non-parents)
…who live in Ireland
…who live within 50 miles of Athlone, Ballina, and about 30 other towns
…selected cost per click (CPC) was 60 cents
…who live in Ireland
…selected cost per 1000 impressions (CPM) was 20 cents
And here are the results. For about €520, my ad was shown about 7 million times, and was clicked on about 1,750 times. That’s an overall average cost of about 30 cents per click.
It’s difficult to estimate if a click is worth more than a printed flyer sent in the post, but if you know roughly what type of clicker you had, then it’s pretty valuable information. Of those 1,750 clickthroughs, 1,100 were from the “secondary school students” group. 250 were from the “parents” group. I had budgeted about twice as much money for students, but for a lower bid rate they actually got double the clickthrough rate of the parents. The “everyone else” category was shown as much as the other two campaigns put together, perhaps due to the wider geographic spread, but received less clicks than the students, perhaps due to the ad placement (CPC being prioritised over CPM).
Clickthroughs for the three campaigns. The dip is due to my credit card maxing out while travelling!
What was interesting was that the most successful campaign was indeed the targeted-to-students one. But I was surprised that the broad spectrum campaign outdid (by 150 clicks) that of the one targeted to parents in the region, for the same amount of money spent (€130 each).
Facebook offers very fine-grained reports on campaigns. There are also stats regarding “social clicks”, i.e. the number of ad impressions where the viewer saw that a friend had liked the ad. Interesting stuff, and it seems there is still lots for me to learn…