Facebook Advertising: The Basics of Cost Effective Social Ads

Facebook Advertising: The Basics of Cost Effective Social Ads

Facebook is the best place to share updates about your organization with a wide network of supporters. With 1.7 billion users, it’s by far the largest social media network.

It’s now also one of the largest online advertising networks. In the past five years, Facebook has dramatically increased the ways in which marketers can reach these users via advertising. The features they’ve added allow organizations of all sizes to target specific audiences of people and create low-cost advertising.

Here are some tips on how to get started using Facebook advertising to help your organization meet its goals, from raising awareness, generating more donations, to finding more homes for adoptable pets.

Boost Your Posts

Facebook limits the organic reach of posts from every type of page, including personal pages. If you post an update, not all of your friends will see it, unless it gains a lot of attention quickly.

This is also true for posts from businesses and organizations. By some estimates, less than 6% of followers of a business page will see any particular update.

The easiest way to get greater visibility is to pay Facebook to show your posts to a greater number of people. This is called “boosting” your posts. You can boost anything you post on your page, including status updates, articles, images, and events.

For details on how to do this, see here: https://www.facebook.com/business/a/boost-a-post

Target Audiences

Facebook allows business pages to boost posts to particular people. Doing this well will increase the attention your posts get because the more people like them, the more people will see them.

Facebook works with partners including credit card companies and data brokers that share information on everyone who is on their network. This gives Facebook information about what people click on, what they buy, pages they like, and demographic information on the individual level.

You can use this information to advertise to people on Facebook via targeting your posts and advertising. The more relevant your content is to your audience, the more likely they will be to take action – by donating, adopting a pet, or attending an event.

There are sophisticated targeting options within Facebook that fall into these general categories:

    1. Geographic: Allows you to target only people in a specific area – either across the country, in particular zip codes, or a radius around your location.
    2. Demographic: You can target audiences by age and gender as well as other demographic information. If you have data that shows who is most likely to rescue a particular kind of animal, you can target images of your adoptable pets to that population.
    3. Interests and connections: Facebook allows you to to target posts to people who like certain pages, or have certain interests. Interests are based on the type of links people click on and what they’ve liked in the past.
    4. Behaviors: These are determined by what actions people have taken in the past, and what they’re likely to do in the future. For example, you can target people who have given to charitable organizations, and animal welfare organizations in particular.

In addition to these options, you can also upload your own mailing list to Facebook and deliver posts or advertising to people that may be in your database but are not following you on Facebook. This is called building a “custom audience.” Learn more here: https://www.facebook.com/business/a/custom-audiences

Experiment with boosting posts to different audiences to better understand how the differences impact the responses to what you’re sharing. For example, if you’re asking for donations you’d likely want to target people already in your audience (who like your page), like similar pages, and/or give to other animal welfare organizations.

For more information on targeting audiences, see here: https://www.facebook.com/business/products/ads/ad-targeting

Try Advertising

In addition to targeting your regular posts to specific audiences, Facebook allows you to advertise to those audiences. Facebook ads can take a handful of formats, including ads that ask for page likes, email sign-ups, and event registrations. See here (https://www.facebook.com/business/ads-guide?tab0=Mobile%20News%20Feed) for a full list of options.

Facebook ads can work like regular posts and show in people’s Newsfeed, or they can appear in other locations:

To create an ad on Facebook, you simply need persuasive text and a memorable image. There are character count limits and other guidelines to follow that depend on the type of ad you want to create. Find more information on how to create an ad here (link to: https://www.facebook.com/business/learn/facebook-create-ad-basics).

Advertising on Facebook is low cost and easy to do. It helps to have an experienced marketing team to craft copy and design graphics, as well as a strategy for testing different combinations of images, text and audience to find the lowest cost per action.

SAWA has successfully used Facebook ads to promote conferences, the CAWA exam, and more. You may have seen some examples of our ads, or get inspired by the nonprofit advertising examples here: https://www.facebook.com/business/success/?categories[0]=small-business&categories[1]=non-profit.

Good luck!

The opinions and advice expressed within this article are the opinions of the author, and not of SAWA or its affiliates.


Kirsten Markson

Kirsten Markson is a marketing strategist with 15 years of experience in research and communications consulting. Kirsten is driven to help organizations determine opportunities for improvement and efficiency, from marketing to organizational strategy. A background in market research has left her passionate about the potential of unlocking data to enable more effective marketing and improved consumer experience. Kirsten holds a Master’s in Communication Management from University of Southern California’s Annenberg School and a dual Bachelor’s in Literature and Anthropology from the University of Arizona.


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