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An Experiment with Facebook Advertising for Nonprofit Organizations

February 9, 2010

2/28 Update :: Facebook did not run the second ad. It was either a tech glitch, I did something wrong, or they just would not run the ad with $.28 per click bid (See 2/22 Update). I don’t know, but honestly, the first ad’s poor performance coupled with the second ad not running, I did not want to try a third ad. That’s the point where as a “consumer” I get frustrated, throw up my hands, and move on. View An Experiment with Facebook Advertising for Nonprofit Organizations :: The Results for a final analysis. The images below are for your reference:

Results from Ad 1: 21 Clicks, 139,541 Impressions, $30

Results from Ad 2: Facebook Didn’t Run the Ad

2/22 Update :: I have scheduled another ad to run for two days starting tomorrow for the Nonprofit Organizations Facebook Page. I am running the exact same ad as last week, except that I am only targeting college-educated women aged 30-40 to see if that changes the results. Last week was men and women of all educational backgrounds aged 30-40. Women make up 65% of my fan base and are 72% of the folks that interact on my page. Many are professionals. Additionally, some words of caution. I set up my second ad to run for two days at $10 a day, but after I submitted the ad it appeared as an indefinite ad with a max of $250 a day. That’s quite a tech glitch! Be sure to double-check your ad(s) and “Edit” quickly if you have to.

Also, the first ad I set up gave me a choice of price per-click or $.28 per click when using Impressions. When I created the second ad, there was no longer an option for Impressions and I had to choose $.67 per click. My guess is that number was based on what I paid per click for the first ad… which many have told me was way too much. Again, be careful. I had to go back after the ad was submitted and “Edit” and then re-submit a bid of $.28 cents.

Finally, I will post the results of the ad and the entire experience next week. Coincidently, I am running another simultaneous experiment on Facebook that is producing very impressive results. I have created a new Page that has accrued over 3,500 fans in 5 days… my first experience with a “viral” Facebook Page. Will share more next week.

2/21 Update :: After Day 3 of the ad, I closed it down rather than run the ad for another two days. It wasn’t producing results. For a three-day ad I got a grand total of 21 clicks and 139, 541 Impressions. It cost $30. Over those three days my fan base grew by 47. That’s average. The Page grows by 10-20 fans a day without advertising. There is no way to know if any of those 21 clicks were any of the 47 new fans. Also, of the five Status Updates that I sent last week, two showed up in the Newsfeed > Top News. One had eight Likes. One had nine Likes and two Comments. I do not think purchasing advertising improved the rate of Status Updates showing up in the News Feed > Top News. All Status Updates showed up in the News Feed > Top News.

2/16 Update :: Day 2 is now done. 73,439 Impressions. 11 Clicks. $15.73. My fan base has grown by 28 in the last two days, but no way to know if any of them came from the 11 clicks. I am not promoting this page right now… and seeing an average growth. My Status Update are not showing up in the News Feed > Top News. Going to tweak the ad for Thursday and Friday to see if it produces better results.

2/13 Update :: I have been monitoring Status Updates from numerous nonprofits on Facebook over the last few days, and what I think is happening is that all Status Updates from Facebook Fan Pages go into News Feed > Most Recent. That’s good. That wasn’t the case on Tuesday when I first wrote the post below. Facebook was having technical issues.

Status Updates that receive at least 2-4 or more Comments and Thumbs Up (not sure of the magic number) will then also show up in the News Feed > Top News. I am running an experiment next week to see if purchasing $50 in advertising from Facebook will get more of my Status Updates into the Top News feed as well. A small price to pay if it works. Facebook has been operating in the red for years and only became profitable in September 2009.

The Facebook of February 2010 is quite different from the Facebook of 2009 especially when it comes to Facebook Fan Pages. If you haven’t yet noticed, three very important changes have been made that significantly effect your organization’s Facebook community:

1) Status Updates are no longer guaranteed to get exposure in the News Feed.

There is a mysterious Facebook algorithm at play here and I just don’t know what it is, but I do know that with the launch of new Facebook design in early February 2010 the vast majority of Status Updates from Pages that I am a fan of are not showing up in the primary News Feed > Top News. More are seemingly showing up in the News Feed > Most Recent view, but definitely not all. I knew this change was coming and I had read that Status Updates that receive a lot of comments and thumbs up would at the very least show up in the News Feed > Most Recent, but that’s just not happening. I have always believed and voiced that 90% of the power of a Facebook Page is in the Status Updates, so having them not show up in News Feeds is a problem.

2) It is no longer obvious that fans have new Updates.

I can’t remember exactly when this change was made, but it was at least 6 months ago. When fans logged into Facebook in the upper right of their “Home” view they used to see alerts of “New Updates!”. Now the only way fans know if they have new Updates is if they go to their Inbox > Updates or if they click “Messages” on the left of the Home view (the later was just added February 2010). Coincidently, once this change was made, activity on the Nonprofit Organizations Facebook Page declined. I no longer saw surges in traffic (via Insights) on days that I sent Updates.

As of February 2 Updates had been relegated the realm of “Out of Sight, Out of Mind”. On that day I polled fans asking if they read Updates anymore, and the overwhelming response was no. BUT now that Facebook has added the “Messages” function in the upper left of the Home view, perhaps the usefulness of Updates with rise again? I’ll send an Update next week and let you know. 🙂

3) The Pages Filter on the Home view has been removed and replaced with Ads and Pages.

The new Facebook of February 2010 no longer has a “Pages” filter in the upper left of the Home view. It used to be a feed of Status Updates from Pages you were a fan of. It’s gone. Now if you click “More” just below this space a new “Ads and Pages” hub appears. You do not see Status Updates, but rather the Ads and Pages you are an admin for. Useful for Nonprofit Admins who manage many Pages and people who buy and manage Facebook ads, but there’s no way around it… less exposure of Status Updates on the Home view is just not good for most nonprofits.

Thus, a $50 experiment with Facebook Advertsing for Nonprofit Organizations.

Facebook is entering an era of profitability. They have built the largest online community the world has ever known over the last 5 years and now they are positioned to make some serious cash. You can’t blame them for it. It couldn’t be free forever. That’s business. But nonprofits have sent out millions of e-mails and Tweets over the last few years asking supporters to “Become a fan!” thus helping Facebook become the powerhouse that it is today. So, there is a reciprocal relationship here, or at least there should be (I think).

I have read rumors that purchasing advertising will help your nonprofit get more action in the News Feeds. That seems fair. I am willing to pay $50 or $100 in advertising to get increased exposure in the feeds, but not necessarily to secure more fans. If those new fans can’t see my Status Updates, well then quite honestly, what’s the point?

So, I have just purchased a Facebook Ad to promote the Nonprofit Organizations Facebook Page that is to run Monday, February 15th through Friday, February 19th. Together, we will watch to see if it increases my fan base and/or Status Update activity in the News Feeds. Below you can see the steps I took to create and pay for an ad:

1) Step 1 :: Design Your Ad
Step 2 :: Target Your Ad

My ad will target people:
  • who live in the United States
  • between the ages of 30 and 40 inclusive
  • who graduated from college
  • who are single, in a relationship, engaged or married
  • who speak English (US)
Facebook let me know there are 6,892,600 people that fit that description.
Step 3 :: Campaigns and Pricing

I chose to max my ad at $10 a day. For that price I could get up 17 clicks a day, or 36,000 impressions a day. The later sounded much more impressive so I went with Pay for Impressions. The ad will run for 5 days maxing at $50 starting next Monday, February 15.
Step 4 :: Review and Pay for Ad

Step 5 :: Ads and Pages Admin

As mentioned above, there is a new “Ads and Pages” option on the left side of your Home view under “More.” When the ad goes live next Monday I’ll start seeing some activity and be sure to share screenshots with you the following week. But again, this experiment is not about how many new fans an ad can generate for the Nonprofit Organizations Facebook Page, but rather if it helps the Status Updates of the NPO Page get more News Feed action. I hope so!
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30 Comments leave one →
  1. Courtney Livingston permalink
    February 9, 2010 8:25 am

    This is a great experiment. Thanks for setting it up and letting us follow. I hope it works!

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      February 9, 2010 8:38 am

      Of course… I have been meaning to do it for awhile. We’ll see!

  2. February 9, 2010 8:45 am

    Wonderful idea! We all have to stay on our toes to keep up with 2010 and Facebook, so I appreciate you making it more clear for small non-profits like ours.

  3. February 9, 2010 8:53 am

    hmm. i’m sure it’ll make a blip in your fan base, but i’m really interested to see if shelling out for ads is actually linked to your page’s appearance in news feeds. we’ve seen that even a small investment in FB ads can bring in pretty good results for a fan page (especially now that you can target users whose friends are already fans), but certainly wouldn’t have guessed at the possibility that this would be linked to the status updates algorithm…

  4. February 9, 2010 8:54 am

    Thanks for sharing this with all of us!

  5. February 9, 2010 9:03 am

    Hi Heather,

    Just read your great blog and I have to say it kinda bummed me out. Facebook is making it more difficult to communicate with our fans. So when I finished reading your post I went over to Facebook to check out the new Home Page which just transitioned for me last night but did not have a chance to really look at it.

    Anyway… I just discovered something I wanted to share with you. Check out the Edit Options button on the bottom of your wall on your personal profile page. It will allow you to edit you News Feed and they give you a Show More option which includes your friends AND Pages you are a fan of!

    So… I just added the Pages I want to receive updates from and like Magic they all reappeared back from the dead on my News feed!

    We need to try to communicate this with as many of our fans as we can… Start a “bring us back from the dead” Fan Page Movement!

    I have to say that this makes me feel a lot better and hopeful that organizations will be able to effective communicate with their fans on Facebook without having to pay a price.

    Hope this helps everyone out!

    Michael Iris
    Twitter: @Mike_Iris

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      February 9, 2010 9:15 am

      Thanks Michael. This function will definitely help if people know about it and/or nonprofits can find a way to let fans know. The function was launched April 2009 when the new Pages went live because people that became fans before April 2009 would not see Status Updates of the new Pages (launched April 2009), so nonprofits sent a lot of e-mails/Updates asking people to “Add them to their Feeds”… not sure how well it worked. Now more people know about the function so that’s good, but I do think there is good reason to be bummed and a little angry. 🙂

  6. February 9, 2010 10:18 am

    Always trying to learn how to communicate better. Thanks for the tips.

  7. February 9, 2010 11:31 am

    Great post. I am pretty bummed out by the new Facebook layout’s effects on pages. I’m not going to lie – the first thing I noticed was that I could no longer filter by Pages to see the Pages I’m a fan of latest status updates and posts.

    Regarding advertising, we have found it very helpful for Blood Centers of the Pacific as far as obtaining new fans and letting people who aren’t already fans of our page know when we are doing something special. Unfortunately, I think because we are in the Bay Area, the pricing is pretty expensive. Usually we’re paying closer to $1 per click anymore it seems. Not sure how the pricing is determined but we have noticed it has gone up (we’ve done a couple of different ads over the past 6+ months).

    One way we’ve determined we can still succeed in the new FB world is the post updates that are easy to share (like links and photos, since status updates are not sharable) and then encouraging our fans to post them on their own pages. Our page might not be visible in people’s news feed but their friends’ status updates and posts are more likely to be visible. This is just one idea we’ve thrown around since the changes this week. I’d love to hear if anyone else has ideas!

  8. February 9, 2010 1:14 pm

    Ditto on the bummed status about status changes. Heather I think you should create a petition on behalf of nonprofits and send facebook an honest inquiry to do more for nonprofits and consider changes to page status.

    How about it?

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      February 9, 2010 1:22 pm

      I have thought about it, but I am not sure I am ready to deal with all the Facebook lovers. They really can’t stand to criticize FB at all… and an onslaught of comments from them would keep me up at night. Let’s watch and see how it evolves over the next few weeks… I have some ideas. 🙂

  9. February 9, 2010 1:31 pm

    I will be interested to see how this works. Did you know you can target people who are friends of your current fans? Was there a reason you decided not to use keywords? It seems like if you had more specific targeting, you might get more bang for your buck and reach more people who would be interested in nonprofit-related content.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      February 9, 2010 1:40 pm

      Thanks. Yes, I know… I have very liberal group of friends and fans… and I just wanted to test the general Facebook community of donor age. Again, the experiment is not about getting fans… it’s about getting more News Feed action. If I can’t get my Status Updates in the News Feeds, well then… my Facebook community will lose most of its power.

      • February 9, 2010 1:57 pm

        Though if it is based on interactions, wouldn’t more specific targeting be more likely to yield comments and “likes” on your fan page posts, which may trip the algorithm to make the status updates show? Just a thought – thanks for the thoughtful post!

      • nonprofitorgs permalink
        February 9, 2010 2:17 pm

        Well… this experiment pretty much comes down to if I pay $50 in advertising revenue to Facebook… will Status Updates show up in the feeds again? I have 8,000 fans that are already pretty committed to nonprofits… normally get lots of comments and likes, now almost none because my Status Updates are not showing in feeds like they were. So, it’s a Catch 22. How do I get comments and thumbs up if I am not getting any action the feeds? I did post one Status Update yesterday that got 15 comments from 4 people (who did not have the new Facebook yet)… those Status Updates did not show up in my own feeds (I have the new Facebook). I am wondering if $50 will change the algorithm. We’ll have to see. 🙂

  10. February 9, 2010 9:14 pm

    Heather, thank you for the thoughtful post. I’m not sure that many nonprofits even are aware of how the February 2010 changes affected their Fan pages. The Ad approach is interesting, but (and this is where I rain a bit on the parade) for people like me who use Firefox with ad blockers…well, I don’t see any of the Facebook ads at all. Hopefully, this approach will work for you, while Facebook continues to modify the new release.

  11. February 16, 2010 1:19 pm

    For our Facebook ad campaign we chose to pay per-click, not per-impression.
    We get 20,000 impressions per day and about 20 clicks per day. The clicks cost less that $0.50 and most of them turn in to fans.
    We started out very small – 19 fans last week – and are seeing great results.
    The campaign runs until Saturday and we expect to add a hundred fans for less than $90.

    Paul Geffen
    Marketing Director
    Boston Wagner Society

  12. Cadenza permalink
    February 17, 2010 8:14 am

    I love the experiment but fear you may have cast the net too shallow. The largest spike in Facebook users are people over the age of 40, who are actively engaged in civic, arts, secular and faith-based events and organizations. They are most likely to be the decision makers for those groups. My experience on Facebook has been very positive. Results will come not from the sheer number of followers, but rather the quality of the followers.

    Best regards and keep up the good work.

  13. February 22, 2010 9:31 am

    I tried this too a while back for my Kids Are Heroes fan page and also stopped doing it. I saw no noticeable increase in fans. I am now getting a steady increase, albeit not earth shattering, but still nice to know I’m not paying for it.

    The largest increase I ever received was when I coyly asked for people to suggest my page. My exact words were “I wonder what would happen if everyone suggested this page to their friends. :)” It wasn’t an “in-your-face” plea that showed desperation and being pathetic, like those requests can appear sometimes. Anyway a “big-hitter” did just that and my numbers shot up like a rocket. That was done before I hit 300 fans. Now there are over 1700. That number could be bigger, but who’s complaining?

    Thanks for posting this.


  14. Nidhi permalink
    February 26, 2010 1:45 am

    looking forward to it….. I think this experiment is really important at this stage, when FB is moving on to a next level.
    We have already tried this and I think what really help is now their is no distraction on the profile page, but I guess there should be something more….more that we can do.

  15. rachel permalink
    March 2, 2010 10:41 am

    We did an experiment with FB advertising for the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival in 2009. It was very successful for us – in the first few days we had 700+ impressions at NO COST. (We were only paying by clickthrough and the festival website and dates were on the ad so people didn’t really need to click through). We learned a lot from this experiment with what works and what doesn’t. We found that ads with humor or sexual innuendo were the most successful (of course). People didn’t respond to ’causes’ – an ad with a polar bear in peril had very little response. Our most successful ad used the title of one of the short films (“Better Than Sex?” -a film about swimming enthusiasts) and basically had a photo of a guy in a swimsuit and said ‘better than sex?’ with the festival URL and dates. This as was very popular! Cheesy, yes – but also successful. My advice would be find a way to inject humor, something cheeky, or intriguing into the ad, and to minimize your costs give your web URL or other relevant info in the ad to cut down on need for click thru.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      March 2, 2010 11:08 am

      That’s funny. Thanks. Now how to make polar bear extinction sexy?


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