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Please, do your own Facebook advertising

[Originally Published by Americans for the Arts/NAMP:

I make a decent amount of my living when advertisers do not follow the advice offered in the title of this blog post. And certainly many advertisers—some even in the arts space—have compelling reasons to contract with individual experts or agencies to make the most of their social media advertising spend. This is especially true when part of a large programmatic advertising campaign. But seriously, take my advice.

[By the way, if the title didn’t give it away, this post is mostly about Facebook and, more generally, where it lands within a broader programmatic advertising space. If any NAMP conference attendees have a compelling and scalable paid advertising success story on another social media platform, please share!]

Facebook continues to make a variety of changes to how it incentivizes advertisers and advertising agencies to spend on their platform. Remember when video was super-cheap (like, almost free) to distribute? Remember when FBX launched, then was long-rumored to be killed, then eventually died just last fall? Remember when Facebook essentially didn’t have mobile ads? That wasn’t long ago; if you took a long vacation or simply stopped paying attention to how you or your social media contractors did things on the platform, you’d barely recognize how campaigns are optimized now versus just a year ago. Take your Facebook spend off auto-pilot and don’t sign any long agreements as to how you will be spending your money on the platform, as it always changes. And, those responsible for your social media spends should be communicating with you about these changes.

Facebook’s changes—many from just the last year—suggest a general direction towards offering incentive for DIY advertising: meaning ads that you or representatives of your organization place directly through the platform. Evidence of this direction can be divined through Facebook’s notoriously secretive algorithm changes and with the FBX shutdown in November of last year. And more concrete evidence is increasingly visible: the launch of intuitive (meaning for untrained, everyday folks like you and me) tools to create compelling ad content, the easy process to create a custom and lookalike audience, and the ability to select from a variety of ads to optimize towards particular goals like clicks, conversions (admittedly, this remains a challenge for many in the space—most are optimizing for clicks and hoping for the best), lead generation, event RSVPs, engagement, etc.

Looking for more compelling evidence than what’s just in the Facebook Ad Manager? Perhaps most importantly, these steps align with Mark Zuckerberg’s general and stated goal to make Facebook more like the churches and social clubs of yesteryear; those don’t work too well if a bunch of professional advertisers pack the pews. Plus, you can jettison “authenticity” (a valuable asset in a social media campaign) when you get a bunch of marketers involved. Lastly, this DIY leaning is aligned with the Internet in general—putting weight on the decentralized but hyper-networked power of the individual.

What does this mean for you? Well, first it means you have no more excuses—especially at NAMP where most of the people around you can help, know someone who can, or can look up your question on Google or Facebook’s support center. Anyone who can send an email, shop on Amazon, or navigate around a basic spreadsheet can learn Facebook advertising basics by launching a campaign in under an hour. And then, of course, optimize from there.

Secondly, once you’ve started advertising on Facebook, you should see what I generally see: your first $500 or even $1000 of a campaign (not just your social spend allocation—your whole advertising campaign) typically sees the highest ROI on that platform. The only thing I’ve seen return better ROI is subscription/membership renewal through direct mail. And with custom audiences, you could even cut down on the direct mail costs for that by advertising on the platform! Assuming you’re targeting the right audience, at the right time and with the right event, the cost per impression to reach this “low hanging fruit” audience is so low (relative to direct mail or other channels) that returns on your spend look fantastic.

That leads to my third point: the returns on this kind of advertising are SO good that it’s no wonder agencies and consultants take credit for this spend when really anyone in arts marketing can do it for you—or, better yet, you can do it yourself—at a very low cost. We aren’t being evil or anything … we, like most humans, are susceptible to a more elevated opinion of ourselves. This probably explains why we got into marketing in the first place!

That leads to my fourth point—a BIG caveat: There is value in getting help. Sometimes that comes in working with consultants that help increase the capacity of your internal staff so social media learnings can be internalized by an organization. Also, as your spend on Facebook specifically approaches five-figures on a campaign, there are some efficiencies and synergies with other elements of a specific programmatic campaign that, again, would make me disregard my own general advice.

So, how would I spend your $500 on Facebook? I’d buy each of us a cup of coffee, ask you to log into your Facebook account, and spend 15 minutes talking you through how to spend your remaining $494.

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