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Screenshot of the Incipe Workers' Cooperative Facebook Page

Evaluating Facebook Ads – Are They Worth It?

By | Social Media | No Comments

Evaluating the channel before buying the ads

Are Facebook ads worth the expense for your nonprofit or co-op? We’re evaluating Facebook ads so that you and your groups can weigh the costs and benefits.

Screenshot of the Incipe Workers' Cooperative Facebook PageFacebook recently decided to give us some free credit for advertising through their ads system, and we thought we’d take the opportunity for some free word-of-mouth.  After all, a lot of nonprofits and advocacy groups use Facebook advertising to work towards spreading news of their campaigns, their projects, and the work that they’re trying to do. Co-op enterprises use social media and Facebook as another advertising channel.

So, we did a few things – spiced up our Facebook page before setting the ad, posted a blog post to serve as the ‘sponsored story’ link, and all kinds of other recommended things that experts have suggested.  The ad was approved, and released onto the market, and…

Boom. We got dozens of likes right quickly.

But we took a look at the people ‘liking’ our page – while there were some people obviously involved in our target demographics (we targeted Canadians who had interests and likes connected to the nonprofit, social enterprise, or cooperative field), there were a large number of people whose Facebook profiles showed no friends, had one or two photos, no activity, and were created very recently.  And these profiles all seemed to like thousands of Facebook pages.

Something didn’t seem right here.

In the end, it seems that there’s a serious issue plaguing Facebook advertising – through ‘blackhat social marketing,’ unscrupulous marketers or campaigners can ‘buy’ thousands of ‘likes’ on their pages, to create a false ‘buzz’ around their campaigns or products.  Purchasing these likes means thousands of fake accounts will like a page, falsely inflating the appearance of its reach.

These fake accounts plague the Facebook system. Many regular – and very real – users accidentally or innocently accept friend requests from these accounts, which inflates their reach, which feeds back into the loop that’s being created.

The fake accounts also end up ‘liking’ random Facebook pages, in various attempts to appear to Facebook administrators and moderators as real accounts; to do this, they like the ads that they see, in addition to the page that they’re being hired to like.

Here’s where a lot of our sudden boom in likes came from.

This can really impact your nonprofit, co-op, or advocacy marketing campaign.

Facebook charges you per click on your ad.  If there’s a substantive amount of false accounts liking your page, you’re likely to be paying for likes that aren’t real and reach that is inflated.  For some of us on small budgets actively trying to make an impact on social media, this is a budget-drain with absolutely no return on investment. For a few of us, this could be a serious issue.

What do we do?

  • Evaluate.  Take a look at your current Facebook audience, and get to know them – our page had very little likes pre-ad campaign.  Ask them to take action in promoting your page, by sharing stories, recommending your page to friends. Focus on digital word-of-mouth campaigns. In good conscience, we cannot easily recommend Facebook advertising to some of our clients because of the low return on investment and the high waste of ad money through fake likes.
  • A key evaluation is also consideration of whether you feel ads will have a meaningful impact – I regularly use Adblock extensions in my browser, and was debating turning them off to see the impact of Facebook ads. They aren’t always appealing.
  • Engage your audience and drive online traffic through real-world presence. Make your page engaging, offer images to be shared, campaign steps that users can easily take, and other ways of driving online traffic.   People respond well to calls-to-action – try that.
  • Work with us. We can work on organic social media campaigns where you don’t have to resort to paid advertising. That’s what we’re here for – let’s get started.