Brands

Distribution 101: The Content Marketer’s Guide to Facebook Sponsored Posts

By Amanda Walgrove December 8th, 2014

Last month, Facebook announced they’re going to restrict brand reach by punishing brands that are overly self-promotional. Why is this a great sign for content marketers? Because it means Facebook is shutting up the bad actors that give branded content on Facebook a bad rap, potentially creating a tide that lifts all boats—at least among content marketers who are sharing content that people find valuable.

Still, finding yourself at the mercy of Facebook’s algorithm can be frustrating, especially since the social network is such an effective driver of referral traffic to publisher sites—over three times that of all other social networks combined. Luckily, you can easily ensure your reach on Facebook if you have a little bit of a media budget with Facebook sponsored posts.

In the latest edition of our paid content distribution playbook series, we examine Facebook’s highly customizable sponsored posts to target specific portions of Facebook’s pool of 1.35 billion users, brands can offer that valuable content to the right people even more effectively.

While Zuckerberg’s network may change its algorithm at a dizzying frequency, what hasn’t changed is the fact that it’s much simpler to create sponsored posts on Facebook than on any other social platform. Before or after you post a piece of content on Facebook, just click the blue “Boost” button below the post, and get ready to customize your sponsored post.

Which type of campaign should I choose?

For sponsoring posts that go directly into your audience’s News Feeds, you won’t necessarily choose a type of campaign, like you would on Twitter. You’ll just have to be mindful of how you compose your content.

For example, if you just want to boost engagement around multimedia, such as a picture or video that you’ve posted, Facebook recommends structuring your creative with the following specs:

  • 90 text characters
  • Image ratio: 1:1
  • Image size: 1,200 x 1,200 pixels

If you’re looking to drive clicks to your website via an expanded link (our favorite option), Facebook recommends using these:

  • Title: 500 characters (anything over is truncated)
  • Linked title: 1 to 2 lines
  • Domain link: 1 line
  • Description: 2 to 3 lines
  • Image aspect ratio: 1.91:1
  • Image specs in ad: 470 x 246 pixels

Once your content is formatted appropriately, you can work on getting in front of the right eyeballs through Facebook’s targeting options.

How can I target my desired audience?

First, choose the audience you want to reach. If you choose “People who like your Page” or “People who like your Page and their friends,” then the majority of the targeting is done for you. You simply have to add a price and start the campaign. If you choose to target your own pool of users, you can narrow your audience by location, age, gender, and interests.

In the Facebook Ads manager, you can also create your own pre-designed audiences. Custom Audiences are compiled from your customer contacts, website traffic, or mobile—in other words, people with whom you’ve already connected with and who have already expressed an interest in your content or products. Lookalike Audiences can also be assembled based on your existing Custom Audiences and people who like your Page.

In our experience, CPC seems to be a bit higher on Facebook than on Twitter. But with that price often comes better results: Hyper-targeting by location on Facebook has proven incredibly useful.

For example, it’s a good place to target readers who freelance in Chicago if you want to promote a piece about the best coffee shops to work from in the Windy City. Simply target only people in Chicago with an interest in freelancing. Your audience might only be several thousand people, but they are guaranteed to be readers who are interested in what you have to offer. They will therefore be most likely to click on your content than anyone else, ultimately driving the CPC down.

If you want to track conversions via Facebook, simply set up a Conversion Pixel, by choosing “Create Pixel” on the Facebook Ad manager, selecting a category (registrations, leads, adds to cart, etc), and embedding the code on your page.

How should I budget my spend?

Budgeting is even simpler than targeting. Just set a fixed amount of money you want to put behind your piece of content, and let it run. Just as with targeting, your budget will determine the size of your audience. More money = more eyeballs. If you’d like your campaign to run for a certain amount of time, set the duration, and Facebook will distribute your funds evenly.

While testing out new content on Facebook, it can be smart to create several sponsored posts with really small amounts of spend and see which ones resonate best with your audiences. That’s the secret sauce of PetFlow, whose blog has expanded to reach 50 million readers less than one year. As The Content Strategist’s Natalie Burg explained:

[Petflow crafts] 90 to 100 stories a day directed at women over 45, who make up 70 percent of the PetFlow’s audience. You know, dog moms and cat ladies. The right photos, videos, and stories must be, in Zhardanovsky’s words, “something my mom would laugh or cry at.” Think headlines like “Rescue Pit Bull Protects 6-Year-Old Girl With Severe Autism. This Is Phenomenal,” “Adorable Owl Gets His First Bath And Blowdry! ADORABLE!!” and even “What This Little Boy Sings To Grandma Will Melt Your Heart!

Of those 100 or so fully composed daily stories, only about 15 will make it to the blog. The curators gnaw the contender list down by testing each with unpublished paid posts on Facebook. Rather than simply posting a link to their audience, PetFlow pays to distribute them to a certain segment of Facebook users who aren’t fans.If a post meets a certain criteria—a classified combo of likes, clicks, shares, or comments—it graduates to the blog and is shared with the PetFlow Facebook pack.

If you adopt a strategy like PetFlow’s and want to double down on a successful post, adding more money while it’s still running is a simple affair. The one thing you can’t change, however, is your targeting specifications. So target carefully, or try posting again.

How can I measure the success of my campaigns?

Once the campaign is completed, click the “See Results” button at the bottom of your post to review how your campaign performed. Or visit the Facebook Ads dashboard to look further into insights and audience engagements.

Want to try posting the same piece of content again with optimized targeting specifications? Narrow down your results by people and location in order to see which age and gender groups engaged best with your post.

As with all content distribution platforms, you want to check your other analytics programs (such as Google Analytics) to make sure that your Facebook audience is driving engaged readers. Also, if you create a custom link that ends with source=paidfacebook, you can track engagement from all of the visitors who are coming to your website from sponsored Facebook posts. This is helpful so you can splice paid visitors from organic visitors.

Most importantly, just keep testing and adapting. If you have solid content, you’re halfway there. But riding the rollercoaster of Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm calls for some stamina and a strong stomach for twists and turns.

For further reading on paid content distribution, check out our guide to Promoted Tweets and guide to growing an audience through Outbrain, and check back next week for our guide to sponsored posts on LinkedIn.

Image by sergign
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