How to Use Targeted Facebook Ads to Promote an Event
Are you promoting events online?
Have you tried using Facebook to spread the word?
Targeted Facebook ads are an ideal way to reach people who are most likely to share and attend your event.
In this article I’ll show you how Facebook ads increase exposure, engagement and registrations for your event.
How Facebook Ads Drive People Down a Marketing Funnel
Marketing funnels are useful because they show how people go from hearing about your event to registering for your event. Your funnel is essentially a framework that connects content marketing, social media engagement, email marketing and ads into a functional strategy.
Below is an example of a horizontal funnel (using Facebook) that follows Jane as she goes from awareness of the event, to registering for the event, to telling her friends about the event.
Now let’s dig deeper into how Facebook ads support each stage of the funnel.
#1: Capture Awareness
The first phase of any campaign is awareness. Maybe someone finds out about your event because a friend was talking about it, or maybe that person subscribes to your email or reads your blog.
In the funnel example above, Jane signs a pledge to support, which is a mini-campaign designed to nurture interest for an upcoming event. Doing a mini-campaign like this isn’t always necessary, but it can be effective, particularly for paid events.
I frequently recommend boosted posts, especially if you have limited staff, training or resources.
When you decide to boost a Facebook post, only boost your best stuff. That way you increase the likelihood that people who see the post will engage with it. To find the posts worth boosting, look at your Insights to find your top event-related posts based on engagement rate and how relevant it is to your current marketing goals.
There may be cases when your best-performing updates aren’t directly related to your promotion. If that’s the case, simply edit the status update, include a call to action (CTA) and link to your campaign landing page. Just make sure your edits feel natural, not forced.
I won’t go into the details about event ads, but I will say that promoting events with ads can be super-powerful, especially if you target the friends of people who have registered!
Page post engagement ads are another option. These are ads you create using a page update and the Advanced Facebook Advertising Tool. This tool gives you many more targeting options than boosted posts. (However, Facebook now lets you use the Advanced Ad Tool when boosting a post.)
Or you can create and use a lookalike audience. A lookalike audience is a custom audience that shares the same likes and interests as your customers, email subscribers, volunteers or even people who attended last year’s event.
Creating a Facebook lookalike audience is as simple as uploading an email list. Who should be on this list? Why would they be interested in hearing about your event? The easy answer to both is anyone who registered for a previous event.
Once you create a lookalike audience with Power Editor, you can use it to target your boosted post by following these steps:
1. Find the post you want to promote and click Boost.
2. Click the Use Advanced Options link in the pop-up window. You’ll be redirected to Facebook’s Advanced Advertising Tool.
3. Scroll down under Audiences and type the name of your lookalike audience into the Custom Audience field.
4. Select the lookalike audience from the list of suggestions.
5. Select any other targeting options you want to include. You may not need to bother with this if your lookalike audience is based on a very specific email list (for example, previous event registrants).
#2: Nurture Interest
In our example with Jane, we’re using triggered email marketing campaigns. Triggered campaigns or autoresponders are email messages that are automatically sent in response to something the subscriber does.
When Jane signs the pledge, she is added to a specific email list. As soon as she’s added to that list (the trigger), a series of two to three email messages are sent to her, encouraging her to register for the event.
There are a few Facebook ad tactics you can use to support these email messages, but one stands out front and center: email custom audiences.
The constant challenge of email marketing is getting people to open your emails and click through your campaign links. We can send Jane triggered emails intended to nurture her interest in the event, but we can’t make her open or click. This is where Facebook email custom audiences come into play.
An email custom audience allows you to reach people on a specific email list with Facebook ads. In our example let’s say that Jane opens one of the triggered emails, but fails to click on links to learn more about the event—maybe she gets distracted or gets pulled away to a work meeting.
After her long and stressful meeting, Jane opens Facebook during a coffee break. She sees boosted posts (or event ads) reflecting the same CTAs she read in the triggered email. She may click through the post and register for the event, or take the post as a reminder to register later that night when she has more time for email.
This tactic essentially creates a one-two punch—combining email marketing and Facebook marketing. In our example we’re using an email custom audience with the list of people like Jane who’ve signed the pledge.
You can create a Facebook email custom audience by following these steps:
1. Export the email list or segment from your current donor database, EMS or CRM and save it to your hard drive. You only need a single column (CSV or TXT) of emails. No other data is required (you can even remove the header row).
2. Select the Facebook page post you want specific email subscribers to see and click Boost.
3. In the pop-up, click Advanced Options. You will be redirected to Facebook’s Advanced Advertising Tool.
4. Scroll down to the Audience section and click Create Custom Audiences.
5. In the pop-up, click Data File Custom Audience.
6. Give your list a name and a short description, select I Agree to the Facebook Custom Audiences Terms and click Create Audience.
7. Complete your ad by selecting your email custom audience, your ad run dates and budget.
A quick note: When your list is uploaded, you can target Facebook users associated with that list. When you select the list in the Custom Audience field, you may notice that the audience number is smaller than the list you uploaded. That’s because Facebook only uses emails that are associated with a Facebook profile.
#3: Convert Prospects
If you’ve conducted any type of campaign that includes a landing page asking people to take a specific action, you know all too well that most people won’t do what you want them to do—they may lose interest, get confused, get distracted or even get back to work. Whatever the reason, they fail to convert.
But they did visit your landing page!
You can use that to your advantage by using Facebook website retargeting. The diagram below explains how retargeting works.
Facebook website retargeting allows you to target ads at people who have visited a specific page on your website. In our example it’s the event registration page.
To retarget registration page visitors, follow the instructions above for creating a custom audience, but this time when you click Create a Custom Audience, choose Custom Audience from Website. Jon Loomer’s article will help you complete the process from there.
Pay careful attention to the number of days you keep people in this custom audience. You don’t want to keep people too long because the recency effect wears off. For example, if Jane visited the event registration page 30 days ago, chances are she’s way past the point of losing interest.
Remember that the most important part of converting registrants is your landing page. If the landing page isn’t effective, retargeting visitors with Facebook ads won’t work that well.
#4: Increase Word of Mouth Shares
To encourage attendees to tell their friends about the event, you can reuse some of the tactics you’ve already implemented. For instance, you can create a new email custom audience based on the list you create from the event registration page, and then ask those people to share your event information.
I also encourage you to create another website custom audience—this time from people who have reached the thank-you page of your website after registering for your event. Next, create an unpublished (or dark) post encouraging registrants to invite their friends to the event and retarget the post to your new custom audience (your registrants).
You definitely want to use event ads at this point, simply because of their strong social proof. Facebook users who are served event ads see which of their friends have RSVP’d to your event.
When you target your Facebook ads wisely, you save money and end up with better engagement and a high-quality fan base interested in what you sell. All of which is key to promoting your events successfully.
What do you think? Do you use Facebook advertising options to promote your events? Which option has worked best for you? Please leave your comments below.
John Haydon helps nonprofits change the world with smarter marketing. He can ride a bicycle backwards, and is the author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies. Other posts by John Haydon »