I Paid for a Facebook Promotion. Here’s What Happened.

Nicole Melanson ~

Algorithm

If you’ve been running a Facebook page for a while, you’ll know that recent algorithm changes significantly reduced the organic reach of your posts. An article that would have been served to thousands before might only go to a small handful of followers now. The solution? Paid promotion. Facebook promises to extend your reach (the way it used to do for free) in exchange for a small fee. This is an attempt to monetize their service, which seems fair, but are you really getting what you pay for?

I recently published a post about merchandising & promotion. It drove a lot of traffic on this blog and continues to receive many hits. I decided to see what would happen if I paid Facebook to promote that same post.

Woman's hand taking dollars out of a wallet

I’ve always been ambivalent about maintaining a Facebook page for WordMothers. I think Facebook’s great for groups and can work very well for individual authors running their own pages IF the content is original AND based on Facebook. Facebook is very happy to have you chatting, live-streaming, and sharing photos with your followers on their platform. What they are less keen on is you providing links to external content with a view to luring traffic away. To put it simply: encourage engagement on Facebook and they’ll reward you by extending your reach; provide a link to your blog, and Facebook will make sure no one sees it.

At pub time, the WordMothers Facebook page had about 425 followers. Once upon a time, most of those followers saw posts I shared from the blog. However, once the algorithm changes were introduced, I was lucky to have my posts served to 25 people. I decided to “Boost” my post for 24 hours and see what happened to traffic. Here are the results:

Facebook promotion results showing people reached, followers, and post engagement

Look at the top 2 numbers and the results seem pretty good…but wait.

0 comments

1 share

1 link click

What?! 1 click out of 2,585 people?? I could have gotten that 1 click from the 25-person serve for free.

Furthermore, the engagement rate for this post is roughly 50%. I don’t know what kind of content gets a like from every other person who sees it, but I’m positive it’s not a book blog. And if all people are doing is hitting “Like” on a post and not actually reading it, what’s the point anyway?

Next, I decided to see what would happen if I paid to advertise the WordMothers page itself. Note that I paid Facebook to advertise on Facebook – I didn’t purchase “fake” followers from a third party. And yet…

In 18 hours, the WordMothers page gained 300 followers. Sounds great, right? Wrong. My ad was aimed at women who self-identify as interested in writing. The new “followers” seem to be everyone BUT the target demographic; I honestly don’t think there’s a genuine follower amongst them, and certainly none that have clicked through and subscribed to the blog directly. Why does this matter?

Blurry shadows

New Facebook followers

Well, Facebook considers the engagement level of your followers when deciding how far to extend your reach. If you have a huge number of fake followers who aren’t engaging with your posts, your reach diminishes to the size of a peanut. Consequently, I have since terminated my experimental promotion and am now in the tedious process of actively undoing every new like the WordMothers Facebook page just acquired.

My conclusion for bloggers? If you want the ego boost of seeing large numbers of likes and follows on your Facebook page or you want to make your page seem more popular than it is, then by all means do a paid promotion. Just remember that the lack of engagement from these fake followers will diminish your reach in the long run.

If you want to ensure that your followers are genuine and legitimately engaging with your posts, let them find you organically.

Or maybe just don’t bother with Facebook at all for a blog.

What do you think?

– Nicole Melanson

Nicole Melanson - Writer, Poet, Editor of WordMothers

26 thoughts on “I Paid for a Facebook Promotion. Here’s What Happened.

  1. I have tried paying to boost event promotions on an non-profit organisation page I manage on Facebook. I set the promotion to reach Facebook members within 50km of my location, and identified the relevant interest areas and age group (which I must admit I set pretty broadly). We got lots of people reached, but I couldn’t identify one person at the various events we did this for who came as the result of Facebook. They came via all sorts of other promotions but not Facebook. So, I’m recommending we don’t do it anymore. The money isn’t huge but the benefits seem negligible. (Ie I can’t see that it got us any other engagement either like new members, more engagement on our page, etc.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s really interesting to hear. Seems like a great idea so it’s a shame it hasn’t worked. I think part of the issue is that FB is so huge and used by so many people for so many different reasons that there’s a lot of uncertainty on both sides when it comes to maximizing potential. I actually advised everyone here to get an FB page only 6 months ago as whenever I feature an author, most of the traffic they personally generate comes from FB. But that was before the algorithm changes. Now the authors who decided to grow their private accounts by friending 3000 people instead of running public pages seem to be the ones coming out ahead.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I haven’t set up a Facebook page for my blog partly because I feel that people tend not to click through to my blog but just LIKE the post (as they mostly do when I publicise to my personal Facebook page, Twitter etc.) I feel that there’s less interplay between different social media platforms than we’d expect – but this is anecdotal from a small blogger who doesn’t focus a lot on promotion!

        Liked by 1 person

      • No, I think you’re absolutely right. I suspect click-through rate is very low on many accounts, which is why it makes sense to choose your platforms very selectively based on what you want to share, and then generate on-site content accordingly. I’ve seen a lot of authors use FB very successfully to engage directly with readers, but blogs are a different beast altogether (which probably explains why a lot of authors confess they hate blogging). If you have a good poke around book blogs’ FB pages, even the ones with huge followings seem to have very little engagement so I’m not convinced it offers much for bloggers.

        Liked by 3 people

    • You’re welcome! I thought it might be eye-opening for people to see some numbers. Promotion is kind of funny for bloggers anyway because unless your blog is actually generating income, it doesn’t make sense to invest in increasing your reach just so you can publicize other people’s work. For the vast majority of us, this is a labor of love that takes up a lot of time – it’s hard to justify throwing lots of dollars at it, too.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. food for thought. i am planning to pay for a FB ad when my new book comes out next month. i bought ‘HELP! my facebook ads suck’ by Michael Cooper and reread it three times and made heaps of notes about advertising ones book on FB. i am planning to budget $5 a day for a couple of months to promote the book. fingers crossed it gets the word out there. my FB Author Page seem to be invisible. my actual friends see my FB personal page but no-one else, even though i post publicly. i post something related to the writing process every day of the week on my FB Author Page, but get very little response. i was sharing my blog posts from my Author Page to various writing groups but have stopped that, even though supposedly lots of people saw it. it’s a tough. hard to know what to do.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know the current advice is to build a following before your book comes out, but I’m not confident that FB is the right platform for that. I think maybe the FB author pages work better after you’re already published. I do think there’s probably merit in running a book ad, though. I’m not sure it would get anyone to click through and place an order or like a page, but it would still help announce the book’s arrival and show it off a bit. Showing off one individual blog post or advertising a blog’s FB page isn’t quite the same.

      Liked by 2 people

      • i have been building a social media following over the last couple of years. slow but steady. it is my third book coming out next month, but the first time i will be paying to advertise with a proper FB ad. i did spend money boosting my last two books on my FB Author page but thought an ad might be the best way to go this time although i may boost the cover reveal. yes, my previous comments were all referring to FB only rather than WordPress blog posts. i had heard that FB doesn’t like to show posts that come from another source e.g. WP. thanks for taking the time to reply. good to share our knowledge and experiences re social media and what works and what doesn’t. still a very grey area though.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Good luck with the release, Libby! If you want to do a guest post sharing your experiences advertising on FB and other channels, I think it could be fun for readers to see the contrast. LMK x

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for sharing this info, Nicole. Reaching engaged readers/followers is a challenge. I agree with your conclusion: “And if all people are doing is hitting “Like” on a post and not actually reading it, what’s the point anyway?”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, as I said to Libby above, I think a bunch of people liking a book announcement may have some value as at least they’re still seeing and acknowledging the book’s existence, but it’s pretty pointless to collect likes on a post that no one reads.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you sooooo much for this! Friends of mine run photography adverts for their pictures and I’m not sure it even works. I was considering running an ad for my book stuff but because I live in South Africa I’ve been hesitant as its more pricey. I wont be wasting my time or money. Thank you for this Lauren

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This is all really interesting. I too live in South Africa (Somerset West, almost a neighbour to Lauren!)
    I didn’t have much success with a boosted FB post to publicise a new collection of short stories which I’d published. I think I could have targeted my audience better, i.e., not to my local area but rather to the UK where perhaps the stories have more relevance. I spent a minimum amount (equivalent to less than 4 USD)
    I’ve had more success with a couple of my ‘social media’ clients. A giveaway of 10 prints by a Cape Town artist gained over 100 new page likes and greatly increased traffic to the linked website, although not sales though the site…yet (be optimistic). This was also a similar small spend.
    Most recently I publicised a major botanical art exhibition for a national artists’ society; this was well-targeted and the spend was equivalent to 80 USD. The boosted post reached over 8000 people, engaged almost 200, and the exhibition opening had a huge attendance.
    So, the what and where are important, as well as the ‘product’ and the number of already ‘interested parties’. I’m not so sure FB is especially good for books or blogs.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much for sharing that, Chris. Very interesting! I think maybe FB just isn’t the right home for anything literary. I know it’s not MY first port of call for book chat. I do take note of book ads flying past but tend not to engage with literary posts the way I do other topics (or with book-related posts on platforms besides FB). I think maybe the general tone of FB is just social and anything literary comes across as too serious or something, whereas at least visual art would have that quick, eye-catching quality.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. As per usual, I’ve done FB backwards. When my FB page was new, I toyed with some paid promotions targeting book sales and email sign-ups. Very few results. I’ve pointed my sales efforts to AMS instead. I agree with the logic that people are on Amazon to BUY stuff, whereas they have many different motivations for being on FB. So I’ve gone back to organic growth on my FB page and blog and may reconsider FB promos as part of my next book launch.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for sharing, Lissa. I guess a lot of it comes down to why a person is using different platforms in the first place. If the end goal is hitting a sales target, then FB doesn’t seem to be very helpful to that end. But there’s a community element there that can’t be replicated elsewhere so I guess it’s about finding the right balance. The biggest issue either way is that you can neither sell books nor foster community if your target readers aren’t even seeing your ads or posts!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This has been really useful. I have a Facebook page and I post others articles as well as my own. But even my boyfriend said he sees the other articles I post come up in his Facebook feed, but rarely see my blog posts. But thanks to your article I think I understand why! Not sure what to do about it yet, but at least I know it’s not worth paying to boost it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for chiming in, Michelle. It’s been helpful hearing from others who’ve experienced similar. I did get slightly different results by adjusting the targets so stay tuned for that update, but I think the overall conclusion is still pretty disappointing!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Nicole
    My friend Sandy has directed me to your blog as she says she reads it every time you post. She thought your article on Facebook advertising was splendid and suggested I contact you to seek permission to put a link to it in our magazine, Buzz Words, which is online newsletter twice monthly for those in the Australian children’s book industry. I’d be grateful if you would be kind enough to allow this, and of course it will direct readers to your blog. I can send you an issue if I have your email address. Mine is dibates@outlook.com

    Liked by 1 person

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