It’s 2016, which means cars have Wi-Fi, iPhones don’t have headphone jacks, and most organizations understand the importance of having a solid Facebook strategy.
But if you really want to get a head start on the future, you don’t need to buy a self-driving car. Simply upgrade your organization’s digital strategy by using Facebook ads.
While many schools have invested in maintaining a presence on Facebook, few have ventured into the world of paid Facebook advertising. This isn’t a surprise, as no school is eager to spend money on a tactic without a guarantee of return on investment.
When it comes to Facebook advertising, however, the risk is worth it. If your boss still needs some convincing to take the leap, here are some tips and tricks to help you make the case.
It’s easiest to teach by example. Monitor your own Facebook feed and take screenshots of the ads you see. My own informal, unscientific observations suggest that you’re likely to see a Facebook ad in one of every eight posts in your feed, so you’ll have plenty to choose from.
The more you pay attention to ads, the more you’ll learn about all of the advertising options available: video ads, carousel images, boosted posts, and more. If you’re seeing nothing but ads from political candidates and department stores, try following some of your peer institutions and other nonprofit organizations on Facebook. Especially as we approach #GivingTuesday and the end of the calendar year, you’ll see more and more organizations investing in advertising.
Once you have your screenshots, present them to your boss. Having a stack of evidence makes it easier to say, “Boss, look at all these organizations who are using Facebook advertising. If they can do it, so can we.”
The wonderful thing about Facebook advertising is that a little bit goes a long way. In fact, more than half of the nearly 300 ads I’ve run have had a total spend of less than $20.
Ask for a tiny budget to play around with and get a sense for how ads could work for your constituency. Even the most penny-conscious supervisor can find an Andrew Jackson or two to spare for a promising Facebook experiment (especially if you did your homework with the screenshots!).
Starting small also means choosing a small audience and a low-stakes program to promote. The height of your fiscal year-end push is not the time to start experimenting with Facebook ads.
A great place to get your feet wet is with regional alumni events. The targeting is easy and will likely result in a limited audience. Plus, alumni love events—so you’ll get a nice confidence boost when you see the positive responses to your ad.
Expectations, more than anything else, will make or break your dreams of a Facebook advertising strategy. Under no circumstances should you define the success of your ad based on metrics like link clicks or number of likes.
Even as a veteran ad architect, I don’t make predictions for how many interactions a specific ad will receive. There are simply too many variables, and a lack of likes doesn’t mean the ad strategy is a failure.
When I’m pitching the concept of Facebook ads to someone for the first time, I always compare Facebook ads to billboards on the side of the highway. You measure the efficacy of a billboard by an overall increase in customers for your business, not by how many people call your business immediately upon seeing the billboard.
Facebook ads are similar. Ideally, your ads don’t exist in a vacuum; they serve as a supplement to the marketing you’re already doing on other channels. If someone sees your Facebook ad and remembers to return the direct mail solicitation that’s been sitting on the kitchen table for the last three days, I count that as a victory (even though it’s not an outcome that you can easily count through Facebook metrics).
If you manage your boss’s expectations appropriately and don’t over-promise, you’re far more likely to see success.
Ask for Help
Facebook doesn’t make it easy to learn how to advertise. In fact, as a general rule, if Facebook recommends I build an ad a certain way (“Boost your post to reach more people” is one they’ve been pushing lately), I assume I’ll save money and see better results by doing the opposite. Facebook is, after all, a for-profit company—and their recommendations tend to be focused on bringing in profits from advertisers, not on saving advertisers money.
That doesn’t mean, however, that resources aren’t available to learn how advertising works. As with many other topics in the development field, your best resources are your peer schools.
Reach out to your colleagues at other institutions. If they’ve ventured into Facebook advertising, I’m sure they’ll be happy to tell you (that is: brag a little bit) about it. With their knowledge and experience on your side, you’ll have everything you need to convince your boss that Facebook ads are a risk worth taking.
That self-driving car, though, might have to wait for the next fiscal year.
Want more Facebook ads insight? Stay tuned for my next post on the different types of ads and when to use them.
In the meantime, check out “Use the Force (of Facebook Ads)” by Mike Nagel of Phillips Exeter Academy.
Emily Baselt Steiger is a fundraiser, marketer, and digital strategist. By day she’s the assistant director for alumni giving at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta and by night she’s a freelance Facebook ad architect, digital strategy consultant, and avid whale enthusiast. Her other interests are teasingly diverse. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter.