This past summer Facebook launched the opportunity to purchase ‘Promoted Posts’ that − for at least a $5 fee − would be promoted across the Facebookiverse. The more you paid, the more broadly the algorithms (aka ‘magic’) circulated the post. It was hailed by many for- and non-profit organizations as an opportunity to push through the background noise endemic in most people’s timelines to get your words and images out to a larger but (broadly) targeted audience.
We want to show you how to promote a post if you are unfamiliar with the easy process, but we also want to call attention to the fact that many power users are not finding the return on investment that Facebook claims. Is it a case of false advertising, or is Facebook still working out the kinks?
Promoting a post is dead simple. As you update your timeline via your Facebook page, you already have a text button offering to promote the post (see screenshot right from Facebook’s own help page). Behind that button, your organization or business will need to pay for each post you want promoted, or you will need to set up a ‘Facebook Credits’ account, which likely will be much easier over the long haul.
One nice feature is that when your charity wants to promote a post, you set up whatever budget you want for that post. Moreover, as you enter different amounts you want to spend, Facebook updates the numbers of Facebook members who will receive the post as a ‘Sponsored’ post. The price you are paying is for the ‘life’ of the promotion to reach those numbers, not a daily or weekly or even recurring payment. Content, therefore, is still king: if it takes 4-5 days to reach the 4000 ‘Likes’ you have paid for, that suggests real interest in the content. If it takes a few weeks to get to your budgeted goal, then your content was not really resonating with the audience. Finally, and perhaps of most value, you can target your audience to some degree − by language and location − as can be seen on the screenshot to the left. What’s not to like?
Apparently plenty. Matt Owen of Econsultancy.com in the UK dug into the numbers of his company’s Promoted Posts this past month, and he found that though the investments were low (£7-10 or $12-18) and the numbers of Likes looked pretty good, the fact is the audience behind those numbers did not much seem worth even the little money spent.
I’ve spent time checking out the profiles for a lot of these users, and while there are a few legitimate users in this list, we also received a large amount of Likes from profiles in Malaysia and Thailand, many with no connection to digital marketing, and alarmingly, many appeared to be fake profiles.
… At this point it seems that either:
- Facebook’s targeting is utterly, irredeemably borked, or
- Something far worse: that promoted post interactions are falsely buoyed by fake profiles.
Incidentally, I’ve also seen several posts on various forums recently (including our own) saying that geo-targeting options have disappeared for some users, and again, that promoted posts have been overwhelmed by users from Indonesia, so it seems I’m not alone in this.
On the first of this month, SocialImplications.com suggested that the issue might not be Facebook expressly defrauding those who buy promoted tweets, but that people are being hired to interact with promoted tweets to help distribute them to ever wider audiences. None of these answers stands as a glowing endorsement of Promoted Posts, though.
But both of these investigations offer two critical caveats: First, they readily admit that they are working from strikingly small sample groups (namely, their own organizations). Second, they both accept that any outreach of any type is going to cross the eyeballs of people uninterested in what you are trying to promote. No need to berate Facebook for this phenomenon. We would also want to add that promotion can be as little as $5, so a strategic choice of sponsoring some promotions from your nonprofit can only help at a minimal cost. Just don’t expect that $5 to bring in thousands of new donors’ dollars.