Facebook ads for Nonprofits

How to Run Facebook ads for Nonprofits

Like it or not (pun intended!), thanks to Facebook ads we’re entering a new and somewhat intimidating era of online advertising. Facebook only released mobile ads and social graph in 2012, but boy has the world of digital ads changed!

Sure, you may be an expert at driving content and engagement for your nonprofit, but truly leveraging ads is a completely different animal. The vast majority of nonprofits in your position are just beginning to take advantage of the true power of ads.

More recently, Facebook has performed some serious tech-magic in the advertising department, including:

  • Integration of the Lookalike Audience features.
  • Advanced targeting and retargeting methods.
  • Ability to create unpublished or dark posts that appear selectively…

That said, let’s begin this guide with a few steps that’ll ensure your nonprofit gets the best return on your investment; then we’ll get into audiences, website retargeting, targeting options and ad imagery.

Understand Your Investment

As of right now, there are three ways for you to invest time and/or money in Facebook ads:

  1. CPC/PPC: This method is the easiest to control. It’s exactly like the Pay-Per-Click advertising that’s been around a long time via Google. If someone clicks on your ad, then boom—you’re going to pay the price you bid. Getting people to click is the difficult part.
  2. CPM/PPM: Instead of clicks, you pay a certain amount for 1,000 impressions or views. Do keep in mind that CPM ads never sleep and can run around the clock, so your costs could get out of control if you’re not careful. Be sure to hit the pause button…
  3. CPA: This is where you pay for specific actions: Page likes, app installs, clicking links, etc.

CPC is typically used to generate donations while CPM is more about getting your nonprofit brand out there. Think of CPM as paying for digital billboard space along the Facebook superhighway. Don’t expect as many clicks with CPM, but your visibility will rise with the more views you purchase.

So, for example, if you’re selling a product or service to generate funds for your cause, then CPC is a better option. If you’re simply trying to bring direct awareness of something to certain targeted people, then paying $1.32 per 1,000 views isn’t such a bad idea.

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The Budgeting & Bidding War

This is the tricky part with CPC and in all honesty, takes time and experience to get the hang of.

It’s a double-edged knife. You want to set a small budget and bid low to save money, but Facebook encourages you to bid higher in order to win the ad auctions and see greater results.

In the end, you’ll need to find a balance. Bid a bit higher and try to stay close to Facebook’s suggested bid range, but don’t break the bank or spend more than you’re comfortable with. It will take time to find the right balance for you.

One thing to make sure you’re doing immediately is manually controlling bidding. To do so, click on Advanced Options under Budget. This will help you better control costs.

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Remember, the cost is based on demand. So the more advertisers there are trying to reach the same people as you, the higher the costs. These will change over time, so you can’t just set a budget and max bid, then forget about it.

The Two Best Options for Your Ads

We’re going to make this really simple so that your ads stay focused. While there are other options and plenty more that are likely to come about over the next year, stick with these at first to get the best results for your nonprofit:

  1. Boost your posts
  2. Send people to your website

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What we just covered doesn’t come close to all there is to learn about bidding. This is a great place to start though. Once you’re ready to take the next step, you’ll want to dive into the following guides. Keep them bookmarked for now:

  1. Budgeting
  2. Bidding
  3. CPA

Tackling Your Audience

If you don’t want to throw away money or ad reach, then you’ve got to get really good at targeting the right people. Facebook allows you to create three types of audiences and you need to experiment!

  1. Custom Audience: This allows you to create ads that focus on your supporter base by integrating with your current CRM. Simply import any existing contact and target them!
  2. Lookalike Audience: This lets you ask Facebook to create an audience that’s similar to any custom audience that you’ve set up. You choose either a 1% (very close to your supporter base) or 5% specificity (gives higher reach with less specific targeting).
  3. Website Custom Audience: This is a really new addition and available to any nonprofit with between 100 and 10,000 fans. To learn more, check out the website custom audience FAQs page and prepare to be dazzled. You can use your nonprofit website or any landing page. Do you see how powerful custom audiences are? These are existing supporters that are already in your funnel and connected to your Facebook presence.

So if you’re setting up either CPC or CPM, you can really cut down on showing your ads to people who aren’t interested or relevant.

From there, you expand out and create lookalike audiences of people with similar jobs, similar Facebook behavior, geographic location, etc. Once you dig in and see how many different targeting options you have at your disposal, you can begin creating other customer / lookalike audiences based on the insights you gain.

Website Retargeting

If you have a website outside Facebook, then you’re really going to love this part…

Facebook allows you to target people that visit it after you install a pixel every page (which means that if all you have is a landing page, it’s very quick). If you don’t yet have any CRM set up, then this is a great way to gain insight on who your ideal custom audience is.

  • You can choose to target people that have visited certain pages on your website.
  • Folks who have made purchases on your site or web store.
  • Supporters who’ve converted in some other way.
  • You can also use keywords to make things even more refined.

After your audience builds up to hundreds of people, you’re ready to begin serious testing. Learn more about custom website audiences and all the many different things you can do to get more traction with your supporters and those who are interested in your cause.

Properly Layering Your Targeting Options

Tons of people get overwhelmed when it comes to super-fine targeting. It’s normal to be confused but targeting is more than worth figuring out.

An extreme example of the power of targeting is the story that went semi-viral about a guy that used Facebook ads to target his roommate! Here’s an interesting quote from the AdWeek article that shines a light on how he pulled it off:

“On Facebook, he uses Custom Audiences, the program for marketers to upload their contacts and find them on the social network. When Swichkow started his one-to-one marketing campaigns, he was allowed to just input one target. But Facebook has since made it so that you need at least 20 people on your marketing list. Still, he’s found loopholes, like if you’re targeting a man, include 19 women in your list and then set the campaign to reach only males.”

Pretty cool, right? The point here is that Facebook is allowing people to target with their ads in ways no one has ever dreamed of before… to the point where a guy scared his roommate to death, who began believing that Big Brother really had come too close. (Which may be he did…)

As you get more and more focused, and as your custom audiences grow and evolve, you’ll be able to produce better ads at cheaper rates that get seen by more quality supporters who are ready (and look to) take action.

Notes on Ad Imagery

You should understand that we’re moving into a visually dominated era in online media, and ads are NO different. Before you get hung up on the words and text, realize that the image you use in an ad is far more important… that’s no joke.

The image is the first impression and no, you do not know what images will produce the best click-through rates. Only experimentation can tell you this…

Just because an image performs well as a status update, cover photo or in a blog post, doesn’t mean it’ll draw attention or get clicks in the context of a Facebook ad, whether it appears in the timeline or sidebar.

Ad = context. That’s different from information, entertainment or sharing.

  • Split-Test Images: Collect 10–20 images with a good track record in terms of generating likes, comments and shares, and then test them out!
  • Limit Ad Length: Don’t let ads run any longer than they should, which is determined ultimately through performance.
  • Experimentation: The image might be great, but you’re targeting the wrong people. Or perhaps the image is a great one; it just needs to be tweaked?

Don’t Forget the 20% Text Rule!

Facebook’s got a tool you can use to streamline how much tweaking you have to do to make sure your images have the right amount of text. And you should know that it works for cover images and sponsored story images as well.

Recap

That was a lot of information to throw at you all at once. Let’s recap the most important parts:

  • Be sure to control your bidding with manual bidding.
  • Use “Boost your posts”; “Send people to your website”; and “Raise attendance at your event” ads for the best results.
  • Spend time on targeting. This will save you money and get you better results.
  • Test images and text. Learn what works best.
  • Skip the drama. Make sure your ads meet the 20% rule.