My Experiments with Facebook Ads

For the past couple of months, I’ve been using the Ads feature on Facebook in a variety of ways, seeing if using it can help me grow my audience on my blog or Facebook page, or even to increase my book sales. I’m sure many of you have already utilized and come to your own conclusions about these features, but for those who haven’t, I’m presenting my findings in case you decide to try Facebook ads and want some advice or testimony before starting.

And if you don’t know much or at all about this feature, let me tell you about it. The Ads feature of Facebook is a way for people with businesses or Facebook pages to build followings and even sell their products. Setting up an ad campaign is very easy: you write the ad and then once you’ve finished, you can set a target audience based on criteria such as age range, country, and interests or hobbies. You then set for how long you want the ad campaign to run (five days, a week, two weeks, etc), and how much you want to pay. I generally recommend between ten and twenty dollars a day. As how many people you reach depends on your daily budget, this price range guarantees you’ll reach a bunch of people.

Once you’ve finished setting everything, you click “Done” and send the ad off to be approved. Usually this takes no more than a half-hour or an hour. Once your ad is approved, you let Facebook do the rest. It bases its algorithms on who it shows your ad to based on the parameters you sent, and then people start noticing it. Some, though not many, even click on it.

I ran three different ad campaigns through Facebook. Here were the results:

  1. Blog Campaign: In this campaign I gave a link to my blog. I wasn’t trying to sell anything, just get people reading. Of the nearly seventeen-thousand reached, only about one hundred clicked on the link, which led to a slight increase of readership on my blog. Didn’t get any new comments or likes or followers, but it was still a noticeable increase, small as it was. Spent a little over $41 over five days.
  2. Reborn City Campaign: This time around, I was trying to see how effective an ad campaign was at selling books, so I picked my most popular one, my sci-fi novel Reborn City, and aimed it at fans of science fiction, particularly dystopia fans. Reached a little over twelve-thousand people, but only about 140 followed the link to RC‘s Amazon page. Of these 140, no one seemed willing to pay the full price for a print or e-book copy of RC, sadly. Spent about $70 over the course of a week.
  3. The Big Birthday Sale: With this campaign, I had a bit more success than the previous two campaigns, which I did in honor of my 22nd birthday. For five days, all my paperbacks were marked down, and all e-books free-of-charge, and each day I ran a new ad campaign, each one lasting a day, advertising the sale. I also expanded the criteria to include more people, leading to buyers from seven different countries. All told, I reached a staggering sixty-thousand people and managed to sell or download nearly twelve-hundred books. Although I didn’t make as much money (especially with the e-books) it was enough to know that people were downloading and reading my books. In addition, I received a huge boost in the number of likes on my Facebook page, going from 140 likes to nearly 400, most of them from India! All told, I’m pretty satisfied with how this campaign went, spending $65 total.

From these experiences, I’ve gained some insight into what makes a Facebook ad work. Firstly, it helps to be very specific with what you’re pushing. You can’t just go “Check this out! It’s new! It’s awesome! You should want it!” You have to say more than that. For example, if you want to push your latest novel, you can say “Chester Bennett was just an ordinary teenager with ordinary problems. That is, until he met Kaylie, a girl who was born into the wrong body and is on the run from the mobster parents she stole from. The adventure they go on together leads both teens to learning many uncomfortable secrets about themselves and each other, and teaches Chester what it truly means to love in Running in Cincinnati” (and that’s just something I made up on the spot. If you want to turn it into a novel, be my guest).

It also helps if you’re emphasizing why now’s a good time to buy. This is especially helpful during a sale. If you emphasize that your books are discounted or even free and that it’s better to get the books now because of these reasons, people will take notice. Of course, there’s the downside that you might not get as much back in sales as you did in spending money on the campaign, but if there are more people reading your books because they got them at a discount price and if a good number of them enjoy the books, at least some of them will review the books, tell their friends about them, and maybe buy future copies of your work.

And of course, you need to know whom you’re selling to. The reason why my last campaign was so successful was because I made sure as many people around the world as possible with the interests and hobbies I was targeting did see the ad. The result was a huge amount of people getting my books and even liking my Facebook page. So when selling, take advantage of the parameters you’re setting for the campaign. Even look in places you wouldn’t think of looking in (like I did when I decided to target Germany, India and Japan rather than just English-speaking nations). You never know who might want to check out your new book.

Oh, and use the Ads Manager page, which you can reach by finding it on the left side of your page. If you need to make any adjustments to your campaigns (and you will), the Ads Manager will allow you to do that, so don’t ignore it!

While it may seem like putting a lot of money into something that might not yield results, Facebook ads can be a lucrative means to reach readers if you allow them. You can start slow, doing one-day campaigns and seeing what the results are, seeing what works for you and what doesn’t. With any luck, it could lead to a few more devoted readers wanting to know what happens next in your latest series or to look and see what else you have available. Nothing wrong with that, right?

What’s your experience with Facebook ads, if you have any? What tips do you have for other readers?

Also, I’m happy to announce that, like I promised in my last article, I’ve set up a page called Conferences, Bookstores, & Other Resources with links to place like the Gulf Coast Bookstore that can be of service to you in promoting your works. Included on this page are stores, conferences, and websites that have the potential to be helpful for every indie author. You can check the page out by either clicking on its name here or you can find it at the top menu under “On Marketing & Promoting”. I will be steadily adding other entries to the lists there as I find them, so if you have any you’d like to recommend, leave a name, a description and links in a comment and I will put it up as soon as possible. Hope you all find it helpful!

28 Comments

  1. Nice information article. I will have to star this one for future reference. God bless.

    1. God bless you as well, Janet. Thanks for the compliment. I appreciate it.

  2. ronfritsch says:

    Thank you for this information. Interesting and helpful.

    1. You’re welcome. Thanks for reading.

  3. M. Howalt says:

    Thank you for sharing! That was interesting to read. I’ve tried a “test run” with FB ads to see what would happen (a cheap option for just one day), and I noticed an increase in likes on my FB page and recent posts, but it did not drive more than a few people to follow links to actually read my serials. Still, it was worth it. – I think I could have been more specific, and if I decide to do a “real” campaign at some point, I will definitely take your thoughts into consideration.

    1. Glad to be of service. I wish you luck if you decide to do that “real” campaign.

      1. M. Howalt says:

        Thank you! 🙂

  4. Thanks so much for sharing all of this information. I’ve been considering running a Facebook ad for my book, so it was really timely.

    1. I’m glad my timing is so good. Good luck with your ad campaign should you decide to go through with it.

  5. specterpoet says:

    Thanks for the article! I’ve been considering Facebook ads for a while, both for my site http://finishthatnovel.org and for my recent novel Automaton. My budget is incredibly limited, so I can’t afford to rush into it without knowing what I’m doing. It sounds like the birthday sale really worked!

    1. It did, and I’m hoping that some of those readers finish the books rather quickly and post some reviews. I’m glad you found the article helpful. Good luck if you decide to do an ad campaign some time.

  6. jakeescholl says:

    I’ve been thinking of trying it… I just don’t trust fb with my money info.

    1. I don’t trust Facebook with my money info either. You can’t trust anyone with that info, actually. Too many places and peoples are vulnerable to hacks or identity thefts. But sometimes you have to give them that info–even if rather reluctantly–just to get by or make some progress. Hope whatever you decide, it’s the right decision for you.

  7. This was one of the best posts I’ve ever seen on this blog. I’m inspired after reading this. Maybe I’ll go ahead and try one of those ads. I haven’t done one in years, and to be honest, it’s been so long ago, I don’t remember if the ads paid off or not. I’ll keep better track this time around.

    1. Flattery will get you nowhere Ruth. But don’t stop. 😉
      No but seriously, that means a lot to me Ruth. I appreciate it. And if you decide to do a Facebook ad, I hope it pays off for you. You’ve got a lot of books, so there’s quite a bit you could do with any of them if you liked.

  8. dwhirsch says:

    First off, I strongly dislike FB…for so many reasons. I get little engagement because most of my Friends are–gasp!–my real friends. Twitter, Instagram are my hang-outs. That’s where I meet new people. I developed a FB Author Page just because I should have a FB presence. Looking now, I started it June 2014. Wow. Didn’t realize that. I’ve gained little interaction but I also didn’t promote it enough to let people know I exist there. As such, all those social media friends who ARE on FB had nowhere to hang out with me. A targeted ad–say, my father-daughter memoir I’ve been soft-pushing this week before Father’s Day–in this case may be just the inexpensive experiment to see what it’s like. Low-cost (thanks for mentioning that) with the hardest part being the composition of the ad text. Thanks for the walkthrough and your measurable results (and expectations).

    1. I’m glad I could be able to help you. If you decide to do an ad campaign, I hope it goes well for you. Good luck (and I know what it’s like not being a big Facebook fan. I used to be one of those guys! Only got into it after I decided to use it to shop my books. Now I can’t seem to get rid of it).

  9. josois says:

    I have to admit I was skeptical about using Facebook ads in marketing my book. I’ve used Facebook ads in the past and although I’ve seen an increase in the number of page likes and overall engagements, that unfortunately didn’t translate into increased sales. But after reading this post, I feel encouraged to give Facebook ads another try knowing what I know now about having a global scope when it comes to targeting your audience. Thank you for sharing your insight on what works!

    1. I’m glad you found my article helpful. I hope that it works out for you if you decide to do another campaign.

  10. dwhirsch says:

    As a follow-up FYI, I did NOT do a FB promo this past weekend. My heart wasn’t into it and I was busy with work (the first an excuse, the second a reason). I will try it out, however, when I feel the time is right and can plan for it…whenever that time is.

    1. Whenever you decide to do it, I wish you the best of luck. Don’t fee any pressure to do it. Just do it if and when you want to. No point if your heart’s not into it, right?

  11. Reblogged this on The Writing Chimp and commented:
    Nice article. I’ve read articles from a few people who have had reasonable success with Facebook ads, one in particular really boosted sales with them. Always good to consider different options for promotion.

  12. elle marr says:

    Reblogged this on Elle Marr and commented:
    A great post on using Facebook Ads from a great blogger. Ads: Do They Work? #authorlife #selfpub #facebook

  13. M T McGuire says:

    So far, I’ve used power editor (a chrome thing for facebook). You can put code on various pages you want people to visit to see whether they’re arriving, whether they come back – if they’re doing something that involves them going off site. I use it to give away a book and to get the book, they have to sign up to my mailing list. I use data about my own site (which is very sketchy) to make audiences to show the ad to but if you’ve got a lot of traffic to your blog or site it’s worth using that. You have to put a special code on your site so facebook sees who goes there. I also get it to show the ad to people who like stuff that’s like my books – so I go for my influences and reference something about them. So the current one is slightly CMOT Dibbler in style and talks about LITERALLY cutting my own throat etc. So here are the things that have worked for me.

    1. Make it very relevant to the audience you’re after, or build an audience that’s very relevant to what you’re wanting them to do – the beauty and beast of facebook ads is that you can direct them very, very accurately but that they need to be very accurately directed to work (and sometimes narrowing it down is really difficult).
    2. Using tracking pixels on your site to see who went where is really useful. Then if you have something that involves visiting more than one page you can see if anyone is falling off.
    3. Use the Amazon also boughts to see which authors other people are buying as well as you and if they’re big enough on facebook make an audience based around their fans to show the ad to.
    4. Tell people why they’re seeing the ad. If you’re using an audience of folks who like stuff that is similar to what you’re selling, it’s good to reference it, or a character, or something about it in your ad.
    5. Make the page they go to very simple so they are not distracted from your purpose.
    6. Keep your ad snappy and make sure the picture is striking. Facebook recommends a picture size and it’s worth keeping all your pictures to that.
    7. Try to avoid over spending, keep tweaking and trialling different audiences and ads until you get a good rate of return.
    8. Avoid using the right hand column for your ads. I got a fat zero from that one.
    9. If you have open ended ads, you can switch them on and off as and when you like but you don’t have to keep making new ones.
    10. Do a course, Rick Mulready’s facebook course is very good apparently or Nick Stephenson’s Your first 10,000 readers course has a facebook module which is excellent.

    I am spending £1 a day (about $1.45) and my results are hit and miss so far because I’m really feeling my way and I’m having real trouble making my ads pointy enough. However, the great thing is, you can keep tweaking the audience who sees the ad. As I hone it down I am beginning to see more return for my cash. I hope, eventually, to get to a minimum of 10 people signing up for my mailing list each day… which is 10 downloads of my free book and 10 people I get to talk to direct next time I release a book. After my latest list tweak, it looks as if I might have got it up to 3 a day so you can see there’s a long way to go! Also it’s too early to tell if that’s going to be the norm. That’s 33p for each one, but if they enjoy their free books 1 and 2 of my series they are likely to buy books 3 and 4 so I’ll have a return on that 33p of £3.40 give or take a few pence.

    I hope this is useful!

    Cheers

    MTM

    1. I didn’t know you could use that. Thanks for the heads up.

  14. Anmol Vachan says:

    Reblogged this on Hindi Anmol Vachan and commented:
    Very good post with lots of information about fb.

  15. Anmol Vachan says:

    Good information, loved to read this, keep it up the good works.

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