A Facebook Advertising Experiment

Shortly before Christmas I came across a coupon code for $50 in free advertising from Facebook. I’ve never delved into using ads on social networking sites before, so this seemed like an ideal way to try something new.

With Christmas fast approaching, I decided a good use of free advertising would be to invite Facebook users in our diocese to Christmas Mass. In cooperation with our diocesan webmaster we set up a web page with the Christmas Mass times of all the parishes in our diocese. (These times are published every year in the diocesan newspaper, so we didn’t have any extra work tracking down the schedules.) Then we set up the ad itself.

One of the trickiest parts was deciding how to target the ad. Obviously we had to narrow the geographical location to our diocese; we did that by targeting users living within 10 miles of various cities across the diocese. But that still seemed to be a huge number of people. While such a “shotgun” approach to advertising might work if we had a bigger budget, I wanted to get the most bang for my buck. We eventually narrowed down the criteria by targeting users who were friends with fans of the diocesan Facebook page. This meant the ad would target around 45,000 users.

We wound up bidding on a per display basis instead of a per click basis. The ad ran between December 22 and December 24. Overall the ad was displayed 329,411 times. The link to Mass times in the ad was clicked 34 times.

Here are the raw numbers provided by Facebook:

Date # Displays Avg. Cost per 1000 Displays # Clicks Click Rate Avg. Cost per Click Spent
Dec 21 50,850 $0.17 6 .012% $1.45 $8.67
Dec 22 99,813 $0.15 11 .011% $1.35 $14.85
Dec 23 98,466 $0.15 13 .013% $1.14 $14.86
Dec 24 80,282 $0.14 4 .005% $2.90 $11.60
TOTAL 329,411 $0.15 34 .010% $1.47 $50.00

I’m not sure if I count this as a success or not. We have no way of tracking whether those 34 clicks actually translated to someone going to Christmas Mass who otherwise would have stayed at home. But the invitation and the diocese’s Christmas wishes were displayed to thousands of people — that seems like a win in my book.

In some ways I think Facebook ads make more sense for parishes than a large diocesan entity. It’s easier to target to the local level. In fact, I was surprised and impressed with the options for targeting ads — by gender, marriage status, age, interests, connections to fan pages, etc. Facebook seems to understand that the strength of their advertising program is directly related to how relevant the ads are to users — and they allow advertisers to target specific groups accordingly.

In the future I may experiment with more targeted ads around particular diocesan programs. I could see budgeting for limited Facebook exposure for our summer Catholic Leadership Institute for teens, marriage retreats, the March for Life pilgrimage, or our catechetical conference. If I have any resounding successes I’ll be sure to report on them here!

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Author:Jonathan F. Sullivan

Jonathan F. Sullivan is the director of catechetical services for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. You can follow him on Twitter @sullijo; he also blogs on catechetical topics at www.JonathanFSullivan.com.
  • Anonymous

    Clever way of using FB advertising! I’ve used FB ads before and found similar click-thru rates.

    I’ve used Google advertising in the past as well, and while it does offer some flexible targeting…FB seems to have a better grip on ‘personal’ demographics. Considering the data they have access to, I suppose it only makes sense.

    • http://www.jonathanfsullivan.com/ Jonathan F. Sullivan

      Thanks, Craig — I’m glad to know our numbers aren’t too far off!

      I can’t think of any platform better suited for micro-audience ads than Facebook. I was playing around with a possible ad for an upcoming men’s retreat and actually got the criteria narrowed to 80 men across our diocese. Now that’s focused!

  • http://marccardaronella.com Marc Cardaronella

    This is an awesome idea! Great potential. I’m going to think about trying this. Thanks for the post.

    • http://www.jonathanfsullivan.com/ Jonathan F. Sullivan

      I think there is some promise here — especially because you can stick to a budget. You just tell Facebook how much you want to spend for the life of the ad and they’ll keep running it until a) you hit your deadline or b) you run out of money. For any future ads I’ll probably stick to a budget of $15-25 per ad. (Unless I can find another coupon code!)

  • http://www.thereligionteacher.com Jared Dees

    Great idea Jonathan. I would really like to see how this would pay off for Churches building an email list or garnering support for certain causes. Thanks for the transparency and sharing your results.

    • http://www.jonathanfsullivan.com/ Jonathan F. Sullivan

      You’re welcome!