Paying to Promote Facebook Posts – Worth It?

by Arianne Foulks

November 13, 2012

Edited October 4, 2016: This post is years old and out of date! I have been happily paying for Facebook ads lately, and I know a lot more about it than I did in 2012. Read this post for more up to date information about paying for ads on social media.

If you have a Facebook page for your business (and gee, you probably should – get on that!), you may have noticed a wee little “promote” link at the bottom of your posts. You may also have noticed that your messages aren’t getting seen by all of your fans. Facebook’s description of why is as follows:

When you share a post it gets delivered to the audience you specify.

If someone you shared with didn’t notice your post it’s likely because they:

  • Didn’t check Facebook the day you posted
  • Didn’t scroll down to where your post appeared in their news feed
  • Applied their news feed controls

Promoting a post simply bumps it higher than it would otherwise appear in your audience’s news feeds.

I recently paid Facebook to promote a post, and wanted to use my case as an example to shed some light on how this works and what you can expect.

The Aeolidia page on Facebook has 1,080 fans at the moment. Scrolling down my timeline (and viewing my Insights area), I can see that usually 200-400 people see each of my Facebook posts. My most popular post (over the last few months) was seen by 706 people.

We recently launched our blog, and I wanted to get the word out to as many people as I could. On Wednesday, October 31, I posted about the blog and giveaway, then clicked the “promote” link to set up this bit of paid advertising.

Please note that your page must have at least 400 likes for you to be able to promote posts. You can choose to promote an older post (for instance, if a post didn’t get as many views as you would like, you can try promoting it) – you don’t have to make the decision at the time you make the post.

The numbers:

Facebook promoted post stats

I posted about my giveaway twice. The un-promoted post was on Monday and let people know about the blog and the giveaway.

  • 420 people saw the post
  • 9 people liked the post
  • 2 people commented
  • a few people shared it, though it’s hard to find that info on Facebook (I just saw the shares in my personal news feed)

I sent a followup promoted post on Wednesday:

  • 1,072 people saw the post
  • 15 people liked the post
  • 0 people commented
  • I didn’t notice any shares

How many visitors did I gain?

Was the cost worth it? Just looking at Facebook’s Insights graph, it would be tempting to say “yes!”

Facebook insights page

Now, what is kind of maddening about this graph is that each blue dot is not how many people were interacting that day. It’s how many people had interacted in the last 7 days on that day. This makes it hard to tell how effective each individual day is, and instead gives you a picture of growth vs. decline in general. This does mirror Normandie’s thoughts about social media being like gardening – it’s not how your garden is doing on any one day, but how you’re caring for it as a whole.

So, on the 29th (Monday, the first blog post), I may have reached a ton of people, but the data dot for that day shows Monday plus the previous six days, which were a huge bummer, because I was on vacation the prior week and not posting at all.

By the time we get to my promoted post date, we’re including 3 “on” days plus 4 “off/vacation” days, so naturally the dot will be higher.

A better place to look is in my Google Analytics. The graph below is stats for just Facebook from October 28th until November 2nd. I did this by clicking Traffic Sources from the menu on the left, then Referrals from the sub-menu. On my list of referrals, I clicked the link and then on that graph page, adjusted to the dates I wanted.

Google Analytics stats for Facebook

This one makes more sense to me! I see that 57 (50 Facebook, 7 mobile Facebook) people visited my site from Facebook on Monday, when I made my big announcement that others shared. Tuesday I posted about an article on Oh My! and a companion article on my blog. 33 people visited my site from Facebook that day. Wednesday was my promoted post (which 1,082 people saw). I got 67 visits, which is very similar to Monday, but it seems unlikely to me that many people would click to visit again if they’d already heard about the contest and visited my blog on Monday, so I am going to say this is probably at least 40 new people from Facebook who may not have seen the blog if I hadn’t promoted the post. I promoted the post on Wednesday afternoon, Thursday (44 FB visits), and Friday morning. (16 FB visits)

Was it worth the money?

Facebook promoted post stats

I ended up paying $7.00 for the 821 additional promoted views that Facebook gave me. Being generous, Facebook sent me 145 visits on the three days I was promoting the post. Two days were only half days and some of the visits may not have been due to the post, so let’s call this 110 promoted visits, just for kicks.

That is a 13% click-through rate, which I believe is pretty good. Strangely, the Facebook stats on that post are telling me I only paid for one link click, which appears to be completely incorrect to me – not sure where they’re getting that.

I imagine that you can do better with other methods of advertising. 110 visits for $7 is 6.36 cents per visitor. Remember that these people didn’t purchase anything from me, didn’t necessarily comment on the blog or even read it. It looks like average visit duration from Facebook clicks was about three minutes, which is great. I would expect that the value of Facebook clicks would depend on your type of business and how devoted your Facebook fans are to you.

You can also consider exposure: the possibility that people are reading and not clicking, and one day, if they see our name mentioned enough, they may become curious enough to click.

My thoughts

I don’t think the promoted post was a waste of my time, but it also didn’t blow me away with its effectiveness. I did get 1,072 views to the promoted post from a Facebook page that only has 1,080 fans – this means that it definitely was shared with many people who were not fans of my page, since it’s not likely that 99% of my fans actually saw this.

For the future, I will promote posts when I have a big important announcement that I can’t bear to have people miss, but stick with my unpaid methods of Facebook promotion otherwise.

One thing to keep in mind is that you can promote your Facebook posts for free yourself by just asking people directly to share them (of course, you should return the favor in some way) and of course keeping your posts interesting and engaging, which will encourage people to share them on their own.

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