Marketing | Environment | Culture

Results from Free Facebook Ads

If you read magazines like Wired or Inc. (yes, both still appear in print on actual paper), you may have noticed offers from Google and Facebook on those little pull-out/fall-out cards that are annoyingly tucked, glued or stapled into just about every magazine.

The offers are basically identical and provide a unique code to cash in for $75 in Google Adwords or $50 in Facebook Ads.  It’s a smart way for each company to invite prospects into their easy and cost-effective ad systems.  It’s free money for me and wholly trackable sampling for them.

While reading the recent issue of Inc. featuring a cover story from Jason Fried about how to get good at making money (note: I really enjoy his ongoing involvement with Inc.), I decided to take Facebook up on their offer.  I used the $50 ad credit to prop up a community page I made for my neighborhood, Ivywild Neighborhood – Colorado Springs.

Ivywild, Ad, Facebook, Facebook Ad, Neighborhood, Colorado, Sign, Advertisement

My set-it-and-forget-it Facebook ad for "Ivywild Neighborhood - Colorado Springs"

My approach was smart from the start, but lazy through the finish (I never A/B tested or adjusted any copy or imagery).  I set up the ad to target people who:

Why Bristol?  They’ve got the biggest Facebook fanbase – by far – of any neighborhood business (about 3,500).  Along with The Blue Star and J Gregory Salon, Bristol is also right across the street from the sign that marks, declares and names the neighborhood.  I used this familiar sign as the primary image in the ad; it’s also the primary profile picture of the community page.

The ad clicked through to the Info section of the Ivywild community page, which defines the purpose of the page, the informal boundaries of the neigbhorhood and a touch of history.  I favored this over the wall, because the page has limited user interaction at this point; it isn’t as “alive” as I’d like it to be.

I set it up as a cost per click campaign with a budget of $5 per day.  I let it run past the 10 free days and ended up paying $15 out of pocket.

Campaign results (rounded):

  • 180,000 impressions with a click through rate of 0.06%
  • 50,000 “social impressions” with a click through rate of 0.094%
  • Total clicks of 110 / Total “social clicks” of 48
  • Total CPC of $0.59 / Total CPM of $0.35
  • 97 fans before the campaign, 163 at the conclusion of the campaign
  • 60% conversion rate (66 fans from 110 clicks)
  • Cost per conversion of about $1

Facebook’s social metrics refer to impressions that include the names of people to whom you’re connected who already like the page.  As seen in the results above, the social piece is pretty powerful.  Though they accounted for 28% of the impressions, they accounted for 44% of the clicks.

This free, simple effort grew the page 68%.  It was fun, easy and interesting.

I recommend you pull the offer out of a magazine on a newsstand today … unless they’re only running it with paid subscribers (all the better for tracking and measuring), in which case I won’t advocate you pulling the offer from a magazine in someone’s mail box.

Here’s a simple something I wrote back in May 2010 about why I created the page.


  1. Matt Payne

    I was wondering how this worked out for you. Almost a $1 per fan. Seems rather steep, then again… not too bad. You feel it was a good investment (if you paid full price)? I have been thinking about going this direction but I’m not sure if it would be worth it at this point (maybe when content is more rich). Good write-up sir!

  2. Ethan Beute

    The $1/fan would seem steep or cheap depending on what you’re doing with them. Considering this is a community page that does not generate any revenue (or have much interaction), it’s steep … but so would $0.25/fan.

    Compared to lots of other advertising options, I’d call it a good investment if you have a purpose and can assign a value to a Facebook conversion. It’s highly targeted and completely trackable.

    That said, so much money and participation is coming to Facebook Ads that the minimum suggested bids are up 60% year to year (approx – lots of articles and blog posts going up on that right now).

  3. Kristin Lynch

    Hi Ethan!

    Great write-up! It inspired me to finally get around to summarizing the results of my two ad campaigns — thanks for the motivation! Here’s my summary (sorry for the length):

    The first time I used Facebook ads was during the 2010 holiday season. I had been reluctant to try it out, but was pushed over the edge when I got an offer from Facebook for $50 worth of free advertising. I purposely chose the holiday season because I wanted to raise awareness of the 1874 Society during a crucial time for giving.

    The title of the ad was: “CC’s 1874 Society” and the text was, “When you give back to CC, you impact lives. You invest in futures. You change the world. Join us today by becoming a member.” The logo was included.

    I saw similar copy for a Salvation Army ad in the NY Times and I liked the way they made a connection between donating items to the Salvation Army and changing the world, two things that at first glance may not seem closely connected. By the same token, I wanted potential donors to see/feel a connection between giving to Colorado College and changing the world.

    The ad clicked through to the Page’s wall, which I felt was dynamic and interactive enough to engage new visitors.

    I targeted people who
    • Were above 40 (most people who are part of the 1874 Society are above 40, since it requires giving $1,874 annually)
    • Live in the U.S.
    • Like Colorado College
    • Are not already connected to the 1874 Society Facebook page.

    Note: At first I tried people who had graduated from CC, but after a week I wasn’t getting much traction. When I changed it to people who like Colorado College, as opposed to people who graduated from there, I got much better results. I think this is because most people who are over 40 that are using Facebook don’t always show their undergraduate college on their profile.

    Time-frame: 11/22/2010 – 12/31/2010

    Here are the results:
    • 80,000 impressions with a CTR of .042%
    • Total clicks of 110
    • Total CPC of $0.72 / Total CPM of $0.30
    • 9 new fans
    • 8% conversion rate (9 fans from 110 total clicks)
    • Cost per conversion of about $2.66

    Not very impressive, but hey, it was my first time! Since I had some leftover money from the first campaign (only cost me $23.91 and I had $50 worth of free ads), I did another campaign in February. This one ran from 2/1/2011 – 2/21/2011.

    This time, I targeted people who
    • Were 18 and older
    • Live in the U.S.
    • Like Colorado College
    • Were not already fans of the 1874 page

    I did a simple ad that had our 1874 logo and just said “Join us!” I also included the option for “social” ads, which basically display the ad with a line that says something like, “Kristin Lynch is a fan.” (I’m not sure why I didn’t do this the first time. Maybe it wasn’t available that early on).

    Here are the results:

    • 119,000 impressions with a CTR of .14%
    • 57,800 “social” impressions with a CTR of .14%
    • Total clicks of 166 / “social” clicks of 82
    • CPC = $0.30 / CPM = $0.42
    • 28 new fans
    • 17% conversion rate (28 new fans from 166 clicks)
    • Total spent: $50 ($23.91 out of pocket)
    • Cost per conversion = $1.79

    It’s clear that my second ad fared much better (>3x the CTR of the first ad), possibly because the ambiguous copy (“Join us”) made people interested to see what it was, as opposed to the copy that made it clear that the 1874 Society had something to do with giving to CC. There is also a possibility that the higher CTR is a result of widening the parameters in the second ad, to include those ages 18-40 (maybe that group is more likely to click on ads than the 40+ group?)

    Surprisingly, in the second ad, there didn’t seem to be much of a difference between the CTR for “social” ads versus the CTR for non-“social” ads (both were at .14%). However, the “social” ads may have been responsible for a much higher conversion rate (the percentage of people who became fans of the FB page after clicking through: 8% for the first ad, 17% for the second).

    In general, from my research, it seems like a CTR of .14% is pretty high for an internet ad, so I’m happy about that. It’s also clear that if you can play around with compelling/engaging copy that gets people to click, the more fans you will ultimately accumulate. In other words, the conversion rate is much higher than the CTR.

    I was also impressed by your MUCH higher conversion rate. Perhaps the fact that your ad clicked-through to the Info section of your FB page, as opposed to the Wall is important? Or maybe my market was too saturated? A 60% conversion rate seems pretty incredible to me.

    OK, well just my two cents. Thanks for the write-up!

  4. Ethan Beute

    Super detail, Kristin!

    Re: CTR – yeah, the omnipresence of ads in general begs for them not to be clicked, even if well-targeted.

    Re: my conversion rate – I could probably knock that down a little by assuming that maybe 10 of those people liked the page after seeing a friend like it, rather than by clicking through the ad. Not sure what role the Info page played, but there’s not much action on the Wall (though we have a great post going right now about wildlife encounters in the ‘hood).

    Re: your conversion rate – maybe the same things that increased CTR (vague invitation, younger target) resulted in traffic more curious than convertible.

    Thanks again for coming by and for sharing your experience!

  5. Marketing Profits

    But is this kind of advertising getting any profits form that marketing activity? This FaceBook advertising seems to be “so many fans” or “this many likes.” With so much socializing, and Ad Blockers on everyone’s browser, are there any profits?

    Lance Haverkamp

  6. Ethan Beute

    Good question, Lance. In this case, profits do not apply. It’s a community page around which I’ve devised no revenue scheme.

    For marketers at large, Facebook’s getting very crowded, driving up minimum suggested bids by 40% of more. I hope the advertisers have got strategies behind their spends. Considering that you can direct your ad to any site/url, I’d expect that well-targeted deals/offer/sales could be profitable.

    Facebook Ads are definitely more noise. Considering the level of targeting and the still-low CPMs, though, I think they can be a good investment in many cases.

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