Getting a 4:1 Return on our Facebook Advertising

There are so many advertising options it is hard to decide what kind to use. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Radio, TV, Google. They all offer unique opportunities. But if you are like us, your budget is thin and your time is thinner. You must pick the right platform to get the best return on your investment.
For our recent showcase events in Idaho and Montana, we went where we could hit both parents and players. That was Facebook. Facebook hits the age ranges of 25 and up. And through Instagram they hit the 13-18 year demographic. A perfect fit for our needs.
Here is a basic advertising system we set up and ran the month before the showcases. We explain what we did, the results, what we liked and what we would do different.

The Advertising Concept

The goal of advertising was to drive showcase registrations in an efficient way. Our total advertising budget was $550. Our target return is 4 to 1. With registration at $75 each, we needed the advertising to generate 29 registrations.
The previous year we had a total of 86 players register. Of those players, 26 of them were seniors, leaving 60 players that could come back. We assume that we will grow by 10% each year without advertising. So to hit our mark we would need 95 players to register. My original goal was 150 players overall, which would more than cover our return. 

Our intentions

We got a bit of a late start on the promotions so we only had one month to promote. We needed to quickly find people in our region that were most likely to register. Then we needed to target them with a strong call to action.
This led us to a two part advertising plan. Part one was to create a video with highlights from previous showcase. Part two was to target everyone that watched some of the video (more than 3 seconds).

The process

We created two very simple videos from photos and videos from the year before. I used my iPhone and was able to create them in about 10 minutes each. They were nothing fancy and far from professional. One was about 20 seconds. The other was about 30 seconds.
In the first phase, we advertised the videos on Facebook. We targeted the cities and regions closest to each of the showcases. We narrowed in this target by only showing them to people 15 years and older.
In the second phase two weeks later, we then created two more audiences. We let Facebook analyze everyone that had watched at least 25% of these videos. From there we put everyone that had watched 25% of the video in to an audience. We also let Facebook create a Look-a-like audience based on those people that had watched 25% of the videos.
At that point, we wanted to test to see which audience got better results for the video ads. We tested the original audience against the look-a-like audience. Then we ran the exact same videos to both audiences at the same time.
We also ran new ads to the audience of people that had watched 25% of the videos. These ads drove traffic to the showcase registration pages. We excluded people that had already visited the website. We did not want to show them the same ad over and over after they had clicked on it.

The Results

By the end, we ended up with 93 paid registrations, leaving us short of our desired 95.
Although we didn’t achieve our goal, we did learn some valuable lessons.

Lesson one

As expected, targeting a custom audience gives you better results.
When we started targeting look-a-like audiences with our videos
  • Our costs per 10-second view dropped 11% for the Montana ads and 29% for the Idaho ads
  • The percentage of each video watched went up 7%

Lesson two

One factor in keeping your click through rate (CTR) up and cost per click (CPC) down in Facebook is having a high relevance score for your ads. The video ads were scoring 5-6 out of 10. That is as low as I’ve seen where ads still get a good return. Lower than 5 and your ads will start to get expensive.
My assumption was that if we showed the viewers a similar follow up ad, the relevance score would go up. But, in this case, the scores dropped to around 3-4. While I don’t know why the scores dropped, it had a negative effect on the CTR and CPC.
The Montana ads got a CTR of 0.64% and CPC of $0.88. Idaho ads got a CTR of 0.60% and CPC of $0.71. The CPC was OK but I would like to see the CTR closer to 2%-3%. Some of our better follow up ads will get around 10%.

What We Will Consider Next Time

Here are some things that we will take a look at improving for next time.
1. More time – our rule of thumb is always start 6 weeks out. We broke our own rule and that likely cost us a few registrations.
2. Track conversions – we want to track the entire process all the way to a registration. This is conversion tracking. It is a great way to link your advertising to your registration results. Unfortunately the tool we use for registration (Constant Contact) does not have this ability. We will be switching to a different system next time.
3. Improve relevancy score – with a little more time and one more phase in the process, this is very doable.
4. Audience testing – we saw the value of dialing in on our target audience. Starting with a general base is not a bad place to start. It gives you a baseline for comparison. But for the best results, the testing needs to put several look-a-likes against each other. Not against the base alone. This requires more time but will provide valuable insight.
5. Try different video lengths – I would like to test a long video against a short video and see which ones do better. But, to understand their value, we will need to tie in a conversion metric (number 2 above).
6. Retarget – the piece we missed was retargeting the people that had been to the website already. We worked to get people interested and then get them to the website. But we should have followed up with them if they didn’t register. I would guess that most people don’t register on their first visit and a reminder would be very valuable.


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