Unpublished Page Post Ads – A Path to Riches?

Facebook’s Unpublished Page Post Ads have proven to be an effective way to promote your products and services to non-fans in the Facebook news feed. For some advertisers who have struggled in the past to get results from paid search (SEM), Facebook’s deep targeting can be a light at the end of the tunnel, turning Facebook into much more than just a social engagement platform.

Let’s say you sell a kids’ educational subscription service that only moms would buy. Sure, a few dads have purchased subscriptions over the years, but your customers are 95% moms. With paid search, how do you weed out the dads to focus only on moms? It turns out this is very hard to do because, in this case, moms don’t self-identify when they search.

But what if you could target moms age 30-45 who live in New York and California and already are interested kids’ educational software? With Facebook, this is a breeze. The real trick is in piquing enough interest to get a mom to click, which is where the unpublished page post comes into play.

Facebook reach

By unpublished, I mean “not visible” to your existing fans. These posts won’t clutter your page’s feed because you haven’t published them. You will, however, still receive comments, likes, shares and clicks – more on that later.

A well-formed page post consists of a big image, a simple, clear message with a call-to-action, and a link to an external URL (your website). The image needs to pop because you’re competing with all the other photos in the news feed; your message needs to make your brand likable; the call-to-action should be clear; and the link must lead to a landing page that reiterates everything in the ad (image, message and call-to-action).

As you can see, the Facebook page post is lot like a paid search ad where we combine search intent with a well-written ad followed by a super-relevant landing page to seal the deal. The main difference is we don’t have search intent on Facebook – instead we have behavioral targeting parameters. Add to that an eye-grabbing image and social proof (comments/likes) and we have a very compelling ad unit placed squarely where people spend most of their time online. Can you say “full-screen-takeover?!”

unpublished page post mobile

Track all the awesomeness

Good tracking is critical to understanding a page post campaign’s success. In the worst case, you haven’t tagged your URLs and instead will rely on analytics data from Facebook referrals. If you’re in this camp – I’ve been there, don’t worry – you’ll need to establish a baseline. Take a look at prior weeks where you have not advertised on Facebook to come up with baseline averages for the metrics that matter most. For me, these are usually conversions, transactions, and revenue. With a baseline you should be able to tell at a glance whether you’ve moved the needle. It isn’t perfect by any means, which is why you should take additional tracking measures.

The next best case is you’ve tagged your page post ads with optional URL parameters available. These are available in the power editor – so use them. Because I rely on Google Analytics, I set my tags to something like: utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=[your campaign name].

optional url tags

You now have a better picture of conversions coming from your page post ads, but you don’t have the full picture yet. For example, if someone clicked your page post ad, loved what they saw, waited a few days and came back directly to your website by typing your URL directly into the browser, guess which channel receives the conversion? The channel called Direct! That’s because Google Analytics is a last-click platform – only the last click gets the credit.

The best-case tracking scenario is where you’ve set your baseline and tagged your URLs and also installed the Facebook tracking pixel onto your thank-you page. Any clicks that result in a conversion will be tracked on Facebook, even if Direct receives credit in Google Analytics.

I find that for some luxury ecommerce brands, visitors like to shop around a bit to weigh their options. A week may go by before the visitor pulls the trigger and converts. Take a look at some actual conversion paths data from an ecommerce advertiser:

paths to conversion

Here is what’s happening in plain English for each of the 6 conversion paths above:

1. Facebook referrals are general visits from Facebook. This is why you need a baseline for this traffic.

2. Visitors clicked the page post and converted. Perfect!

3. Visitors clicked the page post, waited a while, returned by either typing in the URL or clicking a bookmark, and then converted.

4. General visit from Facebook but waited then converted through direct.

5. Visitors clicked the page post, waited, went back to Facebook and clicked a different link on Facebook that led them to your website. Perhaps they visited your fan page to learn more?

6. Visitors clicked the page post, went back to Facebook, typed your URL directly, saw a display ad (probably retargeting), typed your URL again and converted.

The paths above can be found in the Google Analytics Top Paths Conversions report. Get to know this report and learn the truth about your page post ads (and Facebook advertising in general).

Stay in the conversation

Earlier, I touched on the social proof elements inherent in a page post ad: comments, likes, and shares. Your campaign’s success absolutely depends on how well you are able to moderate your page posts. Take an active role in the discussion, which sometimes means you need to hide or even delete a post.

Facebook has guidelines on this and, for the most part, they recommend leaving comments in place so you can have an honest dialog with folks. However, now and then someone will have an axe to grind. Then one negative comment leads to three, which leads to 10, and before you know it your thread has been hijacked and your conversion rate plummets. That’s when you start over with a new page post – and hopefully nip these problems in the bud next time.

Joey Muller is a certified Google AdWords Professional and Facebook advertising expert at Sum Digital, a digital marketing agency in San Francisco. Joey has generated millions of dollars in revenue for ecommerce, gaming, healthcare, and IT companies. Joey received his BA in Cognitive Psychology from Dartmouth College. See Joey’s LinkedIn profile and follow him on Twitter @jmthefourth.