From a Small Startup to “The New Colossus”
Published: February 15, 2013
Author: Molly Shotwell
Today’s post is by Alex Marshi, journalist by trade and owner of EverySideNews.com.
When I typed in the coupon code for $50 worth of Facebook advertising one year ago, I had no idea it was about to change my life.
The $50 credit came with the $10 domain (www.EverySideNews.com) I’d purchased the week before.
Every Side News was a publication I wish existed but didn’t. I was already reading the news online every day, but there was one major problem: If I wanted to feel truly informed, I had to read several articles from all sorts of publications for each subject.
All my friends complained that they had to do the same to feel informed. Then, the idea came to me: I would select articles from diverse publications that represented opposing opinions and place them side-by-side. We’d provide readers context and resources to make it easier to research subjects on their own. Links to and background on the journalists, the publication owners, the sources cited, and any other relevant information would be put on one page.
I opened a Blogger account and created the concept site. Then I made a Facebook page, designed a logo, shared the page on my personal wall, and got some of my friends to like it. The reception to Every Side News was so flattering that I bought a custom domain and crafted my Facebook campaign to gain more likes.
This was the first Facebook ad I created:
As you can see, the image I led with wasn’t particularly special. The copy I wrote was strong, but basic. Though this ad would go on to outperform the average Facebook ad by a few hundred perfect, the creative wasn’t what did it; it was the targeting strategy.
I decided on targeting Facebook users 18 – 34, who had indicated interest in online news publications (especially aggregators), who speak English, and are in the broad category of news. However, the location targeting was the key.
Being an avid newsreader, I knew which countries and cities were experiencing the most turmoil and being covered the least in mainstream media. So I specifically targeted all of those locations.
Later, I compared my ad report with the typical Facebook ad:
I wondered if these outlier results were due to the concept of Every Side News or if I had some advertising talent. So when I was finished with my own campaign, I created a couple more for friends’ projects for free. Then, I did a couple campaigns for friends of theirs for money. But being an independent contractor wasn’t what I wanted. My goal was much bigger than that.
I pooled my resources and started a digital advertising agency. Then I ran a Facebook campaign for my ad agency. In the first week, I received several inquiries and gained my first two clients before one month had passed. By the second month, the company was profitable. By the 3rd month, I was working with new clients in multiple industries, as well as with a politician who’s running for Mayor of Boston.
One year and over 400 unique Facebook ads later, my agency is still outperforming the majority of even the biggest agencies in terms of engagement and pricing. Journalism is still a passion of mine. I’ve been published by Rolling Stone and am currently raising funds to hire a staff to make Every Side News a comprehensive, daily publication. However, if it hadn’t been for that first PPC campaign on Facebook, Every Side News wouldn’t exist, nor would Expert Online Advertising, nor Open Gallery or any of the holdings of my company, named The New Colossus after the poem by Emma Lazarus.
At this very moment, I have multiple PPC campaigns running on Facebook. I enjoy the experience of crafting every single ad. Successful or unsuccessful, a PPC campaign teaches you about your audience. If you know how to analyze the reports right, there really isn’t such a thing as an unsuccessful campaign. All of them provide invaluable insight.
Managing ad campaigns is less an occupation for me than it is a game I just happen to be pretty good at. Luckily, it’s also a game that helps me and my clients make a lot more money.
I always envisioned myself being a creative writer or thinker of some kind; I never could have guessed I’d wind up paying my bills with ad money. But the way I make that money is by writing creatively, thinking differently, and treating my clients with kindness and respect. So in many ways, that 1st Facebook ad campaign led me to the life I always wanted to lead, just via another route. A $50 coupon can go a long way, I guess.
– Alex Marshi is an American writer and entrepreneur, currently living in Los Angeles, California.