If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m super-interested in Promoted Posts. I think that of all the options available to an advertiser right now, Promoted Posts come the closest to really fulfilling Facebook’s ‘big idea’ on advertising – targeted ads, built around stories, that really touch people interested in your product or service.

There are, of course, some issues with the unit – for starters, it’s perhaps a bit too easy for your average business owner to use, leading businesses to waste ad spend needlessly. For instance, the default targeting on the ‘Promote’ button might point at areas that are irrelevant to whatever it is you’re promoting – Indonesia, for example, would not be a relevant place for a U.S.-based home builder to distribute ad spend:

bad targeting promoted post

Another issue that small business owners utilizing Promoted Posts face is that posts promoted with the ‘Promote’ button charge on a CPM basis – that means that their ad could show up in the feeds of 400,000 people, and if no one clicked their link, they’d still be charged money. It sounds obvious, but it’s something that someone unfamiliar with online advertising might not consider.

Finally, the confusing metrics that Facebook uses might lead someone to believe they’ve made a good spend when the reality is they haven’t. Facebook does a great job of emphasizing engagement on posts, which is definitely a good thing on the organic side. However, driving a lot of ‘Likes’ on a particular post doesn’t necessarily equate to a great ad buy for businesses. Instead, they should be more focused on things like visits to their site and revenue generated.

Similarly, Reach is also arguably unimportant if users are not clicking through on the posts’ content, and as I mentioned in my post about Clicks, Facebook doesn’t exactly make it clear when users are or are not doing so. These factors, and more, can contribute to turning what should be an excellent opportunity to drive revenue on a particular product or service into a potential ad-spend black hole for owners.

Thankfully, there’s a ton of ways to really optimize those posts and get the most out of them. We recently had a client who wanted to promote a Black Friday/Cyber Monday shipping special. They had used Promoted Posts in the past, and although they were seeing positive ROI, they asked us to take a look. A little digging around turned up some ways we could improve it.

For starters, they had zero targeting on their promoted posts – location-based or otherwise. Looking in GA, we found that areas like the U.S., Canada, and Australia drove disproportionately better traffic to their site, with higher per-visit values and larger order sizes. In this case, however, they only wanted to target within the U.S. as the promotion was only available there. No problem! To do that, we just created the post on their timeline with location targeting set to the good ole’ US of A, threw it through a post optimization tool we use, and scheduled it for Friday morning. Easy-peasy.

Next, we looked into their analytics and checked out how users were behaving if they were on a mobile device or if they were on their desktop. Whoa! Despite making up almost 50% of their visits from Facebook over the last three months, mobile visitors accounted for $0.00 of revenue. This was because, gently put, their site’s mobile experience was a little lacking. That lets us know we should target our post to the desktop newsfeed only.

mobile ads Facebook reporting

The last thing we decided to do was switch the ad to a cost-per-click format. By optimizing for CPC, we hoped to only serve ads to more valuable followers who would be genuinely interested in clicking through and purchasing. This can be tricky to attribute, because of Facebook’s clicks metrics, but we were confident that this was the correct way to make the most from our spend.

In order to do this, we created a Page Post, targeted it to the U.S., and then jumped into the Power Editor, where we created a Page Post Ad with it. Next, we went into the Placements section and targeted it to the newsfeed of Desktop users only. Finally, we set the bid to CPC and entered in our max bid.

How’d we do? The post generated about 15% more revenue than the next-highest-producing promoted post, and a per-visit value about 7% higher than the next highest post; in aggregate, it was the highest-grossing and most cost-effective post promotion the page had done in the past three months and achieved a 484% return on investment. In other words, a great success! All thanks to a little careful research and some appropriate targeting and pricing.

What tricks have you used to increase the effectiveness of your promoted posts? Let me know in the comments!

– Dan Wilkerson

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Dan Wilkerson is Marketing Manager at LunaMetrics, a Google Analytics certified partner that also specializes in social media, search engine optimization, and PPC. You can follow him @notdanwilkerson or @LunaMetrics.