I was a little confused when I saw headlines in early August saying Facebook was considering letting unconnected advertisers promote page posts into non-fans’ streams. I had just begun experimenting with the recently unlocked placement options in the Power Editor, and I saw you had the ability to place ads into news feeds and the ability to target users who were not connected to certain things on Facebook. Couldn’t you just take a newsfeed-only Page Post ad targeted at users who weren’t connected to your page?
So I tested my hypothesis. Using the Power Editor, I created a Page Post ad, restricted the placement to the Desktop newsfeed, and specified users who were not already connected to LunaMetrics. Facebook’s Power Editor still doesn’t provide audience estimates for newsfeed ads, so to be absolutely sure that I was going to get some data, I targeted a bunch of countries and set my CPM bid to $10.00. I submitted the ad and crossed my fingers – would they approve it? I fidgeted in my chair in excitement.
Lo and behold, my ad got the green light, and it was off to the races. I checked in about an hour later and was super-excited to see it was being delivered. I let it run for a day and then paused the ad to check out the results; I wanted to be absolutely positive it had worked.
The first thing I did was look at the basic Ads Manager report. It showed my campaign had achieved 8,030 reach in its day-long lifespan and garnered 11 clicks and 18 actions for a CTR of .136%. Also worth noting, it reported that 6,209 of its reach was Social Reach – this was interesting to me because I had selected a Page Post, not a Sponsored Story, and specified that it should target users NOT already connected to my Page. Interesting.
I decided to dig a little deeper before drawing any conclusions. I opened up the Reports feature and ran some deeper reports to drill down into my results. The first report I drew was the newsfeed report – I wanted to make sure these were being delivered where Facebook promised that they were. All 8,083 impressions were delivered to the newsfeed, all 11 clicks originated in the newsfeed, and its average newsfeed position was 3.3. It definitely was delivered in-feed.
Next I looked at the Actions by Impression Time report. It showed me that my post received 6 Page Like actions, with 4 of them occurring sometime after seeing the ad in-feed and two occurring after a user clicked on the ad itself (probably to open up the photo and get a closer look). Unfortunately, this report can’t tell me if they were socially connected Actions or not.
So, in review, the overall Ads Manager report shows that my ad reached 8,030 users, 6,209 of whom were through ‘Social Reach.’ Unfortunately, I’m not sure of what context they are referring to when they say ‘Social Reach,’ but I do know that 1,821 of that reach was to users who were not connected to my page. Coupled with the knowledge that all 8,030 of my reach was in the newsfeed, I know that my Page Post ad reached the newsfeed of at least 1,821 people who were not connected to my page. Also, 6 users ‘liked’ the LunaMetrics page – this means they were not directly connected to LunaMetrics when the ad showed up in their newsfeed. This seems like pretty strong evidence that it worked.
There are a few caveats to this, of course. For starters, the Ads Manager shows the reach of newsfeed posts after they’ve been approved. For ad in this experiment, it shows an audience of 309,920 users. Now, I’m not saying the LunaMetrics Facebook Page is anything to scoff at, but we haven’t been ‘Liked’ yet by everyone except 300,000 people. So I fired up the Editor again and created a similar ad, this time targeting users who friends are connected to LunaMetrics. The estimated audience? 310,880 users. That’s awfully suspicious to me.
Essentially, there are a few things that could have happened. The first possibility is that Facebook screwed up, either by delivering me an incorrect audience estimate or by running the ad to friends of fans of my page despite me explicitly targeting those not currently connected. It seems silly to have both targeting options if Facebook simply ignores your input, but maybe that’s their temporary solution while they hash out the ad unit.
The second is that Facebook is using a small pool of beta testers, and I happened to stumble into them with the Power Editor. This seems less likely than the first option. I’m sure they would be more careful with their ad testing than to let a wayward Power Editor junky figure out a new ad unit before its public release.
The last possibility is that it worked, and Facebook’s analytics are completely bonkers and are delivering me incorrect reach, delivery, and targeting figures. Although they can be hopeless, I don’t think that’s where to lay the blame this time. Plus, the similarity in my Friends are Connected to and Are Not Connected to figures is pretty striking.
Still, my ad was delivered in the newsfeed of at least 1,821 users without any social context. Possibly those users had friends who were connected to LunaMetrics, but Facebook didn’t deliver the ad in that context. This would mean larger brands who have the ‘6 Degrees from Kevin Bacon’ effect could potentially push newsfeed posts to non-fans right now. No matter what the reason, my ad wasn’t delivered to all users who were not already connected to my page. Frankly, when I don’t get what I’m promised, I want my money back. Facebook, I believe you owe me $10.51.
My analysis missing something? Have you tried this method before? Let us know in the comments.
– Dan Wilkerson