Facebook ads offer a premium over search and other contextual marketing options. While those channels grant access to likely converters already looking for your products and services, reaching audiences through their social network casts a wider net.

Advertisers broadcast their message targeted to consumers engaging with friends, family, and colleagues. They’re sharing photos, watching videos, and planning parties. It’s no surprise, then, that arguably the most social (but often-overlooked) ad unit is extremely effective. The Facebook Event Ad, and accompanying RSVP Sponsored Story, let advertisers act more like friends and family than any other format.

If your business has a physical location, and you’re looking to drive foot traffic, using Facebook to plan an event and then amplifying stories about it with ads is a great strategy.

If you’ve been invited to a Facebook event, you’ve seen that the event page looks and acts a lot like a group or business page.

facebook event

Attendees can post and comment, and the event organizer can broadcast messages with high distribution. Unlike a business page or group, once the event is over, most communication and engagement stops. But for a business page, an event page can be a valuable resource and cultivated community. If your business runs regular events, each subsequent event page can be used to promote future events.

As an added benefit, event pages make it easy for attendees to spread word of your event to their friends. This happens in two ways.

First, when a user accepts an RSVP for your event, a story is generated on their Timeline that they’re attending. This story gets some organic distribution, which can be boosted with Sponsored Stories.

Second, attendees can explicitly invite friends they want joining them at your event. Up to 50% of the users you reach with your event might be invited by other attendees.

Here is some sample data from one of adMixt’s retail clients. They run a series of sales events at their brick and mortar locations.

facebook event counts

Notice that with each new event, they’re reaching a larger audience. This is not because of a higher marketing spend. It’s because each event is promoted to previous attendees using a simple, organic post to the previous event pages. Past attendees see the post, linking to the new event in their Newsfeed, all for free.

This graph also shows that while the majority of their attendees RSVPed through ads and sponsored stories (Paid), a large number of RSVPs are Organic, and an even larger number are Invited. The Invited users are those who were organically invited by other Paid or Organic attendees. They have not affirmatively RSVPed for the event, but they’re still reached with status updates from the event. The Organic attendees RSVPed either from organic posts they received from previous events, or from invitations they received from their Friends.

The net effect of this event-over-event performance growth is that with the same budget, more and more attendance can be driven.

cpa facebook events

This graph shows the Paid CPA (in red) quoted by Facebook’s reporting for each attendee RSVP. But factoring in the total audience reached, we can see the actual cost (in blue) for reaching each attendee. Considering it often costs more than $0.60 to drive a click to a website, getting affirmative confirmation that a user will visit an in-person event looks like a pretty good deal.

If you’d like to set up an event for your business, here’s how to get started:

1. Login to Facebook and visit the Business Page that will host the event.

2. Underneath your Page Profile Picture, and to the right of your Page Description, are a number of icons for your various content tabs (Likes, Photos, etc.). If you can’t see the icon for Events, expand the list by clicking the number at the end of this row and click the Events icon.

3. From your Events listing page, click the + Create Event button

4. Give your event a compelling title, detailed description, and accurate location. Set your start date and time. That gives you the option to set your end date and time. When everything’s ready, click the Create button. I recommend leaving the option restricting page posts to admins unchecked. Letting users post to your event wall gives you valuable engagement that spreads word of your event across Facebook. Just make sure you’re monitoring these posts and responding properly to questions.

5. Facebook will create, and redirect you to, your new event. Click the Add Event Photo button to give your event a cover photo. Note: this photo will be used in some of your Facebook ads, so it’s important that it complies with Facebook’s 20% text rule.

6. Facebook has also posted a story about your event to your Business Page. Some of your engaged fans will see this story and might RSVP organically. But to boost attendance to your event, you should create an ad and sponsored story. Facebook places a Promote button on the lower right corner of the second column on your event page. Click that to be taken to Facebook’s Ads Manager and start creating your ad. If you’d like to use Power Editor, or your own Ads API tool, you’ll see this new event listed in your available Connection Objects, just like a Business Page.

Rather than go into detail about the best way to set up a Facebook Ad, let’s cover a few tips specific to Event RSVP Ads:

1. Start your campaign at least a few days before your event to give people time to plan for it. If your event lasts more than a day or two, you can run your campaign until a day or two before it ends.

2. Limit all of your ad’s locations to a small radius near the city or zip code where the event is located.

3. Create separate campaigns with ads targeting Fans of your Business Page, and Likes and Interests related to your business. You’ll get more responses from your Fans, but highly relevant Likes and Interest can drive more volume.

4. If you have Custom Audiences, or Lookalike Audiences, create separate campaigns targeting them also.

5. Partner Categories are made up of data collected from offline sources. Since the goal of our Event Ad is to encourage an offline action, related Partner Categories can be very effective

6. Run a sponsored story inside each campaign, amplifying stories about each RSVP to friends of the attendees. This social context is one of the most valuable components of the Event Ad product.

Monitor your ad performance closely. Depending on how much space you have for attendees, you want to make sure you don’t over-promote your event. Also watch for rising costs as you convert more of your audience into attendees. For small, local audiences, this can happen within a few days. Costs can increase exponentially as you exhaust likely targets. Events spending a couple hundred dollars on ads can get attendees for as little as $0.50, while those spending thousands will likely have to pay more than $1.00.

If you run a few events per year at a couple locations, you can probably manage these campaigns yourself. If your business runs events at dozens, or hundreds of locations, you’ll want to partner with a Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer like adMixt with support for running automated, geo-located event campaigns.

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Zach Greenberger
Zach Greenberger is the Founder and CEO of AdMixt, a Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer focused on performance marketing.