How Musicians Can Game the Facebook Algorithm to Create More Cost-Effective Ads

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By Soundfly Mentor Keturah Brown

So you’ve just gone and created something super cool and worthy of being shared with your adoring fans. You’d love to share it with them on Facebook, but the problem is that you already know Facebook withholds these updates from most of your “followers” (despite you having done all the work to convert them to followers).

In fact, you probably also know that you’re almost better off posting to your personal page and getting your friends to engage from there, or in a closed Facebook group. But it’s a double-edged sword, since most of the reason you have a Facebook page for your artistic project is to build brand awareness around it, so that doesn’t help either. The only option left is to create a promoted (or “boosted”) post, and pay up.

You’ve probably been down this road before, and found yourself confused over the less-than-ecstatic results of a past campaign. On some level, I think we’ve all fantasized about giving Facebook “the Myspace treatment” and just saying, “Hasta luego, I’m out!” But with 2.3 billion active users, this platform has a way of making me reconsider every time. And besides, Facebook is specifically created for sharing, which makes it optimal real estate for promoting your brand and worth a decent amount of monetary investment.

So this past December, I set out on a personal journey to learn how to get more bang for my buck using Facebook as a marketing tool. I ran maybe 50 or 60 test ads within a single week and successfully targeted a demographic interested in hearing from me, which raised my total following from a little over 1,000 to about 7,145 in a week. It wasn’t long before a member of Facebook’s expert team reached out to me and asked if I’d like to chat about the best ways to optimize my goals. (Um, duh!)

Here are some key takeaways that I picked up along the way.

1. Use Ads Manager instead of promoting directly from your page.

Although Facebook does give you the option of running ads directly from your page, you should be running all of your ad campaigns from the Ads Manager dashboard. It becomes clear upon viewing the platform and working your way through its tools that it offers superior targeting options to your run-of-the-mill boosted post.

Ads Manager gives you the ability to analyze your most engaged audiences, learn their behaviors and interests, and then target others with similar backgrounds, behaviors, and interests. During my walk-through with Facebook’s marketing expert, I decided to create a lookalike audience for my Instagram account, since that’s the community I feel most actively engages with my content.

2. Lookalike audiences are your friends.

A great way to ensure that your ads reach the right people is to allow Facebook to analyze your organic successes with engagement. This can be gauged from previous popular posts, and even from your connected Instagram account, if that’s where you’ve been doing most of the heavy lifting in your marketing activities. If you don’t know who exactly you’re looking for, creating lookalike audiences from your existing audience is a great place to start.

3. Boosted posts and ads are not the same thing.

Boosted posts and advertisements have two different functions because they’re based on objectives, according to the Facebook marketing team.

Even though a boosted post can be boosted to an outside audience (thus the “show to your fans and friends of your fans” option), boosting focuses more on engaging your existing audience. On the other hand, ads give you more control over drawing in a new audience.

Another feature specific to ads is that they give you the option to create “dark posts” — or posts that don’t actually appear on your page, and are shown exclusively to the people you’ve targeted.

4. Ad campaigns are “auctions.”

Okaaayyyy, what is this “auction” thing and how does it work?

Think about it like this: Audiences are constantly up for sale, and an audience that more advertisers want to “buy” will cost more than an audience that advertisers are less interested in. (It’s similar to Uber’s “surge pricing,” whereby costs increase when demand increases.)

In this way, no matter what your advertising objective is (engagements, views, click-throughs, etc.), your cost relies on how well that objective can be auctioned off to advertisers. If it’s really costly, it’s because a lot of brands and other advertisers are trying to target that same community. So if you’re on a tight budget, you might want to quit while you’re ahead and wait for a quieter time, or try narrowing down your audience targeting.

5. Give your ads time to learn.

Facebook urges that you give all ad campaigns a minimum of seven days to learn, adapt, and optimize. This may feel a little like a sales trick, but it does make sense considering it’s all driven by its real-time learning algorithm.

When you use the Ads Manager platform, your campaigns go through a learning phase in which the system analyzes who is engaging with what. Then it automatically targets ads to individuals who share a demographic background with those who have actually engaged with your ad — thus driving down your cost in the auction. So even though it takes an ad campaign seven days to learn, you can then save the audience, save the ad, use it for as long as you want, and the algorithm will handle the rest.

Try these new pieces of information out, see if they start working in your favor, and share your experience in the comments below.

If you’re looking for in-depth help with your social media advertising or branding, I’d love to work with you one-on-one in a four-week coaching session on Soundfly.

Keturah Brown is a Soundfly Mentor. She has an MA in music business, marketing, and branding from Berklee College of Music, where she learned from some of the best in the world, like Yvette Noel Shure (Beyoncé, Prince) and Brian Messenger (Radiohead). She lives in Memphis and works at Notes for Notes, a non-profit that gives young people access to instruments and recording studios.

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