[CASE STUDY] Is it worth paying to promote Facebook posts?

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In the wake of Facebook’s recent decision to begin limiting the reach of posts from Brand Pages, NAHB decided to run a test to see what Facebook’s suggested $100 fee would get us.

First, some background. NAHB’s main Facebook page currently has just over 26,700 fans and has a weekly reach of 40,000 unique Facebook users. Our People Talking About This (PTAT) number hovers around 2,000 uniques right now. But prior to Facebook changing their EdgeRank algorithm, we saw reach averaging 80,000 uniques and PTAT numbers between 2,400 and 2,900 uniques.

For our paid post exposure test we paid the $100 suggested fee for 3 days of extra exposure in the feeds of Facebook users that had already liked NAHB (our “fans”), and in the feeds of *friends* of users who already liked NAHB (incidentally, Facebook offers a cheaper rate if you want to only target existing fans of your page). So we would have some baseline data for comparison, we used a good infographic that we had posted twice prior to seeing the effects of the EdgeRank change. Both of those previous posts performed solidly for us. To try and measure the ‘boost,’ we placed the order 6 hours after the post had launched – a point at which Facebook’s real-time Insights told us reach was only increasing incrementally. The total reach at that point was 1,836 (1,818 organic, 18 viral) and the PTAT score for that post was 113.

Within two hours of giving FB a credit card, total reach had doubled to 3,600. Twelve hours after purchase, reach had doubled again to 7,200. The final result after 72 hours of paid exposure: total reach for the one post = 62,248; Organic reach = 5,373; Viral reach: 5,731; and the PTAT score for that post was at 489. We also saw an increase in our overall weekly PTAT score to around 2400. Our previous record for a single post was 10,520 uniques reached, however our PTAT record for a single post still stands at 705.

Additionally, we picked up about 200 new fans to our page during the three days of the experiment. Normally we’ve been getting about 100 new fans a week, so it seems there’s a strong correlation there between the increased exposure of that one post and a jump in new fans. This is probably the result of opting to show the infographic to friends of fans as well as existing fans.

Comparing these numbers to the previous two times we posted this infographic, the first time had a reach of 6,434 and a PTAT score or 486 (so almost exactly what our experiment post got us). The second time (a within-the-week repeat of the first post) had a reach of 6,111 and PTAT of 189. Again, both of those posts occurred before we started noticing the effects of the EdgeRank algorithm change.

So paying Facebook in this manner does get you increased reach (an order of magnitude higher than before in our case), and that increased exposure seems to help increase engagement (though it’s about the same engagement that we earned for free before). Plus the extra exposure seems to result in an increase of Facebook users liking our page, which was an unexpected bonus.

Since we can only play by the rules Facebook sets, occasional outlays of cash to help our posts reach more Facebook users should probably be considered part of the promotional toolkit going forward.

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