Founder's note: Experiencing the power of Facebook advertising

Photo Instagram user  maritheleneg

Photo Instagram user maritheleneg

Facebook's advertising revenue rose to $5.2bn in the last quarter. Earlier this month, the social network made The Economist's cover. The article was a reminder of why its ad model is so successful: the wealth of data Facebook owns on its users. 

Based on my experience with Women in Foreign Policy (WIFP), Facebook advertising does work. I have been using it on and off for just under a year now. About a third of my 1,500+ page Likes comes from Facebook advertising. 

All in all, I have spent just shy of £500 in Page Like ads, newsletter sign up calls-to-action and post promotion. 

Take this interview with Angelina Albaladejo of the Latin America Working Group. I promoted it with £10 over seven days. It resulted in 358 post engagements and reached 4,630 people. These are the kind of stats companies like to boast about to demonstrate they are digitally savvy and that Millennials love them. And that's the flip side of booking Facebook advertising myself: I have stopped believing the PR firms do around their social media engagement numbers. If, with my small budget, I can gain that many Likes, imagine what someone with an actual marketing budget can do.

Although engagement numbers sound good, their quality is disappointing. Facebook's key success metric, on the Adverts Manager dashboard, is post engagements (Page and link Likes, click-throughs etc) and cost per user action. For WIFP, most engagement has been link Likes.

I don't know about you but when I go through my Facebook feed, I do a lot of mindless liking. It sounds good, or it was shared by my friend, so I like it. It doesn't mean I actually read it. Click-throughs, shares, Page Likes and comments are more valuable, but harder to get from an ad, no matter how targeted. Although I can know how many people like the idea of what I post, I don't have meaningful dialogue with them, which is frustrating. 

Of course, I am buzzed when people like links. But I'm not going to take WIFP forward solely with what makes me feel good. So in the next few months, I'm going to target my Facebook advertising to newsletter sign-ups and page likes, and see if this increases traffic.  

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