Can Social Advertising be Beneficial for Nonprofits?

When nonprofits ask us to develop a social media strategy, their concerns always include getting measurable benefits from their investment. Analytics tools can help with this. However, there is confusion (especially on Facebook) surrounding the numerous available advertising tools.

Can advertising benefit nonprofits? How much does it cost? How can the benefits be measured? In the end, knowledge is power and the content is king; we’ve prepared a Facebook advertising crash course for nonprofits using Facebook pages to understand their options.

Types of Facebook Ads
There are four types of Facebook ads to choose from:

1. Sponsored Stories

Sponsored stories take user-generated content pertaining to a page and show it to the user’s friends. They can appear on the sidebar or as timeline stories. These types of ads are often the most effective because they rely on social targeting, offering “a 46% higher click through rate, a 20% lower cost per click, and an 18% lower cost per fan than Facebook’s standard ad units” (Inside Facebook).

This type of ad fosters conversations about you between your fans and potential fans. Nonprofits can use this technique to generate new likes among the people most relevant and most likely to be real supporters, and not just “ghost fans”. Since users tend to trust people they know, this technique is more efficient than most other advertising on Facebook.

2. Page Post Ads

Page post ads take a post from a page and promote it to the page’s fans, their friends and non fans, based on custom targets (age, gender, likes, keywords, etc.). These can also appear as sidebar ads or timeline stories.

These ads are very useful to draw new likes to your page. They can also draw attention to a specific issue your organization is dealing with. The key here is to set your targeting properly to reach the right people, those that will participate in the conversations you start.

3. Promoted Posts

Promoted posts are posts from a page that are promoted to the top of existing fans’ news feeds and to some of their friends. These always take the form of timeline stories.

By paying, you can ensure that more people will see the post. This helps draw existing fans’ attention to current issues, campaigns or events that are of importance to your organization. While not the most efficient tool to generate new likes for your page, it can help raise funds and awareness during key periods.

4. Marketplace Ads

Marketplace ads are shown to the general public (based on targeting). They always take the form of sidebar ads.

When you target your ads properly, this can be a powerful tool to generate new likes and grow your fan base. This can be done in preparation for a larger campaign: by increasing your fan base, you increase the potential reach of future advertising.

Content Comes First

Every option (with the exception of Marketplace Ads) relies heavily on a page’s existing fan base. Ads drive the page’s message past Facebook’s filters, which would otherwise hide it from 90% of a page’s fans. The advertising system also leverages fans’ respective networks for increased visibility (friends of fans can see Facebook ads).

This is why content must come before advertising. The quality of your content is what generates the initial interest Facebook relies on to spread your message. In other words, without a fan base acquired by consistently publishing solid content, most forms of Facebook advertising are inefficient.

What’s more, even when you have an established fan base, the content is no less important. Good content can make or break your message. Even if you’re paying Facebook to ensure it gets seen, your campaign will likely not cause reactions if it is not compelling and well presented.

Goal-Oriented Advertising

Are you trying to raise funds for a campaign? Raising support or awareness for an issue? Driving new likes to your page to gain visibility? Each goal has an optimal advertising strategy.

For example, sponsored stories and marketplace ads are the most effective ways to drive new likes to your page. However, there are better ways to generate attention for a specific issue, such as page post ads or promoted posts. These don’t drive as many new likes, but they target the segments of your fan base which are most likely to interact with your content.

What About Cost?

Once you’ve elaborated your content and targeting strategy, budgeting your ad campaign properly is the trickiest part of advertising on Facebook. You have the choice to buy advertising space on a per-click basis or a per-impression basis. You also have many targeting options that can increase or decrease your potential audience size. Since advertising analytics are only available once advertising has been purchased, we recommend trying a few consecutive days of adjustments. Determine which settings and daily budget work best by using the analytics tool provided by Facebook.


Don’t Forget: the Content is King! 

The most important thing to remember when advertising on Facebook is that no amount of money can make up for inadequate or uninteresting content. Many nonprofits can do just fine on the social network without advertising. However, when done right, advertising on Facebook can have a real, measurable impact on raising funds, awareness and visibility.

As social advertising grows, nonprofits may eventually have no choice but to pay for their online presence. Now is the best time to learn about this new platform to boost your web presence and prepare for the age of advertising in social media!

Written by Henri Brillon, Communications Agent @Phil