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Don’t Make This Facebook Sponsored Story Mistake Unless You Want to Waste 50% of Your Ad Budget

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Most people that are new to paid acquisition and optimization in general are always under the impression there’s a trove of secrets to building effective campaigns. The truth is that long-term scalable PPC campaigns are built through iterative optimization, lots of testing, and fine tuning.

Facebook sponsored stories are one of my favorite types of ad units to run on social. If you’re not familiar with how they work, sponsored stories allow you to leverage word-of-mouth marketing by promoting any of your posts that fans have interacted with to friend of those fans. For example, if I “like” a post from a blog like Search Engine Land and they’re running a sponsored story to that post, all of my friends are eligible to see that I interacted with that post.


Why are sponsored stories and word-of-mouth on Facebook so powerful? Most people are friends with people who do similar work – at least half of my friends on Facebook are marketers, entrepreneurs, paid acquisition specialists, PPC account managers, or some type of Internet business person. When they see that I interacted with Search Engine Land I’m basically endorsing that content and making a powerful recommendation.

Targeting everyone that’s a friend of a fan can be dangerous and costly, though. It’s easy to lose your shirt fast and squander the effectiveness of sponsored stories if you aren’t careful with who you’re targeting.

Here’s an example that popped up in my mobile feed last week. This is a sponsored story from Victoria’s Secret that a friend of mine on Facebook interacted with. The big mistake here is that Victoria’s Secret didn’t limit the sponsored story exposure to women only – they’re also targeting men, effectively wasting half of their sponsored story budget.

You can make the argument that maybe men will “claim” this offer for their girlfriend or significant other but I’d to gamble that less than 10% of their sales from this campaign are generated from men. In that scenario you’d be spending 50% of your budget for 10% of your sales – ouch.

The lesson here: always be thinking about who you’re targeting and what makes the most sense for the greatest sales impact. One simple tweak to this campaign would have without a doubt increased ROI significantly and maybe even turned the campaign from a loser into a winner.


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