Have you considered creating Facebook ads from your top-performing organic posts?
To explore how to identify and boost your best Facebook content, I interview Larry Kim.
More About This Show
The Social Media Marketing podcast is an on-demand talk radio show from Social Media Examiner. It’s designed to help busy marketers and business owners discover what works with social media marketing.
In this episode, I interview Larry Kim, the founder and chief technology officer for WordStream. He’s a frequent blogger, pay-per-click expert, and social advertising ninja.
Larry explains how to improve the performance of your best content with Facebook advertising.
You’ll discover how to budget for Facebook ads.
Share your feedback, read the show notes, and get the links mentioned in this episode below.
Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:
How to Use Facebook Ads to Boost Your Best Content
Larry’s company, WordStream, does search engine and social media advertising, and Larry believes that it’s important for businesses to do both types.
For instance, B2B software companies build new features, functions, and solutions that nobody is searching for yet. However, with social ads, these businesses can target people who are likely to buy their software based on demographics, interests, or behaviors.
Unlike an individual advertiser who has data about only one business, Larry is able to spot trends and patterns in online advertising because WordStream manages approximately $1 billion of ad spending across Facebook, Bing, and Google and runs thousands of campaigns for different clients. WordStream analyzes all of these campaigns to figure out data such as the typical cost per click and typical engagement rates.
Listen to the show to discover the percentage of WordStream’s clients using Facebook advertising.
How Algorithms Work
To understand the algorithms, Larry says it’s important to think about the context in which your ad appears. (Our conversation focuses on Facebook, but Larry says the same is true for ads on Twitter and other social media platforms.) When you sponsor or promote a post, you’re one of thousands or even millions of companies going after the same audience. Larry explains that the Facebook algorithm is designed to handle that volume in a way that keeps Facebook engaging for users so they come back.
To determine which posts to show users and how much to charge the advertiser, Larry believes that the algorithm looks at many different factors, but the main one is engagement (clicks, likes, comments, or shares). A post with low engagement has an engagement rate of 1% to 2%. (Only 1 or 2 people out of 100 engage with the post.) A high-engagement post has a rate of 10% to 15%, and the average is around 2.5% to 3%.
Larry emphasizes that Facebook doesn’t want users’ news feeds filled with ridiculous updates that no one cares about. A company trying to promote garbage content with low engagement rates will be dinged with very few ad impressions. The ad might not even be shown. If the ad does show, the click-through rate will be expensive (a few dollars per click versus a few cents).
The reverse is also true. Facebook rewards companies that promote interesting content by showing their ads and charging only pennies per click.
Listen to the show to hear Larry’s thoughts about how engaging ad content needs to be compared to organic content.
Because algorithms reward engaging content, Larry believes that the winning advertising strategy is simple: promote your unicorns. These outlier posts do spectacularly well. They get three to five times more traffic than the average post and are among the top 1% to 3% of your most engaging content.
For instance, a unicorn post might have a 20% engagement rate, which means 1 in 5 people who see that post click, like, or share it. When you pay to promote a high-engagement piece of content, you may get clicks for just a few cents. It’s a bargain.
To identify unicorn posts, check your Google Analytics for the pieces of content that have gotten tons of traffic organically. Those stories usually do well because the story idea is captivating. For instance, a post like “10 Mind-blowing New Features in Facebook Advertising” is an interesting topic with a catchy title. If the article does well organically, it’s likely to also do well when you promote it as a post.
I ask Larry if you should look specifically in Google Analytics for posts with good social traffic. Larry says that you actually want to look at search traffic, too. There’s a relationship between social shares and Google rankings. Content that ranks well in Google search tends to do well on social media. Over the last year or two, Google has been changing organic rankings to work a lot like the Facebook algorithms. Although Google organic search rankings used to be about links and keywords, the rankings are now about user engagement, such as click-through rates.
Larry stresses that the emotions that make people want to click things in search listings are the same as those that make people want to share and click things on social media. That’s why both search results and social ads reward content that receives high engagement with better visibility.
Larry and I then talk about what makes a unicorn post perform well as an ad. I ask whether you need to use the exact same image, content, or link from your unicorn post so your ad benefits from the original post’s high engagement rates. Larry says that’s not necessary. The new campaign will start from scratch.
In your ad, Larry explains, you can add a catchy image that will help a promoted post and make other minor changes. A unicorn post does well in the first place because something about the title and description is catchy. Remember, a post with only a 2% to 3% organic engagement rate will likely also get similar results as a sponsored ad. Likewise, the same magic that made content do well the first time ought to make it do well as a separate click campaign.
Listen to the show to discover why Larry says the timing of posts doesn’t matter but human psychology does.
Next Steps for Unicorns
When you have a unicorn post, extract as much value from it as you can. Larry says that calendar-driven marketers often don’t give a unicorn post extra attention because they’re focused on the next item on their to-do list. However, a unicorn post calls for a change in plans.
Larry likens a unicorn post to a great poker hand: If you were playing poker and got four aces, wouldn’t you want to change your strategy to try to maximize the value from that very strong hand? Larry says when you get a unicorn, start by heavily promoting it on Facebook and Twitter. Because the post has high engagement, you should get inexpensive clicks.
You’ll also want to repurpose the content. If a blog post does really well, a video is also likely to do well. This is especially true for YouTube, which values engagement metrics. Another option is to turn your unicorn post into a series. Fully explore the topic in depth with multiple posts (like movie sequels). Larry calls this technique “unicorn baby cloning.” If you turn a unicorn post into a series of seven stories, you have six unicorn babies.
For example, one of Larry’s unicorns from last year was a post about five upcoming Google AdWords features. Based on the post’s performance, Larry stopped the presses to extract all of the value. When Larry turned the post into an ad, clicks on Facebook and Twitter cost only a few cents. Larry then turned the post into a webinar, which generated 5,000 registrants. Because the webinar was so successful, Larry simply offered an encore webinar the next week, and another 4,000 people registered.
To create unicorn babies, Larry did an in-depth piece about each feature in the original post: how the feature works, the benefits, and tips and tricks. For instance, one was on Google Maps local search ads and another was on Google expanded text ads.
Listen to the show to learn how many people Larry typically gets for his webinars.
Larry says that focusing on unicorn posts is the best way to get the most out of your social media advertising budget. Because you don’t know when a post will become a unicorn, marketers need a quarterly or annual budget, which is more flexible than a monthly budget.
For example, if you have a budget of $10,000 per month to spend on social media ads, you’ll be spending more to promote average content on Facebook. However, a budget that’s $30,000 a quarter or $120,000 a year allows you to wait and go all-in on promoting high-performing posts, which cost less to promote. As a result, you may get 10 to 100 times more out of your social media budget.
I ask Larry to help us all visualize how focusing promotion on a unicorn post can help maximize your budget. Larry stresses that a strong post can help your content reach beyond its typical niche to the masses of people on the Internet.
For example, Larry says a typical post on WordStream’s blog will get around 5,000 visitors for 30 days. Larry realized the AdWords article was a unicorn when it received about 20,000 views organically. (Remember that unicorns are true outliers that perform 2 to 4 times better than average.) Focusing promotion on the AdWords post cost Larry about $2,000, because he got clicks for one or two cents, and the post ended up with about 250,000 views.
When you think you have a unicorn post, Larry recommends starting with a sponsored post for $50 and monitoring the response. If the engagement rate is only 2% or 3%, the post is a donkey. Putting more money behind it likely won’t change the engagement rate, so you can consider the $50 sponsored post a low-risk audition. However, an engagement rate of 10% to 20% is a true unicorn. If you get a good engagement rate with $50, keep using your budget to promote the post until the post wears itself out.
Larry says that evergreen unicorns are rare, magical posts that continue to drive engagement. For example, Larry created an infographic called The Most Expensive Keywords in Google AdWords. No matter when he posts it, the engagement rate is about 8% to 10%. To support this evergreen unicorn, Larry applies a $100 to $200 per month budget to that piece of content.
When I ask about whom you target when promoting unicorn posts, Larry says that targeting works like a fruit tree. You have low-hanging, middle, and hard-to-get fruit. The broader the audience, the more you’ll pay. Your Facebook page fans and remarketing audience are the easiest people to reach. When you target this audience, you’ll get the highest engagement at the lowest price. However, the size of that audience is smaller than going after a broader category.
To reach a bigger audience for the keywords infographic, for example, Larry could target people interested in entrepreneurship who might also be interested in his infographic. This targeting expands the audience to about 50 million people in the United States. However, the engagement rate will be lower (maybe 5% instead of 10%), and the promotion will cost a little more.
Listen to the show to hear Larry discuss how a business might align its ad targeting with its business objectives.
How to Convert Clicks Into Sales
Larry emphasizes that the point of social media marketing isn’t to get hits. You want to eventually convert those hits into leads and sales.
To turn social media advertising into a sale, Larry says the key is remarketing, which allows you to follow people around with ads. When you remarket on Facebook, you don’t need to target all 2 million people who visited your site. You want to be picky and only show the ads to the people you think will actually buy your stuff.
Only about 1% to 2% of the people who visit your website will become customers. For remarketing, you want to pinpoint the exact characteristics of people who are your most likely customers (such as a job title, company, and location). Because your remarketing audience is people who have consumed your content and are familiar with your business, your ad content can make direct requests, such as “Download the Trial” or “Set Up the Demo.”
Listen to the show to hear more detail about targeting and remarketing.
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