The Hard Truth

The hard truth is that Facebook actually wants you to pay to reach your audience on its platform. The days of free exposure are over.

As at today, if your post something on your Business fan page on Facebook, you can only reach 1% of your fans organically. This means that if you have a Facebook page with 100,000 fans, your next post might only be seen by 1000 of your fans as a result of Facebook’s complex algorithm equations.

That is the new reality on Facebook. You can either adjust to that reality by advertising or move on to other platforms like Instagram to enjoy 58 times the engagement than Facebook. The irony is that Instagram is also owned by Facebook so this party might not last for too long.

If you choose to stay on Facebook, learning to use Facebook Ads effectively will give you the biggest marketing opportunity ever. According to Facebook, over 3 million SMEs advertisers are using Facebook ad to reach their audience.

My Experiment

Recently, I provided growth hacking advisory to a startup in the car hailing space where I ran a Facebook Ad experiment on a budget of $100 (99.25 actually) over a span of 10 days.

We ran a promotion to give away a makeup kit. Here are the actual results of the ads —–

  • I ran 3 campaigns
  • Number of people reached was 58, 821
  • 1,755 clicks was registered to the contest page
  • Total engagement recorded was 1,438 (including 761 post likes, 24 comments and 15 shares)
  • Fan page increased by 64 new likes

This is an overview of the dashboard showing how the campaigns performed.

 NOTES: The ads were published as dark posts (this means that they were not published on their newsfeeds, so, at the end of the campaign, the ads will not be visible on their timeline.

I asked my client to create an advertiser account for me so I could be accountable to them during the ad campaign. It also makes it easy for both parties to sort out payment, as the ad fees will be billed directly to their credit card. This is useful if you manage advertising for multiple clients. You can send this guide to your client to add you as ads manager, if you are not one of their page admins.

The 3 Golden Lessons from how I got low-cost adverts on Facebook

I will share 3 lessons I learnt from the experiment with you.

1.. Your Facebook ads do not have to be expensive.

Many people hold the belief that Facebook ads are costly. That is true if you are not smart about Facebook advertising. In fact, you can burn a lot of money like the disaster of this small business owner who ruined over 640k on Facebook ads with nothing to show for it.

At the same time you can get as low as 5 pennies ($0.05) per clicks on Facebook. Actually, we got as LOW as $0.01 in one of our campaigns.

So how we do it?

  • Define the objective for your ad campaign

Your campaign objective is the action you expect your users to take as a response to your ad. Facebook makes it easy to choose objectives. Here are the standard objectives you can choose for your Facebook Ads.

facebook objectives

Your objectives will be influenced by your end goal. You need to keep in mind that if your objective keeps people on Facebook, you might spend less than when people click away to your website. For the campaign, we choose two different objectives namely (1) Boost Post (2) Increase conversion to website

  • Narrow your target audience.

In the process of creating your ad, when you get to the audience and budget section of your ad creation process, Facebook will show you the potential number you can reach based on your country of choice. Here, our country was set to Nigeria and at the time of writing this article, the potential reach is 14 million.

Ads Manager

However, you need to narrow down your audience size in order to create effective targeting. The narrower your target is the more effective your ads. For each individual campaign, our audience size was less than 200,000. We used the targeting options that Facebook provided to achieve this.

We created three campaigns.

The first campaign used the picture of the makeup kit and targeted both male and female audience even though we expected more females to respond to the offer. This caused the cost of our initial campaign to be high. We literally “wasted” $64 on the first campaign.

As you can see from the dashboard, we spent $0.09 to convert females against $0.30 for males which averaged to ten cents ($0.10) per conversion.

First campaign result - SKITCH

We used this initial result to help us to design other campaigns that were 5X and 10X more effective. The cost dropped from $0.10 to $0.02 and $0.01 respectively.

We made two changes.

The first was changing the graphics we used for the campaign (we changed the image of the ad from the makeup kit to the image of a lady’s face). Secondly, we targeted only females.

You will notice that for our second campaign, tagged “the $20 campaign”, we had better results and reach at lower cost than the first campaign. And we ran the second campaign for a shorter period of time than the first campaign.

compare cost of ads based on CTR - SKITCH

  • Track everything. Test everything.

I tried to cover the basics of Facebook advertising in this post, but there are some elements that are advanced beyond my goal for this post. They include the need for you to track your ad performance. This is because If you don’t track, you will not know what works.

A feature of Facebook that helps you to track performance is the Pixel. With Facebook pixel, you can measure the results of your Facebook ads. This pixel can also help you with retargeting if this is needed.

Why should you test everything? This is because you will get better return on your advertising if you test small before you commit more resources. In this post, Todd Brown, a leading marketing consultant advised on how he breaks down each campaign so that he got meaningful data for each campaign he was running. This way you will not burn your ad dollars on a poorly performing campaign.

In this campaign, I tested each ad with $5/per day in order to reduce the risk. After evaluating the performance of the winning ad, I can scale my marketing budget on the winning ad.

2. For Your Facebook Ad to be effective, follow this Rule 101 

According to DigitalMarker, there is a need to maintain an advert scent. This means that the image and text used on the advert on Facebook should be consistent with the page they are going to be directed to on your website. In one word, there must be consistency. This is Rule 101

In the post, there are references to why adverts failed when there is a miscommunication between the source and destination. This is one example that explains how to maintain consistency in ad scent.


If you compare this to others (bad) example the article referenced, you will get the point.

In our campaign, the goal was to lead people to participate in a contest. Therefore, we ensured that users landed on a page that aligns with the action they are expected to take. We carefully chose the ad copy, ad image and call to action to reinforce this expected user action.

 3. Keep engaging all through the period of the campaign.

Publishing your ad is not the end of your campaign, you need to keep engaging.

You do this by answering comments and making clarifications where necessary. This is because the comment threads can easily be hijacked by trolls. You can also use the comments to provide additional guidance and support. In this case, I noticed a repetitive question from users who did not know how to enter the contest and I had to explain to them.

On another promotions that I ran for a #fintech startup last year, our engagement via the feed backs helped us to spot derogatory comments by trolls. We also responded to customer support issues, requests and other surprises in the course of running the campaign which ended up with 198 likes, 13 shares and 818 comments.

Facebook Customer post

Next Steps

In reality, Facebook ads can be daunting as their platform keeps evolving. If you understand how it works, you can use Facebook ads to drive massive growth to your startup. It might take a learning curve for you to master it yourself.

If you want to learn more about how Facebook ad works, one of the highly respected Facebook ad specialists is Jon Loomer. You can also learn from Mari Smith who is often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook”. The Social Media Examiner blog is also a good resource for self-starters.

You should consider investing more of your ad spend on Facebook these days as the targeting is a lot effective. If you are considering using Facebook at a scale, there are a companion lesson from Noah Kagan on how he spent $2 Million on Facebook Ads and how Ezra Firestone who runs an eCommerce store spent $407k on Facebook ads. Both of them reporting positive ROIs.

Do you have something to share about your experiences with Facebook advertising? Let’s talk in the comment section.

    6 replies to "3 golden lessons on how I used low-cost Facebook ads to drive growth for a startup"

    • Seye Kuyinu

      This was well written Wole! I wouldn’t add more to this.

    • MH Gideon

      Thank you so much for sharing these strategies and case study, it will come in handy when setting up my own FB Ads.

      Post bookmarked!

      • oluwole

        I am happy that you find it useful. I expect some of the lessons will help you to improve your Facebook Ad results too.

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