Why Facebook Advertising Is a Necessary Evil

Why Facebook Advertising Is a Necessary Evil

By Annie ZelmOct 26 /2015

facebook advertising

Do you ever feel like your Facebook presence is fading? If you're putting a lot of effort into posting without getting much of a response these days, you're not alone.

The Reality: Facebook Is No Longer Free

With each new algorithm update, Facebook has given more preference to your friends' posts and less preference to company page posts. Facebook has been warning us of this for at least the past two years, noting brands would see their organic traffic continue to decline.

Each time you post something, you're only reaching a small portion of your followers—anywhere between 3 to 15 percent, according to some estimates. This makes sense from a user's perspective. You're logging in to see what's going on with your friends and relatives, and you don't want to be bombarded with advertising.

But for marketers, it's incredibly frustrating.

Consider this example of a nonprofit with about 2,000 Facebook fans. Before the organization began promoting its posts in January 2015, engagement had flatlined. Each post typically reached between 200 and 500 people (only 10 to 20 percent of its total Facebook fan base) and garnered fewer than 10 clicks, “likes” or shares.

By “boosting” posts with advertising, the organization could reach as many as 9,000 people, including not only its own Facebook fans, but friends of those fans.

Each boosted post typically results in hundreds of clicks, an engagement rate that has increased at least tenfold.

Here’s a comparison of two similar Facebook posts for this organization.

Facebook Advertising

The first, with no advertising, reached 175 people, received one click and five “likes,” comments or shares. The second post, with a budget of $100 spread over one week, reached approximately 5,600 people. The light orange bar shows its organic reach, or approximately how many people would have seen the post without advertising, compared with the number of people who saw it with advertising (shown in dark orange.) Organically, it would have reached 600 people.

Thanks to advertising, it reached an additional 5,000, received a total of 104 clicks and picked up 100 likes, shares or comments.

There's no question that Facebook operates on a primarily “pay to play” model these days, and other social channels are likely to follow. Since this is the reality, here are 5 ways to make the most of it. 

Budget According to Goals

Facebook offers suggested advertising amounts based on the reach companies want to achieve. For an organization with a few thousand fans, putting $20 behind a post will ensure it reaches at least your fan base and potentially twice that many. That should be enough for your day-to-day posts. If you're promoting an important event, however, you'll want to ramp it up a little. Here are Facebook's suggestions for a page with approximately 2,000 fans, which you should see on your own page once you've decided to boost a post.

Facebook Advertising

Think about what you want to achieve with your Facebook page, and budget accordingly. If you consider Facebook an important part of your marketing strategy and you plan to continue investing time and effort into your posts, plan to budget at least a few hundred dollars each month for boosting posts.

This will ensure your fans actually have an opportunity to see your efforts.

Use Targeting

Facebook advertising gives you three options. You can show each post to:

  • People who like your page
  • People who like your page and their friends
  • People you choose through targeting

For a standard post, it's fine to limit your promotion to people who like your page. If you're trying to grow your page's following and attract new leads through Facebook, it's a good idea to expand your reach to friends of your friends.

But don't forget about the power of a targeted post. Just as you wouldn't expect the best response from blasting your entire contact database with an email about an event that will likely only interest a certain group, you don't want to use a "one-size-fits-all" approach to Facebook, especially when you're paying for it.

Facebook's targeting feature allows you to reach your ideal audience using specific criteria, including:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Gender
  • Interests

We recently tried targeting a post specifically to veterans' organizations and found it generated significantly more page visits than a similar post where we spent the same amount but spread it across a more general audience. 

The post designed just for veterans in a single geographic area and shared with them generated 177 likes, 80 shares, and 42 clicks to a link directing them to the organization's website. At a total cost of $50, it amounted to a little more than a dollar per click. The other post generated only about half the number of clicks, so it cost twice as much to send each person to the website.

Promote More Than Just Posts

Facebook gives you the option to promote your website, your business page and even your calls to action. Nonprofit organizations can add a "donate now" button and put advertising behind it so it will show up in your friends' and their friends' news feeds.

These ads can run continuously in the background while you continue to sponsor updates. Facebook gives suggestions on how many new followers you can expect to gain with each incremental amount of advertising.


Use Facebook's suggestions to get started, but keep an eye on the impact ads have on your goals. Don't be afraid to experiment and make adjustments as needed. You can learn a lot about the impact your ads are having by checking the Insights tab regularly.

For best results, HubSpot recommends monitoring these four simple Facebook metrics:

  • Brand EngagementThe number of mentions, comments, likes, shares and links to your brand's page
  • What Your Fans Are Talking AboutThe number of unique people who interacted with a specific post
  • Organic Traffic and Leads GeneratedHow many visits to your website and new contacts are driven by social media and specifically Facebook. (This is easy to track via the Sources reporting tool if you have HubSpot.)
  • ConversionsHow many actual leads are generated from Facebook during a set time period or campaign

Build a Budget for Paid Advertising

As Buzzfeed's Jonathan Perleman has said, "Content is king, but distribution is queen, and she wears the pants."

Simply put, you can create the most informative blog posts, images, videos and eBooks, but if hardly anyone sees them, they can't help you attract potential buyers. Paid advertising has become an essential part of a well thought-out demand generation strategy.

To discover how to build paid advertising into your inbound marketing budget, download our newly updated eBook, Inbound Marketing Buy-Ins, Budgets and Best Practices.


The Author

Annie Zelm

Annie is the driving force behind content strategy for clients. She uncovers insights about what motivates buyers and uses that knowledge to shape client websites and editorial calendars. Annie brings several years of PR experience gained from working at the amusement park, Cedar Point.