Money for Clicks: What Ten Dollars Gets You on Facebook

Marketing can seem, at best, alchemical. Trial and error. Post something on social media, put up a flyer, hope your lead turns to gold. Today, with that experimental spirit in mind, I’d like to share my experience using Facebook ads. Hopefully this will help anyone else venturing into the world of self-promotion. If nothing else it can fill up a Sunday blog post.

Fair warning: If we lived in a percentile-system world, my Marketing skill would be 5%. I know very little, and I sure as hell don’t know how to be successful at it.

When we went live back in March, I decided to spend ten whole dollars on a Facebook ad for the podcast. We were already announcing the launch via our individual social media and the RPPR and the Drunk And Ugly forums, but every little bit helps, right?

I placed my Hamilton as the lifetime budget. This meant I would be charged every time someone clicked the link, and the ad would stop running when the money ran out. Everyday that your ad runs requires a minimum five dollar budget (Facebook’s policy, not mine), so I got a whopping two days of ads. I picked Thursday and Friday, supposed prime-time for Facebook according to a friend who is a professional social media-er.

The part of the process that took the longest was choosing a demographic. Not everyone wants to listen to us pretend to be post-apocalyptic troubleshooters, so putting our ad in front of the wrong person is a waste. For other actual play podcasters out there, I’m sure it’d be as simple as choosing users who already like the game they’re running. Our main campaign is in a game that isn’t even out yet, so I had to create a demographic Frankenstein-style.

The ad only lets you choose a max of two groups to venn diagram together, based on pages that users “liked”. After some experimenting, I chose Zombies (in general, not a show or comic) and Call of Cthulhu (the role-playing game). Since we were playing a horror game that also featured the undead, it seemed like a chocolate & peanut butter-esque combination.

I also narrowed it down to anyone ages 18 (sorry, youths) to 50 (sorry, the elderly) who lived in the United States, since Facebook told me that adding other countries would make my selection “too broad”. I took the algorithm's advice.

This brought our potential audience down to 5,600, which Facebook says is still “fairly broad”- whatever that means.

But it wasn’t in the red or yellow so  - good? I decided to trust the colors.

With Facebook, you can also choose the times of day when your ad is shown. I focused on what I thought were prime hours based on personal use: during the morning commute, lunch, and late afternoon until 2am EST for the night owls.

All in all, a lot of mental effort was spent trying to hit some perceived golden ratio of viewer to interest, and I hadn’t even written the ad proper.

Again, playing a game that doesn't’ officially exist yet sets you a couple yards behind the starting line as far as a built-in audience is concerned. But instead of lamenting our situation, I spun it to our advantage. Some of you may have seen this ad:

An RPG actual play podcast is old hat, but a chance to get a sneak peak at a new game is less old hat.

And that was it. I clicked the button and we were off, two days of obsessively checking who had hit the link when, and whether or not they were on the toilet or at their desk when they did it.

So - what did I actually pay for?

I don’t know whether or not the ad did well. How many of those clicks translated to subscriptions or episode downloads? Is $0.44 a good price per click? Only 0.014% of people who saw the ad clicked the link. Is that bad? I mean, it feels bad, but with nothing to compare it to I’m in the dark.

Was the experiment a flop? Should I have just bribed strangers on the street to subscribe?

Maybe. So much of this seems like gambling or voodoo - or gambling on voodoo. There’s just no real way to tell if I’m doing well, other than the fact that twenty-one clicks are empirically better than zero. I do know that I won’t be going back to Facebook ads anytime soon, not until we try some other, more grassroots outlets.

Maybe we’ll sponsor a little league team.

The only thing I can say with certainty is “thank you” to anyone who took a chance and clicked on the ad. And thank you for sticking around. The $0.44 it cost me can be reimbursed through PayPal.

- Aaron