Making Facebook Ads work for your events is hard. The Facebook Advertising platform is complicated and constantly evolving.
But you should not give up! From our work with thousands of event organisers we have learned that an effective marketing strategy on Facebook can be boiled down to 4 key things:
1. The correct step-up
2. Clear knowledge of the tools
3. Build a clear funnel
4. Consistent iteration
Stop running boosted posts and short term campaigns and build a real marketing strategy on Facebook.
Let's start with the basics.
1. The Set-up
Before taking on the challenge of mastering Facebook Ads Manager it's important that you are set up correctly. Getting the set-up right will give you access to key features, and allow you to properly test, iterate and improve your campaigns.
a) Add Facebook Pixel
The Pixel, to quote Facebook, allows you to 'measure actions and build audiences'. These are both essential to a winning strategy.
'Measure actions' relates to the tracking of page views and ticket sales, so you can work out what effect each ad is making.
Put simply, without Pixel you cannot say exactly how many ticket sales came from an advert.
'Build audiences' refers to Pixel's functionality that records who has visted your page, or taken actions on that page (like buying tickets), so you can retarget them in the future.
In short Pixel is an essential tool and super easy to set-up with FIXR - follow our guide here.
b) Clean-up Ads Manager
Once you have the Pixel set-up - it's time to make sure your account is looking neat and tidy, ready for you to start building campaigns.
It's all too common for Ads Manager's to look like a random selection of boosted posts and campaigns that should be Ad Sets. This is not a good environment to work in!
It's, however, never a good idea to delete your old campaigns, who knows when you might want to look back at something. However DO apply a filter to show, for example, only active campaigns. This will allow you to move quickly when you are creating or auditing future campaigns hiding stuff you won't need to see day-to-day
Now that your account has had a spring clean - on to targeting.
2. The tools at your disposal - the types of audiences you can target
As a wise man once said - targeting is the most important part of getting your Facebook marketing working.
Bottom line = No advert (or event!) is good enough to get the wrong audience to buy tickets.
So before we discuss strategy and execution it's important to know what audiences you can target using the Facebook platform. There are 3 broad types you need to know about:
a) Saved Audiences:
This is the targeting that all Facebook advertisers know of - the inbuilt options you can select during ad creation.
You can see these in the screenshot above - they include location, demograpic and interest based options.
Saved audiences can be very useful for certain event organisers and certain situations - particularly if you run hyper-local events or ones focussed on a specific demographic (university students). They are also hugely important when layered over other audience types to make sure your targeting is tight.
b) Custom Audiences:
Custom audiences are those that are created from your customer data that you provide to Facebook.
This info can come from two sources - either 1) Facebook Pixel or 2) uploading Customer Lists.
Once implemented (as discussed above) Pixel will report to Facebook who has visted any given page what actions they took (like buying a ticket) or didn't take (not buying a ticket). You can read a tonne more about how to create powerful audiences using Pixel here. This is often referred to as retargeting and vital for getting all the people who have engaged with other ads and visted your ticket page over-the-line, and converted in sales.
Though more manual work - customer lists (excel/CSVs of emails) of people who previously bought tickets to your events are incredibly useful. This can be used in addition to the custom audiences you create using Pixel, but can also get you started while you implement Pixel and an audience of website vistors builds up.
c) Lookalike Audiences:
Lookalike audiences are generated by Facebook's algorithm - delivering a group of people who closely resemble your existing customers (according to Facebook!).
Though Facebook is pretty opaque about how it creates Lookalike Audiences - it looks at the characteristics of the users you provide (Pixel data or a customer list) and generates an audience with similar qualities.
Lookalike audiences are easy to create (you can follow the instructions here) and are a powerful tool for those looking to expand brands to new cities or increase the capacity of their events.
Lookalike Audiences often work best when used alongside saved audiences. Use location or demographic targeting over the top of the Lookalike audience generated by Facebook to ensure that it doesn't include anyone too far from your intended audience.
3. Strategy - Think through your Funnel
Now that you are set-up and know what's in the toolbox it's time to make a plan.
To sell tickets through Facebook Ads you need to apply a funnel. It's easy for an event organiser to spend money on Facebook, boosting events or a ticket link and generate some views or clicks. But too often they see little or no uplift in ticket sales.
The cornerstone of any good marketing strategy (for any business) is understanding your funnel. The funnel is a way of thinking about the journey a customer takes to buying your product - and the truth is that for all businesses it contains more than one step.
Marketers often use the "See - Think - Do - Care" model to visualise how customers buy products and how to speak to customers at different points in the journey to purchase.
Here is how I think about a funnel for selling tickets to events:
Now let's consider where the types of Facebook audience discussed earlier fit on this journey:
Finally let's pinpoint which advert objectives in Facebook to use for these different audiences:
Facebook wants you to use a funnel based marketing strategy SO DAMN MUCH - that it arranges the ad objectives by different parts of the funnel!
Facebook use slightly different terminology but you can see in the picture below how similar the meanings are:
What's the upshot of all this?
To run a successful event marketing strategy you need to run multiple different types of ad during the marketing 'window'- a number of which will be running at the same time.
Every Facebook advert you create needs to target a specific audience at a specific part of the funnel with an appropriate advert that has the correct objective.
Let me give you an example of a bad advert - (that is often run by event organisers!).
Timeline: 14 days before the event
Audience: Saved audience of an appropriate demographic / lookalike audience
Advert Type Creative: 'Early Bird Tickets Nearly Sold'
The saved or lookalike audience will most likely NOT have a strong understanding of your brand (in the 'See' stage of the funnel). So the 'purchase' objective and call to action is coming too early in the customer journey. Instead the creative should explain the event and the advert object be to create 'traffic' to your ticket link or 'engagement' in your Facebook event.
If the audience of the above advert was changed to a past customer list of repeat buyers and people who have visited your ticket page - now the adverts are reaching an audience in the 'Do' and 'Care' stages of the funnel. They are much more likely ready to purchase as they have already viewed your tickets. An objective to 'buy now', advertising 'early birds' could be a strong strategy - using scarcity of cheap tickets (FOMO) to get people to convert quickly.
My best advice in implementing this new strategy is to start towards the bottom of the funnel. Run tight, closely audited campaigns to drive previous buyers, and page likes towards your ticket link when you launch a new event. On top of this run retargeting using Pixel to drive those who have considered purchase back to your ticket link as the event date draws close (you can learn to run this retargeting loop here).
Once the bottom of the funnel is running smoothly - at a good cost/ticket sale you can work on finding new audiences by developing the top of your marketing funnel.
1) Get your house in order
2) Learn the Ropes in Ads Manager
You will never be a Facebook Ninja if you'd don't know what strings you can pull. Targeting is the key so learn about Saved Audiences, Lookalikes, Custom Audiences and how they fit together.
3) Think in a funnel
Your events might be as good as Gatsby's and adverts as smart as Don Draper but if you target the wrong audiences you won't sell many tickets .
Think in a funnel - target people at the right stage with the right kind of message - this will generate sales.
Drive people down the funnel --> get them to buy tickets, earning you 💵.
This should provide a good jumping off point - but test everything repeatedly and keep refining!