Now that the Kickstarter dust has settled, I wanted to get back around to discussing the remaining topics I had slated for marketing a Kickstarter project, specifically Facebook ads.
Just for the record, we did indeed succeed in funding our Kickstarter, with 108% funding. For my own part, after it was all done I had a heck of a time relaxing and getting out of Kickstarter mode. It’s quite a rush!
Today I wanted to talk a bit about our use of Facebook Ads. Facebook ads have definitely gotten a bad rap lately, and I can’t yet fully speak to their effectiveness in promoting a product. Honestly, I am not able to speak with absolute authority on their effectiveness in helping get Kickstarter money, as there is no way to really track where exactly the Kickstarter funders are coming from. But I can tell you the methods we did try, and the discernable results we did receive in marketing a kickstarter campaign. And they were significant, so hold tight! Maybe if you play your cards right, using Facebook can bring you some success, as well.
In short, I believe using Facebook ads to create an audience before a Kickstarter and to have one to speak to after the fact is the best use of it, and you can get a fairly large return for little investment. (Though I will note, recent and continuing changes in the way Facebook handles pages may make my own not so long past positive experiences on using ads obsolete. Take my input with a grain of salt and watch the horizon for additional changes in the Facebook landscape. I’ll chronicle my own experience, while also discussing the nature of the recent changes and how it could affect your choice to follow in my footsteps.)
There are a number of types of Facebook ads you can run, but I’m going to focus on three types: traditional ads to a third party site, ads for your Facebook page, and sponsored stories.
Overview of Ad Styles
(and My Experience on our Kickstarter Campaign)
Traditional third-party site ad
The user clicks the ad and is taken to a third party, non-Facebook site. In our case, we were linking to our Kickstarter campaign, though you might be linking to your own site. (If you are linking to your own site but promoting Kickstarter from there, I wouldn’t recommend it, as a user will be less likely from there to go to your Kickstarter page.)
There is no way to track the return on a link from Facebook to Kickstarter, but if you have another type of product you are selling on Facebook, you can create a custom landing page that viewers of this ad land on. This way you can track your return on investment directly through Google Analytics. However, for Kickstarter there’s not much you can do to track your return. For us, the only correlation I could make was between the targeted audience location for the ad and the countries that donors came from. (In our case there wasn’t a lot of return from this angle, as the country we were targeting did not result in many contributions… However, I think this is mostly explained by cultural differences, and I think in some cases that one could track in this way and find a decent, traceable return.)
Facebook Page Ad
In this model, the ad links to the Facebook page you connect it to. The prominent feature of this type of ad is that, if anyone in the user’s network has already clicked the ad and liked the page, the user will see their friend’s name associated with the ad. Also, the user can easily like the page through the ad itself without ever having to visit the page. The byproduct of this is that, now, the user will automatically see updates from the Facebook page in question in their feed (unless they are deliberately only viewing a feed with their own selected friends).
Wait, back up. So, the above good result is what we achieved, but some users are complaining that this is not the same as of some recent changes made by Facebook. Let me relay their experiences.
Facebook Changes How Page Posts Appear in Feeds
In recent weeks Facebook has made a major change in how Facebook pages show up in user feeds. Facebook page owners are noticing a dramatic drop in engagement and receiving reports that their posts are no longer showing up in feeds. Apparently, now a user who follows a page has to explicitly indicate that they want a page’s updates to show up in their feed, or the page owner has to pay for a sponsored story to ensure their posts are seen by all members of their audience.
This has resulted in a massive outcry from businesses, artists, musicians, and other users who make use of the Facebook page feature, as it results in making Facebook nigh on useless for this form of business connecting, and has forced many to return to the traditional personal page as a means of promoting their endeavors (which is impractical from a business standpoint due to the limits on friends you are allowed to have, and also from a standpoint of not being able to separate personal and business communications).
I am not sure what will happen in the future, but it seems inevitable to me that Facebook will have to alter this behavior in some way, unless there is a larger plan relating to forcing these users to pay out more money to promote their content. (Edit: There is… Check out this post on Danielle Ellwood’s site to find out more.) However, as a business decision it seems to me that the backlash they have received as a result of this policy change will inevitably lead to other changes to put a damper on the number of business users who are jumping ship because of the sudden seeming uselessness of their pages. And seeing the low return many businesses receive on Facebook ads, I can’t see many users shelling out the dough to pay for a sponsored story. We’ll see how it goes.
I will say, I have been watching our Facebook page and plenty of people seem to still be seeing our own stories and responding to them, and we haven’t been doing anything different than anyone else. I don’t know if our large audience of 800+ people gives us a greater edge. It’s possible that only a fraction of our audience is seeing stories versus what they saw before, but it’s hard to tell. Since we started getting the new and improved Facebook Insights, our posts seem to be showing up for between 15% and 35% of our audience, which seems like a pretty good number to me. But there’s no telling why we have those numbers… It could be that Facebook made all likes past a certain date automatically show up on feeds, and all likes after a certain date have to be manually added to the feed. It’s a mystery.
In my book, I’ll be sticking around on the Facebook pages and continuing to recommend them as reasonable options for any sort of business promotion for the time being. If you can get a lot of new likes, it seems like the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. But I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled to try to figure out what the real story is, and if Facebok is no longer the affordable social media business solution it once was.
Okay, back to the post-mortem.
We didn’t use sponsored stories at the time, but in retrospect I wish we had. It is similar to advertising a page, in that you will see if any of your friends liked the story. We could have thrown in a couple of sponsored stories into the mix, featuring particular, prominent posts within our Kickstarter journey, or just to get attention for the film itself.
Just to note, we did not try Google Ads, and the reason for this is that I did not feel that Google Ads would be a strategic match to a Kickstarter campaign. Google Ads are notoriously higher on return, and if we had just been trying to promote the film, that might have been a good one to experiment with. When the film starts to garner a bit more money, we might consider a more dedicated marketing budget, and it wouldn’t have hurt us to have worked on building our site’s audience in advance of our Kickstarter campaign. However, Google Ads do tend to cost more, and with our shoestring budget and our more grassroots, collaborative, and connection-oriented approach, Facebook seemed like the better choice.
What We Spent
I gave our campaign a total budget of $120, since I was paying out of my own pocket and very curious to test the Facebook ad waters. In the beginning I primarily posted a regular Facebook ad linking to our Kickstarter, but over time I gave more and more funding to our Facebook page ad, primarily to our Mexico-centric ad, as it got the most results. With Facebook ads you pick a bid amount, as you are competing in a pool of similar ads for space. Because I was paying per click instead of per impression, the cost on the bid was higher, but the clicks were minimal enough that it was fine for me to bid higher.
Overall, I think we spent about $93 of that on our Facebook page promotion. I think growing our audience by 600 people was totally worth it, especially since some of the returns we get from that endeavor are tangible to the success of our project as a whole.
Advertising Your Overall Endeavor vs. Advertising Your Kickstarter
You may think you’re just advertising your Kickstarter campaign, but what you’re really doing is building engagement for your project. And the sooner you can do this, the better. Building fan engagement before a Kickstarter is ideal, because then you have a ready-made audience to promote your Kickstarter to. Sadly I came to bat on the Facebook ads later than would have been ideal. Our Kickstarter launched right about the same time we had begun the process of creating our promotional materials… We had a relatively small budget to land with our Kickstarter endeavor, and the need for the team to travel soon was at the forefront of things, so there was no opportunity for us to prep. It ultimately worked out for us just fine, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone follow in our footsteps.
If I was to advise one thing, it would be to start sooner with your marketing. Once upon a time an easy way to do this would be to create a page for your project on Facebook, then create a Facebook Ad where people could easily “like” the page. That might be an approach still worth trying, if our example is anything to go on. If you are successful in getting enough likes you might still be able to break through the feed barrier.
Immediate vs. Long-Term Gains on Facebook Ads
We got 600-650 new fans from the “like ad” method, and we paid about $90 for the month for these ads. Not too shabby! Even with the recent FB changes in approach, having that many fans on a page looks good. We can show this to investors. And it’s the kind of thing that, the more you have, the more momentum you have. In a couple of months we are up to 800. If someone does catch one of our stories and shares it, then it is more likely to show up in feeds. In the world of Facebook, popularity counts. And, if you play your cards right, you can make more people aware of you, and increase your chances of catching the eye of someone in your tribe.
Note: If you want to increase your likes, make sure your cover image on your page is professional and compelling. Changing our image resulted in a dramatic increase in likes. Also, make sure your page looks active. If it’s only got a handful of posts, people are going to be less likely to be enthusiastic about it.
Our ad that went directly to the Kickstarter page got fewer clicks, but it was still pretty respectable. I think we had something like an overall 0.13% click through rate, which, from my reading, is okay (though you can imagine such a low number does contribute to the impression that for many Facebook is not a pragmatic choice for advertising). We were closer to 0.18% on our Mexico-centric ad, which is a much healthier total.
The Return on Investment
What was our return? Well, as you can guess, we can’t really answer that. We can surmise that a few people who found us from our ads and saw our Kickstarter promoted on our page did indeed contribute. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. What did we get out of it? Lots of connections. I created an ad targeted entirely to a Mexico audience, and this was the biggest success we had. Since our team’s fundraising was targeted on taking their first filming trip to Mexico, this was a logical choice. The audience in Mexico was hungry to learn more and many people made comments on the page, reached out to the team to offer tangible support, even if it wasn’t monetary. The team now has many more opportunities to connect with local derby teams on their upcoming trip, and lots of friends waiting to help them on the journey. There’s no scoffing the power of enthusiasm. How these initial efforts will pay off in other opportunities is anyone’s guess, but I am betting it will lead to something good. We have a healthy audience, now, and it will only grow more quickly with such a large fan base to seed it.
Ultimately, the gist is that advertising your project is of ultimate importance, and you shouldn’t neglect this before and during your Kickstarter. Especially before. Build momentum and make those connections. Give people something to get excited about. Then hit them up for support. You’ll probably have an even greater success than we did.
Next… I’ll talk a bit about how to put your Facebook ad together and some simple ways you can use Facebook’s demographic information to target your ad and refine it over your campaign.
CHECK OUT MY CURRENT KICKSTARTER: THE PORTLAND TAROT!
Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions, or want to share your own experiences.