The Negative Effects Of Engaging With Your Own Facebook Content (And The Impact On Long Term ROI)

Does liking your own Facebook page and/or posts increase your reach and help your marketing presence? Many “gurus” say it does. But if you are trying to build an effective marketing presence, it can actually hurt you in the long run.

Article Difficulty Level: Intermediate

One of the biggest “hacks” to increasing your organic Facebook reach has been around forever: “like” your own Facebook posts, and you’ll reach more people! It makes sense… or does it?

If you plan on ever possibly advertising on Facebook, this practice can cost you a lot of money in the long run.

In theory, here’s how it works: the Facebook algorithm ranks content higher that has more engagement. The earlier that engagement occurs, the more valuable it is. Therefore, a “like” right when you publish your post will give it a boost in the algorithm.

Early on, it made sense – and it usually worked. However, the tactic quickly became hotly debated. Many people that didn’t understand how the algorithm worked saw it as tacky and arrogant. Your name under your own post as a “like” may not seem odd to you, but it rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Because of the negative impression it gave out, many (or most) marketers ditched this tactic altogether.

Does the algorithmic benefit outweigh the damage done by coming across as a jerk? This has been a point of contention among social media marketers for years. On one side, some claim that any reach is good reach – while others insist that people will ultimately be less likely to engage with content that they see as unprofessional, lowering your engagement in the long run.
Based on the introduction to this post, you probably assume I side with the latter group. However, I oppose the “liking” of your own posts (and even your own Facebook Page) for entirely different reasons.

Before I go any further, I should specify that my advice is designed primarily for small and local business owners, like a gourmet bakery, or business owners with a larger geographic audience but a very narrow demographic one, like online jewelry sales.

That being said, let’s go ahead and get the two issues from above out of the way. What impact do these factors have in 2018? Some things to consider:

 

  1. The algorithm has grown up. As time has gone on, the Facebook news feed algorithm has become increasingly complex. Facebook has invested countless dollars into identifying and penalizing spammy behavior. While I have no direct evidence to support this, I personally believe based on my own experience that Facebook specifically negated the effect of your own interactions with your posts on the algorithm some time ago. This means (if true) that any engagement you make with your own posts is specifically banned from having any effect. This may or may not be the case, but at the end of the day, there’s no conclusive proof that it still works, either.
  1. You still look like a jerk. Even more so than years ago, liking your own post still comes across as a total dick move to anyone that doesn’t know why you’re doing it. It significantly impacts the quality of your post at a time when first impressions mean everything.

 

Now, let’s move on to the more technical (yet far more helpful) reasons why liking your own content is a bad idea. I’ll go a step farther: you shouldn’t even like your own Facebook Page… unless you are also part of your business’ target market. Why? Lookalike audiences.

As I’ve discussed elsewhere on this blog, Lookalike Audiences are currently the best method of reaching new people, hands down. Basically, a Lookalike Audience is equivalent to you telling Facebook, “Hey. See those people right there? Find me the 1% of the total population that is most similar to those people.” Lookalike audiences can be based on page likes, engagements, website visitors, video viewers, and more. Learn more about Lookalike Audiences here.

Facebook’s algorithm is extremely good with Lookalike Audiences. It accomplishes this by finding common denominators. With tens of thousands of data points on every user, this is easy for Facebook to do. Facebook looks at the audience you are starting with and sees what those people have in common. It then looks at the whole population and finds the people that have the most data points in common with your people.
This can save you thousands of dollars in research and testing. Even if you don’t know who your ideal customer is, Facebook can find out, with very little effort.

Here’s the problem, though. LLAs only work if your core audience is undiluted. If you want to create a lookalike audience based off of your current page likes but half of your followers are not your ideal customer, then it won’t work. Those people’s attributes will get thrown into the mix, and the Lookalike Audience won’t end up looking at all like your ideal customer. Your ads will be inefficient and costly.

Facebook ad marketers that are smart, experienced, and educated understand something: it takes time. The audiences you build when you first start out will be the basis for the audiences you’ll use all the way down the line. If you dilute your audience when you first create your page, you may never reach anything close to peak advertising efficiency. You’ll always have a relatively large subset of the people seeing your stuff that would never consider being your customers.

In a world where we are capable of only ever advertising to our potential customers, it makes no sense to waste money on anyone else. With a little patience and preparation, you can knock the socks off of your long term marketing presence.

So, back to the problem at hand. As I said earlier, unless you are in your page’s target audience, you should make sure you never like your page or any of your posts. Hopefully, that makes more sense now.
Here’s an example.

You own or are marketing a small gourmet bakery. Your ideal customer is 25-45 year old married women with at least one kid. You, however, are a 20 year old single male. If you launch your page with yourself as a like, and try to create a Lookalike Audience as soon as possible (at 100 page likes), your attributes will dilute the audience by 1%. The audience Facebook creates for you may now include some 20 year old men. That’s a gross oversimplification of how it works, but it illustrates the process.
1% may not seem like a lot, but it’s statistically significant – and if you can save 1% or more on your overall Facebook ad costs for the entire lifetime of your business just by not liking your own page, why wouldn’t you?

This brings up an important point: don’t invite all of your friends to like your page. More on this in a second.

I know what you’re probably thinking. If you can’t like your own page or invite anyone to like it that is outside your target audience, how do you grow?

Patience.

You can’t rush this. There used to be a time where you could quickly and effectively grow a business on Facebook, because all the customers were there but few of the businesses were. Now, you are competing for that attention with every other business owner out there. There is SO much content on Facebook, and only a limited number of posts can be seen by everyone each day. You need to have a long term plan early on, and practice patience.

Let’s talk numbers for a second.

A week after your page launch, if you’re a small business, 15 quality page fans is better than 150 you got from inviting everyone on your friends list. I’d rather have 100 page likes with 95+ of them in my target audience, than 10,000 page likes with 1,000 of them (10%) in my target audience. 1,000 may sound better than 95, but if you are ever hoping to use effective ad strategies for your page, it will hurt you a lot in the long run. If I wanted to grow that page with advertising, and only 1,000 of my 10,000 fans were in my target audience, I’d be wasting 90 cents or more of every dollar that I spent on ads to Lookalike Audiences. In fact, once a page becomes that diluted, it’ll be nearly impossible to recover. There are advanced tactics that can help out, but it’s expensive and time consuming.

Don’t get caught up with your page likes number. It doesn’t matter if your competition has ten times as many likes as you. If you’re doing it the right way and they aren’t, you’ll see far more return on your investment in the long run.

At the end of the day, likes that don’t (or never could) translate into dollars actually take dollars out of your pocket.

This is a common mistake many business owners make. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do giveaway contests… If your giveaway is pulling in page likes from people that are outside your target market, then you are hurting your business – not helping it. Make sure the prize and messaging will bring people in that are potential customers.

Think of it this way: every interaction by an actual potential customer on your page is $1/year in your pocket. Every interaction by someone who would never buy something from you is $1/year out of your pocket. With that in mind, constantly ask yourself whether or not what you’re doing on Facebook will make your total $/year go up or down.

Side note: everything said here applies to Instagram as well, as it is owned by Facebook and uses the same advertising platform.

Lookalike audiences are the most effective way to expand your business on Facebook. Don’t ruin them.

Questions or feedback? Comment below. I’ll try to respond when I get a chance.

Here’s where I make a sales pitch, right? Nah. I’m just a nerd that likes to write. You can’t hire me, I’m far too busy already.

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Target Individual Buildings With Facebook Ads (Walk-Through)

Do you frequently have booths at large events? Do you want to target your competitor’s brick and mortar business? Learn how to run targeted Facebook ads only within a single building or city block. 

Article Difficulty Level: Intermediate. Designed for people with a moderate grasp of the Facebook Ads Manager. This is the detailed walk-through I promised for the concepts outlined in my article about Geographic Microtargeting.

Facebook is a fantastic tool for reaching very specific audiences with very specific messages. The platform has transformed the advertising industry, giving us abilities that we’ve never before dreamed possible. However, if you ask the vast majority of Facebook ad “experts” if you can target people inside a specific building with targeted ads, they’ll give you a resounding “no.”

They are wrong. 

Prominent Facebook Ad Expert Jon Loomer published a stellar and very detailed article on his blog his week on Location Targeting, written by a guy named Lucas Elliot. Generally speaking, I’d recommend Jon Loomer’s stuff to anyone looking to dive deep into the Facebook Ads Manager. However, in this particular article, the statement is made that “You can target very broad (as broad as the entire globe) or very specific (down to a one-mile radius of a pin drop) locations.” This is not technically correct.

The one-mile radius restriction is a common myth. 

When creating an audience, you have a number of ways to narrow it geographically. I’d recommend reading the article on Jon Loomer’s blog that I linked to above for a full list of ways you can do this. I’ll only be going over what you need to know to target individual buildings. For what we are doing, we’ll need to know how to target individual addresses, then how to narrow our targeting beyond the 1-mile radius restriction. Let’s get started.

First, load Facebook on your desktop or laptop. This will not work on a tablet or smartphone – unless you specifically instruct your browser to load the desktop version of a page. Even then, most of this tutorial will be effectively impossible on a mobile device. Navigate to the drop down menu on the top right corner of the page. If you’ve never created ads in the Ads Manager before, you’ll see “Create Ads” as an option. If you have run Facebook ads before through the Ads Manager, you’ll have “Manage Ads” visible as well. Select whichever one is relevant to you.

Note: As mentioned at the beginning of this article, this is designed for people with an intermediate or higher level understanding of the Ads Manager. I’ll try to explain most steps as I go since I never know what any individual does or does not know, but there may be information you’ll have to figure out by yourself if you’ve never run a Facebook ad before. 

(3) Facebook - Edited

 

This will take you to the Facebook Ads Manager.

If you’ve never run ads before, you may need to provide Facebook some basic information at this point before you proceed. Once you’ve done that, or if you’ve run ads before, you will want to navigate to the Audiences section of your Ads Manager next. You can do this by clicking the three horizontal lines in the top left corner of your Ads Manager and navigating to “Audiences” in the menu that drops down.

Screenshot from 2018-08-31 19-18-27

Your Audience Manager should look like this (but empty if you haven’t used it before):

Screenshot from 2018-08-31 19-21-10

Oddly enough, once you navigate to the Audiences section, it will show up as “Asset Library” on the top left. 

Now, let’s set up your audience. Click the blue “Create Audience” button. From the drop down, select “Saved Audience.”

Screenshot from 2018-08-31 19-24-05

Always create your audiences beforehand, no matter what strategy you are using. I strongly recommend against setting your audiences up when you create your ad. This allows for much easier editing of multiple ad sets using the same targeting, it allows you to stay much more organized, and it reduces the risk of accidentally deleting an Ad Set and losing your work. It also makes sure that Facebook has ample time to crunch the data it needs in order to have your audience ready when you need it.

For the purposes of this tutorial, I will only go over the Geographic section of this next screen. Facebook Audiences can be an entire college course in and off themselves, there are so many options. Facebook has an average of 10,000 data points on every user, and you can target most of them (well, until Interest Targeting was gutted last week). You can set the rest of your targeting to whatever you want, but I will caution that, using this technique, you will already be working with a very small audience, so narrowing it any further may make it hard for your ads to display.

Right now, you should be looking at this:

Screenshot from 2018-08-31 19-35-48

In the middle of the screen, you have a “Locations” box. First, change “People who live in this location” to “Everyone in this location.” Unless, of course, you are intentionally targeting a residential area for roofing ads or something like that.

Next, click your cursor in the box that says “Type to add more locations.” As soon as you do this, a map will appear, with the country you are currently in already highlighted.

Asset Library - Edited (6)

If you know the address of where you are targeting – or even a nearby address, enter that into the box. That will zoom you into the area where we will be working. For my example, I will be using the Arthur Outlaw Convention Center in Mobile, Alabama, USA. I attended a convention here once and have actually targeted this facility before. So, I do a quick Google for the address, type it into the Locations box, and hit “Enter.” Once it has selected the location, hover over it in the box above and change the radius to the minimum of one mile.

This is what it should look like:

Asset Library - Edited - Edited

This strategy works best for buildings/facilities that are at least one city block in size. As mentioned in my article on Geographic Microtargeting, there is a margin of error here. It’s not perfect – but it’s a lot better than anything else out there. You may end up catching some people driving by on the road, but that’s life.

Zoom in until you can clearly tell where your building is. If the location pin placed by Facebook is in the middle of the building, great! You can skip this step. If it is not in the middle of the building, click “Drop Pin” and place it in the middle of the building. Adjust your radius to one mile. Then, hover over the first location in the box on top, and delete it. It should look like this:

Asset Library - Edited.gif

Now we get to the fun part! 

I said earlier that the one-mile minimum radius is a myth. Now you are about to find out what I meant. We are now going to shrink your radius down until it encompasses only the building you are trying to target. We are going to accomplish this using exclusion zones.

In my article about Geographic Microtargeting, I describe exclusion zones:

Exclusion zones are a not-as-well-known feature of Facebook’s geographic targeting. It’s not used very often. For most people, it’s really only useful when you’re targeting a radius around a city but want to exclude other states or cities that your radius might overlap, due to the phrasing in your copy.

Let’s get started. 

Roughly measure the distance between your pin and the outside of your building. If you’re not good at eyeballing this, you can use a ruler on your screen. Move to the edge of your radius, and drop a new pin outside your existing radius that is the distance you just measured outside, and set the radius of the new pin to one mile.

Like this:

Asset Library - Edited (1)

Now, set that new zone as an Exclusion Zone by either hovering over it in the top box and clicking the downwards-pointing arrow, or by clicking on the pin.

Like this:

Asset Library - Edited (4)

Now, repeat this step. Set at least 4 exclusion radii around your original radius. I recommend setting around 8. Once you get used to this step, you can create fairly precise shapes around your buildings by adding in a bunch of exclusion radii. When you are done it should look like this:

Screenshot from 2018-08-31 20-26-41

Don’t be afraid to drop pins. You can always drop another one alongside it and delete the first one. There is no *reasonable* limit to the number of pins you can drop (I think it’ll cap you at 100).

Make sure you zoom in on your building and verify that the exclusion radii don’t overlap the building, but are close enough that they avoid any major highways as much as possible. You can easily spend 20-30 minutes on this step the first few times you set it up.

That’s the hard part! Name your audience, and save it.

Now, create your Campaign and Ad Set. In your Ad Set settings, you’ll select the Saved Audience that you created. Since I’m assuming you are familiar with the Ads Manager, I won’t go over creating ads, but this is how you select a Saved Audience:

Ads Manager - Creation - Edited

VOILA!

A couple notes about content:

  1. This strategy allows you to use VERY specific content. Take advantage of that! If you’re at a convention, for instance, address the attendees directly. This will be very effective, trust me.
  2. Use video. This will make Retargeting and creating Lookalike Audiences MUCH easier and more effective in the future. Click the links above to read my articles on those topics.

That concludes this tutorial. What did you think? I’d love your feedback. Let me know how this works out for you! Post any questions you have in the comments of this article.

Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog for more awesome free content like this in the future!

FAQ:

Q1: “Facebook is telling me that the audience is too small for my ads to display. What do I do?

A1: Ignore Facebook. That’s a caution message, not an error message. It exists because 99.999% of ads being created this way are intended to target larger audiences, so they add that in there in case people accidentally narrow their audience too far. I’ve never had a problem pushing past this message, but if you do have an issue, comment on this article and I’ll see if I can’t diagnose your problem.

Q2: “My ads aren’t displaying! They are approved and my budget is high, but they aren’t running. What do I do?

A2: In my experience, these ads take a while to start running sometimes. Make sure you set up the Campaign and Ad Set that you intend on using well before you need it, and have content already submitted and approved before the event begins. If your ads still aren’t running, remove all additional narrowing criteria that you’ve added in the audience and see if that helps.

Q3: “My CPA (Cost Per Action) is high! What is happening?”

A3: It might be high. That’s fine. The goal is not to get cheap clicks or engagements. The objective here is to get highly relevant clicks and engagements. Don’t get too caught up in metrics, because these clicks are far more valuable than the ones you are used to getting.

I’ll add more FAQ questions to this article as time goes on – have a question? Ask it in the comments! If I get it more than once, I’ll add it and the answer to this post. 

What Is A Lookalike Audience (LLA)?

What is a Facebook Ads Lookalike Audience? How is this targeting option transforming the digital advertising landscape? How can you use it for your business? An expert explains. 

Article Difficulty Level: Intermediate

I do a lot of one-on-one Facebook Ad training sessions with business owners, and one of my favorite things to do is go over the ads that they have already run before they came to me. I have yet to see a single business owner using Lookalike Audiences  (also known as an “LLA”) when I first review their performance to date. I love seeing the gears turn and their eyes slowly widen as I explain what a Lookalike Audience is and what they can do with it.

Lookalike Audiences are a very complicated animal, but they can be explained fairly easily. Basically, you are taking a core group of people that you’ve generated through an online activity, and telling Facebook to find a certain percentage (between 1 and 10%) of all people in a specific country that are MOST similar to that core audience. Then, you can narrow that down further with other forms of targeting, such as geographic.

FOR EXAMPLE: You have a booth at a large convention. You use Geographic Microtargeting to target ONLY the people inside the convention with a short live video of you in front of your booth inviting them to come check you out. 200 people watch that video. Using Lookalike Audiences, you then begin to run ads to the 50,000 people in your state that are MOST similar to those 200 people. The best part? All of this happens automatically. No more guessing what your ideal demographic is.

How does this work? 

Facebook has an average of 10,000 data points on every single one of its users – including you. They don’t just have what you give them. They buy large amounts of data from third party groups – like credit card companies. They attach your info with those companies to your info on Facebook to build a comprehensive profile on you. Lookalike Audiences takes the common denominators in your core group, and finds everyone else in the country with those common denominators.

You can easily create Lookalike Audiences. Simply go to your Ads Manager on Facebook on your desktop by clicking the drop down menu on the top right of your page and selecting “Manage Ads”. If you’ve never run ads before, you’ll need to select “Create Ads” instead and go through some basic setup steps before being able to run ads. In order to keep this post as relevant as possible, I will be assuming that everyone reading this article has a basic understanding of how the Ads Manager works. In the top left corner of your Ads Manager, click the drop down menu and select Audiences. You’ll need to create a Custom Audience first – this is your core audience. Select “Create Audience” and “Custom Audience.” You should see this pop-up:

Screenshot from 2018-08-25 18-23-50

You have several options for creating a Custom Audience. You can use a customer file, website traffic using Pixel data, app activity, offline activity, and engagement. Most people will only ever use the customer file, website traffic, and engagement options. Offline activity is still being rolled out as of the publishing of this article, and app activity is only useful for developers. I’ll refrain from going through a detailed step-by-step instruction at this point, although I’ll try to come back and do that later when I have more time.

Once you’ve created your Custom Audience, go back to your Audiences section, select “Create Audiences” again, but this time select “Lookalike Audience.” In this screen, you’ll select the Custom Audience that you just created as the source, and pick your geographic area and how wide you want the audience to be. Always start off with a small number and exhaust that audience before expanding. You can always come back and create a larger audience later, so I recommend starting with 1% or 2% for your initial test run. However, the exception to this rule is this: if you plan to run your ads to a very small geographic area, you should raise this number higher. Otherwise, you may not have enough people in your target audience to have any significant impact

 

Screenshot from 2018-08-25 18-29-34

Don’t worry about the lack of detailed geographic targeting. You can still set that at the Ad Set level. Keep in mind though, that when you narrow your audience down geographically in the Ad Set level, or by creating a Saved Audience, this will select the people that are in your Lookalike Audience that are also in that geographic area. It will NOT select the 1% (or 2% or whatever you set it at) of people in that geographic area that share common denominators with your Custom Audience. I say this so that you won’t be confused when the numbers of people selected in that area are far larger or smaller than the percentage that you set in your Lookalike Audience relative to the number of people total in that geographic area.

FOR EXAMPLE: Let’s say that you have a well-established plumbing business with 2,000 customer e-mail addresses in your database. Now, assuming that all 2,000 of those have opted-in to receiving communications from you, you can upload that list to Facebook and create a lookalike audience off of them. Since you’re a local company, you set the LLA at 10%. You drop a pin on your business location and say you want to advertise to a 50-mile radius. Now, instead of 1,000,000 people, you are targeting the, say, 120,000 people who are most like your existing customers – without having to do any research into who those customers actually are. You can now run ads to those people without wasting any money on the rest of the population – only spending your resources where you know they’ll be the most effective.

Lookalike Audiences are powerful. They allow you to dynamically expand your current customer, engagement, or visitor base into a larger group of potential customers. This ensures that your digital advertising budget will be spent efficiently and that your engagement rates will be high – providing, of course, that your messaging is on point.

Questions? Feedback? Comment below. I’d love to hear from you.