Stats that Explode the Myth that Facebook Promoted Posts Suck. (Maybe)

Image credit: The Guardian

With Facebook becoming an increasingly pay-to-play platform for brands, Page administrators are often left with little choice but to use the promoted posts function in order to reach the very people who’ve signed up to get their news and updates. Promoted posts are widely rounded upon for being extortionately expensive, especially when compared to standard Facebook CPC/CPM advertising. I’ve not exactly shied away from vocalising my own irritation at this state of affairs, but the fact is that Facebook’s not about to reverse its business model anytime soon, so for some brands at least, it’s a case of suck it up and get on with it.

But over the last couple of weeks I’ve been running a small combined advertising/promoted posts campaign for a client in support of a specific on-page initiative. And it’s revealed something very interesting: promoted posts may be expensive in a true cost sense, but in an ROI sense, they beat CPC/CPM advertising hands down. In fact, they outperform the advertising model in just about every metric you care to measure. So maybe they don’t suck quite as much as you think they do?

Take a look at the following data:

Promoted Post Performance

Some of this is predictable. We know, for example, that promoted posts are significantly more expensive than advertising when it comes to reach, so you’d expect that the cost per thousand impressions (CPM) would be a lot higher. And indeed it is, incredibly so. Equally, as promoted posts target existing fans and friends-of-fans rather than ‘strangers’, you’d expect the click through rate (CTR) to be much greater and, therefore, the cost per click (CPC) to be lower. But I was surprised by the degree to which this is true. The CTR is in the region of 4000% greater for promoted posts, and the CPC is exactly half that of advertising.

This already reveals something about the ROI of the different pay models on Facebook. But it’s the other metrics that really stunned me when I compared them. Despite the fact that promoted posts are targeted in part at existing fans, whereas (in this campaign) advertising is targeted completely at non-fans, the cost per new fan (CPL) for promoted posts is less than a third of the cost of advertising! So which performs best for acquiring new fans? Promoted posts.

Furthermore, the cost per action (page likes, post likes, comments, shares etc) for promoted posts is less than 10% of that of advertising! You get ten times as much engagement from promoted posts in the 28 days following the promotion than you do from advertising. So not only do promoted posts attract more fans than advertising, but they also seem to attract fans who are more likely to engage with the brand, rather than click the Like button and then disappear, never to be seen or heard from again.

So yes, promoted posts are expensive. You can reach an incredible 30 times more people with advertising for the same money. But in terms of what matters, ROI, promoted posts are clearly superior.

Or am I missing something? What are your experiences of promoted posts?

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Posted by Paul Sutton

  • Jim Septic

    Nothing like using one data point to “explode the myth” eh? Learn some stats! Also, aside from the sample size issue, there’s no evidence in this post for the statement the “ROI is clearly superior”, unless the marketing world has finally lost its head and believes a Like is tantamount to revenue.

    • Paul Sutton

      Criticism of sample size accepted: I do state that it’s one campaign not a complete trend. That said, I’ve seen this repeated on other campaigns, so I’d love to get some others’ input from their own experience, yourself included, Jim.

      And yes, maybe my phrasing of ROI isn’t quite correct either. My point is really that most of the talk around promoted posts is of the cost, not of the value. But it seems to me as though, although they are expensive, they’re more valuable than the conventional advertising model.

  • Nitter Natter (@NitterNatter)

    This is at the very least a provocative post.

    One where I’m now going to dig deeper and evaluate how Nitter Natter as an agency deals with Facebook spend. We’ve also seen good results with promoted posts and have felt that adverts have delivered a less relevant demographic than the ‘safer’ posts route.

    Much to consider.

    Chris Hall, Nitter Natter.

    • Paul Sutton

      Well Chris, you know me – if I can provoke thought and/or debate, I’m happy! Would love to find out the results of your own analysis.

  • Adam – Founder of Sexy Confidence

    I totally agree and have seen higher ROI on promoted posts than on side bar adverts.

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