(For those of you only here for the tutorial, please scroll down until you see "THE TUTORIAL".)
As a self-published author, I must be both a weaver of tales and a marketer of books. The latter part makes a lot of people want to slit their wrists, but I rather enjoy it. I enjoy facing challenges and overcoming them. I enjoy learning new things. Hell, I even enjoy the fact that so many of my peers hate it so much. I've brought this up before, but it's worth repeating.
Every new thing you learn puts you on a higher tier than those who haven't learned it. The more difficult the thing was to learn, the higher above that tier.
One day, I'll make that a little snappier and more succinct, and put it on a poster.
Currently, I'm trying to better understand how to effectively use Facebook ads. I invite you to join me on this quest of discovery.
A few years ago, when Facebook started scaling back the percentage of people who would see any particular post someone put up on their Facebook business page, a lot of people running such pages were understandably pissed. I was one of them.
"Now I have to PAY Facebook for people to see what I post?"
"What a shameless money grab!"
"How dare they!"
But after taking some time to think about it, I could understand Facebook's reasons for doing that.
Facebook wants their users to have as enjoyable an experience as possible so that they keep coming back. Our shitty ads clogging up people's feeds make the experience less enjoyable. So by putting a price on that exposure, fewer ads show up on people's feeds, and Facebook makes huge piles of cash from those who are willing to fork it over.
And the best part is that if you post something that people enjoy, whether it's an ad or not, Facebook will show it to a higher percentage of people. I've made announcements about new book releases that have reached thousands of people without me ever having spent a dime on them. The more likes, shares, comments, and other miscellaneous engagement a post gets, the more Facebook recognizes that you're not just spamming people with shitty content.
That's a useful way to test your images and ad copy as well for when you are ready to lay down some cash.
And there's actually a benefit to Facebook making us pay to play. Very similar to what I mentioned before about learning new shit, the fewer people who are willing to pay for ads, the better chance your ads have of getting seen by more people. By ponying up, you're on a higher tier than those who refuse to.
And those two tier theories stack. From top to bottom we have...
People willing to pay money for ads and willing to learn how to make them as effective as possible.
People willing to pay money for ads, but not willing to take the time to learn how to make effective ones..
People not willing to pay for ads.
Mark Dawson, the world's foremost authority on using Facebook ads to sell books, offers a course on the subject. And a lot of people, perhaps most notably Adam Croft, have enjoyed great success from enrolling in said course.
I have not taken the course, for three reasons.
1. I'm too cheap.
2. I'm concerned that the effectiveness of his methods may be diluted now that so many other people have taken the course.
3. I still might take the course some day, but haven't yet gotten around to it.
One could argue, by my own theories, that I'm on a lower tier than those who have taken the course. And I concede one makes a very good point. But that's neither here nor there right now. For now I'm just figuring this shit out as I go along, taking one feature at a time and hypothesizing about how it might work best for me.
For my latest experiment, I thought 'What strengths do I have that other authors lack?'
1. I write comedy. Comedy is an effective and time-honored advertising strategy for whatever you're selling. It can be seen on billboards and television commercials trying to sell anything from vodka to luxury vehicles. How much more effective should it be if what I'm trying to sell is MORE GODDAMN COMEDY?
2. I have a shit-ton of short stories, many of which have funny titles and eye-catching images on their covers.
Running ads for short stories might seem like a stupid waste of money, especially when they're as overpriced as mine are (if you're buying them individually and not during a Kindle Countdown promotion).
But what if...
The Hypothesis: Instead of dumping a lot of money into one ad for the first book in my series, what if I dumped smaller amounts of money into smaller ads ostensibly for individual short stories, but all leading to the ebooks page on my website, where the whole collection can be viewed in all its glory?
If a potential customer sees the title "Shipfaced", he or she might keep scrolling. If that same person later sees "Cornholed", they might pause a little longer. If later on they see "Genital Harpies", well you get the idea. My goal is that sooner or later they'll stop and think the thought which every penny I spend on advertising is meant to get people to think. "Who the fuck is this Robert Bevan guy?"
Since all ads lead to the same ebooks page, the customer can look over all the titles, perhaps decide to take a chance on Critical Failures (since it's only $0.99), and decide later if they'd like to continue on with the series. Or they might decide, based on the abundance of wonderful reviews, that they'd rather save some money down the line by buying the first four-book bundle. Or hell, maybe they'll decide that they just really really want to start off with "The Unwashed Asses". I don't give a fuck, as long as they're buying my shit.
Theory time's over. In the interest of snagging some clicks from people who are intimidated by the seemingly daunting task of making a Facebook advertisement, I've decided to demonstrate the nuts and bolts of the process with a step-by-step tutorial.
I know that when I find a task intimidating, I appreciate having it explained to me like I'm the dumbest motherfucker to ever have walked the earth, so I'll offer you that same courtesy. Step 1 is to click on the "Ads Manager" hyperlink.
For whatever reason, I can never seem to find it on my author page, so I go to my main profile. Don't worry, you'll still be running the ad from your business page. You should be able to find the link on the left-hand column of your screen. It looks like this...
In the upper-right corner of your screen, there should be a green button that says "Create Ad". Click it.
Now it gets a little more complicated. You have to choose an objective for your campaign. With so many choices on the next screen that pops up, you may find yourself asking...
Relax. I don't know what most of that is either. (Remember, this isn't Mark Dawson's paid course. This is a bare-bones tutorial you're reading for free on my shitty blog.) For our purposes, we're going to click on "Traffic".
Down at the bottom of the screen, you'll have the option to name your campaign just above the "Continue" button. The default name will be "Traffic", which is fine. But if you're planning to run a few different ad campaigns, or just to do some experimenting, I recommend typing in a name that will help you remember what you're doing. Maybe something like the title of the book you're advertising and the date you're running the ad. Whatever works best for you.
When you're happy with your ad campaign's name, click the "Continue" button below.
Holy shit there's a lot going on here on this next page. But take it easy. We'll tackle this beast one step at a time. The first part's pretty simple. You need to choose whether you want to direct traffic to a website or an app. I don't know dick about apps, so we're going to direct our traffic to a website. It can be like mine, a page on your website where all of your books are displayed, or it can be a particular book's Amazon page. Just like it says in the screenshot below, we'll be entering the URL in a later step.
You really don't have to do anything at all here. Keep the default "Website or Messenger" option checked. And I don't know what that "Offer" bullshit is down below it, so let's just leave that turned off.
Here's where we start to target our audience. This is one of the trickiest parts to get right. But the beginning is simple enough. We want to sort out our audience by nationality, language, age, and gender.
You can see your potential reach on the right. My advice at this point is to not narrow down your audience too much, because we still have some more narrowing to do in the next couple of steps.
My books are in English, so there's not much point in adding any other languages.
I keep the location specific to the Amazon marketplace my URL is going to link to. That's usually the United States. It doesn't do a Canadian much good to click on my amazon.com link when they shop on Amazon via amazon.ca. If I were more ambitious (which I might be in the future), I would consider running separate ads for each Amazon region. But I'd like to get a better mastery of the basics before I start getting fancy.
That leaves us with gender and age. These are the areas I recommend keeping a little broader than you might be inclined to. Given that I write books about gamers shitting themselves in a fantasy world, one might expect them to be such a big hit with the ladies. One would be wrong. The same goes for age. Give folks a chance to surprise you. If it's not working out, you can always come back and tweak things later.
This is where we define our audience by their interests and behaviors. You really want to pay attention to this part.
The part we're focused on here is circled in red. Detailed Targeting. I didn't crop it too closely because we're also going to want to pay attention to that Audience Definition box on the right.
This looks straightforward enough. You just type keywords in there that you think people who will want to buy your shit are interested in. That much is true, but there's a little more to it than that.
My books are meant to appeal to old-school tabletop gamers. So I'll begin by typing in "Dungeons and Dragons". Let's see what happens.
Compare this image to the image above. You'll notice that we've moved from a potential reach of 220,000,000 people to only 2,800,000. That's still quite a few people, and we'll add to this potential reach as we add more interests, but don't get too excited just yet.
Another difference in the two images is that under the Detailed Targeting box, we now have options to Exclude People and Narrow Audience, whereas before we only had the Exclude people option. We'll be making use of the Narrow Audience option, so let's add a few more interests to bulk up our Potential Reach before we start chopping away at it.
I'm going to add a bunch of interests that I think people who would enjoy my books are likely to also enjoy.
So now I've added a bunch of interests, including gaming-related stuff, comedy-related stuff, and a few other authors who write in similar genres as me and who are big enough names for Facebook to recognize, and some of their books. As you can see, I've driven my Potential reach up to 12,000,000 people. Yay!
Now let's get rid of some of those fuckers.
Click on "Narrow Audience" just below the Detailed Targeting box. A new field will open under the one in which you just typed in your interests.
Since my primary goal is to sell books, and my URL will be leading people to my ebook page, I'm going to type in "Kindle eReader" and "Kindle Fire".
There's a lot to take in here, but it's not as overwhelming as it seems. I'll give you the things I want you to notice in an easily digestible numbered list.
1. Notice that the entries "Kindle eReader" and "Kindle Fire" are both behaviors, rather than interests. I don't give a shit if someone is interested in Kindles. I give plenty of shits, however, about people who use them.
2. I hovered my mouse over the information icon next to "and MUST also match at least ONE of the following". Facebook gives you a nice little Venn diagram here which explains what I'm doing better than I could in words.
You can do this as many times as you like, getting more and more specific each time you bring up a new Narrow Audience field. I've experimented with separating the gamer-centric interests from the author-centric interests, then again by the Kindle behaviors, so that the people I'm targeting must be interested in at least one of the gamer interests AND at least one of the author interests AND use a Kindle device. Play around with it a bit. Get a feel for it. But take care not to get too specific though, because...
3. Finally, notice that my Potential Reach has been cut down to 660,000. Ouch!
I cut out a pretty big chunk of my Potential Reach, but 660,000 people is still a pretty decent number to work with.
Now let's get rid of just a few more...
Just below the Detailed Targeting section, there's a small section called "Connections". This features a drop-down menu with a number of options. Here I'm going to choose to exclude people who like my Facebook page. Those people already know about my books, and I don't need them costing me money by clicking on my ads.
Scrolling down a bit, we come to the Placements section. Here we're going to choose where people can see our ads.
Facebook recommends that you allow Automatic Placements. And if you're just starting out with Facebook ads, I recommend you follow their recommendations.
But for the experiment I'm running, I'm going to tell Facebook's recommendation to go fuck itself and click the circle next to "Edit Placements".
Then I'll continue to piss in the face of Amazon's reasonable suggestions by choosing "Desktop Only" and un-checking the box for "Right Column".
Remember, for the purposes of my experiment, the ebooks page of my website is what I want people to see, and it looks much better on a computer screen than it does on a phone screen. As for the "Right Column" thing, I just like people seeing my ads in their regular feed, where it can be more easily mistaken for a regular Facebook post.
As you can see on the right, I've chopped my Potential Reach right in half. That may not be something you want to do. Hell, it might even be a bad idea for me. Such is the nature of experimentation.
When you think you have a pretty good audience set up, you have the option to save it for later use, or for further tweaking. If you're planning to run more than one ad to a similar set of people, this can save you a shitload of time.
Now we're going to set our budget. I recommend starting with a small budget until you get a feel for what you're doing and what's working for you. The minimum daily budget you can set is $5. Since what I'm doing is highly experimental, and since part of the experiment involves running a bunch of ads simultaneously, five bucks a day is plenty enough for me.
There are a bunch of other options here as well. If you think you might forget about your ad, you may want to set a start and end date so that you're not throwing money into the void indefinitely. Myself, I fiddle with my ads pretty regularly, so I'm not likely to forget they're running. So I choose the "Run my ad set continuously starting today" option.
If you look at the "Bid Amount" options, you'll see that you can choose "Manual" to set a maximum Cost Per Click (CPC) on your ads. I recommend leaving it set to Automatic. If you're consistently getting too high a CPC, it's a good indication that you're running a shitty ad, and that's information you need to know.
There are some other options there as well, but I never bother with any of that shit. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and name your Ad Set (This is just a subset of your Campaign, so name it accordingly.)
Finally, we get to hit "Continue" and actually make the goddamn ad.
Choose your format. For me, this is a no-brainer. I always choose single image. If you want to try something fancier, go for it. I'm not here to tell you how to live your life.
This is the first fun thing we get to do. We're going to select an image for the ad. Choose something appropriate for your books. Get creative. Hire an artist if you've got bread to throw around. This is the image I use for my longest-running and most successful ad campaign to date.
That was a product of me brainstorming with the talented John Luther Davis, who I'd previously hired to draw me up a cover for Space Puppies, my science-fiction space opera masterpiece.
Two things to keep in mind about your ad image.
1. Images should be 1200 x 628 pixels.
2. Facebook his this weird hangup about text on the image, which has occasionally been a pain in the ass for me when I try to use images from my covers, which have a lot of dice on them. Facebook's asshole robots recognize the numbers on the dice as text, and give me shit about it.
Here's the image I'll be using for the purpose of this tutorial. It's a cropped out section of the cover for my short story, ZOMBIE ATTACK!!!
The ad copy. This may be the single most difficult to get right, especially since you'll never know it's right until it starts getting you some cheaper CPC action.
As you fill in the fields on the left, the preview on the right will show you what your ad will look like. It'll look something like this...
I'll explain the fields from top to bottom.
1. Connect Facebook Page: Pretty straightforward. This is the page which is hosting the ad. You'll notice that people are given the option to like your page straight from the ad, so bonus points for that.
2. Destination: This is where you'll finally get to put in the URL which people will be directed to when they click on your ad. A lot of folks recommend minimizing the number of hops people have to take before being able to buy your shit and linking directly to the Amazon page. And they make a good point. But I'm experimenting, so I'm taking them to the ebook page on my website.
3. Headline: This will appear in large print just below your image.
4. Text: This will appear above the image. I recommend going for some kind of hook. You've got one chance to grab these people's attention and make them stop scrolling. This is it.
5. Call to Action: This is the button which will appear on the lower right corner of the ad. You have a drop-down menu with a number of options, including (but not limited to) "Learn More", "Shop Now", or even the option to have no button at all.
6. News Feed Link Description: This is listed under "Advanced Options". It doesn't seem all that advanced to me though. As far as I can make out, it's just a bit more text that appears under your headline.
Below that are actually advanced options, including shit about pixels, which I still don't understand how to use. Perhaps that will be in my next Facebook Ads Tutorial.
Click the green "Place Order" button at the bottom and crack open a fucking beer. You've earned it.
If your ad image wasn't a picture of your dick with a Bible verse tattooed on it or something, your ad will most likely be approved. How it does after that is anyone's guess.
Don't lose your shit if your initial CPC is really high. Give it some time to calm down. I started my current campaign the night before last, with an average CPC of $1.78, which sucks.
I checked just now, and the average CPC just went under a dollar. That still sucks, but only about half as much. In a couple of days, I'll see where the price settles, and if any of the ads are getting a significantly lower or higher CPC than the others. From there, I'll pump more money into the budgets of the lower ones, and consider cutting the higher ones.
Perhaps I'll even update this blog post with details. Wish me luck!