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Photo courtesy of freerangestock.com | Graphic by Jon Watson

How to reach newcomers to your area with Facebook ads

By Jon Watson

Recent studies from the Pew Research Center show that 71 percent of online adults use Facebook. That means nearly everyone you know, and nearly everyone they know, is connected in one huge online community.

The good news is you can get your church’s name and message in front of all those people. The better news is that you can choose to whom your message goes! You can target your message to different people based on life circumstance, geographical area, likes, age and more. The amount of demographic targeting available to advertisers today is unprecedented. Churches should take advantage of that to help people hear the gospel.

Learn how to get your church’s message in front of almost all the newcomers in your community. TWEET THIS TWEET THIS

The benefits of Facebook Link Ads are numerous and we've discussed the basic guidelines on how to make the most of them. Now we will learn how to target Christians and “seekers” who have recently moved to your city and may be open to visiting a new church.

Getting started with a new ad

First, take a look at Facebook's Guide to Ad Creation to see what's involved and view guidelines for particular steps. To start creating an ad, log in to Facebook, visit https://facebook.com/ads and click “Create an Ad.” After you choose the objective and name your campaign, you’ll be asked, “Who do you want your ads to reach?” followed by several fields you can complete and customize. Choosing the right Facebook ad audience can get complex because you can create a nearly infinite number of combinations, but for our purposes, we’ll keep it simple. The key two sections for you are Locations and Behaviors

Setting the location

When choosing the geographical area to target, consider using the name of your city instead of your ZIP code for more flexibility. If your church is in Springfield, begin typing “Springfield” and select the appropriate city from the drop-down menu. Once the field is populated, you will select a mile radius around that city that you would like to reach.

Before selecting a large mile radius (50 miles and up) around your city, ask yourself whether commuting longer distances in your city is the norm. In some metropolitan (or very rural) areas, 50 miles is no big deal. Other cities are denser and cover a smaller area. If you’re going to spend money reaching people 50 miles away, make sure they would be willing to make the drive! The default value is 25 miles, and that’s generally a good radius to choose.

What does the “behaviors” category on Facebook mean?

Facebook tracks an extraordinary amount of data for each user. It can determine behaviors (or likely behaviors) based on the sheer number of people with Facebook accounts. It is fairly accurate and a great way to drill down to a very granular level. However, for our purposes, we’re going to use one main category.

Click on the field that says “Search behaviors,” and scroll down until you see “Residential profiles.” Select that, and choose “New mover.” This is the golden ticket that will find likely newcomers to your community!

The “New mover” category is reported by Experian (yes, that place you go to get your credit report), and is gleaned from all sorts of tracking sources by Experian. That means it’s very accurate data about who has moved in the
last six months.

It’s that easy! You’ve just told Facebook to show your ad to people who have recently moved within or to your city. Recent movers are more likely to be open to visiting a new church, so don’t miss this crucial opportunity.

Keep an eye on “potential reach”

As you add and remove different target audience variables, keep an eye on the “potential reach” number on the right of your screen. That’s just what it sounds like: how many people your ad could possibly reach. If it drops below 1,000, it’s probably not worth your money, and you might be narrowing the options too much.

When your message is viewed by someone on social media, it is important to tailor to them specifically and to make the message clear. To that end, try to run your campaigns targeting recently moved people separately from other, broader campaigns. This allows you to create a specific message just for that demographic and increase your clicks.

People who have recently moved often crave feeling welcomed and valued. Let them know, right in the ad, that your church would be glad to have them! Run a separate, broader campaign for special programs or events at your church. Potentially, a recent mover will see a targeted and a broader ad, but any crossover of audiences is a bonus.

Ad cost and budgeting

The next section “How much do you want to spend?” can be intimidating. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Read through Facebook's Ad Cost & Budgeting guide and you’ll be off and running in no time!

— Jon Watson, eMarketing Specialist, United Methodist Communications. Having recently moved across the country to Nashville, he knows the challenges of finding a welcoming church in a new area.