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Should your church advertise on Facebook? (part one)

By Darby Jones

SUMMARY: The answer is a resounding “yes!” When you advertise on Facebook, you can reach almost any demographic imaginable, efficiently and effectively. This focused advertising helps you reach those who may be interested in your specialized ministries, day-care facility or other offerings. If that doesn’t impress you, consider the statistics:

  • Facebook has more than 500 million registered users. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world in terms of population.
  • Facebook includes more than 200 million active users. Registered users and active users are comparable to the number of church members versus actual attendees.
  • Active users spend an average of 56 minutes per day on Facebook.
  • Facebook accounts for about 21 percent of all pages viewed on the Web.

Because Facebook has such a large data pool, you can narrow the audience you want to reach to those living within a 50-mile radius of your church, to people between the ages of 18 and 35 and to those whose friends are connected to your church’s Facebook pageThis is just one example of the many ways Facebook advertising can work for you.

Successful ads create engagement. 
Once you decide to take the plunge, consider what type of ads your church will post. This is tricky, because most people think advertisements sell products. However, the most effective ads on Facebook engage the user rather than sell a product.

Engaging ads promote free events, causes and other things about which people are passionate. One example is to advertise a small group that meets on weekdays and hikes on weekends. It is easy to target Facebook users in your area who like outdoor activities. Other examples include promoting a cool blog, a great video-sermon or a children’s ministry. The key is to send messages to people whose Facebook profile mentions a passion for the topic you are promoting. If they click on your advertisement's "Like" button or become a “fan,” you can begin to promote other areas of your church, ministry and faith.

How to start a Facebook ad campaign

1. Login to Facebook and go to www.facebook.com/ads. Click the button that says, “Create an Ad.”

2. Write copy. 
Insert your URL, title, body text and image. Since you only have about two seconds to grab a user’s attention, your copy and image must stand out. Find a good writer and graphic designer to create your ad.

3. Select your demographic. 
Choose what type of people will see your ad, based on what you are promoting. Parameters include geography, age, gender, education, marital status and interests.

4. Choose a bidding model: CPM or CPC. 
Cost Per 1000 Impressions (CPM) and Cost Per Click (CPC) are two bidding models from which to choose when pricing your advertisement. A marketing expert will use CPM to test ad performance, but that requires time and expertise. CPC means you are only charged when people click on your ads. If your budget is low ($5 to $25 a day) and you do not have time for optimization, your best bet is CPC. This way poorly performing ads will not waste as much money. If you choose CPM, be sure you have the time to manage it. Then research test campaigns using the CPM bidding model.

5. Bid high for quicker ad approval. 
The higher your ad submission bid, the faster Facebook responds. After Facebook approves, you can lower your bid rate to something sensible. Do not expect this technique to work forever. The Facebook robots will eventually catch on and stop responding so promptly, but high bidding is an effective technique for new advertisers to get in quickly.

7 rules to reach the masses via Facebook ads (part two)! 
This article explains how to optimize, test and evaluate Facebook ads to get the most from marketing dollars.

In the meantime, you may want to experiment on a small budget to get an idea of how Facebook advertising works. Happy ad making!

-- Darby Jones, eMarketing Coordinator at United Methodist Communications.