The Facebook news feed algorithm is in constant flux. It’s never a surprise when another ‘update’ materializes in the daily news scan, making the maintenance of a successful social media strategy difficult for marketers and communicators. One of the fundamental truths to Facebook in current environments, however, is that brands (in general) need to pay in order to be seen.
Thankfully Facebook presents brands with several options to increase the number of eyeballs on the content and engagements with the post. Among those options are things like Boosted Posts and Promoted Profiles. For those who aren’t as familiar with Facebook’s paid options, here are the differences:
- Boosting Posts is an advertising strategy where you pay to have your post seen by a larger percentage of your audience (than with organic, unpaid reach alone).
- Promoted Profile is an advertising strategy where you pay to have people discover your Facebook Page.
- Note: There are several other paid strategies available on Facebook, but these two apply to most brands.
The question facing both our agency and our clients is: Of these two basic Facebook paid media strategies, which is more effective for actually getting your content seen?
To answer that question, we did our homework using our own data in a research experiment to determine what strategy worked best for our audience (i.e. if you want to replicate this for your own purposes, use your data, not our conclusions). If you want to keep up with Facebook’s changes and see what works for your brand or client, try our methods as a starting point.
Here’s what we did:
Our goal was to determine which of the two options above, a promoted profile or boosted posts, resulted in the highest engagement from our audience on Facebook. Over the course of the campaign, we invested a small amount of money ($10 a day) to see which strategy worked best with our audience and our posts.
We boosted one post a day – the post containing our daily blog content – to our target audience, determined through audience research.
We first ran the experiment over a three-week period in July, alternating between promoting SHIFT’s profile, boosting posts and a combination of both.
Week 1: Boosted Posts (no promoted account)
Week 2: Promoted Profile (no boosted posts)
Week 3: Promoted Profile AND Boosted Posts
In July, posts during Week 2 performed the best, resulting in some of the highest engagement across the board – with just a promoted profile campaign active.
These results provided what we felt was a counterintuitive conclusion: in order for our content to be seen, it appeared the correct strategy was to promote our page, not our posts. While these results were certainly interesting, we knew there were a few outside factors that could be manipulating the results – particularly the fact that the month of July is very popular for vacations and time off from work (and your computer). We decided to wait a few weeks and test again in September, when vacations are ending and people’s schedules return to normal.
September + October
When September rolled around, we duplicated our July experiment – $10 a day, rotating strategy week by week for six weeks and found the results to be the exact opposite of what happened in July. Our posts performed best when they were boosted without a promoted profile campaign active. This is why it is so important to do your research, experiment and repeat!
Overall, our experiment gave us nine weeks of data. We analyzed our findings and found that the best practice (for the time being, at least) for SHIFT to reach the Agency’s target audience is to only boost posts, forgoing the promoted profile campaigns, as summarized in the chart below:
In the above chart, we can see that boosted posts with no promoted profile provided 12x increases in median paid reach of content over organic (unpaid) reach.
For the second category of campaign, where we boosted posts and promoted the profile, we saw only a 9x increase in paid reach and no significant difference in organic reach.
Finally, in the promoted page with no boosted posts, we saw half as much organic reach and no paid reach. For our Facebook audience, boosted posts without promoted profile advertising seems to be the way to go to achieve maximum reach… for now.
If you find yourself in a situation where your Facebook strategy has fallen flat and audience engagement is lagging, try this experiment for yourself. See if your audience reacts differently than ours, and most important, find the best paid social media strategy for your brand.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology