How One Writer Found an Audience With Facebook Ads

Facebook like blue fingerBy Sarah Webb

When I set up my Facebook page, I thought I had to have a presence on all the big social networks.

I didn’t really know what to do with the page. It barely had a dozen likes, it wasn’t getting any comments, and it wasn’t fun to manage.

My page was a ghost town.

Sound familiar?

I was close to deleting my page until I discovered Facebook ads, and finally experienced some success in building a Facebook following.

To explain my goals, I had no intention of using my Facebook ads as part of a conversion funnel, as a way to connect with clients or editors, or even as a traffic source back to my blog.

As you can see in the chart below from my Google Analytics, paid ads did make Facebook the biggest source of social traffic to my blog (see screenshot below). But that’s not what made me a fan of Facebook ads.

social network referrals

My goals for using the ads were to bring my Facebook page to life, get some engagement, establish my brand, and simply let the world know I exist.  I wanted the page to be a cool destination for people to visit online.

This is the kind of page that many TV shows create. They’re not concerned with linking back to their primary content (they can’t), but the Facebook page provides a great tool for building an audience of engaged fans.

Unlike TV shows, I don’t have a huge budget, a mega network backing me, or celebrity appeal. Facebook advertising is a good solution to that problem. Even without celebrity status, unknowns like me can reach thousands of people.


If you’re curious, here’s how you can explore using Facebook ads with minimal investment.

Set your campaign’s budget and duration

Budget is the biggest concern for most people, and you can have high engagement on a low budget.

There’s a direct correlation between your budget and the length of time that you run your ads. You can spend as little as $1 per day on Facebook ads.

So, if you want to spend $10 to promote your upcoming product launch, you can run that campaign for a maximum of ten days at $1 per day. You could also run your ad campaign for four days at $2.50 per day. Get it? Good.

Here’s an example from my dashboard:

setting a budget

Now, here’s how you really get more engagement.

Target your audience

This step is crucial for getting a good ROI. For my first couple of ads, I made the mistake of trying to reach the broadest possible audience.

Facebook predicts how many people are in your target audience, and I was aiming for millions. It seemed logical to me that if I wanted more likes, I had to reach more people.

But the key, especially for ads with small budgets and short durations, is to target a smaller, more specific audience.

If you do nothing to change the parameters for your target audience in the United States, you’ll see over 100 million people in your potential audience.

If you specify people who are interested in a specific topic, like Zora Neale Hurston, you’ll see about 66,000. That’s still huge for a page like mine that only had 88 likes.

Let’s see some examples:

Without Targeting

no targeting

With Targeting

with targeting

Here’s why smaller works better, especially on a low budget.

  1. When you’re creating an ad, the size of your target audience is really only your potential audience. Why? Because it costs money just for people to see the ad. So no matter how many people are in your potential audience, you’ll only reach a fraction of them depending on your budget. There’s no way I would have reached a million people on a dollar a day.
  2. If you don’t specify potential audience members who are highly interested in your offering, you waste a lot of money on people who see your ads, but have no interest. Remember, every person who sees your ad is eating up your ad budget, so make sure the right people see it.

Post the right content

For an engaged audience, posting the right content is just as important as targeting. My Zora Neale Hurston post was successful because I used multiple strategies that Facebook recommends in their Page Publishing Best Practices guide. I’ve condensed some of it for you here.

  • Posts between 100-250 characters do better than longer posts.
  • Asks questions, especially opinionated ones.
  • Photos and videos get 100-180% more engagement than posts with just text.
  • Post at least twice a week.
  • Make the audience feel privileged by offering perks only to Facebook fans.
  • Be timely and relevant.

For my post on Zora Neale Hurston, I strategically published it on her birthday, used a great photo of her, and used less than 250 characters to ask a highly targeted audience an opinionated question about her writing.

Take a look:

designing posts

There were more comments, but I couldn’t fit them all in this screenshot.

Analyze and revise

This step will separate the successful Facebook pages from the ones with tumbleweeds rolling across the screen.

Facebook offers an overwhelming amount of data. Learn more by reading their Facebook Page Insights Guide. Use that information to adjust your strategy as needed. You can edit campaigns while they’re in progress, pause them, or delete them altogether if you see they aren’t working.

My numbers fluctuate because I don’t use paid promotion for every Facebook post:

ads vs nonads

Performance also fluctuates because some ads just aren’t as well designed as I could have made them:


In the end, your social media choices are all about your unique goals and social media style.

If your brand is limited to your website only, Facebook pages and ads may not be your first choice.

But if you’re willing to meet potential fans where they are, then you can use Facebook ads to grow your audience.

What do you think of using Facebook ads? Let us know in the comments.

Sarah L. Webb is a freelance writer and the creator of the blog S. L. Writes Courageous Content. If you want to chat some more, connect on Facebook, or @SLWrites.


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39 comments on “How One Writer Found an Audience With Facebook Ads
  1. Hmmm.. interesting. I had no idea you can run facebook ads. Nor had I ever considered setting up a facebook page as another marketing tool. Still not sure it is something I would do, but this was a very enlightening article! Thank you.

  2. KC White says:

    I’ve recently found that my target audience isn’t really too active on Twitter, so I’m going to keep Twitter around mainly to connect with other techies. I’ve decided to shift my focus to Facebook in an attempt to engage with a wider audience.

    Perhaps the ads won’t help to drive immediate sales, but they can help to boost social proof by helping to add to the Like count.

    Very sound advice – engage first, make an offer later.

  3. Katya Barry says:

    Sarah, well done on your achievements, impressive. I’ve played with FB ads quite successfully before but now I want to use them to promote my launch.
    Lat time I promoted my summit and got about 40 people clicking ‘attend’ on my FB page HOVEWER I’ve no idea how many of them actually got on my list and attended the summit. I achieved this number on a 40euro/50$ budget over 10 day period.

    I now have 16 days until my launch and am wondering what would be the best strategy here? How do I make sure that those who are interested attend the webinar (that’s the main promotion tool) or go just aim directly for the sales page?

    Thanks for all your advice.

    • Hmmm. I don’t know that there’s another answer, because even if people go to the sales page and actually complete the signup process for the webinar, they still may not actually attend. It’s like any advertisement, you can raise awareness and make a compelling offer, but there’s never a sure bet.

      Perhaps continuing to update the event page and getting people to interact by asking questions like, What do you want to get out of this webinar? etc.

      Not sure if that helps, but maybe someone else can share an effective strategy.
      Sarah L. Webb recently posted…How to Plan Your Life Away Without Even TryingMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      You’ve got use unique signup URLs for the Facebook offer so you can see how many people came through there — need to send them to register somewhere off Facebook that’s a unique page from your main signup, and then you could track those to a separate list and maybe be better able to see who showed up if you screenshot your participants info if you do live events…? That’s all I got. I know I need to get more sophisticated with tracking, too.

  4. love this post! I recently read an article in Newsweek by the journalist Megan McCardle about FB advertising. For her story, she did the same thing, used paid ads to promote posts from her fan page and her report was — it worked! She was surprised, too. Since then I’ve put creating my own fan page at the top of my brand priority list, and this clinches it.

    Definitely going to keep this post in my inbox for re-reading.


  5. rob says:

    I was so impressed with this blog, I’m commenting from my phone. I’m a FB disaster story, but can now see how to make it work. Thanks!
    rob recently posted…Proof that Good Content Marketing Strategies WorkMy Profile

  6. Linda says:

    A great article! Very useful, thank you for sharing!!

  7. Kelley says:

    I ran Facebook ads to get fans for my food blog. It’s an easily targeted audience, and I’m really happy with the results – 92 “likes” for $25 so far. These people are also commenting and interacting, though they don’t always click through to the site.
    Kelley recently posted…Five Ways Twitter Helps Your Small BusinessMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Yeah, I think that’s the final missing link — getting Facebook fans over to our blogs. I know I’m still working on that!

    • Kelley,

      That’s great growth! I’ve had some success with clicks to my blog by posting my latest blog with a headline I think people will respond to, and then promoting that specific post to people who have already liked my page. So it’s not an “ad,” but promotion means you pay to keep your updates higher in people’s news feeds, even hours or days after it’s been posted. If the headline is a good one, people should click and share.
      Sarah L. Webb recently posted…6 Lessons Facebook Taught Me About Courageous ContentMy Profile

  8. Laura Davis says:

    Thanks for this great info. I had been wondering whether FB ads were worth the investment. I really appreciate the nuts-and-bolts level data, which will male it easier to design an effective experiment of my own!

  9. Willi Morris says:

    Hey, Sarah! Great post – the links to the Facebook PDFs aren’t working for me for some reason. Is it because I’m using Google Chrome, maybe? It just links to a blank page.

    This is *definitely* going to encourage me to try FB ads. And it’s a reminder to go to your page! LOL
    Willi Morris recently posted…Becoming A Better Blogger: Interview with Sophie Lizard (Part 2)My Profile

  10. Sarah, I love Facebook ads! I discovered them earlier this year, and with $5, I’ve attracted 40 Likes at a time.

    And I love your last name…that’s my maiden-turned-middle name 🙂

    Not to mention, I have a cousin who was Sarah Webb before she got married.

    Cheers, writer friend!

  11. This is great. Do you have any experience with LinkedIn ads? I have tried a few LinkedIn ad campaigns because, traditionally, I’ve gotten more work from LinkedIn than from Facebook, but I’ve had zero positive results. It’s perplexing. I also find it interesting that your ad content didn’t explicitly promote your services, but instead attempted to start a conversation. Hmmm. Giving me ideas…

    • Carol Tice says:

      I think the trick on LinkedIn is just SEO for your profile…I get found a lot on searches in there by prospects. Stuff your bio line with key words, fill out your skills, and keep updating your status at least once a week so you look active. It’s more of an inbound marketing machine — I think ads on there are for major corporations.

      • I think you are absolutely right. I’ve gotten more contacts and work through my free LinkedIn profile than I have through paid LinkedIn ads. I guess that’s a good thing!

    • Hey Joslyn,

      I know it’s strange that I’m not overtly promoting, but focusing on engaging the audience, but that’s why people are on FB to begin with. People who are on FB (and therefore might see my ads) are on there to discover something interesting, inspiring, funny, etc., not to make a purchase or opt-in to anything.

      As Carol said earlier, building that trust and community makes it easier for you to possibly sell later.
      Sarah L. Webb recently posted…6 Lessons Facebook Taught Me About Courageous ContentMy Profile

      • Carol Tice says:

        That’s all the feedback I have – I actually took a training on Facebook ads recently at Blogworld/NMX, and that’s what the expert had to say — don’t try to sell directly, you’ll do much better just getting them over to your FB page and engaged. Sell them later.

  12. Erica says:

    Really great post, Sarah. Lots of information.

    I don’t currently have a professional Facebook page simply because I barely keep up with my personal one. And because I always thought advertising on Facebook was too expensive. You’ve given me a lot to think about. Thanks.

    Again, great post!
    Erica recently posted…How to Deal with Rejection DayMy Profile

  13. This is a very interesting post. I don’t use Facebook at all and probably should consider it after reading this. I like how you use screen shots in the article. I did this in my case study and it’s great for showing proof.

  14. Lee J Tyler says:

    Thanks for this, Sarah. This is a great analysis in splitting the difference in ad dollars and-instead of carpet-bombing-having a targeted audience and specific plan for your audience. Great work.
    Lee J Tyler recently posted…Which Two Industry Giants That You Use Every Day Are Ready To Rumble?My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’ve done targeted ads for some of my events here on the blog, but I think I didn’t do them quite right. I gather that what Sarah did — sending people to your Facebook page rather than somewhere off of Facebook — does better, and that free offers do better than trying to sell anything. More about audience-building and selling to them LATER.

  15. Kirsty says:

    Thanks for this Sarah – I think this is definitely worth considering. At the moment I’m reading everything I can about Facebook interaction for my little website and blog! It’s good to know that you don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to get some good results with this method. Thanks again.
    Kirsty recently posted…It’s Time for a ChangeMy Profile

  16. Outstanding post Sarah.

    I’ll have to share this for #SoMeSa.

    I’ve been hearing a lot recently about the benefits of facebook ads it seems like they are gaining popularity.

    Would you rank Facebook advertising over Google Adsense or YouTube ads?
    Darnell Jackson recently posted…What I learned from James Chartrand – Q&A with the founder of Men with PensMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      What is that hashtag for Darnell? Always interested to learn about new Twitter topics to follow. I don’t know any freelancers who use Adsense or advertise on YouTube, aside from putting up their own videos, but maybe Sarah can weigh in.

    • Please do share, Darnell 🙂

      I’ve never tried Adsense or YouTube Ads, but with all advertising, it’s about knowing your target audience. The reason I like FB ads is that my audience doesn’t have to leave the platform to interact with me. They discover me on FB and interact with me on FB.

      It may be good to test different options and measure results.
      Sarah L. Webb recently posted…6 Lessons Facebook Taught Me About Courageous ContentMy Profile

  17. Holly says:

    Very interesting read. I know Twitter allows similar paid campaigns as well. I am toying with starting a fan page but like you was worried it would end up a ghost town. I think before I do I need to focus more on what I would even put on there. As a freelance writer that seems challenging. I’ll definitely need to check out your page and those of other freelancers. Thank you.

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