I hate marketing. I hate doing just about anything that is required to make money, self promote and get paid, but obviously I need and like having money and I like having exposure to satisfy my deep desire for validation. What a conundrum. This is literally my first foray into any kind of paid internet marketing. It was slapdash, lackadaisical, and half-cocked, but I had a few things in mind I wanted to accomplish. I wanted more followers on the facebook page, I wanted some bandcamp sales (would gladly have settled for more streams which result in $0 for me but at least I know people are checking out mah stuff.)
This is my experience trying to promote Daemon Electricity on facebook. As you will see my results were mixed, to say the least. Given my limited experience in online advertising, I expected that. Specifically, I expected it in the effectiveness and results department, not so much the billing department.
While I will preface this by saying that in the end I was not charged more than what I was willing to gamble, so to speak, I am very puzzled by facebook’s billing practices and I don’t think “transparent” is the first word that comes to mind. I will get more into that later.
So what was I marketing?
I promoted a few YouTube videos of recent modular performances I did in the bedroom studio, and given that I just released a huge chunk of my back catalog via DistroKid and BandCamp, I ran ads mentioning the availability of 002 and other releases, as well as a bundle deal on the whole catalog. (That offer still stands, if anyone is interested!) Basically, this was my idea of showing content rather than trying to force some branding bullshit on someone. Hopefully they dig my stuff and maybe buy it or stream it or subscribe to the YouTube channel or mailing list, or whatever. My slide down the slippery slope to the hard sale isn’t complete but my slippery slide into alliteration is, therefore I abhor absolute all aspects of aggressive advertising.
All these campaigns landed on YouTube and BandCamp. I wanted users to feel safe. I wanted organic support. Again, the only aim for this campaign was subscribers on YouTube, followers for my Facebook scree, sign-ups, streams, purchases, whatever from BandCamp. an any secondary benefit I got for mentioning that this is all on Spotify, Google, Amazon, etc.
What experiments did I try?
On the first two days, there was fairly good amount of tweaking of the audience based on what country/city/etc. as well as interests. I started off with very little targeting, but I didn’t blow much, if any money on these campaigns before I dialed this in a little bit. My first change was to target my top 25 countries from SoundCloud. You can only target 25 countries on Facebook, so this was a good starting point.
I immediately got a large response of post likes from primarily Brazil and India. Of course because of the response from predominantly these countries, I began to think I hit click farm turf and cleared out all the countries and went back and realized I could dial in the interests a little better by naming bands and artists I think that are within the ballpark of what my stuff sounds like. (you know… Spyro Gira, Yanni, Celine Dion) For the modular specific YouTube video, I targeted people interested in modular synthesizers. After talking to a friend of mine who has some experience in online marketing, I decided that targeting my top 25 cities in SoundCloud would be a better idea.
Short analysis: It didn’t really work well.
To be honest, I kind of expected this, but the reasons weren’t necessarily 100% in line with expectation. The stories of fake followers are nothing new, and had I seen the recent stories of Facebook overcharging advertisers, I probably would’ve decided now is not the time to put $120 on blue. The important takeaway from the short answer is that this did not substantially net me anything valuable but there MIGHT be a way to make it work to your benefit, once expectation matches reality. Let’s readjust those expectations!
I sold absolutely nothing on BandCamp or any other distribution outlet. Seriously. This was the biggest bummer of the whole experiment. Nearly 6,000 people were presented with paid posts that went to BandCamp. There was probably a cumulative boost of maybe 40 streams, and no purchases. No purchases have been seen on DistroKid either. I may have netted literally a handful of Spotify listeners and I haven’t seen any streaming service specific numbers outside of Spotify, but the cumulative streaming numbers on DistroKid are actually lower than what Spotify reports on it’s artist page. YouTube? I saw 2 subscribers over that weekend. They easily could’ve came and likely did come from organic posts elsewhere that cost me nothing. In fact, literally every time I’ve posted something as a user and not as an advertiser, I’ve gotten way more mileage with a much smaller audience. That was probably my biggest take-away. If I took no further action, I might’ve gotten an additional 5 likes for the actual facebook page which was also linked in the post.
Long analysis: If you understand how their billing and targeting works, maybe there are ways to gain traction, but you will probably feel a little used and maybe dirty.
Facebook abounds with advertising red flags. Many have been written about and covered by major publications. IMHO, something about online advertising has always smacked of get rich quick schemes, but at the same time some people’s strategies seem practical enough to actually work, and Facebook IS the cheapest entry-point for most people and there are also plenty of facebook specific success stories. I don’t doubt that there are plenty of genuine ones, however, I think there are not enough cautionary tales like mine to expose some of the angles that will really get you spending more than you should be, especially if they’re charging 100% of your budget and possibly not delivering as much as they could for that budget.
Obviously I made the initial noob mistakes of not targeting specifically enough and targeting cheap audiences that have high engagement but might have little long term value. (For whatever reason, certain countries have a much cheaper impression rate and you will get a lot more eyeballs for a lot less money, as well as a lot of “likes” but it’s debatable whether those people will stay with you or are really interested in what you’re doing.)
Making out of shit-lemonade out of shit-lemons, bobandy.
Now what. I just paid a decent amount of money. (At the time that my campaigns expired, I thought I’d only spent roughly half of what was ultimately billed.) I got a decent amount post likes and almost nothing else. So what can we do with this? Obviously we can bug the shit out of people and that is exactly what Facebook wants us to do, sort of. This is what you see when you click the link to see who liked your post.
Now, I spent a while rationalizing this decision because I do not typically like to get invites to like pages… typically. That said, as a user, if there is someone I’m going to like almost on principle, it’s going to be an independent artist or band and honestly, if I ever liked a post on someone’s page and GENUINELY liked it, I wouldn’t be the least bit upset to get an invite to like the page. I’ve talked about the ins and outs of how facebook works for too long. I need to go puke. I’ll be right back. OK. I’m good.
So I did the deed and slowly, over the course of several days invited these people and I even got what I think was a fairly positive response. I don’t know how many of these people are genuinely interested, but I’ll go with it. It’s all I’m getting out of this anyway and again, we’re taking about ~75 people total from this campaign that reached nearly 10,000 people.
Spending $120 netted me roughly 7,927 impressions, and 1083 post engagements. While I do not have much experience in online marketing, I have worked around people enough to know how the gauge success, and if I legitimately thought my goal posts for conversion didn’t matter, a better than 12% post engagement is not terrible. That said, I paid a WIDELY varying price for each one of these engagements and as I keep hinting, I paid even more than I initially thought I was paying considering that the entire balance of my budget on each campaign was billed.
About that billing…
The fact is, I bid $120 on multiple campaigns and in the end, that’s exactly what they charged. However, given the nature of how these advertisements work, I’m less than impressed with how my funds were allocated and given that their own invoicing shows discrepancies on how much was spent on ads vs how much I was charged, I think in some cases this is a little more than just misleading. If you look at that first screenshot, you can see that they consistently charge 100% of what you bid. So for starters, that was not very clear.
And then there’s the mystery of the billing cycles and labeling. For starters, my first bill came when I hit the threshold of $25. This was absolutely no surprise. Then a second when I hit $50, which I didn’t change. So the threshold automatically goes from $25 to 50 or I fat fingered something because I’m absolutely not even planning on spending the kind of money that I would want that threshold to be any higher. Fine, that one also made sense. Then a third bill for $5 at the end of the month. At this point, I think I’m about roughly $80 of my $120 into my budget, which makes sense when I look at these reports, which do not utilize the full budgets.
But then I got this invoice for another one of those “end of the month” settle-up type deals. The most suspicious thing about this invoice is how ridiculously overpriced the impressions seem to be compared to the previous 3 invoices. I paid $24.11 in once instance for 501 impressions on the end of the month statement and $3.66 for 133 on another for the same ad. Granted the audiences COULD have changed, but I think the fact that they’re misleading and not more transparent about the cost per impression and their billing practices is a little frustrating and off-putting.
Also, while my understanding of this process is vague and probably that’s by design, it’s not without some basis. As I understand it, I have a budget. I’m bidding for eyeballs. If it’s within my budget range, I can outbid others for eyeballs. However, I would not expect that budget to go up and down TOO much over time. Also, this all happens via computer, in a vacuum with probably no oversight. My cost per impression is also based on facebook’s own estimates which are not show here, but let’s just say they’re probably more optimistic than they should be. On one of my big $30 ads, it estimated a reach as high as 13,000 based on my budget, which was almost more than double what I got across this entire campaign. So basically I spent $120 and got no sales, MAYBE a few streams/YouTube views, no sales, few unsolicited likes, and about 6 dozen dirty solicited likes.