Over the last few weeks I have been running a Facebook Advertising experiment for the Nonprofit Organizations Facebook Page. While the ad itself produced little-to-no results, some unexpected Facebook insights did come out of running the ad. The results are below:

1. Purchasing advertising did not increase my fan base or help my Status Updates show up in the News Feed > Top News.

The first ad only generated 21 clicks and cost $30. My fan base grew by 47 fans over the three days that it ran, but that’s average. I did not see any obvious increase in my fan base, and there is no way to know if any of those 21 clicks resulted in new fans. Facebook did not run the second ad for reasons I do not know.

Additionally, purchasing advertising did not appear to have any effect on getting my Status Updates to show up more often in the News Feed > Top News. Those Status Updates that did had lots of Comments and Likes. That’s the new Facebook. If your community likes your Status Updates, and responds to them, they will show up in the News Feed > Top News.

That said, I still think nonprofits should invest $25-50 to experiment with Facebook Advertising because:

1) Running an ad is a good tech experience for nonprofit community builders. It helps give you a better sense of Facebook and its users.

2) My ad may have been set up wrong or just didn’t resonate with the Facebook community, but that doesn’t mean yours won’t. $25-50 isn’t much to lose if the ad doesn’t increase your fan base, but if it does result in 50 new fans, just a couple of small donations from your new fans over time could easily cover the cost of running the ad.

3) Facebook has mysterious algorithms. While I could find no proof of it, purchasing advertising may help your Page show up in the News Feed > Top News (down the road) or on the right side of the Facebook Home view of your Facebook friends: “Such-and-Such-Friend-of-Yours became a fan of YOUR PAGE.” Again, no proof, but it makes sense to me that Facebook would prioritize paying customers in their algorithms.

Finally, and this is important, I don’t think it matters much that your Status Updates do not show up in the News Feed > Top News. The News Feed > Most Recent is enough to keep your Facebook ROI (Return on Investment) consistent.

2. Facebook should launch a Facebook Ads Grant Program for Nonprofit Organizations.

It’s time. Facebook has been around 6 years. It’s profitable. Nonprofits throughout the world have sent millions upon millions of e-mails, Tweets, bulletins, updates, etc. asking their supporters to “Become a Fan!” on Facebook. They have heavily promoted Facebook on their websites and blogs, at events and conferences. Essentially, nonprofits have been advertising Facebook to untold millions helping it become the powerhouse that it is today – the second most visited website on the Web today, only behind Google, and Google has a Google Grants Program for Nonprofits.

I have created a new Facebook Page called Call to Action: Launch an Ads Grants Program for Nonprofits. Hope you become a fan. 🙂 I will not have much time at all to run this campaign, so if there are any nonprofit folks out there that would like to help by becoming an Admin, just let me know. I do ask that you work at a nonprofit or have a history in the nonprofit sector, and that you maintain the page with a friendly-to-Facebook tone. I think it is an interesting experiment to be a part of, and ironically, the unexpected result of experimenting with Facebook Advertising.

3. Experiment with creating a Facebook Page for your Cause.

I normally avoid politics and religion whenever possible in my work, and folks that just don’t agree with me on politics, I hope we can be tolerant of our differences. That said, I launched a new Facebook Page during this experiment called Accomplishments of President Barack Obama. In 13 days it has grown to 6,453 fans. It has taken 22 months and lots of promotion for the Nonprofit Organizations Page to reach 8,389 fans. It’s a completely different experience to manage a Facebook Page that gets lots of activity and grows quickly without much effort. I will elaborate on that at a later date, but for now, it’s really got me thinking about how nonprofits can get more strategic in their use of Facebook Pages.

Now would be a good time for some nonprofits to expand their Facebook Page use beyond a having Page for their organization (Latin America Working Group) to also creating a Facebook Page(s) for a campaign (End the Travel Ban on Cuba). LAWG has had much more success with their campaign Facebook Page, than their organizational Page. Your organization may too.

For example, I think a Facebook Page called “Save the World’s Remaining 3,000 Tigers” would grow much faster than a  Facebook Page for a small wildlife conservation organization. Just an idea. If you do decide to launch a Facebook Page for a campaign, I think it’s a strategic and kind gesture to also promote other organizations working on the same issue. “Favorite” their Pages and periodically promote their content in Status Updates. Social media is so much like Karma. The nicer you are to others, the nicer they and others are to you in return via Status Updates, Tweets, etc. It will benefit your campaign to have a diverse body of content and allies.

And just so you know, you can’t create a Facebook Page with the word “Petition” in it. I tried. Thus, why I went with Call to Action: Launch an Ads Grants Program for Nonprofits.

So, that’s it. That’s my Facebook Advertsing experiment. Overall, what I got out of it was a deeper appreciation for the power of Facebook and its role in social change and democracy. I still think nonprofits should be a bit cautious about putting so much effort into a site they have no control over (meaning your communities can be deleted), and that Facebook should return the favor of all that free advertising over the years from nonprofits, but overall, I am more of a fan of Facebook than I was one month ago.

Related Webinar:
How Nonprofit Organizations Can Successfully Use Facebook and Facebook Apps