The success of Nomad App’s growing community relies on the combination of 1) content that resonates with our community 2) a small budget for Facebook ads.
We have grown our community from zero to over 70,000 followers on Social Media (of which 7,000 are on facebook). We have spent $700 USD total over the course of the last year learning and optimizing our processes.
Our best performing ad costs us 6 cents per page like. We have since taken this knowledge and implemented it for clients (mostly consumer facing apps and startups) with similar or even better results.
In the following case-study we outline:
I know: you want to create high-quality content that fits your style, tone and message. Then you spend a ton of money in creating original content to see it go down the drain because nobody is engaging with it. Instead, re-purpose content that already did well on other platforms and learn what your audience engages with.
Because you want to build a brand, it doesn’t mean that every single piece of content you put out in the beginning needs your logo on it. You can always do that later once you have a community and learned what they like using other people’s content.
Especially early on, you want to build engagement with “whatever content does well with your audience (even if it’s not your own content).” The moment you get a ton of engagement on your page consistently, start mixing it with your original content.
Don’t be romantic about whatever YOU THINK should be your message. You work for your audience. You don’t build a community by right-hooking them in every single post. There’s nothing more common than seeing early stage startups pleading for downloads or to “check out their new tool” or “spread the love”.
Where’s the value?
Look at your own Facebook behavior and self-check what you share and engage with: is it pushy: “Buy now;” “Download Now;” “Look at our team playing beer pong” post? Don’t produce that kind of content for your audience.
The moment you have an engaged community and they are actively sharing your content you can right-hook them with “NOW FINALLY DOWNLOAD OUR APP” but don’t do that early on. Nobody will engage. In the beginning (before you average 30-40 qualified likes on every post), produce content that is funny, entertaining, creates emotions and BRINGS REAL VALUE to the community.
From the book: Contagious by Jonah Berger
Build a community on Facebook. Once you’ve got people’s attention it will be easier to sneak in some sales messages and calls to action like “subscribe to our newsletter.”
Here’s a screenshot of our first original blog post that got a ton of traction. People loved it! But only because we already had a community and enough experience from recent posts to know EXACTLY what our audience likes and engages with.
One more thing on this topic: we constantly see startups struggle with the question of whether they should post “internal startup stuff” or “content for the audience.” In our case: “Should we post a photo of the last pitch event that we presented at to keep our audience “up-to-date”?” - The answer is: “No, our audience doesn’t care. They are all travelers: all they want to see is travel hacks and inspiring quotes. They aren’t entrepreneurs.” Post that photo from your pitch event on your personal profile, not on your startup page.
If you want to build an engaged community - play by the rules: Facebook doesn’t like it whenever you link out to other platforms. Don’t link out to YOUTUBE (which is owned by Google, aka Facebook’s enemy): Facebook wants to kill YouTube. Facebook also wants to kill Snapchat.
On the contrary, Facebook owns Instagram. Facebook launched its shop function which lets you sell products directly from your page. It also launched Instant Articles which makes it so that big publications’ posts open directly within Facebook (and have ads on the bottom of the blog).
Create native content and Facebook will give you more relevance in their algorithm which means more reach and engagement. Today, Facebook is pushing video content. The best type of content you can create is live video. Live video gets the biggest reach. They also implemented that feature on Instagram.
Don’t find excuses and think: oh it’s because I don’t know whether to use Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule my posts. Or because I need the new version of photoshop to design content.
It’s not about any of these things. How would any of these 13 year old social media stars become famous if it was about the fancy software and camera they used to produce their content? Crappy phone videos go viral all the time. Focus on your audience and the tools won’t matter. People can smell marketers 50 miles against the wind.
Spend 20% of your time creating the content and 80% in distributing it. You can even repurpose old content. A good method for us has also been boosting old, well performing posts again.
We keep hearing people hate on us for selling them followers. And we keep telling them: of course, it’s not about having 15,000 likes on your facebook page. They need to be relevant and engaged. Yes, sometimes a community of 2,000 engaged followers will be more valuable than 30k empty likes.
We don’t sell followers - we sell people’s attention. It’s on you to figure out with 15,000 people’s attention: do you want to sell them t-shirts? An ebook? A course? SaaS? Figure it out. If you don’t see the value in having access to tens of thousands of people, then that’s on you.
If your social media person or intern takes too much time, it’s because they are doing it wrong. Ideally you would sit down once a month, define the broad pillars of content you’ll talk about, produce them (e.g. 3 videos or blog posts) and then chop them up into small pieces of quotes, short gifs, infographics or whatever you want. Schedule these out.
Then, complement with funny or witty content from other people and pages that fit your topic - crowdsource.
Schedule those posts out, too (Facebook’s scheduled post tool works fine). Here’s your social media on autopilot. Don’t wake up every single day thinking about what you should post. You can always improvise over the foundation that you’ve got scheduled out. So in an ideal world, you’d only check up on your page every other day to boost the most successful posts to reach even more people in your community and manage your ads.
Here’s an ideal infographic by Gary Vaynerchuk that shows how he produces content at scale.
Many people drown in their own meetings of strategizing, thinking about how to create a unique voice, etc. Don’t! Define your target audience, look at what other people are doing, and reverse engineer. Oh, people like “How to”- blogs and cooking videos. Do that. Your chance of being successful will be better than trying to become original.
Always keep an eye on what other pages are doing and what kind of content does well. We don’t say “copy,” but keep your eyes open. They are doing the homework FOR YOU.
A huge problem for many startups is FOCUS. Especially when you start out, there are hundreds of different things you could do or people that might be a market fit. Whenever you are building your audience, you have to settle for one of them. There’s nothing that stalls your growth as much as not knowing who you’re producing content for. You can’t successfully build a page that targets students, empty nesters, stay-at-home-moms, and event managers at Fortune 500 companies at the same time.
Pick a topic that fits your most profitable target audience and go all in on it. We don’t say this to diss you - we all struggle when starting out. The faster you can find your niche and target audience, the better.
We focus on early stage (consumer facing) startups or individuals who want to build a personal brand and community.
We’ve realized that most of these startups struggle with two things:
Preparation: Figure out who your audience is. Study your competitors and other pages that produce viral content - make a list of them and collect screenshots of their content.
ATTENTION: If you don’t know who you are targeting and producing content for: figure it out. Facebook ads can help you do so.
We’ll break it down 🙂
Today, it’s almost impossible to grow your audience purely organically (on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest it’s still easier). First step: set up a hyper targeted Facebook Page Likes campaign.
Our best performing ad was the “Stolen from Competitors” (see screenshot below)
As you can see we got 3225 page likes for only 7 cents each and a relevance score of 9 (out of 10). That is the best result of a campaign with targeted followers (not fake likes from a cheap country that don’t engage) I have ever seen.
You do this by selecting “Engagement” as your objective and then “Page Likes”
Go ahead and give your campaign a name, and you’ll see the setup page. This is where it gets interesting.
You can get as specific as “target mom’s that live in 64064 Lee’s Summit, Kansas City, that are interested in Bakery Shops and buy a lot of stuff online with a credit card.” Play around with the parameters and get to know the tool.
However, our best performing ads target people who already like Facebook Pages of competitors or other influencers in our space. For travel, it’s mostly other travel bloggers and influencers. We called our audience “stolen from competitors.” See interests: nomadic matt, traveldudes, world nomads etc. NOTE: not any page will work; a page has to have a certain number of followers to qualify as an interest in the targeting tool.
Location: limit the location to countries that don’t produce a lot of fake likes (Brazil, India, Pakistan, Turkey etc.)
Another example: Here’s the targeting of another ad we ran for a calendar app for families applying the same principles:
You’ll want to target audiences of pages or communities that already did the work for you. Why? Those leads are more likely to convert and thus cheaper.
Don’t target people based on Interests like “Parenting” or similar categories. - these are too broad. You don’t know whether these people are likely to engage. Better, target a page in your field that gets a lot of engagement. Don’t go for huge publications or pages. For example, “AirBnB” as a targeted interest when you want to attract backpackers. AirBnB has millions of likes on Facebook but they are not specific enough.
You’re wasting your marketing dollars advertising to her.
Better, target small and engaged blogs and influencer pages: find the sweet spot with pages that are not so big that they have a ton of irrelevant followers and not so small that they don’t qualify as influencers/ interest category on Facebook.
Research a few by yourself by looking for big influencers in your niche on Facebook, check how good engagement is on their page (you don’t want to target pages with thousands of followers but zero likes on any posts), add them to your list of target accounts.
Next, go back to the Facebook Ad audience tool, look up the pages from your list and check whether they qualify as an interest, then click on suggestions and see other pages that Facebook thinks are similar.
If you don’t know them, research and make sure they fit your audience and get proper engagement. If yes, add them to the list of target accounts, repeat the process until you have a minimum of five different pages on your list.
Click: Save this audience!
Facebook now lets you upload up to six different images to test which one do best. Test different images and after a day or a specific amount of ad spend, put the entire budget towards the one that did best.
Preview the ad here: https://fb.me/1HskoJZnf5DDgI5
Here’s another ad we created for a client: The cost per like right now is at 52 cents with a relevance score of 5. That’s good for a page that started from zero two weeks ago. We’re up to 200 likes within two weeks.
As for the text: we often use this formula: “Question or statement that sparks interest,” “Value proposition,” and “Call to Action.”
Why boosting posts to your own audience and their friends? Answer: They already know you.
They’re more likely to engage than cold audience.
On posts that already do well, click “boost post” and create an ad to reach more people. We often boost our posts to “people that already like your page and their friends” (we use a 1-2USD budget). Once the ad is over, go to the list of people who like it and invite all people that liked that post.
A dark post is a post that doesn’t show up as an actual post in your news feed but only as an ad in the news feed of people who you target.
It was through one of these ads that we sold a house for Greenovate Construction!
Back then we still didn’t know how to optimize for the conversion pixel. Still we got people to go to the website and request a quote. With a total budget of $300 in ad spend we got 300 website visitors, 4 leads and 1 sale. We sold a $300,000 house with $300 in Facebook ad spend.
They are straight-forward: be prepared to pay more to direct ‘cold leads” to your website than boosting posts to an existing community who already knows you and has liked your page. These are the exact settings of our best performing ad for Greenovate Construction:
Dark posts are extremely useful to run A/B tests - even better than sending out surveys. For example, if you want to figure out whether people like headline 1 or headline 2 better for your new blog post: run two different Facebook ads with limited budget and see which one does better.
Another use case: test UI/UX mockup
Or: test cover photos for your new blog
Or: test different value propositions for your startup.
E.g.: “make money traveling the world” vs. “become a digital nomad and work from anywhere”
Or: test different target audiences.
E.g.: “Should I target empty nesters, of backpackers?”
Many startups don’t know who they are targeting. However, for building an engaged community and launching a successful startup, you should know exactly who your customer is. You can only tailor valuable content to them if you know what they are interested in.
Not sure if you’re targeting honeymooners, students or backpackers?
Run different ads with a small budget and let the results speak for themselves. Which audience is the cheapest to acquire? What kind of content that resonates with them? Which value proposition give the best results?
Set up different ads for every question, spend between $50 and $500 depending on how many variables you’re trying to test and see which audience is most engaged.
We used this strategy to test whether Greenovate Construction should advertise its ads as
The budget for this experiment was low $25USD. We tweaked the value proposition and audience a few times and figured out which one people prefer.
There’s a list of countries that get cheap cost per click. You can get as many as 400 likes on your posts with only $3 in ad spend. Now, before you rush to wrong conclusions let me tell you two things: 1) many of these accounts are set up by so called “click farms” and won’t engage 2) never do that with page likes as it will make it hard to remarket to that group of people later on. You don’t want any fake accounts in there.
However, if you want to blow up your numbers for social proof purposes go ahead and choose an audience targeting these countries:
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Liberia, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, S. Africa, Thailand, Trinidad, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, UAE, Venezuela, Vietnam
The only use case where it’s okay to follow this strategy is to create a few initial likes on a new post. Go ahead and get 30 likes for 1 cent each. Then go back into the settings and change the targeting to your “real” target audience and the previous engagement will make it more likely new people will engage with the post, too.