4 Facebook advertising tips for destinations

For a long time, in social media years, destinations placed an emphasis on using advertising dollars to grow fan bases on Facebook in order to expand the reach of their content.  The idea was that more fans engaging with your content created stories that reached their friends and thereby spread your message, creating inspiration and advocates. However, in the past year, Facebook has been particularly active updating its algorithm and changes in your advertising strategy are now necessary to optimize your reach and engagement. Here are 4 tips to help:

After the publication of Ogilvy’s report on declining organic reach, it’s time to reconsider destiantion social advertising strategy on Facebook. The study of more than 100 brand pages showed that brands are getting through to an ever decreasing percentage of their fan bases: from an original quoted 16% now down to 6% and 2% respectively for pages under and over 500K followers.

Hence, more fans no longer equals more reach. In fact, as your fan base grows, you are getting a diminishing rate of return on reach for each additional Facebook fan. But if you can't give up fan growth, because it's a long cherished measure of success, fear not, promoted posts also generate new fans, just not as quickly (but arguably more effectively).

Tip 1: Promoted Content

Potential audiences no longer have to LIKE a page to see its content. It’s time to start thinking about Facebook more like a traditional online content advertising model, with a twist. Facebook still holds the keys to the viral reach castle on content, but you have to pay to open that door now. Reach and engagement are now driven by paid media in the form of promoted content.

The rules about engaging post content still apply. A post still has to feature great photography/video, concise and powerful text, and an engaging call to action, because once you open the reach gates, you can maximize your investment by boosting the value of that paid reach with the quality of your content.

What can you do today? Think of Facebook as a earned-through-paid reach model as the study says.  If you are not investing in promoted posts and are investing in paid ads for fan growth instead, then you need to think about shifting some of your budget on a regular basis.

Here is a cheat sheet we created featuring all major Facebook ad products

FB Ad Overview


Tip 2: Custom Audiences

Have an email list?  Upload your email list to Facebook's custom audiences.  As a DMO, you may have noticed that there's a subscription lifecycle,  people get on your list as they are planning a vacation, but then start to disengage and unsubscribe as they take the trip and after the trip.

Custom audiences allows you to upload your list and find these fans on Facebook before you lose them, and it's important to reach them because as past visitors, they have stories, pictures, and testimonials that make for wonderfully inspiring content.  Note: Your content plan should include tactics to stimulate sharing from past visitors.

Tip 3: Lookalike feature

If you have already created a custom audience in Facebook, it's easy to use the Lookalike feature to have Facebook target a list of fans that are similar to those in your email list.  You can also create Lookalikes for your page fans, and web visitors.  With Lookalike audiences, you'll want to test promoting your best performing content first and give those users a reason to engage.

Tip 4: Benchmarking

One issue with paying to promote content is figuring out if increased engagement is a result of advertising or the quality of the content itself and how to benchmark if your content is performing or your advertising. 

There are several techniques that you can employ. The one I'm currently testing is by removing total fans from the equation and substituting reach. To do so, you'll need to pull four metrics in your Facebook Insights (Post Level): Engaged Users, Total Reach, Organic Reach, and Paid Reach.

Engaged User / Total Reach: This statistic is a useful barometer to see if your community remains engaged as your advertise, add new fans, and try new content concepts and techniques.

Engaged Users / Organic Reach: Will tell you how well your content performs. Because communities differ widely, track it over time to gauge if your content is improving over time.

Engaged Users / Paid Reach:  This will tell you how well your advertising is affecting engagement. If you find that this number is dipping, then you may want to revisit your targeting.


Things are changing so quickly in the Facebook landscape, it’s important for destinations to revisit their advertising and content strategy on a regular basis. How has your advertising strategy changed? Let us know via @sparkloft