Story of a Failed Self-Serve Facebook Experiment

Being Your Own Agency on the Site Isn't Easy

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Mat Zucker
Mat Zucker
The last three months, I've been soliciting to raise funds to participate in the NYC Writer's Coalition "Write Your A** Off" Write-a-Thon. It's an annual event at which writers donate a full day to writing to raise money for free writing programs for the disadvantaged across New York City. I participated in it last year, and it was terrific.

I was also one of the top fundraisers last year, but this year, with the economy and all, I lowered my target bid to just $400. NYCWC uses Firstgiving.com as a platform, which is great -- it is easy to customize your page, process donors, connect into Facebook, spread the word. NYCWC used my personalized page as a model page to participants of one well customized. I was flattered.

After several weeks of repeated postings on Twitter, Facebook and my own e-mail campaign to friends and family, I was surprised at how I was barely meeting my fund-raising goal. Sure, the economy was awful, but with my repeated posts in social networks (including some folks who re-tweeted my ask) shouldn't I have done better than $380? I mean, I'm one of the ones who know how to do this.

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So I decided to do what a lot of sellers do. I hired an agency: Myself. After all, I have directed enough Facebook advertising programs for previous clients, so why not try it for my own effort. Here I'd need to be the planner, buyer and creative too. I can do it and Facebook makes it easy to create an ad campaign in minutes with reporting included.

Many options were offered for targeting, including geography, gender and keyword. I picked keywords to narrow the target to "New York" and added in "Writing," "Art" and then at the last minute "Poetry." Poets make the least of anyone but the romantic in me figured they might pony up $5 -- and I didn't need much.

I then set my daily limit. Since I waited until the last minute, my exposure was limited so I chose $15 a day. For the ad, headlines can only be 25 characters so I couldn't use: "Everyone deserves a chance to write." Instead, I tested (yes, tested!) two different headlines: "As if you were there" vs "Support the right 2 write." (Yes, the "2" was cheesy but i broke the character limit without doing it.) I was curious to see if the dramatic voyeurism could beat the advocacy tone. I bet you already know what will win.

I wanted to version the body copy and use different visuals, but the metrics guy in my head was screaming that doing so would ruin the test so I used the NYCWC logo in both with this copy: "Sponsor me in the annual NY Writers Coalition Write-a-Thon on 5.16, a day-long writing marathon to support programs for disadvantaged."

Four days later, and a $79 investment and counting, the results are in.

"Support the right 2 write" beat the pants off "As if you were there" for click-through to the landing page with .05% CTR. But I raised absolute nothing ($00.00) new after 122 targeted clicks. I learned less than I thought I would.

I don't know if it was the media plan targeting the wrong types or the landing page failing to convert those who clicked to give. But I failed.

My partner Bryan tells me I should've done an offer, with some kind of matching offer like NPR, but now that seems like investing more money after bad. Not to mention desperate. What would you have done?

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