We spent $150 on geotargeting Facebook ads and this is what happened

Digital Advertising

At the recent Nonprofit Technology Conference (#17NTC), we talked about using Facebook ads to drive impact. For fun, we led the crowd through an exercise in creating an ad to retarget them – the audience themselves – after the conference. For fun, we also decided to run the ads and see what happened! Here’s what they looked like:
Facebook Click To Site Ad Targeting Nonprofit Technology Conference Attendees   Facebook conversion ad featuring Whole Whale staff
And here’s how we honed in on our target audience: nonprofit technology enthusiasts who had attended the #17NTC:
Facebook ad geotargeting People Recently in a location
Nonprofit technology targeting on Facebook
Facebook ads targeting - nonprofit technology targeting
Smart, right? People who had recently been in DC and were interested in these quintessential nonprofit technology resources? We thought so too. But the data told a different story:
Facebook ad data for lead generation ads with poor results
A $21.62 cost per results is close to the worst we’ve seen. #WhaleFail!
We could have stuffed this campaign under the rug and hoped no one would notice. But instead, we took the actions below and took ownership, dissected the problem, and remained positive about the impact Facebook ads can have for our goals.
The bottom line: do not let failure, or fear of failure, keep you from trying new things. Innovation is the only way to continue to reach your constituents in the ever-changing digital age, and we all must “run to the roar” when it comes to taking risks that will help us multiply our impact! Keep learning with us to stay up to date and – hopefully – prevent too many facepalms in your future.

Have any ideas for how we could have targeted our #17NTCPayToPlay audience better? In the spirit of #3, we are all ears. Tweet at us!

Risk-Taking in Nonprofit Technology

As nonprofit techies, we have to constantly try new things and keep up with trends in order to make the most impact for our organizations. Often that means taking a risk on a new idea, platform, tool, or approach. Sometimes, these risks bring huge wins: that new Instagram Story is driving hundreds of sessions to our site! That email A/B test increased our open rate by 25%! That new donate button is driving more donors than ever!
And sometimes, it’s a big ol’ fail.  Subscriptions decrease. Bounce rate skyrockets. Our users unfollow us on social. Or, in a recent case here at Whole Whale, we waste $150 on ads that drive barely any engagement.

How we deal with failure determines how we will innovate in the future. 

How we deal with failure determines how we will innovate in the future. Click To Tweet
So how do we respond in these facepalm moments?

  1. Communicate with honesty and transparency.

    Own the flop. Help your superiors and team members understand exactly what happened and why. No need to sugar-coat it: honesty will breed trust and respect from others in the long haul.

  2. Hold a post-mortem.

    What exactly went wrong here? Is there data that can help us understand why this initiative failed? What can we learn that will help us do better next time? If we can find insights that help us improve, this might not be a total failure after all.

  3. Stay positive.

    At the end of the day, does it really matter if a few dozen people unsubscribe from your list, or if you essentially flush $150 down the drain? No. We are not doctors. Breathe in, and repeat after me: Small children will not die. What’s important is to learn from this experience without discouraging future strategic risk-taking.