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Acquiring New Users Through Paid Social

One of the most proven, dependable ways to acquire new mail list users is to:
  • Set up a big giveaway
  • Buy Facebook Ads promoting the giveaway
  • Exclude your current mailing list from the ads' targeting
This way, everyone who enters the giveaway from the ads will become a new mail list user. Ideally, your prize is so sweet that these people will also refer their friends to the contest, winning you even more new users and driving your cost of user acquisition down.

Step 1: Line up a big giveaway

These giveaways should:
  • appeal to a wide audience
  • have a high $$ value
  • be easily understood: You'll often only have a few words to describe your giveaway in your social ads. People need to be able to immediately grasp what is happening and why they should enter.
Do312's Win Free Ramen for a Year giveaway checks all these boxes, and we'll be using it as our example throughout this article.

Before setting up your ads, be sure to verify that your giveaway will not close before your ads have had a chance to run. You'll also want to keep the giveaway open for 1-2 days after your ads have run to give users time to refer their friends.

Step 2: Download your mailing list

In Emarsys, this is done via Emarsys -> Contacts -> Data Export -> All Contacts. In Mailchimp, this is done via MailChimp -> Audience -> All Contacts -> Export Audience.

In both of these cases, we're including both subscribed and unsubscribed users, as users who have unsubscribed from your mailing list will not be able to resubscribe by entering giveaways.

You do not need to include any fields other than email address in your exports.

Step 3: Determine your budget

Our average cost for buying new users from social ads is around $.50/user. Acquiring a budget for these ads will likely require buy-in from other members of your team. 

When negotiating your budget, remind your team that for every $50 we spend, we'll be able to add 100 mail list users. That is a tremendous value, especially given the limited work involved.

Step 4: Acquire creative

A big part of your ad campaign is visual. You need compelling imagery for the ads to perform well, regardless of how enticing your prize is. Before launching your campaign, we recommend securing 2-3 different images and/or short (15-second) videos to use in your ads.

Step 5: Set up your ads

Now that you have your giveaway, your mailing list, your budget and your creative, it's time to set up your ads.

Log into Facebook Business Manager and click 'Create' to start building your new campaign.


Step 5, pt. I: Your 'Campaign'

Advertisements bought through Facebook Business Manager consist of three parts: campaigns, ad sets and ads.
  • Campaigns are like the 'shells' the encompass the whole initiative. They're where you define your high-level goal and name your overall campaign.
  • Ad Sets are where you choose your targeting, timing and ad placement. Campaigns each contain one or more ad sets.
  • Ads are where you choose your creative, including imagery and copy. Ad sets each contain one or more ads.
On the campaign screen:
  • Select 'Traffic' as your 'Consideration'
  • Name your campaign
  • Turn on 'Campaign Budget Optimization' (more on this later)
  • Set your Campaign's 'Lifetime Budget'. In this example, we'll be spending $500.
Leave all other options as their defaults.

Step 5, pt. 2: Your 'Ad Sets'

Ad Sets are where you choose your targeting, timing and ad placement. It is within our Ad Sets that we'll be excluding your mailing list and targeting our potential new users.

Campaigns have one or more ad sets. For simplicity's sake, we'll just be setting up one ad set for now. In general, we recommend:
  • 1 ad set if spending less than $150
  • 2 ad sets if spending between $150 and $500
  • 3 ad sets if spending more than $500
Your first ad set should always be a 'Broad' ad set -- targeting everyone who could possibly be relevant. We start with a broad ad set because, in general, costs tend to decrease as audience size increases: The larger the audience, the better the results. So, we start by creating an ad set for the largest possible audience. You'll find that, even when testing multiple ad sets, the broad audience generally tends to perform the best.

To set up a 'Broad' audience, take the following actions on the Ad Set screen:
  • Name your ad set. We recommend using the naming convention "{Targeting} - {Objective}" -- so in this case, that would be "Broad - Landing Page Views"
  • Under Audiences -> Custom Audiences, select 'Create New'.
    • Then, select 'Custom Audience'
    • Then, "Source: Customer List"
    • On the next screen, select 'Next'
    • Select 'No' when asked if our list includes 'Customer Value'
    • Then, upload your customer list (email list) and name it "City Name - Mail List Users - Date".
    • On the 'Preview and Map Identifiers' screen, ensure that the email address column is properly mapped as such.
    • Select 'Do Not Upload' for any other columns your upload may include aside from email address
    • Then, select 'Upload and Create'
  • Once your custom audience is created, it will automatically be added to your ad set as an audience the ads are being targeted to -- but we want the opposite! So:
    • Click the 'X' to the right of where the Custom Audience has been added to the ad set (image)
    • Then select 'Exclude'.
    • Search for - and select - your new Custom Audience within the "EXCLUDE people who are in at least ONE of the following" bar.
    • Your resulting screen should look like this:

Now that your Custom Audience has been added, you'll want to complete the rest of your Ad Set's information:
  • Within Locations, select your city and use the "DMA" (designated market area) option.
  • Restrict your age range to 21+ (important!).
  • Ensure your Optimization for Ad Delivery is set to "Landing Page Views".
    • A landing page view is counted when a user clicks through your ad and allows the resulting page to fully load.
  • Set your date range. To ensure best results, we recommend spending $30-$50 per day.
  • Leave all other options as their defaults.
  • Select 'Continue' to move onto the first Ad screen.
Step 5, pt. 3: Your Ads

As mentioned, Ad Sets each contain one or more Ads. We recommend creating three Ads per Ad Set. If you have multiple Ad Sets, we recommend using the same three Ads for each, so you can properly evaluate the Ad Sets' targeting against one another. (If the Ad Sets have different Ads, then how will you know if a difference in performance between the Ad Sets is due to the Ad Sets' targeting or the Ads' creative?)

To build your first ad:
  • Name it. 
    • We recommend naming your first Ad "Ad #1" and then including notes in the other Ad names referencing how these Ads differ from the first, or "control," Ad -- eg "Ad #2 - Alternate Image" and "Ad #3 - Shortened Copy".
  • Ensure your Facebook and Instagram pages are properly associated with the campaign.
  • Scroll down to the 'Website URL' field and paste in the URL of the page you are promoting.
  • Next, scroll up to the 'Ad Media' section and upload the photo you'd like to use in this first ad.
  • In the 'Primary Text' section, insert your most compelling, concise invitation for users to click on the ad.
    • Note the 'Primary Text' is the most important text in your Ad, as it is the only text that displays in certain placements such as Instagram Feed and Stories.
    • In this case, our Primary Text is: "Win free ramen for a year from @Furious Spoon."
  • Next, fill in your 'Headline'. The 'Headline' only displays in certain placements, but it's super valuable on Facebook, as users' eyes often run to it first, as it is more bold than the Primary Text on Facebook. 
    • It is perfectly fine for your Headline to repeat the Primary Text's offer in similar words. In fact, it is often easiest this way.
    • In this case, we've chosen the Headline: "Win Free Ramen for a Year".
  • Fill in your 'Description,' which displays below the Headline on Facebook Desktop Feeds.
  • Under 'Tracking,' be sure that your tracking Pixel is properly associated with your ad. This is necessary for Landing Page Views to be properly counted.
  • Review your Ad's information to ensure that everything looks correct. 
Here's a picture of our first ad:

  • Once your Ad is to your liking, select 'Publish' to launch your ad and activate your overall campaign.

Creating Additional Ads

As mentioned, we recommend three Ads per Ad Set. To create additional ads:
  • Navigate to your 'Ads' screen for this Campaign is Business Manager.
  • Hover over the Ad name and select 'Duplicate' (image).
  • Select 'Original Campaign' to duplicate the Ad into.
  • Name your second Ad "Ad #2 + what is different about it compared to the control (first) Ad". In this case, we are going to test an alternate image, so we are naming this ad "Ad #2 (Alternate Image)."
  • Make a change to this ad that is different from the first ad. (We recommend only changing one thing at a time, so you can learn what changes drive results for future advertising.)
  • Select 'Publish' to make the ad live.
Then, repeat the steps above for your third ad, and you'll be good to go! You've now created an Ad Campaign in Facebook Business Manager designed to win new mail list users!
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