Race Planning: Dive into Paid Social Media with Facebook

Paid Social Media Race Planning

When it comes to race planning these days, a paid social media strategy is a must. We’ve covered some basic aspects of how race directors can better manage their social media in the past. (Our original Race Directors Guide to Social Media can be downloaded here). With a new year comes a new (advanced) guide, chock full of more advanced tactics on paid advertising, ambassador programs, and the importance of Instagram and Periscope. Once you’ve got the basics down with your social media presence, here are some more advanced tactics to consider during your race planning to help grow your participant numbers. Like the ideas below? Download the full Race Director’s Advanced Guide to Social Media for more ways to take advantage of social media that your competition probably isn’t using yet.

Why use paid advertising?

The News Feed, which is fighting for your attention, is becoming increasingly competitive and decreasingly effective. You’ve already seen your organic distribution fall significantly. The good news is you can still effectively target and reach your audience on Facebook. The bad news is that it will cost you. There are a couple of options for promoting content on Facebook: boosted posts or ads.

Boosting posts is the easiest way to promote your content. It’s as simple as clicking the ‘Boost Post’ button on the lower right-hand corner of any Facebook post. You have the option to target your fans, friends of fans, or a custom audience based on gender, age geography, and interests. Once you specify a budget and a duration, you’re all set. Facebook will provide you with an estimated reach and you can keep an eye on things with their real-time reporting.

Note: Boosted posts have to be approved. If you use an image with over 20% text, your post will be rejected.

Pro Tip: look at your post analytics for the last few weeks of posts and boost the one that had the most engagement organically. Remember: don’t over-do the boosted posts. You want to keep your Timeline clean, fun and informative. You do not want to appear spammy.

BONUS Pro Tip: when boosting a post… paste the URL you’d like to promote onto your Facebook page and allow it to pull up a post- preview. Upload a custom image and then boost. This makes the entire image clickable.

Promoted Posts/Facebook Ads

Promoted posts can be set up through the Facebook Ads Manager or Power Editor. The advantage to this method is you’re getting more control over who sees your ad and how you pay for it. For example, you can create specific campaign objectives and track your success for things such as Page Likes or website conversions (registrations). Think about what you are trying to achieve with your ad. What is the end goal? Is it to drive awareness of your event? Are you looking to drive registrations? Do you want people to claim an offer? Here’s a full list of campaign objective options:

    • Clicks to Website
    • Website Conversions
    • Page Post Engagement*
      – *Note: this is the only campaign objective available when youboost posts.
    • Page Likes
    • App Installs
    • App Engagement
    • Offer Claims
    • Local Awareness
    • Event Responses:
    • Video Views
      Once you’ve decided upon your end goal, Facebook walks you through the set up process based on that goal. You’re able to pick your audience, budget, specify whether you’d like to pay based on clicks or impressions, manage scheduling, and ad placement (desktop right column, mobile/desktop news feed, and/or an audience network). Pro Tip: take a look at your registration conversions. If 90% of your participants are signing up on desktop, running ads across mobile is not a great use of your ad budget.

You can include one or multiple images, or create a carousel ad. Carousel ads are a great way to include multiple images and links in a single ad. The images in your carousel ad should grabs someone’s attention when they’re scrolling through their News Feed. Do your best to keep the headlines and descriptions short and sweet. Carousel ads work well on desktop, but are inherently optimized for mobile phones, so make sure you’re running your carousel ad on mobile. You have the ability to associate each image with a page on your website, so decide whether to use the same link for all images or different links for each.

Paid Social Media Race Planning 3


Ask Facebook for a credit if you are new to test out the ads. They sometimes give a $50 credit to newbies. It’s really easy to set a daily budget so you won’t break the bank. Set a start and end date if you don’t want to forget to shut them off. You can always go in and change it later.

So how much should you spend? There is no magic dollar value to creating a successful Facebook Ad campaign. What makes an ad successful on Facebook has more to do with the copy & creative. As we noted earlier, the image has to be primarily ‘image’. Only 20% of your ad can be text. It WILL get rejected by Facebook if it’s not.

How do you know if you have a great-looking ad? Facebook will provide you with a relevance score. The Relevance score is calculated based on the positive and negative feedback expected from an ad. The more positive interactions Facebook expects an ad to receive, the higher the ad’s relevance score will be. The more times Facebook expects people to hide or report an ad, the lower its score will be. Ads receive a score between 1 and 10, with 10 being the highest. The score is updated once the ad is live and people begin to interact with the post.

Why is the relevance score important?

1. It can lower the cost of reaching people. The higher an ad’s relevance score is, the less it will cost to be delivered. Facebook’s ad delivery system is designed to show the right content to the right people, and a high relevance score is seen by the system as a positive signal.

2. It allows you to test creative options before running a campaign.

3. It can help optimize campaigns already in progress. You can monitor your ad relevance scores and adjust if a score begins to dip.

This is not to say the relevance score is a tell-all. At the end of the day, if your goal is to increase registrations, the number of registrations is still the #1 indicator of a successful ad campaign, not the relevance score. If you have an average score but your ad is working, you may not want to change anything. Or you may consider tweaking the ad to see how you can get a lower cost of delivery.

Budget vs. Bidding

Your budget is the maximum amount you’re willing to spend on each campaign you run. A bid allows you to tell Facebook your desired maximum price for a specific outcome (i.e. registrations, Page likes, post engagement, clicks, or impressions).

You have two bidding options: automatic and manual. In general, we recommend using automatic bidding. It’s easy. It allows Facebook to set your bid amount to get the most out of your dollars, related to your end-goal. However, if you want more control, you can manually bid what you’re willing to pay. For example, if you’re goal is website conversions (registrations) you could enter in the max amount you’re willing to pay for one registration.

Paid Social Media Race Planning 2CUSTOM AUDIENCES

Custom Audiences look daunting, but they’re easy to set up. A Custom Audience in Facebook is created by tracking website activity or by uploading a list of emails. A custom audience based on website activity requires a pixel on your site. Once installed, you can choose to target everyone who visited your site, or segment them by specific activities; i.e. users who visited specific pages of your website.

To create a custom audience from emails, simply upload a list. Make sure your lists are segmented. You may want to upload prospect lists and customer lists so you can exclude customers from any prospecting activity you’re working on. Pro Tip: The email address you upload has to match the one the person uses in Facebook for this to work. Lists may get cut down by 70-80%, so the bigger the original list, the better.

After you’ve created your custom audiences, Facebook provides you with statistical data (if the audience contains 1000+ users). The data Facebook gives you is incredibly useful (and somewhat terrifying). You can find out everything from education level to relationship status to household income.

Lookalike audiences can be created using the custom audiences you created based on emails and website activity. Facebook will scrape the data from those users and find individuals with similar behaviors to target.

Play around with Saved Audience. Add various lists together and exclude Facebook followers. This is a good test since organic Facebook reach has become so limited.


Facebook’s tracking and optimization tools can help you increase registrations through your website. By placing a conversion pixel on your registration page you’ll know exactly which ads led to your conversions (registrations).

NOTE: Facebook will be removing the conversion tracking pixel in the second half of 2016. Audience and Conversion pixels will be combined into one Facebook Pixel. The new Facebook pixel can be used to measure, optimize and build audiences for your ad campaigns, and you no longer need to implement the conversion pixel and Custom Audience pixel. However, if you have an existing Custom Audience pixel, you can continue to use it and just add standard events for conversion tracking and optimization.

Facebook Ad Reporting

Facebook Ad reporting is available in the Ads Manager. You’re able to review the actions, reach, audience breakdown and which placement performed the best overall. All of the information is exportable into Excel and you can sort based on performance, delivery or engagement. The reporting is highly customizable and Facebook allows you to add in or remove any columns you like before exporting into Excel. The cost per result is an extremely important metric to track your success. It’s a great way to understand your audience and adjust your marketing tactics based on performance. Pro Tip: if you boosted a post (which means the default “result” metric will be engagement) and you want to view conversions, you can add in a custom column for pixel conversions.

Feel like you’re ready to move forward with more advanced social media tactics? Download the full guide below and use it during your race planning.



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About the Author, Thomas Neuberger

With a passion for social media and running, Thomas took what he learned from agency life and running one of the most popular running gear review sites on the web (believeintherun.com) and started Big Run Media in late 2014. Big Run Media’s mission is to connect, influence, and motivate your brand’s fans to take action and help your business grow. For more information and tips follow Big Run Media on Twitter or visit the Big Run Media Website.

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