Facebook Pages

Don’t Make this Mistake when Trying to Grow Facebook Likes (Case Study)

I was in downtown Portland, OR recently and it was lunchtime so I headed for one of the groups of well-known food trucks in the city.  Never having eaten from the trucks before I decided to walk by each of them to check them out.

I walked down one side of the block where the trucks were and noticed some of them didn’t have anyone ordering food.  Other trucks had a handful of people in front waiting for the food they ordered.

I walked a little further, turned the corner, and was surprised to see a mob of people lined up in front of this one truck.  There had to be forty people waiting.

Now we’re talking!  With all these people waiting, this place must be REALLY good.

So as to not miss out on what was clearly a great spot, I jumped in line and joined the mass of people.

Does this sound familiar?  Ever done this yourself?

Social Proof

How I chose which food truck to eat at is the exact same phenomenon that happens on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and sites like Amazon and Yelp all the time.

You come across the Facebook page of someone in your niche and you notice they have 85 billion fans.

Wow, you think.

They must REALLY be popular.  If 85 billion other people “like” them, I better “like” (or follow or….) them too.

It’s called “social proof.”

I define social proof as the validation of a person, cause, business, or even blog post based on the number of people who “like” or follow or share or comment.  The more of these things you have the better.

It’s psychological. If a lot of people are doing something, you think you might be missing out on something great.  So, you take part.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

That page you came across that has 85 billion fans?  It could very well be that only half of those fans are actually within that page’s target audience.

The other half could be made up of random people who simply “liked” the page for the heck of it.

So, the real number of fans might actually be around 40 billion.

This, of course, is still awesome but certainly not as strong as 85 billion.

If part of your strategy is to use Facebook to grow your business, than your goal should be to build a fan base of as many people as possible that are within your exact target audience.

Speaking of which, you can get answers to all your Facebook marketing questions by liking my Facebook page!

Building Your Fan Base Through Facebook Ads

Using Facebook ads to grow your number of fans is a great strategy because you can get very specific with your targeting.  The targeting allows you to reach those potential customers who are within your ideal audience.

The easiest way to do this is through sponsored stories ads where people can simply click “Like” at the bottom of the ad.

Boom.  They don’t even have to leave the page and they’ve become a fan.

I know you’ve seen these ads before…

And, with the recent update of its ads creator, Facebook has tried to make it easy for people who want to increase “likes” through ads by letting you choose an “Objective.”

There are two to choose from and depending on which objective you choose, you either pay CPM (cost per thousand times your ad is shown) or CPC (cost per click).

If you want to have people “like” your ad, you’ll pay on a CPM.

If your goal is to have someone take a specific action (i.e. – click through to a landing page) you’ll pay on a CPC.

Fact vs. Fiction…A Case Study

Facebook claims that when you choose the Objective “show this to people who are most likely to “like” my page, your ad will be shown to those who will do just that – within the target audience that you’ve set up.

Really?  That’s all it takes?  Sounds waaay too easy.

Since I’ve always been such a big proponent of CPC pricing, I decided to test out the “objective” of gaining likes and paying on a CPM.

Here’s how I set up my campaigns…

Demographic Targeting:  35-44 males and females in the US.  The males and females were separated by campaign so I paid the least amount possible.

Precise Interest Targeting #1: Other well-known people in the social media industry (each person had their own campaign)

Precise Interest Targeting #2: Online marketing managers and “internet advertising” (each had their own campaign)

Broad Category Targeting: Small business owners

Connections: Not already connected to my page

Budget: $200 per day (I knew I wouldn’t spend this much)

Sample Ad:

I kept the ads very simple, with an easy question and call-to-action for people directly related to the target audience.

I rotated 5-6 ads for each campaign with different images.

The Results = Crap

I ran the ads for 3 days and the results were… interesting.  Frankly, I was far from impressed.

Impressions served: 85,009

Clicks: 76

Actions: 54  ß this is what was most important to me

CTR: 0.089%

Spent: $118.74

CPM: $1.40

CPC: $1.56

So, I picked up a total of 54 new “likes” for my page but at a cost of a whopping $2.19 per “like” ($118.74 / 54).

Uh, yeah.  That’s a bit too expensive for my tastes.

What was most interesting, though, was the type of people who “liked” my ad.

You would think with the targeting I had in place, the likes would come from small business owners with an interest in social media, online marketing or Facebook marketing, right?


Attracting Irrelevant Fans

Of the 54 people who liked my ad, 45 of them were completely irrelevant to my business.  45!

After reviewing the Facebook pages of these 45 people, I noticed a trend.  Each of them was a Fan of hundreds and sometimes thousands of pages.  These were people who “like” and click on evvvverrrrrrything.

So, because the objective I chose was “Show this ad to people who are most likely to like my page,” Facebook was very literal with this.

They really did show my ad to people who are most likely to like my page, but they weren’t even within my targeted audience.  Thanks, Facebook.

Granted, nine of the 54 people were in my target audience so some of my ads were shown properly, but that’s an unacceptable ratio in my book.

Yes, it makes the number of fans on my page look good, but they’re not relevant to my business.

So what would I do differently?  Glad you asked.

Strategy Going Forward

First, I’m done with using CPM, at least for now.  I’ll continue to test it occasionally but I’ll give it much less budget.

I’m going to stick with CPC since using this pricing model tends to keep the ads only within the targeting I set.

Second, I’m going to expand my Precise Interest targeting a bit, ensuring that I keep my message and call-to-action short and extremely relevant to the target audience.

I’ll continue to create individual campaigns for each targeting group to ensure I’m paying the cheapest price possible and am able to track success accurately.

Finally, and this is a little insight into what’s on the horizon, the “I ROCK Paid Traffic” headline might be confusing to people.  They may not know what it means right away and thus they’ll move on to something else on the page.

Final Thoughts on Using CPM to Grow Likes

I’ve heard I’m not the only one to have experienced this frustration when using the option, “show this ad to people who are most likely to like my page,” to grow fans.  A lot of other people are having the same issues.

Does it make me feel better?

No, but at least it doesn’t seem to be an isolated hiccup.

As with anything that Facebook does, though, I’m sure this feature will evolve and improve.

It DOES work to increase fans so if you’re simply looking to increase your social proof, and don’t care about how targeted the fans are, go for it.

Otherwise, stick with CPC, I think you’ll find it a better option.

I’d love to hear from you in the Comments below – have you tried the “objective” where Facebook shows your ads to people likely to “like” your page?  If so, was it successful for you?


As you know, there have been a TON of changes to Facebook’s ad platform.  The ads – specifically the way you create them – are completely different from what it was a few months ago.

That’s why I’m psyched to be preparing to release the second edition of “Your Ultimate Guide to Getting Started with Facebook Ads.”

With this edition, I’ve taken the wealth of responses from my recent survey and have addressed the most pressing concerns throughout the text.

I’m working on some great bonuses as we speak and I’m so excited to share it all with you soon!

More to come soon on the release date.

Stay tuned!


(Food truck photo credit: Anne Ruthmann)