Blog Post

Why I (just may) love Facebook Ads for Collecting Data

At 4pm PST today my ad campaign on Facebook came to a close. I had been running 5 ads for exactly 20 days, spending no more than $30 a day, and spending up to $2.00 every time someone clicked on my ad. At the close of the campaign my ads had been seen 2,039,810 times. Yes, that number is correct: my ads were flashed on the laptops, iPads, iPhones, and computer monitors of students using Facebook over two million times in just under three weeks.

My ads were the first stage of my dissertation data collection. I set up an electronic survey and created the ads so that when people clicked on them, they would be directed to the survey. The ads not only announced the intent of the survey, but also offered participants a chance to win an iPod and an additional $50 if they were chosen for follow-up interviews (the next part of my data collection.) Of the two million views my ads got, 506 people clicked on the ad, which led them to the survey. Of those 506, 188 actually took my survey (the others apparently didn't have the 5 minutes it would take to answer questions and potentially win free stuff, I guess.)

To put this in context, imagine putting up paper flyers around campus advertising a research study. Colleagues of mine have done this, and have struggled to receive a few dozens responses. Even in the most crowded hallways, you might be lucky to get a hundred views a day. My ads on Facebook, however, were viewed not only by two million people, but only by those I wanted to target. This reason, among with several other listed here, is why I'm now thinking Facebook ads are a great resource for advertising and collecting data. In short, here are some things I liked about it:

  1. TARGETED ADVERTISING: My ads were targeting only users who attend the schools I'm interested in, in the age range I desire, and within a short driving distance of my campus. I didn't have to worry about paying for survey results that weren't going to be relevant to my study, and this also saved me wading through responses that couldn't be included in the final tally.
  2. EASY PAYMENT STRUCTURES: With the ads, I could select the most I wanted to pay per day, and set the duration of my campaign. Likewise, I was allowed to pay only when people clicked on my ad versus every time it was viewed. As a result, though the ads wer shown over 2 million times, I only had to pay for the 500 times people clicked on them.
  3. MULTIPLE ADS IN ONE CAMPAIGN: I was allowed to create 5 different ads all pointing to the same survey, without spending any extra money. As a result, choosing the right copy or eye-catching image was made much easier. Even better, after a couple of days I could see which ads were getting more responses so that I could cater the others accordingly. Facebook even began showing my popular ads more to further increase participation.
  4. EXPOSURE: Though I've already mentioned it, I can't repeat enough how pleased I was with the exposure my ads received. They were shown 24 hours a day for nearly three weeks, and through an ad bidding system I won't explain here, I could have even increased how often they were shown.

In the end, this was a fully customizable and incredibly intuitive way of collecting data for a project that will start big and get more and more specific. I couldn't have received this many results without it.

Have any of you tried Facebook ads for this purpose? What are your thoughts? Have you tried anything different? If so, this might be a good a place as any to discuss them...

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