Six Ways Arts Organizations Can Improve their Facebook Advertising

Guest blogger Erik Gensler is the President of Capacity Interactive, a digital marketing consulting firm for arts organizations. This fall Capacity Interactive is hosting Digital Marketing Boot Camp for Arts Marketers, a 2-day conference October 25-26 in NYC. Conference topics include: Marketing the Arts with Video, Mobile Marketing, Writing for the Web, Online Fundraising, and the topic of this blog post: Facebook Marketing. More information at

I'm calling for a moratorium on boring Facebook ads for the arts. As arts marketers, we have amazing products to sell -- live arts that provide moving experiences to audiences every night. We have beautiful sets and costumes, sexy dancers, and attractive actors. But what do most performing arts Facebook ads look like?

Headline: Show I've Never Heard of

Stock Production Photo

Come see <Show I've never heard of> at< theater I like>.

Starts April 5th. Tickets start at $25.

Snooze. We could do much better. Here are six tips to improve your Facebook advertising.

1.) Set goals. Before you begin, set goals for your campaigns. These can include things native to Facebook like: drive sharing, build fan base, drive event RSVPs, drive video views, etc. or drive visits to our website. One campaign can’t do everything to pick two to three goals and focus. I tend to think you can be most successful driving the native Facebook functions such as sharing, video views, RSVPs, etc. These are the easiest to track on Facebook and what the new ad formats are designed to do. I've also ran many campaigns that take users off of Facebook to a website. As Facebook builds more advertising options to keep users on Facebook and track their interactions, I think there are more benefits to running those types of ads.

Then review your advertising reports often. You can see what is working and what is not. Pause and replace the duds. Also make sure to closely watch for frequency. If your average frequency for any ad approaches 10 then you need to replace it to fight fatigue.

2.) Highlight benefits, not features. I see far too many Facebook ads laden with features and with zero benefits. Features are much less interesting. Features would include: At xxx theater, performances begin 4/25, comfortable seats. They are useful, but benefits make far more compelling ad copy. Strong quotes provide great benefits. "The most brilliant ballerina of her generation" or "You don’t just see an Ailey performance, you feel it." Tell a story. Build excitement.

3.) Use imagery that captures attention and change it frequently. As I mentioned earlier, we have the benefits of beautiful sets, costumes, sexy dancers, and attractive actors. For our dance clients, the Facebook posts that get the most interaction are ones with shirtless men and dancers in super-human poses.

Have your designer alter the images so they capture attention. Try adding borders or bright background colors. Or try to crop out the image and put it on a white background so it pops.

Also, if you ever ran a good ad on Facebook, you know your click-through rate (CTR) lasts only a couple of days. The only way to keep your CTR high is to keep your images fresh. So create lots of ads and rotate them often.

4.) Tighten your language. Is the language as tight as can be and under 90 characters? If not, cut nonessential words. Keep sentences short. Use active voice. Posts with fewer than 250 characters see about 60% more engagement

5.) Micro Target. Facebook allows you to slice and dice your audience in many different ways. Say, for example, that you are promoting the musical White Christmas. Determine all of the potential audience groups: people who like classic movies, people with kids, people who like Irving Berlin or his contemporaries, people interested in musicals, people who like tap dancing, etc. Then create unique ads for each interest with headlines that will grab their attention. For people with kids the headline should be "Family Holiday Entertainment" for those who like tap dancing "A Tap Dancing Delight," etc. It is best to create at least two headlines for each interest group to start. The more versions the better.

6.) Take advantage of the new ad types. There are many types of ads you can run on Facebook. The two types of ads I think are most useful in selling performances are:

  • Stories to build up your likes. This just shows the name of your organization and the name of a friend who likes it. Social ads, ones with the names of friends attached, get far more clicks than non social ads. Target these ads to friends of your current fans. Make sure to add the demographic targeting on top of these ads to target the type of audience you are after. For one client we only target college educated women over 30 since we know they purchase 80% of tickets.
  • Page Post ads. These allow you to select a recent post and promote it as an ad. This is the only way to get videos into your ads without purchasing a premium sponsorship (which starts at $25,000). Just save your video on Facebook and create a post about it. Then go to the ad interface and select your organization as the target, choose "a specific post on your organization," then choose the story you want to promote from the dropdown. Voila, a video ad. The other advantage of these types of ads is that users can like, comment, and share the ad. When a user “shares” your ad, you get thousands of endorsed impressions. Also consider RSVP ads where you build an event on Facebook and the call to action is for users to RSVP.

Want to learn more about Facebook advertising? Don’t miss the half day session on Facebook Marketing at Digital Marketing Boot Camp for Arts Marketers, October 25-26 in NYC. More information at