Proven strategies to making paid social ads work for your tourism business

Meetup Description

Social media platforms offer advertisers great promise with large, highly engaged audiences and sophisticated targeting capabilities. But many advertisers express a mixture of confusion and frustration when asked about their experience with social media ads and few report significant return on investment. We’ve helped a variety of tourism-focused businesses achieve high returns with their social media ads over the last 5 years and want to help you do the same. That’s why we’re dedicating this meetup to breaking down what we’ve learned and sharing our best practices for achieving success with social media ads. Watch the video below to learn how to move from confusion and frustration to confidence with your social media ads.

Guest Panel

Meetup Video

Key Takeaways

Business Case for Social Media Ads

  • Massive Reach (3.9B active users, average of 2.4 hours per day)
  • Facebook Ads is the best entry point for most tourism companies
  • Unparalleled Targeting (see video or transcript for list of targeting examples)
  • High User Engagement (visual nature of content, inline placement, high response rates)
  • High Return on Investment (benchmark stats, ROAS example)

Best Practices for Facebook Ads

  • Ad Creative: Focus on images & video that tell the story of the experience
  • Messaging: Focus messaging on emotional connections that engage the user
  • Targeting: Get as close to your ideal fit customer as possible
  • Other Campaign Settings: Setup your campaigns for success
  • Ongoing Optimization: Don’t “set it and forget it”; always be testing

Awareness>Interest>Offer Ad Strategy

  • Success formula for Facebook Ads: Right Audience + Right Message + Right Time = High Return on Ad Spend
  • Awareness Stage: Target lookalike audience and focus content and message that will engage your target audience
  • Interest Stage: Target users that engaged with the Awareness ads, focus on developing interests in your specific experience
  • Offer Stage: Target users that visited your website landing page(s) and focus on direct sales message with booking call to action

Resource Links

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Meetup Transcript

[Sam] Good morning everybody. Good to see you all, well I don’t see you but it’s good to see your names. If you’re just rolling in for the first time, you’re in the Accelerate Tourism, tourism marketing meetup. We know that there’s been quite a lot of registrations of first time participants, first-time attendees. We’re excited that you’re able to join us. We know this has been an absolutely bonkers season. Tourism has just been thrown into chaos. And I know that things aren’t any clearer than when we started this. Carl, did we start this about 10 weeks ago, 11 weeks ago, something like that?

[Carl] 11 weeks ago, yep.

[Sam] If you’re joining us and if you feel comfortable sharing some of your experience that you’ve had so far, please leave it in the comments just get an update about what’s going on with everybody, how y’all are doing and hopefully we’ll see some good stories. I know that a lot of people out there are still trying to figure out what to do next and how to do things. So I hate to call it the new normal cause I feel like I’m holding out but in this COVID season as I call it, I hope people are starting to figure out what’s gonna be working for them. I’m Sam Shoemaker by the way, I am a part time host here with Accelerate Tourism. We’ve got our panelists and I’ll introduce them in just a minute. Give it another couple seconds here to make sure everybody’s rolling in. If you can though if you’re not comfortable leaving a story in the comments please just introduce yourself. Tell us where you’re from what your business is and we’ll get to know each other a little bit this morning.

[Skip] You’re manning the chat, Sam.

[Sam] Yeah, Skip if you want to just to get clarification. Just drop your information down in the chat so we can get to know each other. So we’ll go ahead and officially kick things off here. Again, for all of you who are joining us and for those who are new, we just wanna say hello. Welcome to Accelerate Tourism. This is obviously a virtual meetup for business leaders in the tourism industry. We wanna share ideas that really focus around online marketing and each time we have guest panelists, guest speakers, and we always will open it up at the end for Q&A, which I’ll get to in a minute. And right now, during the lockdown period during everything shut down, we’re doing this weekly now we’ve moved to a month to month. And just to better accommodate people’s schedules. So speaking of Q&A that is a large part of what we do here. We obviously have questions from when you registered so that’s important. If you want to re-enter those questions or if you have new questions, please go ahead and click the Q&A button if you’re on a desktop. And if you’re on a mobile device, I think you have to, like swipe back and forth to find the area you’ll see the little thought bubbles or speech bubbles, and it’ll say Q&A you can just tap that and ask a question anytime. If you have a question that you know that is relevant to this topic of social media ads and Facebook ads, go ahead and just even leave the question right now if we don’t address it, we’ll at least have it there so we can add it to our Q&A list when we get to it.

Topic Introduction

[Sam] So as I mentioned, we are here to talk about getting down and dirty with social media ads. We’ve gotten to do a lot of ad campaigns on social platforms, specifically Facebook, Instagram, and that’s really gonna be our focus today. But before I sort of take the spotlight away from our guest panelists, I wanna introduce Carl Lefever. He’s the owner of Improve & Grow. And he also really helps to run some of the strategies for these ad campaigns. And then Skip Lefever is with us too. And he’s the one that is constantly monitoring, improving, and optimizing these campaigns from start to finish, he’s also a key part in this team that we have here.

Panel Discussion

So, Carl, I want you to just kind of kick it off and help us understand, what’s the business case behind doing social ads? Why are they so important to not only what we’re doing at Improve & Grow and how we’ve seen them work so well but just in general.

What’s the business case behind doing social ads?

[Carl] Yeah, sure thing. So yeah, one of the biggest things is social media is a captive audience. You’ve got nearly 4 billion users across the world that are using social media on an active basis. I don’t have this stat on the slide, but I believe 1.8 billion of those users are using social media daily. So more than half of those people are daily users of social media, the others are a little bit more casual, but that’s just a significant number of people. And those users spend an average of almost two and a half hours per day on social media. So in terms of finding a place to reach people, we’ve talked on other sessions about search engine optimization, we’ve used stats like 80% or more of people when they’re searching for a new brand, begin a search on a search engine. That’s why search engine optimization is so important, social media is a similar way. Most humans who are internet users are using social media and they’re using it quite a lot based on these statistics. So it’s a great way to get in front of people. And, there’s lots of different social media platforms. But as the stats on this slide show, Facebook is definitely the dominant one. And I only have stats on this slide that are specific to industry. But in terms of the typical demographic for a tourism business, Facebook also makes a lot of sense from that perspective.

So we’re gonna talk more specifically about Facebook ads today for two reasons. One, because Facebook is just so huge in terms of its reach with social media. And two, because with Facebook ads, you can reach both Facebook and Instagram. So Instagram’s a little further down the list, but they have almost a billion active users. Now there’s a lot of overlap between Instagram and Facebook, but you have the potential if you were a worldwide company to hit over 3 billion users. So those two platforms specifically, are two of the best platforms to be advertising on. And you can hit both of them with the Facebook ad platform. The other benefit of Facebook ads is it is the most mature social media ad platform. So there’s a lot of advertising options on LinkedIn, on YouTube, on Twitter, there’s also advertising options on TikTok and Snapchat and some of the other newer social media platforms. But Facebook ads is definitely the most mature in terms of targeting options, and reporting and all the other features that really come in handy when you’re really wanting to do a good job with that campaign. So we’re gonna focus a lot more on that. So this is true with Facebook this is also true with most of the other social media platforms.

Another reason that advertising with social media makes a lot of sense is just unparalleled targeting. There’s very detailed demographics, gender, age, where people live, what their behaviors and interests are. You can also target people based on their engagement. So you can retarget people that have liked your Facebook page, you can retarget people that watched a specific video. If you’ve got the tracking pixel running on your website, you can retarget ads to people who visited a particular page of your website or read an article. You can even target people that follow other types of pages or other types of industries. And there’s another feature which we’re gonna talk more about later, you can create what are called lookalike audiences. So you can take your customer email list, upload it to Facebook, let them use their algorithm to find all the other users on Facebook that match similar profiles to that of your customer base, which means you don’t even have to worry about trying to guess at what behaviors or interests your target audience might have. You can get very precise with lookalike targeting. So just some amazing targeting opportunities. Social media ads also have super high user engagements because of the highly visual content because of the inline content placement. What I mean by that is most social media ad platforms, the ads are being placed in the newsfeed as opposed to on the right-side panel or up above or down in a corner somewhere. The ads are showing up in the newsfeed and look I mean, you can see this post here from Refreshing Mountain. It looks very similar to a normal organic social media post. And recently, you have a lot more options, you can use emoticons, you can use videos, you can use stilts, you can do all kinds of different things to really grab people’s attention.

I’m also kind of a stats guy another reason we really promote Facebook ads or other social media ads over just more traditional banner advertising placements is because of Click-thru Rates. You can see here with the staff that’s at the bottom of the slide that Facebook ads get almost double the Click-thru Rate of the same display ad running on the Google network. So that’s an important thing. Maybe most important, or at least from my perspective, thinking from the perspective of the business owner, most important is a high return on investment. Most of the social media platforms you can get started at a pretty low cost on Facebook, you can run a campaign for as low as a buck a day. The cost per click for social media ads is usually in the range of a quarter to 75 cents. You certainly can pay more than that for certain types of campaigns or certain industries that range is based on what we’ve typically seen within the tourism industry. The conversion rates are usually pretty high. Again, this is a stat-based on the tourism industry. The average conversion rate for a Facebook ad and what I mean by conversion rate is the percent of people that see an ad and then take an action like fill out a form, place a phone call to your business or even more important place an online booking.

So the average action rate or conversion rate for a Facebook ad is 2.8%. That’s compared to only half a percent on Google Display. So conversion rates are higher. And then if we just compare the cost to the rate of taking an action, the cost per action on Facebook is about $22.50 whereas on Google Display it’s almost $100. So you can see that just from that the return on investment potential for Facebook is a lot higher than a Google display ad. By the way, I do wanna point out that you can run different types of ads on Google. Google search ads are more expensive, but also have a comparable cost per action to Facebook. I’m comparing to Google Display here because the Facebook ad platform the other social media ad platforms are more of an outbound display-based advertising medium versus a search ad which is what I’ll call a demand-based ad platform. So just comparing apples to apples here, Facebook ads to a Google display ad much better return on investment. Just as an example you know, I know everybody’s business is different, the experience you offer, might have a low or high ticket value depending on what you do. But if you just look at if your average booking was about $200, with that 22.50 cost per action, that’s more than a nine-time return on Ad Spend. So a very significant return on Ad Spend opportunity. And this is just based on averages. You’ll see later a lot of the campaigns that we’ve been a part of doing significantly better than most of these stats in which cases your return on Ad Spend can be a lot higher. And there are also situations like you’ll see later we do marketing for a theater where the average ticket is not anywhere close to $200. But there’s still a healthy return on Ad Spend there.

[Sam] So I think it’s safe to assume Carl that probably most people on this call have tried Facebook ads specifically, and throw Instagram in there as well. And if they haven’t run the actual ad campaigns. And I know we’re gonna talk about this distinction I think at some point in our conversation here. If they haven’t tried an ad they’ve at least tried like boosted posts and trying to kind of take that strategy as well. So let’s just get right in, obviously, best practices. Can we can we talk about that a little bit and Skip can you kind of kick us off and walk us through some of these things that we’ve learned that we’ll call best practices?

What are some best practices for Social Ads?

Yes, absolutely. Yeah, hi everyone. Good to be with you today. As Sam mentioned in my intro, I’ve been managing all kinds of pay per click advertising for a number of years now, and especially for a bunch of our tourism clients. So I wanna share with you some of the best practices that we have discovered and learned over those years and employed today. So let’s go ahead. First we’ll talk about the difference between boosted posts and Facebook ads. Boosted posts are normally most businesses first experience or first exposure to running advertising on the Facebook platform. Boosted posts are a great way to play, to experiment, to try something out. For example, if you’ve done an organic post and it’s gotten a lot of traction, it’s getting a lot of likes, a lot of comments. A great way to try advertising cheaply is to simply take that post, boost it by applying 10 or 20 or $50 to it and identifying an audience of people to show it to. So it’s a good way of taking a post that already has some success and broaden its exposures to a lot more users. Boosted posts are often good ways to grow Facebook page engagement, to get page likes, followers, comments, things like that. Boosted posts are usually short campaigns, people will usually run them for a few days or a week or two weeks, and then they tend to kind of fizzle out a little bit. One example recently that one of our clients tried, they introduced a new event for this season, and they ran a weekly boosted post, they did a weekly post, then they boosted it. And it was a way of talking about some of the key features of that event for a number of weeks in a row.

Facebook ads. A completely different situation where you’re talking about a more organized, more strategic, more targeted way of advertising, where you might be focused on developing a new audience. It might be branding and awareness focus to introduce new prospective customers to your brand, to your activities, to your tours, et cetera. They’re ideal for driving website traffic. If your website is your key means of driving sales or one of them, then traffic is important and Facebook ads and ad campaigns can be very good at doing that for you. Facebook ads can be used to generate leads and bookings leads. Carl identified earlier we mean things like phone calls, form fills, those sorts of things. And then finally, Facebook ads are more ideal for doing longer duration campaigns. Think more in terms of weeks even months, as opposed to days like for boosted posts. Okay, let’s move on to the next topic, ad creative. Ad creative options with social media platforms there are many options. We tend to find in terms of best practices that live-action images. So a photo of some sort of a group activity or an individual experiencing an activity. In this case, we’re showing a piece of creative that has a panoramic view. This happened to be a hot air balloon experience so live-action shots and videos that show a visual of your experience we tend to find do a lot better than just text. We recommend that with your visual images and videos in terms of text overlays, we recommend minimal use of text. So use some text, it’s okay to overlay your visuals with text, just be very economical, give a key message and not overuse it. You can see in this case of the example we’re showing you, not only do we have the visual of the experience, but also a quick focus on a promo at that time, which was gift cards and discounted experience. We definitely find with Facebook and most social media platforms, that video tends to outperform still images. So videos, slideshows, that sort of thing with some motion and again with people enjoying that experience, tend to do a little bit better.

Okay, next up messaging. One thing that we find particularly helpful, I mean most advertisers tend to focus on features, benefits, they tell people about their experience or about their offerings. One of the things that we find works really well is combining some of that, but especially an emotional connection. So by emotional connection we mean, a connection that evokes some kind of a memory, or some kind of an emotional response, happiness, sadness, those sorts of things a thrill, and a memory of something like that. So here’s some examples. A hot air balloon experience. One of the obstacles they faced was that some of their prospects actually have a fear of heights. So what do you do about that? Well, they had written some content on their website and had actually done some video that dealt with that specific area of fear and fear of heights and that kind of thing, and helped to increase comfort with their experience. So there’s an example of the emotional connection is, hey, this sounds interesting, but I’m scared of heights can I enjoy this. So addressing that right up front, making that connection. Another one was the zip line experience and appealing to thrill-seekers. Ziplines, depending on the type, the length, that sort of thing, the elevation for thrill-seekers, that can be a pretty big rush.

So using some content, some images, some video that evokes that sense of a thrill or a rush was very helpful. And then finally and here we have an example with the ad we’re showing an outdoor activity or an experience of some sort, using ad copy that emphasizes being family-friendly, being safe for children and families using images and videos that include whole families, even wide ranges in age groupings with seniors as well as grandkids for example. Here with Bird-in-Hand ad we’re showing you a couple of different things in this example. So this is a theater experience. It’s a more intimate theater as opposed to some of the larger theater experiences in this particular geographic area. And what they’re highlighting here in the text of the ad is being family-friendly. So they’re making that point and they’re also addressing in this season the realities of the COVID environment and the need for social distancing, safety, comfort and that kind of thing. So they’re sending those two messages here. Being family-friendly, being wholesome, and so forth, as well as sending a safety and comfort kind of a message. You can see the ad is using a video, it’s got a nice thumbnail that gives an actual live shot from this particular stage offering and so forth and so on. Next slide, please. Targeting. One of the most critical best practices to pay attention to and to follow up on. So first of all, we recommend knowing your customers and your prospective customers as well as possible. So identify your ideal fit customer there might be more than one so understanding for example, if you find that your ideal fits are children and parents of children or children and grandparents of children, understanding those different customers and what their needs are versus others is beneficial. So identify your ideal fit customers understand who they are, even spending some time just getting some thoughts down on paper. And here I also recommend, don’t just deal with anecdotal data. Look at the actual data. What does your actual data tell you about the demographics of your customers?

Okay, some of the important things to consider with targeting. Location targeting, who do you wanna reach and where are they physically located? Are they in five miles of your event or your experience or are they within 25 miles are they 50 are they 150, identify that and use that in your settings for your campaigns so that you’re honing in on that geography. Age and gender. Know who your ideal fit customers are, and then use that in your targeting settings so that you’re not serving to the whole universe, perhaps within your geographic targeting, but within the age groups, and the genders in some cases that most identify your ideal fit customers. There are some other demographic criteria that you can get after, you can often get at household and income levels, and those sorts of things as well. Interests and behaviors. You can target audiences based on the interest they display on their Facebook profiles also the behaviors they display. And you can use things like Facebook Audience Insights, to give you some of that information to help you hone in on that. Custom audiences. Retargeting or remarketing audiences would fall in this category. If you have a large number of people coming to your website, you can target them with ads based on specific pages that they visited. If they visited, for example, if you’re a lodging provider if they visited and you have more than one type of room or more than one lodging facility, you could create an audience that is based on people that visited a specific page, a specific room, a specific property. It could be if you offer multiple tours, you could create an audience that is specific to audiences that visited individual tours and you can target an ad to them that is specific to that tour. All right, Carl mentioned lookalike audiences.

The best way to create a lookalike audience is to start with an existing list of your customers over time. So if you have an email list, or an address list, or a phone number list or a list that has all of those, you can actually upload that list to Facebook. Facebook will then look for those same people on their platform to see if they are currently on their platform. And if they can you’ll end up with an audience that is your existing customer list that actually has profiles and are members of Facebook. So that’s an audience that if you have a business where you get repeat customers, you could actually show advertisements online on the Facebook platform to those existing customers over and over. Once you have that customer audience, you can then turn it into a lookalike audience. You can say to the Facebook, “hey I wanna target people that look like my existing customers that share the same characteristics.” Facebook will help you to create that. And you can actually specify level of matching by the way. We tend to think about audiences, the criteria they use would identify a 1% match that’s the highest match the most close and most precise match. And then we’ve also had some success with audiences that are 2% matches, 3% matches that kind of thing. Also with targeting you can do the opposite.

You can not only target who you want, but you can also exclude the people that you don’t want. So keep that in mind that when you’re targeting, you can go after the people you want but you can also exclude the people that you specifically do not want. And that is one of the best ways by the way to eliminate wasted spend. Targeting helps you to most closely identify the people that you do want and exclude the ones that you don’t want so that you can eliminate wasted spend. Okay, next slide please. Other campaign settings for Facebook ads. You definitely wanna set up your campaigns for success. Some of the ways that you can do that is by intentionally choosing a bidding strategy. We recommend choosing a bid strategy that is focused on action-based objectives such as clicking on the ad and going to your website or going to your website and making a phone call or doing a booking or buying a ticket online. Focusing on high-performing placements. With Facebook, there’s a myriad of options for placements on both Facebook and Instagram. We tend to find that the news feeds, particularly mobile are the best placements, but you have plenty of options. There’s the Facebook marketplace, there are Instagram placements. So look at your placement options, I would definitely recommend the mobile and desktop feeds. But then it’s also worth testing the other placements to see how they work for you.

You can use ad schedules to maximize your spending in the prime buying windows. So use your data from bookings and so forth to identify when people are most likely to book and gear add schedules for when your ads run to those prime buying times. Those might be days of the week, they might also be times of the day. So use that to your advantage again, that helps to eliminate Ad Spend that is in less effective times so that you can maximize the most effective times. Budgets, you can budget in a couple of different ways. We typically recommend daily budgets we recommend going conservatively or starting with a small budget at first, and then scaling up based on the actual results of your campaigns. In addition to daily budgets, you can actually set a budget for a period of time. So you could for example run a campaign that is based on a particular event you’re running or a holiday period, back to school, Christmas, holiday spending, that kind of thing. You could set a budget at a campaign level to run the campaign for a period of time until you hit a certain budget and then stop. So that’s another option. Tracking. Man, tracking is so critical. It’s how you get relevant data to understand how your campaigns are performing. So when you’re running Facebook ads, we definitely recommend that you have the Facebook tracking pixel installed on your website. And that will send back signals to Facebook ads, so that you can correlate your actual ads to actual bookings, phone calls, et cetera and understand and interpret what’s working and what’s not and use that to help adjust your campaign settings. And definitely make sure you’re tracking those conversion events.

Make sure you’re tracking phone calls, booking, purchasing, form fills, that sort of thing. Okay, next slide, please. Ongoing optimization. Ads are definitely not a set it and forget it event. We recommend constant testing. Yes, you need to make some decisions about an initial campaign launch or a boost and launch it. But then we find that we get the best results when we’re continually refining and testing new things. That might be new content, new ad copy, new placements, new audiences, et cetera. So here’s some examples. You can start off you can launch, maybe you launch base just with the feed. You refine that experience over a period of time and now you wanna test a different placement. Go ahead, try a different placement. Try the Facebook marketplace as an example. Try messenger, Facebook Messenger as a placement. Test different creative, different images with and without text, different videos, by the way, one that people don’t realize or don’t think about when you have a video the first thing that people are gonna see is called a thumbnail. Well, Facebook will automatically choose thumbnails for you or you can intentionally choose your own thumbnails. And you can even upload images to be used as your thumbnail. So with video don’t feel like you have to accept whatever Facebook chooses as your thumbnail. You can choose your own thumbnails within the Facebook ad setups. Or you can upload your own images to use as your thumbnail.

Test different copy short copy, long copy, benefit, its features, pain points, address pain points or problems that your customers are trying to solve. Test different audiences test different bid strategies. You can bid on for impressions, you can bid for clicks, you can bid for video views as examples. We definitely recommend, once you’ve been up and running for a while, look at the data, particularly from the tracking coming back from the pixel and from your conversion events. Use that data to tell you which ads are working well and which ones aren’t. Pause the ones or throw out the ones that aren’t working well so that you can promote the ones that are working well. Turn off campaigns that aren’t doing well turn new ones on et cetera. Ads get stale. We find this, particularly on social media platforms. People might see your ads constantly for a week or a month or a couple of months. It makes sense to refresh it. And when we say refresh it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start over. Refreshing can be as simple as swapping out one image and trying another image. It could be swapping out a thumbnail for your video and trying a different thumbnail. It could be rearranging the order of your ad, switching the last phrase to the first phrase, and vice versa. It could be to use slightly different wording. Use synonyms for words that you think are important. That’s a way to refresh creativity. I often will use an ad that is a paragraph in length, but then try a different version that’s only a sentence in length or two sentences versus a paragraph or switches the order of those sentences. Particularly with social media, we recommend watching the balance of impressions. Impressions is the term that’s generally used in the ad business to talk about how many times an ad gets shown to a person. So watching that along with frequency we find important. After a while it doesn’t make sense to show the same ad to a unique user 20 times in a week or 20 times in a month.

Some of the rules of thumbs that we use a general awareness ad if you’re just doing branding and awareness, maybe once a week or five times a month is probably sufficient to be in front of people. With an offer ad, we’re actually trying to get them to book and you’re maybe giving them an incentive, maybe a discount or something like that. Then maybe more like three to five times a week, and maybe up to 10 or 15 or 20 times a month is reasonable, but we suggest watching that data and using that as a means and a way to gauge how big a budget, how often to show that kind of thing. One other little hint. There are in addition to the Facebook ads platform, there are some third-party platforms that you can use that may assist you with doing testing, and developing different ad types and so forth. One that we use is called AdEspresso. Next slide, please. And that is it. So we’ll give you some Q&A time here at the end. But Carl’s going to talk about one particular recipe that we’re having a great deal of success with for tourism, businesses, and related businesses. And even in this COVID time, so Carl have at it.

What’s one good Social Ad strategy that works for the tourism industry?

[Carl]Thanks Skip. So as Skip mentioned, we’ve been working on and refining our approach for Facebook ads over the last five years or so and one of the benefits perspectives that we have as an agency is helping lots of different clients. So we have lots of chances to practice we have lots of situations to try. And frankly, we’ve had lots of situations to fail in and figure out how to pick ourselves back up and try it again. And we’ve had clients that are gracious to allow us to experiment and we’ve had a lot of good success with that. And that’s helped us put together best practices that Skip has gone over a lot of the general best practices there that would be applicable to pretty much any type of Facebook ad campaign.

What I wanna talk to you here is more specifically about really kind of a more broad advertising strategy where Facebook ads would take a prominent seat in that of really helping you from all perspectives in your business, not just promoting offers, but building an audience, engaging that audience and ultimately, driving that audience into becoming good customers for you. We’ve been running ads for an outdoor activity center for the last five years now. And Facebook ads has been a key component of that, over those years. And what you would have seen from the numbers is in the first year we ran ads, there was barely a return, I think it actually had technically a negative return. So we were getting bookings, but it was not enough to compensate for the Ad Spend. So we went back to the drawing board and really kind of started doing a lot of experimentation. And they’ve kind of landed on this recipe that I’m mentioning to you today. But it really all comes back to what should feel like a pretty kind of like motherhood and apple pie that right audience, your way to succeed on Facebook is you gotta make sure you’re hitting the right audience. So all those targeting criteria that Skip talked about earlier that’s really key. You’ve also gotta have the right message, and you’ve gotta be sending that message at the right time. And when you can combine those three things, we find that we almost always get not just a good return on Ad Spend but a very high return on Ad Spend like you’re generating positive cash flow and it almost becomes like a lever like hey, do we need more bookings right now? We can move that lever up if we’re too busy or wreck capacity we can pull that lever down. So if I were to kind of walk back and look at the different things that worked or didn’t work, it comes back to this kind of tried and true maxim of making sure you’re hitting the right people with the right message at the right time.

For those of you who said in one of our earlier sessions, we talked about the buying process and how when people are buying online, it’s not usually a search click by transaction there’s multiple interactions. Facebook or other social media platforms are a great way to encourage those interactions. It’s also a great way to start to stimulate awareness for your brand. But it’s important to realize that if you’re doing what we call an awareness ad, you’re hitting a cold audience for the first time. You don’t wanna be hitting that audience with bio messages, right? These people may not even know who you are. Hitting them with a message right away of hey, get $5 off to come enjoy our experience or book our experience now it’s kind of equivalent to asking to marry someone on your first date, that’s usually premature. So that’s just one simple example of not just hitting the right audience and hitting them with the right message, but doing that at the right time. So let’s use that as a construct to kind of talk through this recipe for success, which really involves having multiple stages in your ad campaign. So not just having a single ad to promote a single thing but really, this is more talking about an ongoing campaign that you’re using to promote your business.

So in the awareness stage, this is usually more of a branding stage. Your goal is to generate awareness of your brand within your target audience. So if you as a business are looking for ways to get in front of more people, Facebook is a great way to do that. We already talked in the business case about how much reach there is. So awareness ads can be great to build awareness within your audience. With the target audience all that stuff that Skip talked about applies. You wanna get as close to your ideal fit prospect as possible, and hands down the single most effective and efficient way that we found to do that is using lookalike audiences. So, lookalike audiences, you can look that up online and get a lot of detail about that. The simple long and short of it is you upload a list of your customers, use Facebook algorithm to build a profile of what those customers look like and then you target your ads to other Facebook or Instagram users that match that same profile. We have found that those types of audiences do at least two to three times better than trying to pick and choose the behaviors, interests and demographics. And then overlaying that, you know the overlaying some of the targeting criteria that Skip mentioned before with a lookalike audience can be even more powerful. The ad messaging is gonna need to be different for an awareness ad. Remember, think of this like you’re doing a cold sales call. If somebody just called you randomly and the first thing they said when they picked up was that they’re trying to sell you something. Most of us are just gonna hang up that phone right away unless we happen to be in the market for the thing that they’re selling. So you wanna focus your awareness ads on messaging that’s gonna engage a cold audience, you wanna think about that. You’re gonna focus more on content, videos, blog articles, things that are gonna really be engaging and relevant to your target audience. They might not even be specifically about your business, or they might be about your business, but not specifically about a sale. And with your bidding strategy here you wanna focus on metrics that are gonna drive towards user engagement, like views of your video or views of your blog article or views of the content that you’re trying to promote. And the reason for that is cause that’s gonna feed into the next stage.

So in the interest stage here we’re looking at people that are now aware of your brand, but they haven’t yet decided, to really make a purchase or maybe even gotten to the point where they’re even seriously considering your experience, but they are interested. So the whole goal of the interest stage is to generate interest in the specific experience or packages you offer. So now we’re starting to get into sales but we’re still not specifically making an offer. So the target audience here is not a general audience. This is an audience that is already engaged with the prior step. So the best way to do that, for instance, if you used the video in the awareness stage, one of the ways you can create a target audience is you can target people that watched your video, or that watched a certain percentage of your video. So in the case study that I mentioned earlier, in that case, we have a one or two minute video that runs in the awareness stage out to their lookalike audience.

And then in the interest stage, we’re only showing the interest stage ads to people who have watched 50% or more of that video. With a one minute video if someone sits and watches 10 or 15 seconds of that, that might just mean they were browsing in their feed. But if someone sits and watches 30, 45, 60 seconds of that video, that’s a pretty strong indicator that something about that video grabbed their attention, and since that video is about the experience they offer, it’s a pretty good indication that they might be interested. With the messaging here we’re trying to develop interest or curiosity in the experiences that they offer. With the ad creative now we’re using images, specifically of people doing that experience. And in the example that you’ll see later, we use a carousel ad format where you can show multiple images or multiple videos, because this particular property offers multiple experiences. The bidding strategy here, here we’re gonna focus on action, we’re gonna focus on website visits. Because we wanna focus our next step on the people that have actually engaged and demonstrated that interest by visiting the website and checking out the experience that you’re marketing.

That brings us then to the offer stage. So here’s the sales stage, here’s where we’re actually generating bookings. So the whole goal of this is to generate bookings for the experience. And the way we do that is we’re now focusing on people that have participated in both steps of the prior advertising campaigns. So they’ve seen the video, they’ve watched the video, they’ve seen the experience that are offered and they’ve clicked on a link that takes them to one or more of those experiences and they’ve visited that page. That’s a pretty strong indication that we now have someone that’s interested. But if they haven’t bought yet, maybe we just need to give them a little bit of a nudge. Maybe they just weren’t ready or maybe they need some kind of compelling offer. So with the messaging here’s where we now have a direct buy message. We’re making a direct offer, we’re calling them specifically to action and that action is for a tourism company is usually book now or buy tickets, or whatever the most relevant call to action for taking a booking action for your property would be. The ad creative, here we’re being as specific as we can.

In the example that I’m gonna show you on the next slide in the offer stage, we’re not just giving them a general offer for any type of outdoor activity, we’re gonna be showing them an offer that’s specific to the activity that they visited. And the whole objective of this campaign at this step is getting to that booking. So if we kind of put this all together, the company that we’re looking at here is Refreshing Mountain which we’ve highlighted earlier. So this is an outdoor activity center, they offer zip lines, they have obstacle courses, escape rooms, climbing towers, and also overnight lodging experiences. This particular ad campaign or a group of ad campaigns is focused on promoting outdoor activities. In the awareness stage, there’s an overall video. This is a one to two-minute video, depending on the platform we’re advertising for that is marketing the overall experience. So it’s not specific to one particular experience. It’s marketing the experience it shows families, it shows young people, it shows couples, just the different types of experiences that are available. If someone watches more than 50% of that ad, they now become a candidate for the interest step.

In the interest step, we’re showing a carousel ad you can only see like one and a quarter of the panels here, just with the way the screenshots work. But there are actually five or six panels on that ad that the user can scroll through that show them the different types of outdoor experiences that are available. And each one of those panels if they click on the link will take them to a landing page on the website that is about that particular experience. And then the third step is a dynamic offer ad, where you can see in this particular example, the user clicked on the challenge adventure course. Once they visited that webpage, now they become eligible to see the dynamic offer ads, where they’re seeing an ad that’s super specific to the challenge adventure tour. Now in this particular case, there’s not even an offer there, there’s not a specific percentage off or anything like that. So I wanna clarify the offer step doesn’t always have to involve a discount. It can really just be connecting someone back with the experience that they visited.

And just for time sake I’m not gonna go through these numbers in detail, but you can see that this is truly like a funnel, which is why the funnel is a good example because we start with a lot of people at the top that is in the target audience, but only a percentage of them engage. But when we focus our marketing on the people that engage, we get a very high conversion rate. This particular campaign this year, so far has generated over 2,000 bookings and a 17-time return on Ad Spend. So a very significant opportunity there. Another example here from a local life theater, similar experience. They started off with just running one step ads going out to a cold audience, very mediocre return on investment, or I shouldn’t say mediocre, it was a two-time return on investment. So it wasn’t bad. But by applying these steps of developing the audience, nurturing the audience with the interest step, and then promoting the offer to people that really showed that they were engaged or interested. You can see here that the volume of sales and the return on investment on Ad Spend grew significantly. So with that Scott let’s open it up for questions with the time we have left.

Open Q&A from Participants

[Scott] Right, yeah. So we have some questions that we pulled from the signup. I noticed that Skip has also been answering some questions in the chat. If we get to the end of this and you still have some questions, we’ll be continuing this conversation on our Facebook group, so make sure to check it out there as well. So for our first question for Skip, what platforms seem to be the most effective for tourism businesses?

What platforms seem to be the most effective for tourism businesses?

[Skip] Yeah. We have definitely had the most success with Facebook and Instagram. As Carl mentioned earlier Instagram is one of the placements offered on the Facebook ad platform, Facebook owns Instagram. Hands down the most successful platform that we’ve had. YouTube which is a Google property, that you can look at as somewhat of a social site. It’s a place that people spend time looking at videos and one of the benefits of YouTube it’s video focused, video ads tend to do a little better than image ads we’ve had that. Also, it’s very cheap. It’s on the lower end of some of the numbers that Carl showed earlier, per click or per video view. And we think it’s also a pretty successful platform, but still not as good as what we’ve seen on Facebook and Instagram.

There’s other options. People ask about LinkedIn all the time. LinkedIn, to us our best success has been B2B. So if you’re a business selling to other businesses, if you’re a tourism related business, lodging, events, conference center, that kind of thing, team building, LinkedIn might make sense just know going in, the costs are gonna be up to 10 times higher per click. The conversion costs tend to be higher as well, although it can convert pretty well. Just know it’s a B2B platform, not a B2C platform. Snapchat, Twitter, TikTok other platforms have their own form of ads. They’re worth experimenting with. Really the key here is understanding where your ideal fit customers spend time. And whatever ad platforms they spend time on that’s where you oughta try advertising. We use Facebook a lot, because we’ve had a ton of success. And it’s also got 75% of the users. So that’s why we answer that way.

[Scott] Great. Thanks, Skip. Carl, question for you. How much should I spend and what what kind of return can I expect?

How much should I spend and what kind of return can I expect?

[Carl] Yeah, so that’s a great question. It’s unfortunately got the answer that everybody hates which is it depends. Minimum Ad Spends are usually around $1 to $5 per day, depending on the campaign. So I would say you should know that going in. So if you’re running a month long campaign, you’re gonna be spending a minimum of $30 to if it’s a $5 minimum $150. So I would say that’s 150 to $200 is about the minimum, I would say you wanna invest in a campaign. And I would say you’d wanna run it for at least a month to really see how it’ll work.

If you’re gonna do a multi-step campaign, like we just talked about, you are gonna be spending more like in the neighborhood of five to $600 a month. But I think that’s about the range like for what we’ve seen for tourism businesses, a minimum of 500 plus per month is probably where you should be looking at. If you’re looking at running just kind of a spot campaign to promote a particular event or to promote a particular experience, say for a week-long, I would say five to $10 a day is a good place to start.

And I think Skip mentioned this earlier, starting small and then scaling up is good to do. So start off with that small $5 a day budget, see how it’s going. And if it seems to be working, you can always add money in and expand the reach. In terms of the return, I would say on a minimum, you should be getting at least a two to three-time return. So you should be convinced that you’re getting at least twice to three times the sales back versus what you’re spending. If you are getting that, that should work well for your business and over time, you should be able to refine and improve upon that. If you’re not at least breaking even, there’s probably something wrong with your targeting, or something else you need to fix. And I would pause that campaign until you can diagnose that and fix it.

[Scott] Great. Thank you. Skip, so how long should someone run ads, running recommendations on that?

How long should someone run ads?

Yeah. First of all I start with the length of time depends on your objectives. If your goal is simply to make people aware of a specific event, or a specific new attraction that you’re building then maybe it’s a week or so. If it’s a holiday period that you’re trying to promote an event for, think about starting to show ads two to three weeks in advance of the event or the holiday, and running through the holiday. If it’s a season then think about running for three months or something of that sort. And if it’s a full funnel approach, like Carl talked about where you’re starting with branding and awareness all the way through asking people to buy, that can be an on going campaign that could run all year long. So it really depends on your business, your seasonality whether you’re promoting an event, or an attraction or a holiday, or whether you’re just promoting your business in general. If it’s a six month business, then six months of campaigns. It’s kind of how I look at it.

[Carl] If I could add to that Skip said something really important there, which is if you’re promoting an event, consider running the ads starting two to three weeks before that event. I’ve seen people make the mistake of setting up the ads only in the week of the event or the days leading up to the event. And the thinking there is most people make their purchase of a ticket in the days leading up to the event and that’s certainly true.

But the thing you need to keep in mind is if you’re hitting a cold audience, it’s gonna take time to warm them up to the experience, make them aware, warm them up, get them interested, they’re gonna have to make arrangements and all that stuff and ultimately get to a purchase. So if you’ve only got a few days to market your event, I would actually not recommend you do that to a cold audience. I’d recommend you do that like just to the people who are already followers of your page or already existing customers if a repeat purchase makes sense for you. Those audiences are gonna respond more quickly because they’re already familiar with your brand. So there’s you can kind of be really timely. But if you’re trying to develop a new audience and develop awareness within it, it’s gonna take several weeks to move them from awareness to interest to an actual purchase decision.

[Scott] Great. And just to follow up on that, because there were some questions around it in the group. Would you recommend for events, ads or boosting posts then, would you start out with boosting posts to get your group familiar with it hit, audience and then do ads, like we talked about earlier?

Should I use boosted posts or ads for events?

[Carl ] Good question. If it’s a one time event, and you’re primarily marketing it to people that are already your customers or are already familiar with your brand I think a boosted post would be great. If it’s a large event that’s gonna happen multiple times or throughout a season, I would recommend Facebook ads.

[Scott] Right. Do we have time for one more we’re kind of reaching the top of the hour here.

[Carl] I think we could take one more.

[Scott] All right. So this can go out to anybody here. I ran an ad campaign and it didn’t seem to work. Where did I go wrong?

I ran an ad campaign and it didn’t seem to work. Where did I go wrong?

[Carl] Yeah. We could probably talk about this one for a whole session. But I would say the number one issue that we usually see, like if we have an ad campaign that’s not running as well as we’d expect. Or if we’re looking at an ad campaign for someone else, the very first place we go is targeting. Targeting is usually gonna make or break the campaign. Like if we have a campaign that’s just not getting any kind of return it’s usually a targeting problem. Those other things like the creative and messaging, they’re super important. They tend to help us dial up the return but the targeting is usually where somebody falls down.

I’ve seen some really good ad campaigns. I was actually listening to a podcast on TourPreneur earlier this week that had to do with Facebook ads and the tour operator that was talking about a situation they were running into had a very sound ad campaign good creative, good messaging, but the ad campaign just wasn’t working. And it really ultimately came down to the targeting they were using.

Wrap Up and Preview for the Next Meetup: Video Marketing

[Scott] Right. Well, thank you guys so much. Sam, why don’t you take it home for us.

[Sam] Yeah. Thank you, everybody. And thank you Skip and Carl for putting that together. Like you said that last question I feel like there’s a lot of people who might be thinking about that, cause we’ve all tried it. And we’ve had varying success so definitely recommend everybody join the Facebook group. You can reach out to any of us on the Facebook group. And you can reach out to your other attendees who are on there as well. Ask that question and let’s have a conversation around it. And if there’s enough people that are really talking about that, sometimes we do little intermittent videos that we can talk about a specific topic. So, let us know if you want us to cover some of that.

And if you’ve had varying success you tried it and failed, again, please leave a comment in the Facebook group and we can try to walk you through it, we can try to sort of figure out what’s going on. So just thank you guys, appreciate it as always. Our next topic is going to be on September 19th. We’re going to be talking about video marketing that we are sort of following through a list of topics that you all voted on and video marketing was the one that’s up next in requests. So we’re gonna be putting that together for you and that’ll be a fun time. Cause it’s a topic that I think all of us even on the panel right now are interested in. And somebody Carl said that is that a Saturday? We might have to check that date on that. But it’s gonna be around whatever September the Friday and September around either the 18th or 19th Eastern Time, obviously. So thank you, everybody. We’ll see you in the Facebook group so have a great weekend.

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Meet the Author:

Carl Lefever

Carl Lefever, Founder & Strategist

Carl is the founder of Improve & Grow, LLC, where his primary passion is helping businesses grow by improving their online marketing. He leads the team and is involved in developing and executing internet marketing strategies for our clients. Carl's background is in continuous improvement disciplines, focused on sales and marketing operations. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He is a proud father of 4 girls and loves traveling and supporting missions work.