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This is how to grow your email list on Facebook

June 2 · Issue #4 · View online
Newspackr: For Media Makers
It’s the summer of social distancing, so let’s talk about social media.

Summer 2020
Summer 2020
In last month’s newsletter, I conducted an experiment:
I set up a Calendly and invited readers to grab one of eight half-hour slots on my calendar for a Zoom meeting — where they could tell me what their biggest challenges were, and I could offer my best quick, actionable advice on the spot.
I’ve got to say… it was a lot of fun! I learned a lot. And I hope the folks I talked to came away with some actionable ideas. (I know some did, because I’ve already seen them in practice!)
So, why would I do this experiment, a few asked.
One reason is because I set a New Year’s resolution to try new experiments professionally. (This newsletter is another one of those experiments.)
But at a more tactical/practical level, it’s good to hear from people in the trenches about what they’re working on, what they’re struggling with, what they’re seeing in their day-to-day.
It can be too easy to get focused on what you see in your own day-to-day. For me, this is what I’m working on daily as a media consultant:
  • Building writing teams for companies
  • Building email products for companies to drive revenue
  • Building growth strategies for companies to drive traffic and list growth
Working as a consultant lets me tackle novel problems on a daily basis — but rarely do I get insight into eight businesses in as many days.
What I saw was that while each company or individual has unique opportunities, a lot of the challenges are the same.
The opportunities are plentiful: Some have communities just waiting to be connected on a new platform; some have superfans just waiting to become members (paying or not), and some have readers just waiting to become subscribers.
The challenges, however, tend to cluster around one problem: growth.
I wrote last month about 5 ways to grow your email list.
But I want to drill down this month a bit more.
While clever growth tricks are great, what a lot of people need to appreciate is that there’s usually no way around the basic work of paid marketing — and, when it comes to building email lists, that’s usually going to mean Facebook and Instagram lead generation.
For big businesses, you should probably outsource this work to an agency (in most cases, it will be cheaper than building an internal team). But for a lot of smaller operations (or sole operators) an agency may be impractical or too expensive.
Below, I get into some of the details about what you need to know to advertise on Facebook and Instagram if you’re running the ads yourself.
It’s not easy. But if you’re building a media business (or any business), getting familiar with the basics will pay major dividends down the road.
You never want to build your business to depend on Facebook; when they own your audience, they can also cut you off from your audience.
But if you can use Facebook to capture the emails of the people you want to reach — and to own your relationship with them — you’re building something that can last.
Which is what Montague Street Media is here to help you do…
6 keys to Facebook and Instagram advertising
If you want to own your audience, you’re going to need to find them first. For most media companies, that means building a substantial email list. Part of that process is about content. And part of it is about paid marketing. If you want to build an email list, especially as a small company or sole proprietor, you’re going to have to learn how to use Facebook and Instagram ads — which are both run on the Facebook ads platform.
If you’ve never used Facebook ads before, you’ll need to go read up on the basics. You can see how to set up a business account and get started here and here.
If you’re familiar with Facebook’s ad platform, though — or have experimented with a few ads for your newsletter or site — here’s what you need to know to up your game.
1) The platform will fight you every step of the way
Let’s get this out of the way: For a widely used product, it’s astonishing how poorly Facebook has designed its ad platform.
The UI is deeply unintuitive. It’s speed will make you feel like you’re back on a 1995 AOL dial-up account. It’s default settings for many ad options are borderline criminal.
(A skeptical mind might note that Facebook’s incentive is to have small-fry customers spend their money poorly and to use every opportunity along the way to get them to pay for junk impressions…)
This is particularly true for Facebook’s ‘Placement’ settings, which determine where your ad will be shown. The ‘Automatic’ placements are labelled ‘Recommended’ — that is, Facebook wants you to let it put your ads wherever it likes, including in Facebook’s right rail, in Facebook Marketplace, and in Facebook’s network of off-platform partners. For most use cases, these ad placements are garbage and will make it harder to track ad performance.
Here’s what you do: Override Facebook’s automatic placement settings and choose to only focus on the good stuff. That is: Facebook’s news and video feeds, Instagram’s feed, and Instagram stories.
For ideal campaign tracking, create a separate campaign for each channel (that is, have a Facebook campaign, an Instagram campaign, and an Instagram Stories campaign). That way, you can track which platform is best for finding your users, and you can tweak the message by platform as well.
Generally speaking, expect Instagram and Instagram Stories to be best for audiences under 30; Facebook should be best for audiences over 30.
2) For email signups, lead ads beat landing pages
If you’re looking to grow your email list, one of the first choices you’ll have to make is whether to use a landing page (a signup page hosted on your site) or native Facebook lead ads — where the user doesn’t leave Facebook and most of the information, such as name and email address, is pre-filled by Facebook.
The short answer is that for gathering new email addresses, a lead ad is going to be more effective most of the time. You’re asking less of the user; the path from seeing your ad to signing up is as short and convenient as possible.
If you’re trying to get someone to do something more complex, however, such as subscribe to a paid product or enroll in a paid course, you may want to use a landing page. You’ll get fewer people to the landing page at a higher cost, but they’ll have higher buying intent.
Of course, you can also use a hybrid strategy, where you get people to sign up for your free mailing list, and then use that list to get people to your paid products. In that case, you’d use the native lead ad for the free list; and then you’d use a landing page for the upsell.
3) Custom audiences and lookalike audiences beat targeting
One of the things Facebook ads are most famous for is the ability to target based on interests. Want to target people in New Zealand between the ages of 18 and 30 who love dogs AND The Lord of the Rings? You can go to the Facebook Audience Explorer, and it will tell you the size of that audience is “350K - 400K people.” You can use this kind of information to create what Facebook calls a ‘Saved Audience’ (just meaning that you save those parameters for future use).
This can be a rabbit hole.
Sure, you can say, “My product is of great interest to men and women ages 34-44 in the United States who are in a top income bracket.” Great. You and a million other advertisers want to reach these folks, to sell them cars and mortgages and designer face masks.
Instead, what you want to do is leverage the data you already have on your customers.
Do you have 100 email addresses on your list? Then you can upload them as a ‘custom audience’ on Facebook, and then Facebook can analyze that custom audience to create what it calls a ‘lookalike audience’ of other Facebook users who mirror your existing audience along various dimensions, including demographics and online behavior.
These users will convert to email subscribers at a much better rate than you’re likely to achieve making guesses about your audience’s demographics in a saved audience.
Even better, once you’ve been running lead ads for a while, you can create a custom audience of people who have either a) opened and submitted your lead form, or b) opened and not submitted your lead form. Bizarrely, lookalike audiences of either of these custom audiences can outperform your initial ads.
You can create custom audiences from a bunch of sources:
Inside the Facebook Ads interface
Inside the Facebook Ads interface
People who’ve visited your website, people who’ve watched a video you uploaded, people who’ve been to your Facebook page… any of these can be made into custom audiences and then used to build lookalike audiences.
This is the most powerful tool in Facebook advertising. Use it creatively!
4) Videos beat pictures
A Facebook ad primarily is made up of text, an image or images, and a call-to-action (CTA).
The image is the most important part; it’s what gets people’s attention. And moving images get people’s attention better than still images.
Of course, you’ll need to find good videos to use: Pexels has good free stock video clips; for a reasonable paid option, look at Storyblocks.
5) Square beats horizontal
You’ll also want your videos to be square, to fit mobile screens best — 1080x1080 pixels.
You may be used to looking at horizontal photos in other parts of your life, but there’s a reason Instagram uses square images. A horizontal photo is simply too small (shallow) on most mobile screens.
To edit the videos, you’ll need a tool to crop them into squares (and sometimes you’ll need to trim their length). I use a Canva Pro account (and iMovie when needed). Canva has all the templates you’ll need for various social networks, including templates to create Instagram stories.
Using video may have a bit of a learning curve, but it will increase your ads’ efficiency immediately.
6) Onboard your new readers thoughtfully
All of these tips have been about how to collect more email addresses on Facebook and Instagram. But you also need to think about what you’re doing with these leads after you collect them.
A lot of people will have signed up rather casually, so you have to onboard them correctly.
If you’re worried about your list’s health and deliverability, you may want to make these users double opt-in — that is, set it so they have to click on a confirmation email to be added to your list.
After that, you want to send them a welcome email, welcoming them to your newsletter or publication. You can even create a welcome series of emails on most email platforms.
If you want to get serious about Facebook ads...
These are some tips you can implement yourself. If you want to get more serious about Facebook ads, however, I recommend seeking out training.
General Assembly has various Facebook training classes.
But I’m going to make a very specific recommendation here, to a training I found immensely useful: Rhys Truscott offers training through Fiverr Pro, and I found it to be excellent. It’s a 3-hour, live Zoom call where he’ll take you through building live lead ads; at the end, you’ll have the completed ads themselves and a recording of the call.
You can see his many reviews, so I’m not the only one recommending it. The gig is: I will teach you lead generation on Facebook. You can click that link and read all about it.
Running lead ads can be clarifying. You can see exactly what it costs to get a new subscriber, and you can weigh that cost against what a subscriber is worth to your business.
Do the numbers add up? As you bring your lead costs down, here’s hoping that they do.
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Until next month...
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