Top Tips | Facebook and Twitter advertising for arts organisations

You don't have to have mega budgets to get value from social media ads but you do need a bit of know-how...

One of the reasons frequently cited for why social media is a great tool to promote your organisation is because it’s free. By developing profiles on platforms like Facebook and Twitter you can build large, engaged online communities that will help you to raise awareness, sell tickets or attract visitors. In the open and democratic world of social media even smaller arts organisations, so the argument runs, can punch above their weight and compete on a level with much larger organisations.

The reality, as is often the case, is a little bit more complicated.

Whenever we run social media or digital marketing training, the number one challenge cited as a barrier to social media effectiveness is (lack of) resource. Setting up profiles is easy, posting updates about your latest shows or events is pretty straightforward, having the time to really nurture and grow them however, is much more difficult. Unfortunately there is no simple answer to this problem. Building relationships takes time and effort. Approaches that can help include co-opting others within the organisation to help contribute to the social media effort and ruthlessly prioritising which platforms you use, it’s much better to do one or two things really well than open accounts on loads of social networks and struggle to adequately maintain them. Another option to consider is using paid advertising to help. That’s not to suggest that adverts will compensate for a piecemeal approach to your social accounts, dull content or a lack of understanding about what your audience is interested in but used correctly adverts on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks can help you to achieve your objective more quickly.

If you’re fairly new to social media advertising, here is some advice to help set you off on the right foot.

Firstly, match the type of advert to your objective. Sounds obvious but particularly when you’re new to it, it can be common to plump for the easiest option, for example, on Facebook, boosting a post from a page timeline. With that kind of ad you don’t have to worry about the advertising interface, or think about bidding or all the different available options, you just click a couple of buttons and it’s done. But this can be a really ineffective way of advertising. Boosting a post from your page’s timeline may mean it gets a few more likes, comments or shares, but did it drive people to book a ticket, or sign up for a newsletter, or even like your page? You will also have much less control over who sees the advert. Most social platforms have a range of options when it comes to adverts, with each type of ad suited to a different objective.

Secondly, start small and increase your budget as you learn what works. Since you’re probably not in the fortunate position of having the assistance of an experienced agency to do your advertising for you, the best plan is to run some test ads with a small budget, say £50-£100 and see how they perform. This brings us on to the third point, which is that ideally you should test different types of advert, vary the copy and images and see what your audience responds best to. Facebook in particular makes it fairly simple to carry out this kind of testing. This blog post from Social Media Examiner is a good starter for anyone new to what’s sometimes called ‘split testing’ or ‘A/B testing’.

Ultimately the more you can skill up, the better. It won’t happen overnight but if you take the time to learn even a little bit about the advert options on each social network, the scenarios when you would use one over another and how you can reach a range of different audiences, the more effective the ads will be. If you’re looking for more help, we can provide webinars or one-to-one coaching on Facebook and Twitter advertising, so if you’re interested please do get in touch. In the meantime, here is some recommended reading to get you started: