Facebook Advertising for Filmmakers: Finding the right audience setting

I’ve been trying to crack the code on how to advertise my niche documentary via social media. Specifically, how to earn more money than expended on the ads. I am in the TVOD window, and am trying to generate rentals and purchases to recoup the cost of making the movie.

I recently tried the FB conversion funnel using my small social media following, and it didn’t work well. I used the same funnel with a larger audience for my work, and generated a 20% increase in attendance for an event. So the funnel works, but my audience was too small.

So I decided to run some experimental ads. Not full funnels, but trying audiences groupings to see what worked. My plan was to run a few days of brand awareness and then a few days of video interactions, and see what happens.

I tried 2 sets of audiences. I spent just $10 per ad set, so total buy was $40. Small, experiment.

My content was a specifically targeted video ad for the brand awareness, followed by a generic trailer for the video interaction week.

The first set was a super tiny, very targeted audience. About 1000 or so potential members.

Brand awareness ad had a reach of 429 with a frequency of 1.89, resulting in 809 impressions, and estimated ad recall of 40. 5 people clicked the link to my website.

Facebook can also track how much attention viewers pay during brand awareness campaigns. I saw 21.88% Attention Impressions, meaning 1 out of 5 people paused when scrolling by my ad. So, I’m hitting the right group. But is it big enough?

The next ad set for video interactions with the same, tiny audience saw a reach of 384, with 123 video view, and a frequency of 2.99, which means I had 1147 impressions. 15 people clicked the link to my website. I again had an estimated ad recall of 40 people, or 10.42%.

Seems like a good target, but the frequency of 2.99 for just a $10 buy is worrisome. A larger buy would see a higher frequency. Audience felt a bit small.

For the 2nd ad experiment, I used detailed targeting to select people who liked or interacted with 10 popular homeschooling websites. This provided an audience of about 370,000.

The percentages were about the same. Very similar in ad recall. Frequency was lower because it’s a larger audience pool. But the number of people factored into a much better reach.

For brand awareness as the goal, cost per impressions was half for the larger audience. For video views the cost was 25% of the smaller audience. Same trailer, the small audience played through 123 times, but for the larger audience, it played through 624 times.

Video view reach for the small audience was 384. Reach for the larger one was 1983. Both had the same budget. Both had same ad recall lift of about 10%. But because the audience was larger, the ad recall lift of 10% means 200 people recalled my trailer instead of just 40.

So, what does this mean?

I’ve been struggling to find the right sized audience to target. FB’s funnel is set up thinking you have a good sized audience to funnel people from brand awareness to interaction to sale. But my established FB/IG pages do not have that reach.

So I have been looking for an additional targeting measure. The first audience was too small. But this second one with 370,000 members seems like it is the right size. And every interaction was positive, with organic shares and recommendations to other people.

My next move is to run a special via Vimeo On Demand and shoot for traffic to the Vimeo page. (Since Vimeo isn’t my page cannot track actual conversions so it confuses the ad algorithms to try that).

So I’m spending $10 again but trying for conversions. In this case, leads generated by people clicking through my website to places they can buy or rent the film.

I am trying to find an audience pool large enough and reachable enough to generate sales greater than cost of advertising. I want to reach that awareness tipping point where enough people know about the film that it can organically see sales. We did not achieve that at launch. Frustrating when you know a film is well received by its target audience, but a big part of the target audience isn’t aware of it.