LAST UPDATED: 24 February 2023
9 Biggest Facebook Ad Mistakes Race Directors Make
Get ahead of the game by avoiding these common mistakes most race directors make when advertising on Facebook.
So you're advertising on Facebook. Great! It's the best place to get more participants for you race at a low cost.
Provided you go about it the right away...
According to our 2018 Online Marketing Survey, 89% of race directors do some kind of Facebook advertising to promote their race throughout the year and more than 20% of them spend more than £1,000/$1,000 advertising on the platform.
So, what does it take to succeed? Avoiding these top mistakes almost every race director makes at some point in their Facebook marketing career.
1. Promoting your Facebook page instead of your race website
Don't get us wrong: Increasing your Facebook page's Likes is a good thing - if you can do it organically and with only a modest investment of your own time. But paying Facebook for the privilege of increasing your page Likes is a waste of money.
You may think this is a bit harsh, but the numbers speak for themselves. Depending on what stats you turn to, average organic reach for 2018 seems to have crashed to anything between roughly 1%-5%. That means, for every 1,000 Likes you obtain through your advertising, only about 10-50 people will engage with your page. Which means, in turn, that the real cost of obtaining those likes is anywhere between 20-100 times higher than the Cost per Like (CPL) you see on your Facebook ad manager. Assuming you pay $1 for each of those likes, your real cost per page follower could be anything between $20-$100.
And after you've paid that $20 to get someone to engage with your posts on Facebook, what? Well, you now face the following handicaps:
- You still need to work to get that person to your website, i.e. you're back at square one.
- You have no means of contacting your page follower or interacting with them other than through posting content on your page (or targeting them again through paid advertising).
Page Likes are what is commonly known in marketing lingo as a vanity metric . People like to flaunt their Likes number, but, when it comes to it, they're of very little use to the bottom line.
So, if not boosting page Likes, what should your Facebook campaigns aim to achieve? Drive traffic to your website and start people on the journey to signing up for your race. And you can really only properly do that with - at the very least - a website traffic/landing page campaign or - ideally - a conversion campaign.
There you have it: If you're running a Facebook Likes campaign, kill it. It's losing you money.
2. Boosting posts
Another tough truth to hear is this: Boosting posts is a lazy way to advertise that has no place in a well thought-out race marketing campaign.
"Rubbish!" you protest. "I boost posts all the time and they get me a ton of Likes and traffic to my website".
Ok - but let's break that down a bit.
Likes, first. We already saw above why Likes are only a superficial metric of little real significance in the ultimate objective of increasing registrations for your race. So getting more Likes gives you a nice warm feeling, but that's about all you get.
Website traffic, on the other hand, is good - in principle - but only if it is quality traffic that hits your website with the intent of taking action. Do the posts you boost offer you the best chance of getting that? The answer is almost certainly "no". Here's why:
- Boosting posts offers limited audience targeting options, so even if the post you boost is excellent, it doesn't get through to the best possible audience.
- Budgeting and ad placement options for boosted posts are also basic, so you're missing out on optimising those too.
- Most importantly: A truly purpose-built marketing post (i.e. a post you write as part of a campaign to get people started on thinking about registering for your race) will be very different to a run-of-the-mill Facebook feed post. Different message, different language, different landing page.
So - in brief - although boosting posts offers a convenient way to launch an ad campaign, the resulting campaign is almost definitely not as good as it could be using Facebook's Ad Manager. Which is the reason why no self-respecting marketer ever uses boosted posts.
3. Missing key event information on your ad
We have a habit here at Race Directors HQ of monitoring Twitter chatter and other channels for comments people make about races and race directors. And no complaint comes up as often as people being frustrated with race websites, ads and other announcements missing key race info, such as race dates.
When you promote your race through paid advertising, make sure you don't get too clever. There's nothing"edgy" about your advertised race missing a race date on the ad - or a clear race type (is it a marathon or a 5K, if this is not apparent from the name?).
Contrary to what you may think, people will not click on your ad to try to discover the key info you've left out. They'll just move on. So keep that basic info prominent on all your ads to help people quickly decide if your race is worth clicking through for.
4. Neglecting remarketing
There seems to be great confusion amongst race directors on the benefits of remarketing campaigns. Indeed, most race directors don't fully understand what remarketing is, how it works and how it differs from early-stage or top-of-funnel marketing.
We've written an entire post on the merits of remarketing, so we won't go into details here. But here's the gist of it: People won't register for your race the first time they come across your Facebook ad. It takes several stages of multiple interactions to get them to sign on the dotted line.
In the first stage - sometimes called the awareness stage - your objective is to let people know your race exists and get them to visit your website for more info. This is the beginning of their journey to registration (the top of the registration funnel). Not everyone will come out the other end, but some will.
As you move people from awareness to actually registering for your event, you want to be focusing your ads only to those people who have taken an interest in your race in the first place. In other words, you want to be remarketing your race to a fraction of your original ad audience (also known as retargeting those people).
If you don't create a marketing sequence with your ads and remarket your race to the right people at the right time, your Facebook ads will start to feel a bit like groundhog day and your ad performance will start to slide. You'll either continue to try to sell to people who are too "cold" or never get to pull the trigger on people who are "warm" and ready to register.
So get your marketing journey straight and don't neglect the killer final stop: remarket!
5. Driving traffic to a 3rd party registration website
If you send ad traffic to a registration page off your site, e.g. a page for your event on your registration provider's website, you're making a big mistake. Unless you are at the absolute final stage of converting people (and want to avoid the intermediate step of getting people through your own landing page), you should always drive traffic to your own website.
Now, we know that more and more registration providers have started offering retargeting audiences for your registration page on their website, allowing you to use their visitor data to retarget people who have taken an interest on your event on their site.
But that's just not as good as setting up Facebook retargeting (i.e. installing a Facebook pixel) on your own website. And this is why:
- Do you want to own your audience even if you decide to switch registration providers? If so, then you should be building an audience from your own website.
- Do you want the flexibility to add new conversion goals for your campaigns? Then take ownership of your retargeting and set up your own on your own website.
At the end of the day, it's pretty simple: Should you be paying to drive traffic to someone else's website? Uhm... No!
Either use your registration provider's embedded code facility to include a registration form on your website (and direct ad traffic there or to a suitable landing page funneling into it) or use a registration platform like RunSignup which offers the ability to create Facebook custom audiences from visitors to your race registration page.
6. Driving traffic to your homepage
This also goes for using any random or poor landing page for your Facebook ads: Don't send people to pages that are not purpose-built to accept (and convert) ad traffic.
What does that mean?
Well, take your homepage, for example. It's kind of like your website's reception desk. It likely has tons of choices for people to follow. And, as your reception desk, it is probably the best starting page for someone coming across your website for the first time who's intent you don't already know.
But people being driven to your website through your Facebook ad, already have an intent and you know what that is because you drove them there. They're on your website because they clicked on your ad, likely to want to more about your race or how to register. So send them directly to a well-crafted race info page and make sure there's a big mailing list subscribe button there for them to leave their email for you.
The main issue, of course, with introducing unnecessary steps before people take action or find what they're looking for is that they may get lost or bored or confused or all of the above. So it pays to direct people straight to the most relevant landing page rather than dropping them on your homepage, wondering what to do next.
7. Never figuring out a CPC/conversion target cost
Not knowing what you can afford to spend on your ad to acquire a website visitor or, eventually, a registered participant is not only one of the biggest mistakes race directors make on their Facebook marketing. It is also by far the costliest.
You should always have a good idea what you can afford to spend on acquiring new customers, before embarking on any paid marketing campaign. Getting new signups is one thing, but getting them for the right price that still leaves you with a good margin to operate your race is the important thing.
So how do you work out a click or conversion target cost for your campaigns?
First, you need to establish your registration acquisition cost: how much you're willing to pay in advertising to secure a race registration. If your race entry fee is $50, your acquisition cost can be at most that, though in reality much lower, because your entry fee needs to cover a lot more expenses than just marketing. So let's say your acquisition cost is $10.
If you're running a properly set-up conversion campaign on Facebook, you should aim for your campaign conversion cost to be less than your target acquisition cost. Simple.
If instead you're running a website traffic campaign, you should estimate your conversion cost using whatever data you have available from your Facebook campaigns, website analytics and other sources.
To do that, start with your campaign's cost per landing page view and estimate what percentage of those landing page visits lead to people registering for your race. If, for example, your cost per landing page view is $0.50 and your conversion rate on landing page visits is 5%, each new registrant costs you $0.50 / 5% = $10, which is in line with your target acquisition cost.
In reality, estimating your conversion cost for each of your Facebook campaigns is not going to be this easy, since, as we discussed on the point about remarketing, people will hardly ever register on the back of a single ad campaign. But it's still good discipline to have a target cost in mind and stick to it over the long term.
8. Pulling the plug too soon
Ok, so now the flip side of the mistake above: Knowing your long-term acquisition cost is $X doesn't mean you should stick to it in the early stages of your ad campaign.
It's ok to go beyond your target acquisition cost early, when you're tuning your message and you're still trying to figure out what works best. You should do so with a small overall budget, so you don't blow through all your marketing dollars experimenting, but you should still be prepared to spend a little more for the benefit of collecting feedback from your ads.
Throwing in the towel too soon is a totally amateur mistake to make, driven mostly by emotion and a false sense of economising. And if you do so, you'll never get to find out what really works.
9. Being cheap with your ad creatives
Let's be honest: Quality graphics, videos and content cost money. And enough people appreciate this point to keep rates for quality creative designers barely affordable in many cases.
Quality ad creatives will save you a ton of money down the line. They will instantly set your ad and event apart from others, and help build equity in your event brand. So don't be cheap with them and - where you can afford it - spend what you have to for a great result.
If you can't afford to spend the money, spend some time learning to use some of the amazing free tools out there to create your own eye-catching graphics. Tools like Canva and even Google Docs' own Drawings app. For quality free images, hit sites like Pixabay and Flickr (making sure you filter results for the right usage licence). With a bit of patience and effort you will be able to build your own.