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A case against “BOOST’n’PRAY” ….or “Why Can’t We Just Use Free Posts”?

“Why can’t we just use free posts?” was a very popular question about 5 years ago. It still gets asked occasionally by those very far removed from the realities of digital marketing; the rest of us are painfully aware that the Facebook Newsfeed tends to show us less than 0.2% of content that could be eligible for appearing. The notorious Edge Rank algorithm decides what the user should or shouldn’t care about. Fortunately for users, unfortunately for advertisers. The bottom line is that organic reach is extremely limited. Unless you are a maverick of viral content (https://www.facebook.com/elarroyoaustin/)... but would you even be reading this article if that were the case?? So, the new question is “We are posting and boosting every day and only get a few likes. What’s wrong?”. A lot of things. Most likely the cause is the popular “Boost’n’Pray” strategy. Pick a post, click “Boost for $30.00”, click “Yes” and  pray for likes. Is there a better way? Yes!

  1. Evaluate the content of your boosted post. Were you aiming for likes when you designed it? Or were you more interested in click-throughs? Or shares? Was it engaging? Was it more engaging than the post you did last week? Do you have a good sense of what content drives likes, click throughs, shares?

  • Likes” should be mostly used as an indirect metric for brand awareness ads. The more likes you got, the more effective the content for building awareness. Small number of likes doesn’t mean that the awareness campaign is a failure – the users did get to see your message, and that does count for something. You wouldn’t blame the highway billboard if nobody clicked a “Like” on it, would you? Don’t blame the awareness ad either.

  • ·Click-through posts have a call to action: “Reserve now”, “Claim your free app”, “Click to win”. The CTR rate is a direct measurement of effectiveness for these. You may get a little awareness halo from the users that saw the ad but ignored your call to action. The CTR target ads must be tested with multiple versions. Small design differences result in huge changes.

  • ·”Shares” are the true gold. It’s very difficult and expensive to design promotional content that has strong potential to go viral. Particularly hard if you stay away from controversial content. Contests and hashtag promos are a great way to manufacture a small wave of “shares” for otherwise trivial content. That’s your digital equivalent of giving a little extra push for the word of mouth advertising.


  1. Check the timing. Are you boosting at an appropriate time? Did you promote your Brunch offer on Monday – or on Friday, when people make plans for the upcoming weekend? Lunch special on a more appropriate day?

  2. Check the target audience. Just a 3 mile radius around the restaurant is not enough. When you are advertising on digital media your message should match the audience and vice versa. If you are running a “Kids eat free” ad, target geographically, then set the audience to families with kids, and possibly refine further to those interested in kids friendly activities or destinations nearby. Check what time slot gets you the highest response, and continue to run the same ad during that same time slot over and over again to the same audience. They need multiple exposures to register your presence.

Just these simple steps to get away from the “Boost’n’Pray” will make a huge difference in the effectiveness of your Facebook marketing.

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