Facebook “Can’t Buy Me Love” – Now “Likes” on the Other Hand…

Three years ago in my article “SMB Social Analysis – Can Money Buy You Friends?,” I conducted a designed experiment to test the effectiveness of paying to expand a local businesses’ social community. I plopped down $197 for a promised 1,000 new Likes, which were supposed to materialize in 30 days. Well, let’s just say the test was a disaster. Yes, I eventually received 400 Likes, however, the vast majority of my newly purchased Likes were bots or fictitious accounts, thereby creating no value in the purchase beyond the bragging rights of the sheer number of Likes to my page.

Fast-forward three years and many vendors still exist to “Buy Real Facebook Fans and Likes Cheap,” and the price has dropped to between $25 and $50 for 1,000 “real” fans. Yes, I am a sucker, so I will pony up $25 to gauge the effectiveness of the audience I can purchase. Expect the results in a future column. However, today’s exercise is to gauge the relative effectiveness of Facebook’s own ad/promotion products and analyze their benefit for local businesses.

Facebook Promote Page

Accessed simply from the Admin Panel on any company page, the “Promote Page” function provides a cost-effective way to ad community (Likes) so as to increase the effective reach of your Facebook marketing efforts.


The functionality allows the local business to specify geography, area of interest, age, and gender of the target audience to attract. Additionally, the business can specify daily budget and the duration of the campaign.


We started this campaign in early December with the intention of seeing if the Promote Page ad would effectively build this single-location pediatric dentist’s social community with the desired result of attracting new patient families to the practice.

We ran the campaign for nine days in January, which resulted in a 10 percent increase in Likes (43), at a cost per Like of $1.16.

The core benefit of implementing the Promote Page option for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) is that the growth in local audience enables more local-market customers and prospects to see future posts for the business. Additionally, understanding the network effect of the additional audience gained us messaging exposure to far more that the mere 43 new Likes.

In addition to testing the Promote Page option, we also utilized Facebook’s “Boost Post” option. We were trying to determine if increasing the reach of our posts could accelerate our audience-building efforts. Our hope was that once the paid audience saw our posts they would Like the page thereby adding to our community outside of the Promote Page option.


The findings of these campaigns were pretty interesting. In broad terms, we learned that posts that contained video generated the most reach, outscoring text- and picture-based posts by a factor of 10 to 1. We were relatively impressed that this single post reached nearly 18,000 people and generated 949 video plays.

When comparing the lift in Likes from our Boosted posts, we saw an audience gain of 100 new Likes (33 percent overall increase) at a cost of $.66 per Like. So in effect, utilizing the boost option produced more new audience than the Promote Page option at a 43 percent lower cost.

How did we do on our primary goal of attracting new patient families to the practice? Let’s just say that $117 spent on the various promotional options that we tested for this individual SMB have generated revenues with an return on investment (ROI) in the 9 to 1 range, not considering the lifetime value of these new patient families from future check-ups and visits.

Designed experiments like the above case help us in a number of ways. First, we get to measure the impact of various tactics and platforms in discrete markets. Second, it enables us as marketers to experience how local businesses benefit from the available local marketing options. But perhaps more importantly for large brands with hundreds if not thousands of locations, we can access the time, value, and return benefits of scaling local advertising programs from the location level upward.

Related reading

Website landing page vector graphic
Hand holding smartphone with city map and store location on screen and store icon.