Facebook budget

This Summer’s Effect on Facebook Advertising Budgets

Tomorrow, my wife and I will celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary. Almost a dozen times this summer, I’ve fielded a question via email or Facebook Messenger that takes me back to the months leading up to when I popped Crystal the big question. Actually, these summer inquiries have been several variations of the same question:

  • How much money would be enough for Facebook ads for this auction?
  • What Facebook budget would it take to get this stuff sold?
  • How much should we budget for Facebook to get good results?
  • Can I get a price quote on a moderate Facebook marketing campaign?
  • What would you suggest we spend on a property like this?
  • How much are we talking to find the buyers we need for this auction?

Before Facebook was invented and before my girlfriend said yes to “Crystal, will you marry me?” I wrestled with a version of this same question. Many of my friends and dorm buddies also wondered what expenditure would be enough—for our engagement rings. We couldn’t have Googled the answer, even if Google were a thing back then. We couldn’t have asked social media, even if MySpace had been online yet. Social convention said we should’ve spent two months’ worth of salary on it, but we were broke college kids. (I hung my wet laundry from the top bunk to dry it just to save the change that the clothes driers required.)

I can’t speak for other dudes, but I wasn’t worried that the value of the ring would change my girlfriend’s answer. I just didn’t want her yes to be in spite of what I handed her. I wanted her to know that I’d done the best I could do and that my best would be the precedent for her life with me. It’s the same for our sellers on every auction campaign, whether the advertising plan includes Facebook or not. We want those sellers to feel like we did the best with what we had, that the highest bid couldn’t have been improved upon. For reserve auctions—proposals where they could say no—we want them convinced they got the best the market could give them at the moment of sale.

So, how much advertising on Facebook or other media is enough to do that?

It depends on the girl. It depends on the guy. I know a coed who said yes over a ring for which her boyfriend went door-to-door in our dorm asking for donations before heading over to Walmart. I also know women who demanded rings worth more than cars currently in my driveway. I tell my clients it’s a math problem and then ask “How many website visitors would it take you to feel comfortable?” I can’t answer that question for them—or for anyone. I can help them only with the math. 

Over the past year, my Facebook campaigns have averaged 9¢ per link click across all asset categories. I usually email the auctioneers asking the questions above a spreadsheet of my past Facebook campaigns so they can see the range of variation from that average. Then, as the 1988 Delaware Association of Christian Schools fourth grade state math champion, I guide them through the equation of multiplying the web traffic they want by .05 and then by .15. That’s the range I typically use for budgeting for many asset categories. 

We can’t know what Facebook will charge in advance. The finite ad spots are sold via automated auction. The cost depends partly on how many other advertisers are vying for the same prospects at the same time. That varies from week to week and definitely from one geographic area to another. Also, the quality of the asset and the photography matter, too. Facebook will end the auctions early in your favor if your content is getting a strong response. The market and its demand for what you’re selling fluctuate, too. You can sell the exact same thing with similar imagery and headlines at a different time and get different results. Prospect density—the number of people within the geographic area who’d be interested in what you’re selling where you’re selling it—is hard to know in advance without a long and recent track record for which you can query analytics. And even knowing how big that radius should be is subjective.

Nobody can tell you in advance what your ads will cost. Not Facebook. Not me. No guru with a series of YouTube videos. What I can tell you is that right now, my clients spend about $770 per auction on Facebook ads (plus my posting fee). That’s down from an average of about $810 pre-COVID. 

I bought Crystal’s ring with the inheritance check I got from a great uncle I never met. On May 17, 1999, she said, “Yes.” On September 9, 2000, she said, “I do.” Seven anniversaries into our marriage, I bought her a serious upgrade package to the ring. Eleven more anniversaries later, I bought her a matching ring for her right hand and proposed to her again. I tell you all of that to say that you can always start modestly and add more budget later. Because we can track all ads in real-time via both Facebook Ads Manager and Google Analytics, we can determine if we want to pour more gas on the advertising fire. 

Surprising my wife during her girls trip in Italy.

All that data comes back to your comfort level, especially if the advertising comes out of your commission check. Depending on the asset value, the enigma grows even more uncomfortable. Your seller psyche can influence, that, too. Divorces and 60-year anniversary parties both occur with $200 and $20,000 rings on a bride’s hand. We’ve all seen auctions with thousands or even tens of thousands of visitors to our website that ended in a no sale or embarrassingly-low prices. I’ve seen auctions with tiny marketing budgets or ill-advised advertising result in banner commission days. 

You will never eliminate the risk or the guesswork of auction advertising. You can, however, make more educated guesses and better seller presentations based on captured, curated, and comparable data. If you don’t have those statistics, you’re welcome to borrow mine. 

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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