How I rented my condo in 5 days with FREE Facebook ads

It’s no secret that I love Facebook advertising. Last spring, I entrusted my dating life to Facebook ads. And, this summer, I used a basic Facebook ad campaign to rent out my condo.

My rental property is walking distance to Arizona State University, so it’s highly attractive to college students. In late June, my tenant informed me he was moving out. I had a small window to move in new tenants between him leaving in late July and school beginning in late August.

Here’s how I found perfect renters in just five days with Facebook ads without spending a dime …

Ad creative. The obvious imagery for housing is a property sign or a swimming pool or, say, the house. I tried that approach. Meh. Facebook ad with smiling face image

Studies have pointed to the effectiveness of smiling faces in ads. So, into my ad creative mix, I threw a face – my face.

I wanted to grab my renters’ eye. And I wanted to differentiate against the corporate apartment complexes that were also targeting my audience. The call-to-action to “Rent my condo!” added an informal tone to the campaign.Facebook ad with rental condo image

The results? Ads featuring my grinning mug drove 55.6% of the campaign’s reach, 74.3% of its impressions, and 77.8% of clicks.

Ad targeting. The best thing about Facebook ads is the granularity of targeting options. Demographics. Interests. Geography. It’s all there.

For this campaign, one ad group targeted those who lived within 10 miles of ASU. The other targeted all ASU students nationwide.

Why nationwide? I figured my targets might still identify as residents of their hometowns (for the same reason that college students don’t get local driver’s licenses and remain registered to vote back home). Plus, if they were home for summer break, they may need a rental when they returned.

The results? The nationwide ads drove 54.2% of reach, 73.5% of impressions, and 80.0% of clicks. And, most importantly, the combination of national targeting and my smiling face landed my renters.

Wait, didn’t you say something about free? Yup!

The landing experience was free enough. I started a Facebook page for the condo and used basic features for customization. An album housed shots of the property. The cover photo was a Google map screenshot highlighting the short walk to ASU. (Check out the screenshot below.)

And the ads? Well, the ads were free too. Facebook wants you to take its platform for a test drive. It knows that its granular targeting and cheap clicks are addictive. And it wants to get you hooked so bad that it regularly offers up $50 and $100 ad credits.

Right now, you can get a $50 credit for Facebook ads by filling out a form and chatting with a Facebook rep. It’s the perfect opportunity to play with Facebook ads for free. Have fun!

Facebook fan page for renting my condo

Video: Looking for love – or leads – with Facebook ads

It’s been almost a year since I used Facebook pay-per-click ads to meet women … and received some fun media attention in the process.

As you may recall, I used Facebook’s demographic- and interest-based targeting to drive eligible bachelorettes to my Facebook page. Clicks cost about $.75. That’s 10 clicks for the price of a cocktail!

Creepy? Yes. Effective? Yes!

The project made a fun case study for DIY marketers seeking to stretch limited Facebook budgets. Here’s a presentation I gave on the topic last summer:

Facebook Campaign Overview

Facebook Ad Targeting and Bidding

Facebook Pages and Free Apps

Facebook Campaign Results

Click the image to watch ’em all on YouTube.
Facebook ads presentation in YouTube player

Q&A with MarketingSherpa: Ensuring Facebook doesn’t tear down your wall

I was recently interviewed by MarketingSherpa director of editorial content Daniel Burstein. The interview was in support of our whitepaper 10 Facebook Promotion Myths.

Download our Facebook promotions whitepaper

Click the pic to download our whitepaper on Facebook promotions.

Daniel Burstein: In reading Facebook’s guidelines, sweepstakes and contests seem like the biggest way to run afoul of Facebook, since there are some pretty strict limits. However, I see marketers violating these guidelines every day. How strict is Facebook at monitoring and punishing violators?

Matt Simpson: There are multiple examples of pages being shut down for violating the promotion guidelines. Scandinavian Airlines is a good one. Our Facebook rep says, “We have people constantly monitoring the site for promotion violations (…). If someone is caught, the page is taken down, and they are asked to reach out before we can re-enable to ensure they are clear on the issue.”

Obviously, it’d be impossible for Facebook to police every page. I tell social media marketers that shutdown is a risk, not a certainty. How open are you to losing your investment in the campaign? How open are you to seeing your page shut down? How open are you to telling fans that the rules of the contest or sweepstakes they entered just changed?

Of course, no one watches your page as closely as your boss and your competition. The latter observer has a vested interest in you following Facebook’s promotion guidelines … and in tattling when you don’t.

DB: How do you tell if you’ve been penalized by Facebook? What are the initial steps to getting your account reactivated? Do you lose all data and friends when it is deactivated?

MS: We’ve never seen a page shut down because we follow the rules! That said, I’ve had contacts verify our Facebook rep’s description that “If someone is caught, their page is taken down and they are asked to reach out before we can re-enable to ensure they are clear on the issue.” It’s my understanding that you don’t lose your data or fans. Your page is just invisible until you address the issue and earn reinstatement.

DB: What are three key steps every marketer can take to avoid getting penalized again (or in the first place)?

MS: Here are three questions to ask yourself before launching your promotion:

  • Am I seeking virality? If the premise of your promotion is to go viral, it’s a huge red flag. That’s not to say that a creative concept and well-built technology won’t drive organic growth. But don’t expect to spam the news feed and get away with it.
  • Am I using Facebook functionality? Be careful here! Do not ask fans to post, like or comment on content on your wall or photo albums. Do not use “like” buttons as a voting mechanism. You must run your promotion through a third-party application.
  • Am I collecting contact information? At the end of your campaign, you’ll have to contact your winners to distribute prizes. Remember to collect their contact info in your promotion app, because you cannot contact them through Facebook.

DB: Given the need to follow Facebook’s terms and conditions, what factors should marketers weigh when deciding whether to hold a promotion on Facebook or not. For example, I see many print ads that used to send traffic to a brand website, instead sending traffic to the brand’s Facebook page to enter a sweepstakes or contest. Would they just be better off holding promotions on their own site? In the end, what value does a Facebook fan really have to a marketer?

MS: The concept of collecting fans with an iPad sweepstakes on Facebook is very 2010! It’s a snoozer. Plus, how many of those iPad fans stick around to engage with your brand after the sweepstakes ends?

As marketers, our objective should not be to build a Facebook promotion. It should be to create passionate bonds with consumers by delivering social and interactive engagements. Currently, Facebook offers the best platform for delivering that kind of engagement.

By social, I mean that the engagement should offer frictionless sharing and visibility into how my friends are engaging. By interactive, I mean it should be more than a contact form. For example, I should be able to submit content and browse, vote and comment on others’ content. Ideally, I’d also collect a marketing opt-in such as an email subscription or Facebook like.

Interactivity is easy to deliver on a website. However, no one delivers a personalized social experience like Facebook. Fortunately, the Facebook Graph API enables you to add Facebook-esque social elements to experiences – including contests and sweepstakes – on your website. We often see this referred to as “connecting with Facebook.”

The next frontier is to deliver social and interactive engagements on your Facebook page and on your website simultaneously, with or without Facebook Graph API.

Why force consumers to log in to or connect with Facebook on your website? These steps are barriers to engagement.

Why your new Facebook Timeline is not a better expression of you

I ran into someone on Facebook the other day. Someone I hardly recognized. Someone from the past. That someone was Matt Simpson circa winter 2008.

Facebook recently unveiled its new layout for user profiles called Timeline. It’s pretty darn slick. The slickest feature is a menu of dates that lets users bounce quickly down the Timeline from recent posts to posts made in, say, winter 2008. Facebook’s algorithm initially sorts posts in a given year by importance until you drill down for a chronological view.

Timeline: The new Facebook Profile

It’s my new Facebook Profile! The menu on the right lets you quickly jump to dates in my past.

Now, a little back story. When I joined Facebook in winter 2008, I was not in a good place. Facebook reflects that. Some of my posts were angry jabs at the economy and Corporate America. Some were depressing lyrics from Pink Floyd, to whom I listened relentlessly as I tried to “figure things out”.

Of course, there was also joy. Facebook’s algorithm says my top story of 2008 was my engagement. The algorithm got it right. It was a special happening, despite its later dissolution.

When introducing Timeline, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “Our job is to make this profile the best way to share everything you want and the best way to express who you are.”

Therein lies the rub with Timeline. It looks awesome and it’s super addicting. But it’s not a better expression of who I am.

The Matt Simpson of winter 2008 is not me. Heck, the Matt Simpson of last Sunday is not me. It’s where and when I was. It’s not who I am.

Reviewing one’s Timeline is like standing before the snow-capped peaks of Mt Rainier and admiring printouts of the map that got you there.

Zuckerberg described the old Facebook profile as a place where old posts “just fall off a cliff” after a week or so. What’s wrong with that? A list of short-lived posts is a much better expression of a person than random events of their distant past.

Old stuff falls off a cliff. That’s life.

Identification with distant milestones is living in the past. Not to say we should never look back and smile. Let’s just not get confused about who we are.

I’m not the guy who struggled through the winter of 2008. Nor am I the guy who excitedly held newborn nephews and nieces twice since 2008 or who overcame his fear to leave the stability of Corporate America in fall 2009.

A better expression of me is the guy who recently announced he was spending Friday night reading Moby Dick at a coffee shop, posted a photo of butternut squash sprouting in his fall garden, and expressed his gratitude to Bulbstorm’s tireless developers for launching another great product.

Wanna know where I was? Check my Facebook profile when Timeline goes live to everyone in the next week or so.

Wanna know who I am? Keep your eyes on my updates as they enter your news feed.

Or, poke me and we’ll get a coffee.

I know many will disagree with me. That’s ok! Do you think Facebook Timeline is a better expression of you? Let’s discuss in the comments.

5 tips for closing, not stalking, your social media crush

Guest post by Bulbstorm jack-of-all-trades Grady Owen. Stalk, errr, follow him on Twitter at @gradyowen. He’s gonna be a lawyer, ladies!

Budding social media marketing star Grady Owen

Grady Owen says: “I’m not a player, I just crush a lot.”

Admit it. You have a social media crush. Sure, some people call it Facebook stalking. Others judge you for your flirtatious tweets. But don’t let those haters get you down.

You, my friend, are a visionary. A man ahead of your time. Like the first caveman to wear a loincloth or the first dude to try yoga, you have found a unique way to pick up women.

Are social media crushes healthy? Absolutely! Just act more like Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail and less like Erika Christensen in Swimfan and you’ll be okay!

Here are five tips for turning your social media crush into something more…

1.       Manage Your Profile. Would you go to a dance club with bed hair, sweatpants, and a 1980s He-Man T-shirt? No! Then why would you have ‘em on your Facebook profile? Your profile is an extension of you and it’s important to remain presentable. Make sure to utilize the untag, delete, and privacy features. Also, avoid profanity and poor spelling.

2.       Drive Engagement. Your social media crush wants someone with a balanced and active social life. As a result, it’s probably not a good sign if you have fewer followers than the Washington Generals. Make sure to drive high levels of activity and engagement on your wall.  Who knows? You might even stir up some jealousy if other girls leave you comments!

3.       Be Selective with Check-Ins. Foursquare is a great location-based social networking tool, but don’t go crazy with check-ins! Only check-in at appropriate locations. Checking in daily at bars, strip clubs, and casinos is a deal breaker and will drive your social media crush away.

4.       Do Not Drink and Tweet. Consider this the golden rule. Alcohol and social media don’t mix! We’ve all seen it: The intoxicated man who is trigger happy with his cell phone. After a couple of beers, he feels he’s Hemmingway reincarnated, leaving what he assumes to be a lyrical ballad of tweets. The tweets are never as humorous or insightful the next morning.

5.       Meet In Person. Conversing over Facebook and Twitter will only take you so far. At some point, you will want to meet in person and see if you have real chemistry. Group functions are much less intimidating than meeting one-on-one. If the social media crush is hesitant to meet, it might not be meant to be. Time to find a new social media crush!

I know, I know. You’re skeptical. Can I really convert a social media crush into an IRL relationship? Of course! Just don’t get stuck in the Facebook poking rut, follow the five tips above, and don’t waste money looking for Ms. Right with Facebook ads.

Have you ever had a social media crush? If so, how did you close to the real thing?