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How to Use Facebook Ads to Reach Your Email List

How can you effectively communicate with your target market? That’s the biggest challenge facing every sized business.

Since the introduction of America Online (AOL) in the late 90s, email has been the tried and true way to do that.

According to Mailchimp, you can expect approximately 20 out of every 100 people to open your email. Of those 20 people, only 2-4 will actually click on a link within that email.

That’s not very encouraging.

The number one reason for this is that today’s inboxes are bombarded with offers and communications like yours.

In Q1 2013, 61% of emails analyzed by were characterized as marketing messages. In Q3 2016, that number increased to 88%. More noise means less attention.

The second reason is that life happens. Coffee spills, meetings happen, problems arise. People intend to get back to your email and never get around to it.

And that’s if your email even gets delivered in the first place. Institutional firewalls, spam folders and gatekeepers can, and often do, reject your communication.

Even if your email rate is above average, less people are clicking your call to action. Last year, also reported that email click rates have stayed put or declined for 14 consecutive quarters!

This means that email newsletters, announcements and offers are becoming more ineffective (I’m not referring to interpersonal email here).

Despite these challenges, some business owners are communicating more effectively than ever before.

New technologies have delivered new opportunities to expand communication channels. And you don’t need a huge budget to do it!

That’s what this article is all about. I’ll tell you how you can, and should, supplement your most important communications with Facebook and Instagram advertising to improve your current communication strategy.

Imagine being able to reach everyone you want with your message. OK, you probably don’t have the budget to do that. But you can reach everyone who already knows and likes you.

Not long ago, a client asked me to help develop a major, month-long advertising campaign. They needed to reach and engage their primary supporters, and they needed to do it fast.

They had an established email list of more than 2,500 subscribers, which was a good start. But we, as mentioned above, we couldn’t rely solely on email to do this. And they didn’t have the budget for print advertising.

The answer was to supplement their email communications with Facebook and Instagram ads.

So we uploaded their entire email list to Facebook and created a custom audience called “email subscribers.” We then advertised only to that list.

The ad was simple. It sent them to the same pre-designed landing page we linked to in the email, where the organization could share more information about their upcoming events (and encourage supporters to take action).

It was the exact same strategy they had been deploying with email (Email > Link > Website). We just expanded it to include social media (Facebook and Instagram > Link > Website).

Here’s how it works.

When you upload your email list to Facebook, the system checks to see if any of the emails match Facebook accounts registered under the same address. When the algorithm identifies a match, it adds the user to a custom audience. (This also works with addresses, phone numbers and other identifying info).

It’s the fastest and most effective way to expand one communication channel into two.

We uploaded approximately 3,000 email addresses and ended up with a list of approximately 2,400 supporters who had not already liked the organization’s Facebook page.

That’s 2,400 new opportunities to reach new audiences! All with just with a couple of clicks of a mouse. Talk about quickly growing your distribution channel!

Comparing Email to Facebook Ads

Once we built our custom audience, it was time to begin supplementing emails with ads.

We eventually combined the “email audience” into a “remarketing audience” (people who had engaged with a previous ad), so I’m unable to provide you with a clear, delineated, apples-to-apples comparison of the entire campaign. What I can do is compare the results of less than half our Facebook ads with 100% of the emails that were sent.

Here’s the data.

This is a table comparing date between an email and Facebook ad campaign

Just half of the Facebook ads we launched produced 1,005 actions (likes, comments, shared, video views, etc.) and 26 more clicks to their website, with nearly 5X the click thru rate of email!

And it only cost $2.50 in ad spend per email sent.

You’ll notice that each ad prompted approximately 144 actions. Actions are a measurement of attention, similar to someone opening an email.

If, for the cost of a few stamps, you could create 144 actions among highly engaged supporters, customers or clients (which can then lead to other actions that inspire even more actions), would it be worth it?

In comparison, you cannot inspire 144 actions from a single piece of direct mail.

More importantly, the ads created awareness for the organization’s presence on Facebook. At minimum (remember that this is the only data I could specifically attribute to the “email audience”), 10 people liked the organization’s Facebook page as a result of the ad.

That’s 10 new fans, brand advocates, volunteers, customers who are now more connected to the organization.

Convert Your Email List Into a Lookalike Audience

That’s not all. There’s one more thing you can do with a custom audience.

Once you have an audience in place, you can use it to create a new list of people similar interests, characteristics or behaviors. That’s called a ‘Lookalike Audience.’

If a certain person with a certain interest or experience is following, volunteering or buying from your business, then Facebook can deliver ads to people with similar interests.

Targeting lookalike audiences enables you to scale successful ads quicker and more effectively than engaging a new audience from scratch.

How Do You Add Your Email Subscribers to Facebook?

Here’s how to create a custom email audience.

First, download your email list into a .csv file. Facebook can also match people based on a number of other factors.

Go to the Facebook Audience Manager (You’ll need to have set up a Facebook Business Manager Account if you do not have one)

Click ‘Create Audience,’ then ‘Custom Audience’

Screenshot of a mouse pointer hovering over a Facebook ads custom audience drop down menu

  • Click ‘Customer File’

A screenshot of Facebook ads custom audience upload options

  • Click ‘Add customers from your own file or copy and paste data’ (or you can choose ‘Import straight from Mailchimp’)

A screenshot of facebook ads custom audience options

  • Upload your file
  • Name your audience and add a description so that others can easily identify this group when targeting future ads

Screenshot of facebook ads custom audience upload screen

Once you’ve built a custom audience, you’ll be able to target the list when creating an ad. It’s as simple as that.

In conclusion, there are numerous ways to get your message to the people who need to hear it. While email still remains a good first option, Facebook ads offer another communication dimension that can pay huge dividends down the road.

Before you spend too much time wondering how to improve your email open rates, consider leveraging your more relevant and engaging communication channels to expand your distribution channels, get your message out quickly and scale efficiently.

What would that look like for your business?

If you would like some help, I’d be happy to give you a few ideas. Just send me a message!

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