Dave Sharp advises architecture firms on social media, communication and marketing strategy. More.
There’s a lot of buzz about social media and how you should use it to promote your architecture projects.
Marketers like me will often tell you that to attract clients, you need to post on Instagram every day.
You need to start writing a blog.
You need to reach out to journalists.
You need to win awards.
While we, as marketers, can do all this and more, it can get exhausting for architects. Shouldn’t we spend our time designing great buildings instead of promoting them?
You should! That’s why I recommend that my clients experiment with Facebook ads for new projects.
Facebook ads are a way of paying for attention. Very cheap attention.
I’m going to show you how to run a small-budget experiment for 30 days to promote your new project.
I call it an experiment because you don’t have to sell the farm to see results.
The goal of these experiments is to find a profitable ad strategy.
Then if you want to spend real money, you’ll know that it works.
[Update 2019] I've recorded a 6-part video series on building a Facebook Ad Campaign for your architecture firm.
1. Create a Facebook Ads Manager Account (Ads Manager)
You’ll need to set up an advertising account on your firm’s Facebook page. Facebook will walk you through the steps to get it setup and connected to a billing source. We use Paypal.
I won’t go over the steps to setup your Facebook Ads manager. Follow their process and come back here when you’re done.
2. Create an AdEspresso trial account (AdEspresso)
AdEspresso is a very useful tool for creating experimental Facebook ad campaigns. We will use it to create, analyse and improve our campaign.
We never know what the best ad is. The best image. The Best headline. The Best descriptions. It’s anyone’s guess.
AdEspresso solves that problem. It helps you to create hundreds of Facebook ads from a few images and headlines.
5 images x 3 headlines x 2 descriptions = 30 ad designs.
30 ad designs x 5 suburbs = 150 different Facebook ads.
You can run a campaign with a budget of $10 per day, and AdEspresso will divide it across your ad combinations.
The app will tell you which are outperforming and allow you to pause the bad ad combinations. It will take the budget that was being spent on bad ads, and give it back to the winners.
This saves your budget but also tells you how to create better Facebook ads in the future. You’ll learn what headlines work, and which images get clicks.
AdEspresso costs US$49 per month, but you’ll be able to get the information you need before the 14-day trial ends. Campaigns keep running even if you cancel your AdEspresso account.
After signing up for a trial, you need to connect your Facebook account.
3. Create a New Campaign
Name it whatever you like so that you’ll be able to find it later.
Click on the website tab and select External Website. That’s our goal, to get people to our website.
This is the very first step of creating a campaign, but it confuses most architects. There are so many attractive options.
Plenty of my clients have messed up and picked ‘brand awareness’ or ‘engagement’. Both sound good, but they’ll waste your budget.
We want people to click our Facebook ads and visit our website.
Proceed to create your ad content.
4. Create Your Ad Creative
Select your firm’s Facebook page, it’s time to get creative.
The first thing we have to do is write some headlines. This is the large, bold text that will appear under the image of your ad. It’s the primary text that your prospect will see in their newsfeed.
You’ll notice from your own feed that most marketers use intriguing headlines such as:
- “You won’t believe what this cat did once his owner started filming”
- “7 new treatments to regrow your hair in 2017”
- “The new fashion trend everyone is talking about.”
These headlines drive clicks. The real challenge for architects is writing interesting ad copy.
There are a few areas you can focus on, but I’d start with results, awards or testimonials.
We’re going to discuss ad targeting later on, but it would be a great idea to also put a local area in your headline. Making the ad copy specific to your targeting improves click-through.
Examples could include:
- “This Is What Your Next House Will Look Like”
- “This House In Fitzroy Is Breaking All The Rules”
- “Why Is This Melbourne House Is Making The Neighbours Jealous?”
Enter each headline into AdEspresso by clicking the + symbol on the right.
This is the part above the ad. You could call it the caption, the piece of text that introduces the ad.
Remember, in the Facebook Newsfeed, Facebook ads look a lot like shared articles. That’s why we need good ad text. It provides context and makes the ad look more authentic.
The ad text is also where you can tell a long story, add testimonials, and give summary details about your firm.
The key AdEspresso experimentation here for me is the length. You can write hundreds of words, or a few.
I’d experiment with 2–3 different lengths.
The first should be something short and simple like “our favourite project!”
The second variation should be less than one paragraph about your firm.
The third can be a short story about your approach to the design process and how you started your firm.
Remember to keep it persuasive and interesting. The above examples are only guides. The goal is to make the prospect think, “wow, I’d love to find out more!”.
Click upload images and upload the the 4–5 best shots from the project you would like to promote. Only use professional quality images.
Keep in mind that there will only be one photo for each ad, so make sure the image looks great on its own. A close-up of a stair detail is pretty, but doesn’t make much sense when it’s all you can see.
Pay attention to AdEspresso’s recommended image dimensions.
Go to your website and find the URL for the project you’d like to promote.
Come back to AdEspresso and add it to your ad settings.
It’s better to design ad campaigns around specific projects, rather than the firm. Specific projects are easy to design ads for and the deeper content helps conversion.
Most architecture firms have a gallery of projects on their home page. A prospect arriving from a Facebook ad would feel very lost if they landed on your home page.
Since your project page now becomes your landing page, you should make sure the text tells a story. This might be the only page your prospect visits. Make sure it gets their attention and persuades them to have a look around.
At this point you’re probably wondering why you have to write so much text.
The link text is the easiest, it’s usually a description of what the prospect will see on the website if they click.
The link description appears beneath the headline, and should support it with context.
This is where you can say something like:
“James Road house by Hustler Architects is a beautiful family home designed for the 21st century.”
Your Facebook ad will display a link down the bottom.
Let’s say the actual link to your project is: www.hustlerarchitect.com/james-road-house-2017-shoot-brick-residential
It looks terrible. Display link is a way to polish the URL so that it’s cleaner.
I’d recommend leaving it as hustlerarchitect.com
Call To Action
Your call to action is the button in the bottom right of your ad.
There are some studies that suggest the choice of CTA affects click through rates.
The experts all say that you should pick button copy that is the closest to what your prospect will do on the next page.
If you want them to sign up, choose Sign Up. If you want them to learn more about your new project, choose Learn More.
You could make this an AdEspresso split test later on, but for now, choose Learn More.
Very few clients make the right choice here. Placement is you instructing Facebook where to put the ads.
There are many options. Different networks, different devices. The difference is cost between the different placement options is enormous.
On one of our latest campaigns, an ad on the Mobile News Feed (Facebook on your phone) cost $0.17 per click. The identical ad on Instagram cost $4.18 per click.
If you use Facebook’s ad manager to create ads, they will place everywhere. That’s another reason we love AdEspresso, they make placement decisions important.
From our experience, you should ru your ads on Mobile Newsfeed and Desktop Newsfeed.
You can ignore Instagram — it’s a very expensive product right now.
Audience network is banner ads, which are vulnerable to spam clicks.
Right column is the right hand bar on Facebook desktop. It’s cheap because, as we all know, nobody interacts with right-hand side banner ads. You don’t want to run ads there.
6. Conversion Tracking
We can skip this section for now, but I’ll explain what it’s for.
Tracking conversions is the way to measure the effectiveness of your ad campaigns. Clicks are one thing, but people actually doing something profitable is another.
Clicks can actually be pretty misleading without conversion data. For all we know, the $1 per click ad could be driving 3x more contact form submissions than the $0.5. You’d call the $1 ad a loser on face-value.
For most architects, a contact form submission is the primary conversion event. Someone fills out a form with their contact details for you to follow up.
A certain percentage of these will become meetings. Some of those meetings become fee proposals. Some proposals turn into jobs. The jobs have a revenue value.
Reverse-engineer that and you’ll find out what a form submission is worth in dollars.
You’ll need this number to understand if your ad strategy is cash-flow positive.
The reality is that most architects are not tracking conversions at all. We don’t know how well our website turns 1000 visitors into buildings.
This is all advanced stuff for another post. For now, skip conversion tracking. We will still get all the data we need from our Cost Per Click results.
AdEspresso caps ad combinations at 50, so delete some headlines or images if you’re over the limit.
Time to start setting up your audience!
6. Audience Targeting
This is where we decide who will see our ads. While it’s tempting to get very specific, you should keep it broad for your first campaign.
You might try to target 43–46 year old women who like Archdaily, live nearby and earn over $100’000 per year. You might actually be right! Facebook will let you get this narrow.
But, there’s a better (cheaper) audience out there. There always is.
The point of this campaign is to actually find out who responds to our work. Who clicks our ads? What makes them tick?
We want to start broad so that we can learn something about our audience. We’ll find the cheapest cost-per-click demographics then build new campaigns targeted at them.
For now, we can assume that your best prospects will live nearby. Beyond that, the only assumption we can make is age. Your prospects will usually be over 30.
Add your city. You could also add your suburb, or a group of suburbs if you want to get fancy. I would go with city for now.
Make sure your location preference is set to “people who live in this location”.
If for any reason you would like to exclude a certain suburb, you can do that as well.
Age and Gender
For this campaign, we test the following age groups.
Remember, we’re just trying to find out which age group clicks our ads. It’s important to show ads to a wide range of age groups to find this out.
We break down the ages into brackets because we will use them as primary testing variables later. AdEspresso will create an ad group (each containing your 50 ads) for each age bracket.
Ages represent life stages. It’s important for an architect to point their services at the right group.
While Facebook’s 2 billion users include people of all ages, the bell curve skews young.
By dividing your budget amongst the brackets, you will ensure that you’re hitting them all.
You should target both genders.
Once you start running your campaign, you’ll find a massive difference between genders. We have run campaigns where men click 4x more than women, and other times it was the opposite.
Like all targeting options, once you run the campaign and see results, you’ll know who to target next time.
Skip advanced life and education options.
Facebook interests are very accurate. They gather piles of information on the tastes, hobbies and passions of their users. We have found that the Architecture Interest is very reliable.
Type architecture and select the interest from the menu.
Connections & Engagement
You can leave these empty because we don’t want to restrict our targeting.
It is worth mentioning the power of social proof. These options rock if you have an active Facebook business page with thousands of local fans.
If you select this option, your prospects will see your ad below Facebook text that says “John Friend, Sally Friend and 7 other friends like this page”.
That can have a huge impact on click-through. Your ad became social media content.
For 99% of firms, you should ignore this option. Friends of people who like your page is a great audience, but it can be too restrictive and skew results.
Try it on a separate campaign if you’re interested. If you do, remove your interest targeting since the shared ‘interest’ is now your business.
You’re all setup! Click Proceed.
7. Picking A Test Variable
AdEspresso will ask you what you want to test?
You can select gender, location, interests and so on. As I mentioned earlier, AdEspresso will take your 50 ad creatives and multiply them by the target.
Gender would be 50 ads for males and 50 ads for females, each gender having half of your budget.
We are going to go with age. Select age and AdEspresso will generate the full ad set.
We create these tests to keep things balanced, but also to allow us to pause certain groups mid-test.
We may start the campaign and find that 50–59-year-olds cost $0.30 per click and 20–29-year-olds are $11.30 per click. You can easily pause ad delivery to the youngsters.
When it comes to a budget, you can never go too low, but you can always go too high.
Let’s say your target audience is 20’000 people.
Facebook can only deliver Facebook ads to them for the life of your campaign. If you set your budget to $500 per day, it will have to show each of those users your ads dozens of times to consume the budget.
We refer to this repetition as ad frequency. If you notice that your ad frequency approaches or passes 2, you should reduce your budget.
I’d recommend that for your targeting, you should set your budget to $10 per day at the most. You can set a total campaign budget, but it is better to set a daily budget so that you can have consistent data over time.
Set your end date to 30 days in the future.
Turn on automatic optimisation. This allows AdEspresso to make minor changes if certain ads are underperforming.
They won’t make these changes often, but it’s important to have a safety net. For example, Facebook may not approve a certain ad text, or run it to very few people. AdEspresso would detect this issue and pause that ad set.
9. Publish to Facebook
Well done, your Facebook ads are all setup. AdEspresso will begin uploading them to Facebook for approval. Once approved, they’ll start showing up on Facebook.
Now that your campaign is running, you’ll want to check in every few days to see how your Facebook ads are performing.
We find that for beginners, the best information to pay attention to is Top Factors on your dashboard.
AdEspresso will show you the winning headlines, images, genders and locations. It’s very easy to pause the losers.
This will help to get your cost per click down over time.
You should track how your creative elements are performing in the comparison tab.
We would recommend postponing major changes until your campaign is a week old. Some elements can win right away but slip down over time. It’s important to look at cumulative data, rather than day to day.
By the end of your campaign, you will know which demographics clicked your ads, and which ads did the best. Now you’ll be in a better position to run new ad campaigns for future projects or to scale up your budget.
Too many architects rely on awards or magazines alone to promote their projects.
We rarely consider how broad and data-poor these platforms are. Do we know anything about the audience who sees our work?
While many architects are wary of paid advertising, once you get started, you’ll never stop. PPC (pay per click) is the cornerstone of every digital marketer’s toolkit.
After this small campaign, thousands of people in your area will know you exist. PPC is especially important at a time when so few of your competitors are even contemplating it.
We live in a world of social media platforms and mobile devices. If your work isn’t in these spaces, it doesn’t exist.
A basic digital marketing system is the best way for an Architect to put their money to work rather than their time. It isn’t something we’re accustomed to doing, but it’s vital if you’re trying to scale your firm.