How to use Facebook Ads to grow your band’s fanbase

Dan Davies
Oct 30, 2018 · 18 min read

Nearly a year ago, I wrote an article — ‘How to use your music sales on Bandcamp in conjunction with Facebook ads to get more fans & sell more music’, which covered how you can set up a Facebook Ads campaign to sell your band’s music. And sales are great, of course, but something that I think a lot of bands forget about digital marketing is how important exposure is.

If you play a festival or support another band, you’re getting exposure, right? You’re playing to an audience who may not typically attend one of your shows. (This isn’t to say you should do those things for free! I’m not pandering to the ‘do it for the exposure’ folk.) But online, the majority of the organic exposure you get is when you drop new music or release a music video, and your fans (hopefully) share it with their friends. Maybe you get added to one of Spotify’s Discovery playlists or you happen to rank highly when somebody searches “instrumental progressive metal” on Bandcamp (who does this?!). For the most part, you are discovered online during release cycles.

At the end of April 2018, I launched a campaign for a band who were not in a release cycle. I had a budget of £5 per day (£150 per month on average). The purpose of this campaign was purely to get exposure — to attract and engage new fans. I targeted the campaign at a Lookalike Audience (more on this later), and used a well-recorded video of the band performing live as the creative for the campaign.

Daily reach of Page posts from March 18th 2018 — August 18th 2018

You can see around the beginning of the graph (March 2018), daily reach of the client’s Facebook Page was around 1,500 people and has built up to approximately 11,000 people (mid-August 2018). An increase of 630+%. It’s worth noting that this isn’t a new page, and this is data from organic reach of posts — paid reach from boosted posts isn’t included.

Now, I’m sorry I made you look at a graph, but this shit is important! In 4 months, average post engagement has increased by over 630%! This means that anything that is posted about — new shows, new music, new merch — is engaged with a load more, which ultimately means more fans at shows and more sales!

Here’s a breakdown of the campaign’s performance between April and August 2018:

Total spend: £558.89
Page Likes: 3,047 (£0.18 per like)
Comments: 126
Shares: 198

As you can see, a new Page Like cost an average of £0.18, and the advert itself generated a total of 3,047 new Page Likes and received 126 comments & 198 shares. A lot of those comments were people tagging their friends, suggesting they watch the video used for the campaign, adding an organic element to the paid reach.

I totally understand that this is horribly open-ended, and typically with advertising campaigns it’s good to see a return on investment so that as you put more money in, you get more money out. It can be incredibly difficult to put a value on a Page Like or a new fan because you don’t know whether they’re just going to stream a song once on Spotify or buy all of your t-shirts at your next show. There’s no way of knowing! However, look at this graph (sorry) of total streams per month taken from Spotify. It’s worth noting that during this period, no new music was released, and none had been released just prior to it.

Monthly Spotify streams from March 2018 to July 2018

My argument is that, sure, you’re spending a lot of money and the return is not directly trackable, but surely growth like this ultimately has to contribute to more of the things bands want: more ticket sales, more album sales, and more merchandise sales? Particularly if the Page Likes that are coming from campaigns like this are valuable ones (more on this later).

So how do you go about setting all of this up? Well, it’s actually bloody easy! The first thing you need to do is set up a Lookalike Audience.


Creating a Facebook Lookalike Audience

To make a Facebook Lookalike Audience, you first need to provide Facebook with a data source of 100+ Facebook accounts. The quickest and easiest data source would be your Facebook Page (assuming it has more than 100 likes). However, you could also use a list of customer e-mail addresses from Bandcamp or your own merch store. Facebook will take those e-mail addresses and match them to Facebook Profiles to build your Lookalike Audience.

With a Lookalike Audience, Facebook takes all of the people from the data source you have provided and extrapolates all of their likes & interests. It then uses that data to find other people on Facebook who share the same likes & interests, hence “Lookalike”!

To begin, head over to the Facebook Ads Manager, and then go to “Audiences” in the menu. Please note that if you haven’t used Facebook Ads before, you will have to set up a new Ads account before you can continue. Just follow the on-screen instructions!

Right, so when you get to the Audiences page in the Ads Manager, you’ll be presented with 3 options:

  • Custom Audiences — this is where you would start if you were uploading a list of customer e-mail addresses.
  • Lookalike Audiences — this is what we’re going to be choosing.
  • Saved audience — this allows you to broadly target people on Facebook based on their interests & behaviours.

Go ahead and click “Create a Lookalike Audience”.

On the next screen, you’ll be asked to choose a Source (which is where you can select your Facebook Page or a Custom Audience you have created). You will also be asked to specify a Location and Audience size. For Location, I typically select all countries. This is because I prefer to specify the countries I wish to target in my adverts when I’m creating a new campaign instead of creating different Lookalike Audiences per country. If you’d prefer to do it that way, that’s fine. If you don’t really know what I’m talking about, click “Select All”!

“Audience size ranges from 1% to 10% of the total population in the countries you choose, with 1% being those who most closely match your source.”

I always keep the Audience size set to 1. I think closely matching the source is more important than matching more people, and typically the amount of people it finds even at 1% of the total population of the countries selected is more than enough to work with.

Here you can see that with those options selected, the estimated reach of the new Lookalike Audience is 21.4 million people. That’s 21.4 million people worldwide who are similar to the people who have already liked my Page! Click “Create Audience” when you’re ready, and Facebook will begin populating your Lookalike Audience. This can take some time, so you can go and do something else for a while.


Creating your Facebook Ad campaign

Okay, so now your Lookalike Audience is created, and you’ve come back with a fresh cup of coffee (Aeropress, 93°C water, 15g freshly ground coffee — you know!), it’s time to set up the advertising campaign!

Head to the Facebook Ads Manager once more, or if you still have the audiences page open, click “Audiences” at the top left, then click “Ads Manager” beneath “Create & manage”. This page is the homepage for all of the campaigns you have set up on your account, and currently it should be empty (unless you’ve played with ads before!). Go ahead and click the green “Create” button.

“What’s your marketing objective?” — that’s a great question. As you can see here, Facebook can optimise your campaign depending on what you intend to achieve. For the campaign I ran for the aforementioned client, I selected “Engagement” and then went on to select “Page Likes”, as the purpose of the campaign was to gather new fans. You might, however, choose to pick “Brand Awareness”, “Reach”, or even “Video Views”. The “Choosing an objective” link at the top there gives some good information and should help guide you with your choice. If you’re through-and-through copying what I did, go for “Engagement”.

Once you’ve selected an objective, you may be asked to further specify what you’d like to do with your campaign. Here I selected “Page Likes”. I then went on to name the campaign. Make sure you give the campaign a name that’s useful to you when you’re looking at it. When you have a bunch of ads running, having a campaign with a name that makes no sense is only going to cause headaches. Click “Continue” when you’re ready.

The next step is to create an Ad Set. An ad set comprises of the Page you’re promoting, the audience you want to advertise to, the places where your advert will be displayed, and the budget for the ad set. A campaign can have multiple ad sets and adverts within it. Think of it like this — a campaign is an initiative; a topic or event that you would like to promote. Your ad sets are the different groups of people to whom you’d like to promote. You could just have one ad set for everybody, or you could have multiple diverse ad sets with different budgets allocated to them. Finally, adverts are what the audiences within each ad set sees — the video, photos, text, and links, etc.

As with campaigns, it’s super important to give your ad set a name that makes sense at a glance. This is usually something I do at the end, once I’ve set up my ad set, so that I can include some keywords. An example of an ad set name I might use is “Page Likes Lookalike | Key Areas | 18–34 | Male”. This name would suggest that the ad set I have set up is targeted at a Lookalike Audience built from Page likes, targeted to areas I have deemed key to the Page, and I have limited the targeting to 18–34 year-old males. For now, we’ll leave it as is, and we’ll come back to it at the end.

Next, you have to select a Facebook Page. If you have admin access to more than one page then make sure you select the correct one. This is the Page that will be displayed with your adverts.

Now we’re on to the fun stuff — the audience targeting! In the “Custom Audiences” box, it’ll say “Add Custom Audiences or Lookalike Audiences”. Assuming you followed the steps above regarding creating a Lookalike Audience, when you click that box, the Lookalike Audience(s) you set up will display. As I just set up the Worldwide one, that’s the one I used. Now, if you select a Worldwide audience, it will populate the “Locations” box below with all of the countries in the world, which isn’t what you want. A neat little trick to remove them is to click the “Edit Locations” button (not displayed above), then click “Browse” next to where it says “Type to add more locations”. In the box that pops up, click to the right of “Countries” to select all countries, then click again to deselect all countries. That should remove everything from the Locations box. A bit fiddly, but it works.

From there you can begin adding countries or locations to your heart’s content. You can be as broad (worldwide) with your targeting as you like, or you can specifically target people within a 15km radius of London. It’s up to you. However, before you rush ahead and just choose Worldwide, I mentioned earlier that I made sure the Likes in my campaign were valuable. I mean two things by this. The first is that I knew the client was already popular in the UK, Germany, Scandinavia, Australia, Canada, and the US, so it made sense to promote to those people. The second is that unfortunately there are a few countries around the world where click farms exist.

A click farm is a large group of low-paid workers whose job it is to simply click adverts. If your ad set is targeting countries where there are a lot of click farms (Google it), your campaign results may be skewed by having a large number of clicks/views, making it look like it is performing very well, but actually there are very few conversions and there is no ongoing engagement from those who have interacted with the advert. You could easily build a Facebook Page up to having 50k Likes, but having close to nobody engaging with your posts, because the majority of the Likes are blank accounts used purely for click farms. You should know the optimum regions to promote your Page — primarily where your existing fans are, or where your band intends to tour. If you’re dubious about targeting a specific country, set up a different ad set for it, run it for a couple of days, and then evaluate the results.

Once you have specified your locations, you can refine the age range and genders to which your ad will be displayed. I do tend to take advantage of the age range, and I find that if your music is popular with a particular age group, it makes sense to target them. However, another thing you can do is set it quite wide and then later evaluate the campaign performance broken down by age groups. You might find that you suddenly become popular with an age category you weren’t expecting, or that the age group you know your music is popular with is actually quite expensive to convert into a Page Like. More on this later.

Scroll down the page to see the “Languages” box (leave this as it is) and also the “Detailed targeting” box. Detailed targeting is useful when you’re setting up a campaign without a pre-defined audience, as you can begin to build a list of interests that your potential fans may have, i.e. similar bands, companies they might like, video games, etc. However, as we’re using a Lookalike Audience I feel that this is already defined enough, and you can skip it.

The “Connections” box allows you to target people who already have an existing connection with your Facebook Page. You can also specifically exclude people who have already liked your Page, which in this instance I did. As this campaign is all about getting new Page Likes, it’s pointless to pay to advertise to people who have already liked the Page. I assume that Facebook would exclude them automatically because of the “Engagement & Page Likes” campaign we set up when we started making the campaign, but this extra step can’t hurt. Just select “Exclude people who like your Page” from the drop-down, then type your Page name in the box below.

Now we’re on to placements! Placements are all of the places your ad can be displayed across Facebook, Instagram, the Audience Network, and Facebook Messenger. Fortunately, there’s an “Automatic Placements” option, and this is exactly what we’re going to choose. If in the future, however, you fancy doing some ads that are only displayed on Instagram Stories, this is how you’d set that up! Just unselect everything except Instagram Stories. You will find that certain placements are only available with certain campaign objectives.

Finally, we’re on to “Budget & schedule”. Remember at the beginning I said my budget was £5 per day (about £150 per month). I just specified that here. I also chose to run my ad set continuously, but you can set an end date. If you’re a forgetful person, I do recommend you do this. Otherwise, you might get drunk tonight, forget all about this boring Facebook nonsense, and then send me a load of horrible e-mails about how it’s my fault you reached the £600 billing threshold, Facebook took all your money, and now you can’t afford your rent. (This actually happened to somebody I know).

Now that we’ve gotten to the bottom of the ad set configuration, this is a good time to go back up to the top and give your ad set a useful name. Once you’ve done that, click “Continue” at the bottom.

Now we’re on to creating our advert — the thing that’s actually displayed to all these people we’re targeting. Once again, it’s a good idea to give your ad a useful name. If you’re using a performance video of a song, those are good things to specify.

Beneath the name, the Facebook Page should be selected. Beneath that we choose the format — an image, video, or slideshow. I went with video because I was using a performance video. You might go for a music video, or one or more good photos of the band.

Next, you need to upload your video or image(s). There’s a lot you can do with video and image sizes & aspect ratios, but if you’ve got a 1080p video, that’s a good place to start. The help menu can give you a lot of information about size guidelines, and these often change. If you’re uploading video, you should also make a good thumbnail. When your video has uploaded, click the “Customise Video” button to add your thumbnail. It’s worth noting that your thumbnail should have little to no text on it, as Facebook will deliver your ad to fewer people if your thumbnail has too much text. There is a handy Text Overlay Tool you can use to check if your image has too much text on it.

(Yes, those are made up likes)

Once you’ve uploaded your video or image(s), scroll down to edit the text portion on the advert. Here you will start to see a preview of your advert in the pane on the right. That’s how your advert will look when people see it on Facebook. At the top of the preview pane, you can click the drop-down to preview your ad in all of the different placements where it will appear. If you chose a Page Likes objective as I did, there will be very few placements.

Work on writing engaging text for your ad. Introduce yourself well, and try to explain what’s in the video in case people don’t immediately watch it. You can also include links here to things like your band on Spotify, Bandcamp, iTunes, etc. as well as tour dates. Whatever you can think of! Emojis go a long way, too.

Finally, when you’ve done all of that, click “Confirm”! That’s it. You’ve created your first Facebook Ads campaign! What now? You wait. Your campaign gets sent off for approval, and provided you haven’t broken the rules, it will eventually get approved. Ad approval takes anything from 10–60 minutes, but rarely does it take more than an hour or two. If it does take that long for you, make sure there are no errors in your account and that you haven’t received any e-mails. When it is approved (or declined because of a problem), you will receive a notification on Facebook, so once you’ve clicked “Confirm” you can go back to Facebook or go about your day, maybe make another coffee. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Once it’s approved, you simply have to let it run for a bit. Be patient. Then we can get on to reporting.


Reporting on your Facebook Ads campaigns

The most important thing once you’ve set your campaign up is making sure it’s actually performing well. There’s a lot of information to garner through a quick Google search about what good performance is depending on the type of campaign you’re running. i.e. a good cost per click for a Traffic campaign or a good cost per Like for a Page Likes campaign. As I said before, Page Likes for the campaign I ran averaged at about £0.18 each, which I felt to be a good amount for a valuable like. You can absolutely go and buy 1,000 Likes for £15 from a dodgy website, but those won’t do anything for you and aren’t valuable.

To report, go to Facebook Ads Manager. You should see your campaign running, and any other campaigns you may have set up, with a whole bunch of information. Typically I will click the checkbox next to the campaign I want to analyse, and then click the “Ad sets” tab. This means that I don’t get distracted by the stats for other campaigns I have running, and also means I can see the performance of all of the ad sets in a campaign separately if I have a campaign set up with multiple ad sets. We didn’t do that here, but it’s just a useful workflow habit.

By default, the “Performance” view should be selected. You can change the view in the drop-down over on the right, where it says “Columns: Performance’. In these columns you can see that the ad set has a budget of £5 daily, it has currently had 1,683 results (Page Likes) at a cost per result (per Page Like) of £0.18.

Overall I’m happy with that performance, however, I can click the “Breakdown” drop-down over on the right, and start analysing the performance by Country, Region, Age, or anything else. My ad set was targeting 18–34 year-olds, and that broke down into two age categories: 18–24 and 25–34. The cost per Like in each category was exactly the same, but you might find that yours are different, particularly if you targeted a wider age range.

If we break down by country, we can see that the results in Australia and Canada were pretty good. The UK and USA were very good, and the other countries weren’t so good. In fact, Finland had remarkably low results and also a remarkably high cost per result — more than double. With this information, I would consider removing Finland from my ad set targeting, and perhaps Norway and Sweden too. It depends on whether getting new Likes in those countries is important. If getting new Likes in those countries is the most important, I would consider removing them from this ad set, and setting up a second ad set that only targets those countries.

If you change the columns from “Performance” to “Engagement”, you’ll see the interaction you’ve had on the advert — reactions, comments, shares, and link clicks. It’s very important to use your Page’s Inbox to make sure you respond to comments on your advert. You should get a notification every time somebody comments on it, but if not, make sure you check your Page’s Inbox regularly to stay on top of them.

And that’s pretty much the end. If you’re happy with the results, keep running your ad. If you’re not happy, break down the information and see where the ad is performing badly. If it’s consistently performing badly within all demographics, try changing the ad text or the thumbnail. Keep testing things. This isn’t a direct route to success, but it is the platform where, if you spend some time getting to know it, you are going to be able to achieve great results.

It’s also important that you understand or have decided what good results are. For a campaign where you’re aiming for exposure, it’s important that you know how much a Like should cost, or how much a video view should cost, and how much you are happy to pay for one. Like I said before, it’s almost impossible to know whether the fans you gain by running a campaign like this are converting to music buyers, show attendees, and merchandise customers. Spend some time getting to know the stats on the other platforms you use — Spotify for Artists, Bandcamp, reports on your online store. See if you notice any difference across any of them as your campaign is running.

This is where things can become a bit addictive. With all of the options like multiple ad sets, split testing, and super defined targeting, you can test so many variations of the best combinations of advert text, video, thumbnail, images, and audience targeting. My biggest tip is to test the smallest possible changes with each iteration of your advert so that you can tell what changes are making a difference. If you make a whole bunch of changes and see a drastic change in performance, it’s going to be hard to know what specifically caused the change. Beyond that, make sure you are sensible with your budgets. Don’t just set an ad set to have a budget of £100 per day and think you’ll run it for a day and “trick the system”. It doesn’t work like that, and forgetting about it can lead to some hefty bills!


Thank you so much for reading. If you managed to get this far, I really hope this helped you. If you have any questions or you’re struggling with any part of this, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help. I truly believe that too much of the music industry is stuck in the past. Bands should be taking as much control over their finances and marketing as possible. If it’s 2018 and you’re advertising your tour in a magazine but not on Facebook, you’re making a terrible mistake.

Dan Davies

Written by

Co-founder of musicisum.net

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