The “fill in the blank” Facebook engagement cheat works – but Promoted Posts are still a ripoff

A little while ago the “Social Media” folder of my Feedly subscriptions was abuzz with news that a study had found that, of the various “Let’s drive engagement!”-type Facebook posts, the “fill in the blank” format out-performed others by quite some margin in terms of creating engagement.

My initial reaction to this news can be neatly summed up with this GIF –


Social media people are defined by their ability to “drive engagement”, so any post promising to revolutionise that process will very quickly spread through social media land; tweets will be tweeted, ones will be plussed, comments with awkward links to the commenter’s website will be left. Most of these posts are pure linkbait, based more on thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams than facts.

However, upon further inspection these posts appeared to be based on data – blessed data! – so I made a mental note to try it out sometime.

It works

Well, I’ve tried it, and it works. It makes sense when you think about it. Many types of content encourage people to engage, but a “fill in the blank” post is literally worthless without engagement – your users’ comments are the missing piece of the puzzle.

We’ve been playing around with Promoted Posts over the last few weeks and months, with moderate success on the engagement front. You can see one here that garnered a handful of Likes and comments, and another that didn’t do so well on the engagement front but did get plenty of clickthroughs.

Now compare this to our “fill in the blank” post, which at the time of writing has 17 Likes, 57 comments and a re-share for good measure. That’s a colossal increase in engagement (even though some of it is admittedly a bit…blue).

Fill in the blank

The Return on Investment is still bullshit

We’ve done a handful of promoted posts on the middle-of-the-road ~£30 tier to test the water, and it’s driven about 600 new visitors our way…none of which have converted. Our website has a pretty good conversion rate and we would have expected a modest double-figure number of leads from that many new visitors. Zero is, well, catastrophic. Laughably bad. Incidentally, we’re not the only online accounting firm with this problem.

There are two main problems with promoted posts as I see it. Firstly, they cannot be targeted in the same way ads can. So when we pay to promote it to friends-of-friends we just get people who like to swear up a storm on our Facebook wall, rather than check out our website.

Secondly, Facebook’s reach estimates are a little on the optimistic side. When I promoted the above post I clicked this option (the highlighted option, not the “recommended” £99 option)-

Promotion options

“Fantastic!”, I thought, “That’ll mean if we just get average reach we’ll get about 27,000 people!”

I was wrong – apparently Facebook’s estimates are more a finger-in-the-air affair than anything based on facts or science. With our budget almost exhausted our reach stands at –

Actual reach

Less than half what I would have hoped for – and this on a post with pretty good engagement. This is just another way that Facebook are ending up on marketers’ shitlists. First they took away the ability to reach your entire audience, and now when you choose to pay to reach that audience they’re short-changing you. Bad form, Facebook.

2 thoughts on “The “fill in the blank” Facebook engagement cheat works – but Promoted Posts are still a ripoff

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