Marketing Meetup Recap: Paid Social Media Advertising

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On Thursday, August 6, the American Booksellers Association hosted a Marketing Meetup on the topic of paid social media advertising. During this session, Alana Haley of Schuler Books and Nicola's Books and Caitlin Marsh of Brilliant Books spoke to their use of paid advertising options through Facebook, such as Facebook Ads and Boosts. In addition, Cassandra Cross and Jordan Brannon of Coalition Technologies offered further advice and tips on pay-per-click advertising.

Logged-in booksellers can watch a recording of the event on the Education Resources page on 

Here are some of the key points from the session:

Schuler Books and Nicola’s Books

  • Haley said that Schuler and Nicola’s typically boost every Facebook event the stores hold. As far as posts are concerned, the stores will typically boost high-performing posts to keep the momentum going. Organic reach is possible on social media, Haley said, but it’s difficult to sustain and takes a lot of work.
  • Boosting events makes customers aware of the event and allows for easy registration via a link. It also keeps the stores in front of customers. Haley noted that there’s a lot of competition for people’s spare time right now, so it’s important to use boosted posts to capture attention.
  • Boosting posts primarily helps to drive traffic to store websites, in addition to informing the public; this has been particularly helpful during the pandemic. Schuler and Nicola’s boosted posts when the stores began curbside pickup, when they opened for shopping by appointment, and when their cafés opened. 
  • Boosting posts helped Schuler and Nicola’s sell books and stay afloat during the worst parts of the pandemic. 
  • Haley noted that her stores will spend about $5 for author-hosted story times, and anywhere from $12 to $15 for typical author events. For larger events, the stores might spend anywhere from $50 to $200, depending on who the author is and the size of the venue. 
  • Posts are boosted two weeks in advance for larger events, and five days in advance for story times.
  • Haley creates a custom audience for every boosted event, which has helped her reach the demographic that will be most interested in the event. 
  • Boosted posts are actively monitored to be sure they’re performing. If something is underperforming, adjustments will be made to either the audience or the message. 

Brilliant Books

  • Marsh said that Facebook is the only platform Brilliant Books uses paid advertising on. The store uses advertising in several different ways: to remind customers about subscription services around the holidays; to market new launches; and to generate interest in events (for events, the store uses boosts instead of ads).
  • Because so many of Brilliant Books’ events are recurring, the store always boosts events to be sure they reach their specific audience. Smaller events will also be boosted, but only if they have an audience that the store knows is consistent and engaged. 
  • Brilliant Books spends about $5 to $20 for boosting events. Ad campaigns cost between $200 and $500 for the entire campaign.

    • To structure ad campaigns, Brilliant Books creates a single campaign with a specific goal, which is usually conversion-focused. Within that campaign, there are specific ads groups that are targeted at different audiences, and within that there are different ads with different copy. 
    • The store pays close attention to how those ads are working. Facebook allows for an overarching budget for each campaign that can be narrowed down to fund certain posts more than others. Using this, Brilliant Books can put all of its budget toward high-performing ads and stop payment for those that aren’t doing as well. 
  • Marsh said that a lot of her store’s content comes from things she’s beta tested with Brilliant Books’ email marketing audience; email marketing also provides better metrics for the store to work with. Lessons learned there are carried over to the store’s paid social, such as which images are the most popular. 
  • Marsh can also see where in the country people are clicking on certain posts, which allows her to target posts geographically. 

Coalition Technologies

  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a form of internet marketing where advertisers pay a small fee every time a user clicks on their ads online. The point is to buy visitors and bring fresh traffic to websites. PPC ads appear in many different places online, including Facebook.
  • Booksellers should know their target audience. Some questions to consider are: Where do they live? How old are they? What is their gender? 
  • Cross said that few website visitors will be converted on their first visit, and most will need to be exposed to ads multiple times before deciding to buy a product. She recommended retargeting ads to these customers through Facebook or Instagram. These ads can be set up using a Facebook Pixel on a bookstore’s website. Once a Facebook Pixel is set up, booksellers can track customers through different leads. 
  • Coalition Technologies also offered general feedback for bookstores to consider when using PPC advertising. 
  • Brannon noted that if tracking online transactions, stores should set up e-commerce conversion tracking in their Facebook accounts. 
  • When boosting posts, booksellers can improve them by making the posts have more specific objectives or calls to action. 
  • Booksellers should also use dynamic product ads on Facebook to remarket products to customers who haven’t completed a purchase. These ads are served to audiences via a catalog, and can be tested on prospective audiences. 
  • Bookstores should play to their strengths, such as being personable and personality-driven.