Facebook Ads And Growth Hacking

Facebook Ads And Growth Hacking

written by Houston Golden
July 29th, 2017
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The success of NomadApp’s growing community relies on the combination of 1) content that resonates with our community 2) a small budget for facebook ads.
We have grown our community from zero to over 70,000 followers on Social Media (of which 7,000 are on facebook). We have spent $700USD total over the course of the last year learning and optimizing our process. Our best performing ad costs us 6 cents per page like. We have since taken this knowledge and also implemented it for clients (mostlyn consumer facing apps and startups) with similar or even better results.
In the following case-study with best practices we will outline
1. The basic mind-set shifts that make or break your success on Facebook and Social Media in general
2.The different ads we use to growth-hack Facebook
3.Other applications of facebook ads (finding your target audience)

The Mindset Shifts That Make or Break Your Facebook Success
1.Original content is not always the best content.

Everybody is afraid of selling out. I know: you want to create high-quality content that fits your style, tone and message. You spend hundreds and thousands of dollars in creating original content just to see it go down the drain because nobody is engaging with it. Wouldn’t it be better to make mistakes with somebody else’s content? Re-purpose content that already did well on other platforms and learn what your audience engages with and what they don’t?

Don’t create until you curate! Make mistakes with somebody else’s content.

Just because you want to build a brand, it doesn’t mean that every single piece of content you put out in the beginning has to have your logo on it. You can always do that later once you have a community and you have learned about what they like using other people’s content. Use their blogs, their quotes, their videos and curate them on your page. Imagine you’re a food delivery startup: You could theoretically build a page that’s only about healthy recipes and healthy lifestyle and scale the community to thousands of likes before you even start telling people that you have a product.

You can build a community based on topics and interest ALONE.

Especially early on, you want to build engagement with “whatever content does well with your audience (even if it’s not your own content)”.  The moment you get a ton of engagement on your page start mixing it with your own blogs and original content.
BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image

2. Yes, your page is called “business page” but it’s really not about your business.

Don’t be romantic about whatever YOU THINK should be your message. You work for your audience. You don’t build a community by right-hooking them in every single post. There’s nothing more common than seeing early stage startups pleading for downloads or to “check out their new tool” or “spread the love”. Where’s the value? Why would anybody want to repost the demo of a pre-launch app on their private facebook  profile?

Would you do that?

Would you share your own content? Look at your own facebook behavior and self-check what you share and engage with: is it pushy “Buy now” “Download Now” “Look at our team at the last company meeting playing beer pong” post? Chances are: you don’t. So don’t produce that kind of content for your audience either. The moment you have an engaged community and they are actively sharing your content you can right-hook them with “NOW FINALLY DOWNLOAD OUR APP” but don’t do that early on. Nobody will engage. In the beginning (before you average 30-40 qualified likes on every post), just produce content that is funny, entertaining, creates emotions and BRINGS REAL VALUE to the community.

Only post things that fall into these categories

BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image

Don’t start trying to lead out of the platforms already in the beginning. Build a community on Facebook. Once you’ve got people’s attention it will be easier to sneak in some sales messages and calls to action like: “visit our homepage, blog or subscribe to our newsletter or whatever”.
BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image
Here’s a screenshot of our first original blog post that got a ton of traction. People loved it! But only because we already had a community and had enough experience from recent posts to know EXACTLY what our audience likes and engages with. It worked.

Here’s an example of what most startups do. This doesn’t work:

BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image

What do you see on this screenshot?

1.Original, beautiful content that cost the client hundreds of Dollars to create (ORIGINAL DOESN’T MEAN GOOD)
2.An impersonal link to somewhere else on the web in every single post.
a.Note: Facebook wants to keep traffic on its platform as much as possible. Duh! Why are you linking out? Going against your platform. Respect your audience; respect the platform.
3.Join us! Give us feedback! Download our app! – Selfish calls to action on every single post. (Don’t right hook on every post! Give selfless value without asking for anything in return. If you right-hook do it in a separate post once every 20 posts but don’t try to sneak it into every word you say.)
4.Content that is mostly educational. (people don’t want to be educated…. There’s so much information out there…. Only the 5 buckets of STEPPS really drive engagement. People only share what makes THEM look good or feel good. Not what makes YOU look good or feel good.)
5.No engagement means nobody cares.
One more thing on this topic: we constantly see startups struggle with the question of whether they should post “internal startup stuff” or “content for the audience”. In our case: “Should we post a photo of the last pitch event that we presented at to keep our audience “up-to-date”?” – The answer is: “No, our audience doesn’t care. They are all travelers: all they want to see is travel hacks and inspiring quotes. They aren’t entrepreneurs.” Post that photo from your pitch event on your personal profile, not on your startup page.

3. Facebook wants to keep its users on the platform.

If you want to build an engaged community play by the rules: Facebook doesn’t like it whenever you link out to other platforms. Don’t link out to YOUTUBE (which is owned by Google, aka Facebook’s enemy): Facebook wants to kill youtube. Facebook also wants to kill Snapchat.
On the contrary, Facebook owns Instagram. Facebook just now launched its shop function which lets you sell products directly from your page. It also launched Instant Articles which makes it so that big publications’ posts open directly within facebook (and have ads on the bottom of the blog). What do you think they will give more relevance in their algorithm:
you promoting your youtube or snapchat channel or blog from your facebook page
you creating your content as Facebook native content.
It should be a no-brainer.
Create native content and Facebook will give you more relevance in their algorithm which means more reach and engagement. Right now: what Facebook is pushing most is video content. The best you can do is “Go live”. They also implemented that feature on Instagram. Live video gets the biggest reach. So what are you waiting for? Go live.
Don’t try to be a Youtuber that gets all his traffic from Facebook and Snapchat. It doesn’t work this way.

4. No, it’s not (really) about the tool you use or the time you post at. People don’t engage with your content because your content sucks.

Don’t find excuses and think: oh it’s because I don’t know whether to use Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule my posts. Or “because I need the new version of photoshop to design content”.
It’s not about any of these things. How would any of these 13 year old Social Media Stars become famous if it was about the fancy software or camera they use to produce their content? Crappy phone videos go viral all the time. You can produce the most polished video with the best videographer in the world if your content doesn’t bring value (entertains people, triggers emotion, gives them information they’ve been really looking for, tips they can use right away etc.) or is only made to make you look good (look at how awesome my product is), chances are, nobody will engage. Focus on your audience and the tools won’t matter. People can smell marketers 50 miles against the wind.
BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image
Perfect example of a post that makes only the page look good.

5. It’s 80 percent distribution.

You think just because you set up a blog and a podcast people are gonna randomly find out about you and subscribe to your newsletter? No way. Spend 20% of your time creating the content and 80% in distributing it. You can even repurpose old content. A good method for us has also been boosting old, well performing posts again every now and then which makes them pop up in people’s newsfeeds again.

6. “Oh but, how do Likes and Followers even matter”

We keep hearing people hate on us for basically selling them followers. And we keep telling them: of course, it’s not just about having 15,000 likes on your facebook page. They need to be relevant and engaged. Yes, sometimes a community of 2,000 engaged followers will be more valuable than 30k empty likes. And, yes, 400 likes on your last post might not bring you actual revenue but once you know how to create that engagement and drive traffic to anything you’ll also be able to direct that traffic to your online shop or business or course or whatever you want. We don’t sell followers – we sell people’s attention. It’s on you to figure out with 15,000 people’s attention: do you want to sell them t-shirts? An ebook? A course? A SaaS? Figure it out. If you don’t see the value in having access to ten thousands of people, then that’s on you.

7. Oh, but isn’t Social Media a huge time commitment? I don’t have time to post every day.

No, it shouldn’t be. If your social media person or intern takes too much time, it’s because they are doing it wrong. Ideally you would sit down once a month, define the broad pillars of content you’ll talk about, produce them (e.g. 3 videos or blog posts) and then chop them up into small pieces of quotes, short gifs, infographics or whatever you want. Schedule these out.
Then, complement with funny or witty content from other people and pages that fit your topic; crowdsource. Schedule those posts out, too (Facebook’s scheduled post tool is totally sufficient). Here’s your social media on autopilot. Don’t wake up every single day thinking about what you should post. You can always improvise over the foundation that you’ve got scheduled out. So in an ideal world, you’d only check up on your page every other day to boost the most successful posts to reach even more people in your community and manage your ads (which we’re gonna talk about in the next section).
Here’s an ideal infographic by Gary Vaynerchuk that shows how he produces content at scale.
BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image

8. Reverse Engineer

So many people drown in their own meetings of strategizing, thinking about how to create a unique voice, etc. Don’t! Define your target audience, look at what other people are doing, and reverse engineer. Don’t try to be overly creative. Unless you’ve got thousands of Dollars to blow on marketing, work off of what’s already working. Oh, people like “How to”- blogs and cooking videos. Do that. Your chance of being successful is gonna be better than purposefully trying to create something else. Always keep an eye on what other pages are doing and what kind of content does well. We don’t say “copy” but keep your eyes open. They are doing the homework FOR YOU. Don’t think that the 10th meeting with your team about how your cover photo should be blue or yellow is gonna fix anything. Sit down, look at what’s working for other people, reverse engineer their success.

9. Know your Audience

A huge problem for many startups is FOCUS. Especially when you start out, there are a hundred of different things you could do or people that might be a market fit. Whenever you are building your audience, you have to settle for one of them. There’s nothing that stalls your growth as much as not knowing who you’re producing content for. You can’t successfully build a page that targets students, empty nesters, stay-at-home-moms, and event managers at Fortune 500 companies at the same time.
Pick a topic that fits your most profitable target audience and go all in on it. We don’t say this to diss you – we all struggle with that when starting out. All we’re saying is; the faster you can find your niche and target audience, the better. You’ll need to have that figured out for a successful Social Media strategy.

Paint-by-the-Dots Facebook Ads Growth-Hacking Strategy

So now that you’ve got the basic principles on how to create relatable and shareable content at scale, we’ll jump right into the strategy for successful facebook ads. We are focusing on early stage (consumer facing) startups or individuals who want to build a personal brand and community.
We’ve realized that most of these startups struggle with two things:
How to build a community that engages with my content?
How do I remarket to that community and drive traffic to my website/blog/app with this community?
If you’re struggling with any of these: then this ebook is for you. If you are an established business that has thousands of website visitors every month and thousands of emails sitting on your list and what you really need are product ads to sell more stuff in your shop: retargeting campaigns might be for you. However, we don’t cover those that deeply in this ebook (maybe the next one).

Our Success Strategy

Preparation: Figure out who your audience is. Study your competitors and other pages that produce viral content – make a list of them and collect screenshots of their content. ATTENTION: If you don’t know who you are targeting and producing content for: figure it out. Facebook ads can help you do so. —-> visit the section on “PREPARATION”
Growth-Hack your Facebook Page
1.Schedule out high-quality content that you think your audience will engage with most (curate only OR curate and create)
2.Build an audience of a few hundreds or thousands of people on that like your page and engage
3.Keep posting high quality content, get a feel for what people like most, post more of that content
4.Take the best posts on your page and boost them with 1-5USD of a budget to the people that already  like your page and their friends
5.Go to the list of people that liked your post and invite them all to like your page
6.After a few days or weeks go back and boost some of the posts again; now to a specific target audience; go back to the list of likers and invite them all
We’ll break it down 🙂


Whenever you set up your facebook page you first want to build a community of people that will engage with your content. Otherwise it’s just not fun to produce high quality content and get zero engagement. Just putting up great content might have worked in the past. Today, it’s almost impossible to grow your audience purely organically (on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest it’s still easier). So, as a first step set up a hyper targeted Facebook Page Likes campaign.
Our best performing ad was the “Stolen from Competitors” (see screenshot below)
BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image
As you can see we got 3225 page likes for only 7 cents each and a relevance score of 9 (out of 10). That is the best result of a campaign with targeted followers (not fake likes from a cheap country that don’t engage) I have ever seen.

How to create an ad like that up?

You do this by selecting “Engagement” as your objective and then “Page Likes”
BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image
Go ahead and give your campaign a name, and you’ll see the setup page. This is where it gets interesting.

The Key to a Successful Ad: The Right Target Audience

Facebook’s targeting tool is amazing. You can get as specific as “target mom’s that live in 64064 Lee’s Summit, Kansas City, that are interested in Bakery Shops and buy a lot of stuff online with a credit card”. Play around with the parameters and get to know the tool.
However, our best performing ads target people who already like facebook pages of competitors or other influencers in our space. For travel it’s mostly other travel bloggers and influencers. We called our audience “stolen from competitors”. See interests: nomadic matt, traveldudes, world nomads etc. NOTE: not any page will work; a page has to have a certain number of followers to qualifty as an interest in the targeting tool.
BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image
Location: limit the location to countries that don’t produce a lot of fake likes (Brazil, India, Pakistan, Turkey etc.)
Another example: Here’s the targeting of another ad we run for a calendar app for families applying the same principles:
BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image

Why target other pages?

You’ll want to target audiences of pages or communities that already did the work for you. Why? Those leads are more likely to convert and thus cheaper.
Don’t target people based on Interests like “Parenting” or similar categories. – these are too broad. You don’t know whether these people are likely to engage. Better, target a page in your field that gets a lot of engagement. Don’t go for huge publications or pages. Just think about it: for example AirBnB when you’re targeting backpackers. AirBnB has millions of likes on facebook but they are not specific enough. Your mom might like AirBnB but she will most probably not engage with your backpacker, low-cost, travel hacking startup! You’re wasting your marketing dollars advertising to her.
Better, target small and engaged blogs and influencer pages: find the sweet spot with pages that are not so big that they have a ton of irrelevant followers & not so small that they don’t qualify as influencers/ interest category on facebook. We suggest the following process: research a few by yourself by just looking for big influencers in your niche on facebook, check how good engagement is on their page (you don’t want to target pages with thousands of followers but zero likes on any posts), add them to your list of target accounts. Then go back to the facebook ad audience tool, look up the pages from your list and check whether they qualify as an interest, then click on suggestions and see other pages that facebook thinks are similar. If you don’t know them research and make sure they fit your audience and get proper engagement. If yes, add them to the list of target accounts, repeat the process until you have a minimum of five different pages on your list.
Click: Save this audience!

Ad Creative

Facebook now lets you upload up to 6 different images to test which one does best. Test different images and after a day put the whole budget towards the one that did best (look at the relevance score: you want a score that is higher than 5. Also try uploading videos!
BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image
Preview the ad here: https://fb.me/1HskoJZnf5DDgI5
Here’s another ad we created for a client: The cost per like right now is at 52c with a relevance score of 5. That’s pretty good for a page that started from zero just two weeks ago. We’re up to 200 likes within 2 weeks.
BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image
As for the text: we usually use this formula: “Question or statement that sparks interest”, “Value proposition” “Call to Action”


Why boosting posts to your own audience and their friends? Answer: They already know you. More likely to engage than cold audience.
On posts that already do well, click “boost post” and create an ad to reach more people. We usually boost our posts to “people that already like your page and their friends” (we use a 1-2USD budget). Once the ad is over, go to the list of people who likes it and invite all people that liked that post.
BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image
Scott Oldford’s Strategy

1.First day: boost the post to your own audience = “warm audience”
2.Second day: boost post to people who like your page and their friends = “warm audience”
3.Third day: boost post to people you choose through targeting = “cold audience”


A dark post is a post that doesn’t show up as an actual post in your newsfeed but only as an ad in the newsfeed of people you target.
BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image
It was through one of these ads that we sold a house for Greenovate Construction!
BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image
Back then we still didn’t know how to optimize for the conversion pixel. Still we got people to go to the website and request a quote. With a total budget of 300USD in ad spend we got 300 website visitors, 4 leads and 1 sale. We sold a 300.000USD house with 300USD in facebook ad spend. Totally worth it.

How to set up a website traffic ad?

They are straight-forward: just be prepared to pay more to direct ‘cold leads” to your website than just boosting posts to an existing community that already knows you and has liked your page. These are the exact settings of our best performing ad for Greenovate Construction:

BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image
BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image
BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image

Using dark posts for A/B testing

Dark posts are also extremely useful to run A/B tests instead of sending out surveys! For example: if you want to figure out whether people like headline 1 or headline 2 better for your new blog post: run two different facebook ads with very limited budget and see which one does better!
Another use case: test UI/UX mockup
Or: test cover photos for your new blog
Or: test different value propositions for your startup.
E.g.:  “make money traveling the world” vs. “become a digital nomad and work from anywhere”
Or: test different target audiences.
E.g.: “Should I target empty nesters, of backpackers?”
Or: test which audience you should go for in the first place (see next section).


Especially, early on many startups don’t actually know who exactly they are targeting. However, for building an engaged community and launching a successful startup you should know exactly who your customer is. You can only tailor valuable content to them if you know what they are interested in.
So what if you don’t know who your target audience is? Facebook Dark posts may be a great way to figure that out.
Not sure if you’re targeting honeymooners, students or backpackers??
Run different ads with a small budget and let the results speak for themselves. Which audience is the cheapest to acquire? What is the kind of content that really resonates with them? Which value proposition gave me the best results?
Set up different ads for every question, spend between 50 and 500USD depending on how many variables you’re trying to test and see which audience is most engaged. Go all in on that audience and provide all your value to them.

Create A/B test ads

1.Ad Category: Engagement or Traffic
2.Objective: Page likes or Website Traffic
3.Set up 5 different ad versions (different value propositions and targeting) with 6 images each
4.See which one does best!

We used this strategy to test whether Greenovate Construction should advertise its ads as
1.Investment properties
2.Properties in great location
3.Modern homes
4.Concrete houses
5.Green, energy-efficient homes

The budget for this experiment was really low (25USD) and the difference between the ads not too big but we could have definitely gone on, tweaked the value proposition and audience a few more times and really figure out which one people prefer.
BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image

Further Hacks

Get post likes for as cheap as 1 cent per like
How? Boost posts to “Cheap Countries”
There’s a list of countries that’s well known for very cheap cost per click. You can get as many as 400 likes on your posts with only 3USD in ad spend. Now, before you rush to wrong conclusions let me tell you two things: 1) many of these accounts are set up by so called “clickfarms” and won’t actually engage 2) never do that with page likes as it will make it hard to remarket to that group of people later on. You don’t want any fake accounts in there. However, if you want to blow up your numbers for social proof purposes go ahead and choose an audience targeting these countries:
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Liberia, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, S. Africa, Thailand, Trinidad, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, UAE, Venezuela, Vietnam
The only use case we think it’s okay to follow this strategy is to create a few initial likes on a new post. Go ahead and get 30 likes for 1cent each. Then go back into the settings and change the targeting to your “real” target audience and the previous engagement will make it more likely for new people to like the post, too.
BAMF Facebook Ads Growth Hacking Article Image

On the Facebook Pixel

The Facebook Pixel can be quite confusing. It is a piece of code that you install on your website to track specific actions by people that come through your facebook ads. Do you always need a pixel? We would say: no. You don’t have to worry about it for page like, boosted post campaigns or traffic campaigns that send people to your latest blog or website (facebook will track link clicks anyways). However, if you want to track sales in an online shop or direct people to a sign up – we recommend you read this article
Another great course on the facebook pixel is Dan Henry’s course for $37 https://danhenry.clickfunnels.com/pixel-order
Something that took us a long time to learn: you only get one facebook pixel per ads account! So if you are tracking conversions for different websites/ facebook pages consider getting a separate ads account for each of them!

Recommended Reading:

The Thank you Economy – Gary Vaynerchuk
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook – Gary Vaynerchuk
Ask GaryVee – Gary Vaynerchuk
Give and Take – Adam Grant

About the Author

The name's Houston Golden. I'm the Founder & CEO of BAMF — a company I've grown from $0 (yes, really) to well over $5M+ in revenue over a span of 5 years.

How did I do it? Well, it's quite simple, really. I've helped hundreds of business owners and executives get major traction (because when they win, we win), I tell all on this blog.

Growth hacking is a state of mind. Follow along as I explore and expose the unknown growth strategies and tactics that will change the way you think about marketing.
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