Deflating your boost: how Facebook is misleading and cheating indie artists

Facebook delivered 3% of the marketing reach they touted – but kept 100% of my money.

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 1.35.58 AMLike many friends I know who produce shows or perform, at times I’ve paid money to promote Facebook ads and posts for events. A recent experience has convinced me that people are getting cheated, and the platform is delivering only a tiny fraction of what it promises when it pushes you to buy a boost. See below for the proof!

Here’s the scenario: a post on my music group’s page linked to an upcoming show, and I decided to pay to boost it. The page where you create your ad gives you an estimate of how many people it could reach. For $15, it said I would reach thousands. After about $10 of the $15 was spent, I noticed the boost had only added 180 views (it reached 80 people organically). Also for some reason around this time the ad automatically stopped.

So I decided to try an experiment, and document it with screenshots. I opted to boost this same ad a bit more by adding $5. At the outset this is where the ad stood in terms of views and money spent:

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 12.37.00 PM

Those 180 paid views were the result of spending just under $10.

Here’s the screen Facebook showed to add more boost budget:


Check out what it says below that $5 entry: by spending this amount, Facebook estimates 1,400 – 3,800 people will see the post. (The estimate for my original $15 ad was in the thousands as well). I realize that’s just for impressions – not all of those people are going to be interested or click on the link to my event – but those numbers seem fine to me and worth the cash. So I add the budget, and by the time the money’s all spent here is where we get to:

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 12.39.50 AM

That extra $5 boost, along with the $5.51 I had credited already, got this post from 180 paid views to 226 paid views. That’s 46 more views.

Offering 1,400-3,800 views for a set price, and only delivering 46 views: this is pretty bad. Forty-six is about 3% of the minimum estimate that was used to sell me on the boost. It’s like buying a bus ticket from Portland to New York and getting dropped off twenty miles past Hood River.

As a programmer I wonder about the estimate algorithm – maybe it’s just a bug – but this is such a big magnitude of error that it’s hard to believe there’s any connection between the estimate and the actual promotional implementation. I do know that the pool of people I could potentially reach with my chosen targeting is plenty big – there are over 350 likes on the page, and by promoting to friends of fans as well that puts the size of the promotional pool easily in tens of thousands (several of the fans have nearly 1000 friends; even an average of 100 unique friends per fan puts the total number of people the ad could target at around 35,000).

46 impressions is a joke for paid advertising. Facebook is ripping off artists and misleading them. I don’t think this is an acceptable way to do business.

Have others encountered this? Please share your stories. I will be sending a complaint to Facebook ad support, I’ll let you know what they say.