When discussing content strategy with customers, we have a lot of conversations with customers that go something like this:
SimpleReach: “Tell us about your content distribution approach.”
Customer: “It's pretty straightforward. Every month we spend $10,000 on Facebook, $5,000 on Twitter, and $6,000 on Outbrain. We’ve had solid results, but we feel like they could be better.”
SimpleReach: “We’re about to blow your mind.”
If the above strategy sounds a little too familiar, you are part of the majority. Fear not! We are here to guide you into the enlightened (and incredibly cost-efficient) minority.
The concept is pretty simple: instead of allocating budgets before you run a campaign, you run a series of small tests across different networks and platforms to find which ones are optimal for your content. You then analyze your test results and allocate your budget accordingly. We call this flexible budgeting.
This distribution approach can have just as much impact on the success of your content as the content itself.
Why is flexible budgeting better? Let’s say you decide you’re going to allocate a budget to Outbrain before the campaign starts. You’ll be locking yourself into whatever CPC you get on Outbrain — but what if you could earn a much better CPC on Facebook? What if you hadn’t even considered Facebook yet? You wouldn’t know because you’ve already made your decision. Imagine you were earning a 5 cent CPC on Facebook and a 10 cent CPC on Outbrain. If you simply shifted your budget from Outbrain to Facebook, you’d cut your costs in half and double traffic without spending another cent.
Ok Adam, you’ve convinced me that flexible budgets are better. How do I get this going?
Great question! The first thing you need to do is determine what your goals are. Not every network is made equal and you can save yourself a lot of time (and money) by focusing your tests on the networks that are best for your goals. Lets go through some examples:
But Adam, Facebook is on every one of those! Shouldn’t I just give them all of my money?
Very observant of you! Here’s the thing with Facebook: they’re the best network right up until they are the worst - especially in light of recent algorithm changes. Let me explain. As long as your posts have good engagement rates, Facebook will reward you. But the second your engagement starts slowing down or stops, Facebook will punish you and your content will drop. To give you an example from a customer's recent experience on a particular paid content post - over a 24 hour period, its engagement dropped by ~64%, which led to a ~63% drop in impressions over the same period. By the end of the next day, the total drop in impressions had grown to 92%. The moment this happens with Facebook, you have to shift your budgets to other networks, or else you will be dead in the water.
Ok, that makes sense. What happens after I’ve picked my networks?
Now that you’ve determined the optimal networks for your goals, the next step is to run a small budget on each network to see how it performs. When the budget is spent, evaluate each network’s performance according to your goals. (Pro tip: Don’t get caught in the trap of only focusing on CPCs; if your goal is around conversions, a network driving eyeballs that don’t convert isn’t valuable to you.)
The final step is to allocate your budget based on the results of your tests. Find the network(s) that is/are best for your content and drive most of your dollars to them. However — and I cannot emphasize this enough — this is not a set-and-forget scenario. You have to keep an eye on performance and results because the content landscape is dynamic and things can change at any moment. Always be monitoring and testing to make sure you’re meeting your goals as efficiently as possible.
And that, young padawan, is how you use flexible budgets to spend your promotion dollars as efficiently as possible to meet your goals. Sound complicated? It is, but I believe in you.
About the author:
Adam Orshan is a mild-mannered Product Marketing Manager at SimpleReach that tends to make somewhat obscure references.