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Use Facebook ads to help make difficult church decisions

Photo by Nghia Nguyen on Unsplash
Photo by Nghia Nguyen on Unsplash

The Facebook ad platform is able to do much more than get the word out about your next event.  Whether you’re deciding between two logos or considering a speaker for an event, Facebook ads can provide valuable data to help you make the best decisions for your ministry.


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The Facebook ad platform is as powerful a research tool as it is an advertising platform.  For less than $10 you can find out what hundreds or thousands of people in your community think or feel about a specific issue. And since the ads are being served by an app instead of a person, your data will not be affected by people not wanting to offend the individual who is asking for input.

A/B testing changes everything

The marketing and research concept called an A/B test  is done by creating two pieces of content that are identical in every way but one. For example, you might make an ad for your church that is identical in every respect except for the logo/image. When you run these ads simultaneously on Facebook, you can get a clear idea of which one garners more interest or clicks.  The ad platform will even break down your responses based on age. 

A/B tests can be helpful when you are trying to decide which speaker will attract a specific age demographic to an event.  Instead of diving deep into a committee discussion, try running an A/B test in your area with one ad featuring one speaker and another ad featuring the other. After a couple of days, check the ad and see which one performed best with your target age.

Taking the first step: deciding what you are measuring

Before you dive into creating a Facebook A/B test, determine what decision you are trying to make.  A/B tests work best when there is only one difference between the ads.  If you want to know which image resonates best with young adults in your area, you’ll do great. If you’re trying to decide whether young people would like a speaker and would prefer a morning or afternoon, you’ve gotten too complex.

Getting reliable data means distilling what you want to know into a single, simple choice. Once you’ve got that, it’s time to decide what you’re measuring.

Creating a Campaign

When you log into the Facebook Ad manager your first step is to create a campaign.  It’s best to think of the campaign as the type of measurement you’re doing.  For example: if you want to see which video makes people watch longer, you’ll want to select a “video views” campaign. If you’re trying to see which event description makes more people click through to your website, you’ll select “traffic.”

Don’t jump ahead in your mind, and stick with the task of discerning what kind of information you are trying to test because Facebook is going to use this selection to decide where to place the ad. Each option comes with its own set of features and limitations.

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Ad sets are audience sets

The next step is to think about your audience by creating an Ad Set. Each Ad Set will have a host of criteria that narrows the billions of Facebook users into a smaller group.  This is the “who” of your test.  If you’re trying to see what Christians in your area think, you can select your city in the location field, and then add “Christianity” as an interest.  Here you will want to create the “lifetime budget” for the set of ads so that it doesn’t blow your budget.  

Finally, the ads

With all your targeting completed, it’s time to upload and craft the ads within the Ad Set and campaign you’ve established. Remembering to have only one small change between the two, you can create two ads that will run simultaneously to show you the information you need. These ads can be created individually or by going into the business manager and then choosing the experiments tool to create the A/B test.

Then, you wait

Most ads will take a little less than a day to be approved, but if Facebook’s automated system thinks your ad is sensitive or has a political message it may be rejected or take longer to approve.  Once approved, the standard wisdom in the marketing world is to allow the ad(s) to run for at least three days in order to get a full sample.

The results may surprise you. Sometimes a look you think will resonate with young adults will actually draw more responses from adults. No matter the outcome, once you’ve finished your testing you’ll have real data to take to your team. Then you’re ready to make an informed decision after having used this powerful advertising platform as a research tool.


Jeremy Steele

Jeremy Steele is the associate pastor at Los Altos UMC in Los Altos, California, as well as a writer and speaker. You can find a list of all his books, articles and resources for churches, including his most recent book All the Best Questions, at his website:



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