I get it: Facebook ads are intimidating.
Several years ago (think 2015), you could log on to Facebook, set up a $5 per day budget, pick a few random interests to target (including religion), and you were *almost* guaranteed to get results.
Those days are gone. Long gone, as a matter of fact.
In order to be successful today, you need a multi-step plan. You have a high-volume “reach” ad that attracts as many people as possible, a retargeting ad that will re-engage those that showed some interest, then a call-to-action (CTA) ad that asks them to do something.
If you try to jump that line and move straight to the CTA ad, you might as well take that money and light it on fire.
So what can you do?
Why are Paid Ads so Expensive?
Generally speaking there are a few major reasons why paid ads — and Facebook ads in particular — are so much more expensive than they used to be.
The first reason is that the market is so much more saturated than it used to be.
In 2015, the total amount of ad spend on Meta platforms was around $17 billion. That is not insignificant amount of money, but it’s a huge percentage of the global digital ad spend that year.
As you can see from the chart below, that number has only climbed since then. Advertisers have caught on to the fact that Facebook advertising works (when done properly), so they’re throwing as much money as they can into the system.
The second reason is that Facebook made some huge changes to their ads platform a few years ago.
Like I mentioned above, if you wanted to target people based on a certain religious interest, such as “the Bible,” you could.
In January of 2022 though, Facebook started sunsetting several of the more “sensitive” targeting options, which included any kind of religious targeting.
That forced advertisers to get more creative as to how you actually reached a true Christian audience. Instead of just reaching them directly, you had to think about the activities that they were engaged in, such as charity, reading, or possibly even conservative political alignments.
All of that was relatively experimental though. Very few have been able to actually crack the nut of religious targeting for churches, with most opting to just blanket blast an entire area and see what rises to the surface.
That is, until Advantage+ came along.
What is Advantage+ Targeting?
According to Facebook, Advantage+ targeting is a broadly based ads targeting algorithm that uses artificial intelligence to find your audience for you.
Facebook has always been okay at finding the ideal audience for your brand. Even before Advantage+, several advertisers were having decent results just setting a broad campaign and letting Facebook pick the right people.
Those results have only gotten better with Advantage+. We’ve been able to generate huge wins for our clients with a relatively low budget and very minimal work (comparatively speaking).
As with any marketing approach though, the proof is in the pudding.
Does Advantage+ Targeting Work for Churches?
To be completely honest, we stumbled upon these results by accident (isn’t that how every good discovery is made, though?).
One of our current clients came to us and said they wanted to replace their newspaper advertising budget with a paid ads budget. No problem, we told them, but Facebook ads are expensive.
They didn’t mind. They sent us a number and we went to work.
Because the number was lower than we would’ve preferred to see “real” results, we knew we weren’t going to be able to target for list signups, traffic, or even likes on the Facebook page.
The only feasible approach was to try and focus on reach. In other words, we wanted as many people as humanly possible (within driving distance) to know about this church. We also wanted some kind of proof of this discovery, which meant a simple “reach” goal wasn’t satisfactory.
That really only left engagement ads.
The next day, we created a simple ad (outlined below), did a little research on this newfangled Advantage+ targeting option, clicked it on, and went about our day.
The next month, we came back to some pretty impressive results:
- Total money spent: $67.47
- Post engagements: 1,242
- Cost per engagement: $0.05
Those numbers may not mean much, but think about the implications here.
An “engagement” is defined by Meta as any kind of action that people take on your ad, such as a like, click, share, or comment.
This is a more concrete form of reach than simple awareness ads. Not only did these people notice your ad, they interacted with it.
Moreover, for context’s sake, this ad was placed in an area that was 25 mile radius around the church. Total estimated audience size: 250,000.
All of that together means that 1242 of that 250k people engaged with the ad for this church. Not just saw it, but engaged with it.
Not bad for less than $70. And that’s just for one month.
A Facebook Ads Plan Any Church Can Follow
Want to replicate these results? Your mileage may vary compared to this ad, but you can still depend on a similar effect. We’ve run this same type of ad in three churches spread all across the country, and the cost and results were pretty much the same.
Here’s what to do.
Create Four Bible Verse Ad Creatives on Canva
We’ve talked about canva.com before, but it has been a lifechanger for the digital graphics-challenged like me. You can set up a quick template and customize it to your exact liking.
You’ll need to get the dimensions right though. For our ads, we run 1080×1080 pixels (px).
Then, pick four verses that are inspiring and/or encouraging and/or thought provoking. We used these:
- 1 Peter 5:7 – “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
- 2 Corinthians 5:7: “…For we walk by faith and not by sight.”
- Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
- John 15:14: “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
For various reasons, we tried to stay away from the denominational “feel good about God” type of messaging and choose verses that somewhat challenged people to think about that relationship (such as John 15:14 and Romans 12:2).
We made a single template, changed the wording on each one to show the selected verse, then exported them as .png files on my desktop. The whole process took maybe ten minutes from start to finish (most of which was spent finding a template).
Here’s what we came up with:
I’ll level with you: It is not the most amazing piece of artwork your eyes have ever crossed paths with. But the results speak for themselves, so…take that.
Set Up an Engagement Campaign
Facebook has a six different ad objectives, each of which has sub-objectives underneath: awareness, traffic, engagement, leads, app promotion, and sales.
For this one, choose “engagement” and select “on your ad” under conversion location.
Scroll down to “Budget and schedule,” and set the budget and schedule for the dates you want and the amount you want to spend.
Go to “Audience Controls” and set the location for the town of the church you want to advertise for, then adjust based on population. Rural areas will want to make it larger, whereas densely populated urban areas do better in smaller numbers.
Ideally, you’re looking for an audience size between 250,000-1,000,000 people.
Now comes the magic.
Under “Advantage+ Audience,” turn it on. Intense, I know. I wish there were more to it so this article could be longer, but that’s pretty much it.
Upload the Ad Creative
Remember those ads you made with Bible verses? Upload them to the “Ad Creative” section.
Under “Primary Text” ask a single question. For our John 15:14 verse, we wrote “Are you a friend of Jesus?”
Duplicate that ad as many times as you need to cover all the verses you made ads for, click publish, and you’re done.
Let Me Know Your Results!
As stated before, much of this is experimental, so if you decide to run these ads, I would love to know your results so we can see if it works at scale.
Drop me a line at email@example.com and let me know how it goes!