This is ToneDen's guide to promoting in-person and online events in 2020 and beyond. It's a summary of everything we've learned in helping creators sell hundreds of millions of dollars in gross ticket sales ($111 Million in 2019 alone).
In this guide, we'll teach you:
✓ How to sell more tickets and increase attendance to your events
✓ How to measure and improve your returns from online advertising
✓ Which target audiences lead to the most sales and RSVPs at the best cost
✓ When, where, and how to allocate marketing budget for events
✓ Advertising strategies you can apply to industry-specific of events
✓ How to use ToneDen to create winning Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns
An explanation of conversion tracking for event creators.
When we talk with individuals in the events industry about Facebook advertising, their initial impression is negative. They view Facebook as a cost center and not a revenue generator, with an that interface doesn’t exactly make it easy to see results. Take this screen:
Here’s a post-campaign shot of a user who spent roughly $1,500
on a campaign that reached almost 200,000
people. You can see how often the ads were shown and how many clicks the campaign drove—but not how much revenue was made or what each ticket cost.
When you’re trying to sell tickets on a limited marketing budget, metrics are key. Implementing conversion tracking is one of the best ways to insure social marketing success.
When you set up conversion tracking, you convert engagement metrics into sales metrics that matter to your organization. Adjust the settings and our example screen tells a different story: The $1,500
behind that campaign is connected to actual sales data (not clicks). 122 online orders
stemmed from this campaign. The cost per purchase reveals the net impact of that $1,500
. Every $12.30
in spend drove an online order. And one purchase doesn’t necessarily equal one ticket sale. A purchase could include several tickets.
These metrics use the term Website Purchase Return on Ad Spend
, which is calculated by dividing website purchase conversion (total sales driven from the campaign) by the total amount spent on the campaign. Here, the website purchase return on ad spend is 9.8x
. Every dollar you spent made $9.83
in gross ticket sales.
So, why is conversion tracking important?Conversion tracking demystifies customer acquisition costs
. How much does it cost to sell a ticket or drive an online order? When you understand customer acquisition costs by channel—Facebook, Google, or even flyering—your business can more efficiently deploy capital. On a finite marketing budget, getting the most bang for your buck is important.
Facebook Ads let you understand the impact of your marketing spend. Did they actually help you sell tickets? From there, you can take the marketing dollars you’ve allocated for your next event and say, “Okay, to really move the needle, let’s deploy that capital more efficiently.”
If you can measure customer acquisition cost, you can improve it
Instead of a hazy idea of what your spend on Facebook is doing, conversion tracking breaks things down. If every $1 you spend on ads earns $9.83 in gross ticket sales, you can rethink how you spend that same amount to get $15 or $20 back in gross ticket sales.
No, Facebook won’t show you how much money you made at the campaign level. But Facebook will show you how much it costs to sell tickets to the fans you’re targeting at the ad level. You can see customer acquisition costs by creative, too. Once you set up conversion tracking with your ticketing company and create a Facebook pixel, your sales metrics will improve.
To get this info and improve your online marketing, you need to create and install a Facebook pixel
. With a Facebook pixel installed, you can measure the returns from Facebook ads.
Remember: 85% of purchases come from views, not clicks. Knowing this is key to your success in advertising. Once you see how your ads drive sales, you can figure out how much you need to spend to break even on your event as fast as possible.
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An explanation of A/B Testing for event creators.
A common mistake new Facebook advertisers make is showing one ad to one audience. New marketers just don’t consider all the avenues for revenue and different messaging options.
A/B testing, also know as split testing, is one of the most important practices for any marketer. By simultaneously running multiple variants of a campaign, you determine its most effective characteristics. To understand A/B testing and why it's so important, let’s review the three elements of every Facebook ad campaign:
1) Overall stats. Press ‘Boost’ on a post and a campaign in Ads Manager with the same title will show your overall spend, financial metrics, and engagement metrics.
2) Ad set. i.e., campaign audience. Who’s seeing the ads in this campaign? Where do you want your ad located? Which individuals do you want to target?
3) Creative. This is how the post looks on Facebook, Instagram, and other placements.
A Facebook campaign lets you have multiple ads with different creative and audiences. Too often, though, a single ad set with interest-based targeting and one ad creative shows up, meaning the campaign isn’t taking advantage of A/B testing.
Why is A/B testing so important?
Below, you’ll see spend, revenue, and return on ad spend. On this campaign, $100 was spent and $50 was made in revenue. The return on ad spend is ~0.5x. Every dollar spent made $0.50 in gross ticket sales.
A campaign without A/B Testing.
This is how most campaigns look for event organizers. Without A/B testing, the entire marketing budget for your show could go toward one ad set with one creative, not necessarily hitting the right fans.
Enter A/B testing, or split testing. It’s the best way to improve your overall return on ad spend.
Think of A/B testing as running a controlled experiment. Instead of advertising to one ad set with one creative, you include multiple ad sets and multiple creatives to see which performs better. Once you know which performs better, you can allocate more budget to the higher-performing ad sets and creative combinations, boosting your return on ad spend.
A/B Testing at the Structural Level
Here’s another hypothetical ad campaign. We’ll use the same $100 we spent in this previous example, but this time we’ll split that budget evenly over two different ad sets.
Here’s the first ad set. $50 was spent; $50 in revenue was made: the return on ad spend is 1x. Two creatives were made: ad one and ad two. The second yielded a higher return on ad spend.
A campaign with A/B Testing.
For the second ad set, we split the budget, putting $50 toward an audience of mailing list combined with website traffic. This ad set outperformed the first. It yielded a higher return on ad spend: ~5x. That 5x came from directing budget toward two different ad creatives. Spending $25 on ad one made you $100; spending $25 on ad two made you $150.
Multiple ad sets showed us which audience came with more attractive customer acquisition costs, resulting in more sales. This is why multiple ad sets, each targeting a different group of fans, let you find the fans most willing to buy tickets at the best cost.
But A/B testing doesn't mean limiting yourself to two ad sets. Here’s an example of a campaign where we used six ad sets. Notice the range in performance? The two ad sets on the bottom have very high return on ad spends. The two ad sets on the top have low return on ad spends.
An example of a campaign where we used six ad sets.
If we had only included one audience in this campaign (i.e., interest-based audience), we might not have sold any tickets at all. The $1,500 we spent might not have resulted in a single sale.
An example of a campaign with only one audience included.
A/B testing is crucial to any event marketer’s gameplan. With more ad sets in a campaign, you’ll find new segments of fans to buy tickets and see a higher return on ad spend.
Bottom line: A/B test all your campaigns.
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An explanation of Budget Optimization for event creators.
If you have a limited budget for Facebook ads, that budget needs to be spent on ad sets or ad creatives that drive ticket sales. It needs to serve ads to the fans interested in your event.
Budget optimization is how you reallocate budget from losing ad sets to winning ad sets, or losing creative to winning creative. It’s a no-brainer. When you run a campaign, include budget optimization.
Budget optimization = smart allocation. Spend less on audiences with high acquisition costs and more on audiences with low acquisition costs to bring in more money.
What does this look like in action? In the A/B Testing video, we looked at a $100 budget that initially brought in $50 in revenue.
Non A/B Testing
By using multiple ad sets and creatives, by dividing the budget equally between two ad sets, that same budget brought in $300.
With A/B Testing
Let’s bake budget optimization into our campaign. With ToneDen's algorithm, which moves budget from losing to winning audiences, that $100 dollars would make $450.
How did we spend that same $100—same audiences, same creative—but get $150 more in sales? Instead of evenly splitting that budget between ad set one (interest-based) and ad set two (mailing list and traffic), we spent $25 less on the first ad set and funneled an extra $25 to the second ad set, the better performing of the two.
More sales + more budget on more profitable audience = selling more tickets.
With and without budget optimization.
This is budget optimization in practice. It can be done manually or through automated methods (ToneDen has its own automated budget optimization algorithm).
Now that you understand Budget Optimization, let's see how to use multiple audiences in your campaigns.
A/B testing is important, but to maximize revenue and drive ticket sales, you need to actively reallocate budget from poorer performing audiences and creative to higher performing audiences and creatives.
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A walkthrough on Best Practices for Using Multiple Audiences on Facebook
The most common type of audience or targeting on Facebook is interest-based targeting. Most event marketers uses interest-based targeting on all the campaigns they create. If you press ‘Boost’ on your Facebook page and input a handful of interests, that’s interest-based targeting.
Going through Facebook’s guided campaign creation interface or editing a live ad set also uses interest-based targeting. Those interests—i.e., an artist, a brand, a celebrity—impact the number of individuals that you're reaching.
Interest-based targeting is great for reaching new audiences, but to truly maximize the returns on a fixed ad budget, you need to go beyond interest-based targeting and target individuals who are familiar with your brand or the brand of the talent you’ve booked.
There are a couple options. With a Custom Audience, you give Facebook your customer list (i.e., a mailing list or an engagement-based list for a page that you have access to) and Facebook enables you to target those individuals directly. With a Lookalike Audience, you give your customer list to Facebook and Facebook helps you find new people whose interests and demographics resemble those of the individuals on the customer list.
Everything flows from custom audiences. When using Custom Audiences, you'll be presented with a wide variety of different custom audiences that you can make based off on different data sources. In the live events industry, the most popular data sources are:
Website: web traffic from your website or your ticketing company (requires a Facebook pixel)
Video: individuals who’ve watched more than three seconds of video you've uploaded to Facebook or Instagram
Instagram Business Profiles: Instagram followers/engagers, or followers/engagers of Instagram accounts to which you have page advertiser access
Facebook Page: individuals who directly liked or engaged with your page or events, if you utilize Facebook Events.
Remember: The highest return on ad spend requires more than interest-based audiences.
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A walkthrough on the Most Profitable Audiences to Target for Event Ads.
Most organizers only utilize one ad set. Why? When you do quick campaign creation in Facebook Ads Manager, you’re defaulted to a screen that prompts you to add interests.
If you’re a comedy venue in Canada and Facebook asks you to enter interests that would be relevant for your shows, you'd default to Dave Chappelle, Comedy Central, etc. Facebook makes it easy for event organizers to use interest-based targeting.
There's nothing wrong with this strategy, but it has limitations. We’ve found that the profitability of audiences is consistent: the most profitable audiences are custom audiences.
How do the different custom audiences stack up? Here’s a breakdown, from the most profitable audience and to the least.
Web Traffic: Individuals who visit your event website or your ticketing pages (i.e., Eventbrite or Ticketmaster).
Facebook Events Engagers: Individuals who visit your Facebook event pages and RSVP and ‘Going’ or ‘Interested.’
Customer List: Your mailing list. (Past buyers and people on your mailing list tend not to be repeat customers.)
Interest Audiences: The true workhorse of Facebook advertising, your best shot of getting in front of new people.
Facebook Page Engagers: Individuals who’ve liked or engaged with your Facebook page (i.e., visited your page, commented or liked posts).
Instagram Engagers: Individuals who’ve liked or engaged with your Instagram account (i.e., commented or liked your posts).
Other: Lookalike audiences, video engagers, etc.
Too often, advertisers only build out a custom audience of past buyers or mailing lists contacts. The audiences we see leveraged the least are the most profitable: Website traffic, Facebook page, Instagram profile, and Facebook events engagement audiences. Any audience can be valuable, but when you have lean budgets and tough choices to make, it’s time to prioritize.
Fortunately, it’s simple to target the most profitable audiences. You'll see significantly better returns on your campaigns than you would by only including interest-based audiences.
How to Create A Retargeting Audience
We recommend creating smaller campaigns that exclusively retarget event page visitors. Learn how by watching this video:
A walkthrough on the Most Profitable Audiences to Target for Event Ads.
Now that you've mastered the best practices of Facebook Advertising for Events, let's plan out your campaigns.
The takeaway? Include different types of audiences in your campaigns—not just interest-based audiences—to see significantly better returns on your campaigns.
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A conversion is an action triggered by seeing an ad: anything from signing up for an email list to purchasing a ticket. For every conversion, there’s an attribution window.
What does that mean? Facebook uses a last-touch attribution model: they attribute full credit for a conversion to the last ad the person clicked or interacted with. If the person didn’t click on an ad, full credit is attributed to the last Facebook ad they viewed.
But given that 85% of buyers never click on an ad, all this gets dicey. Many advertisers wrongly assume that the conversions attributed to a campaign only include people who click the ad and immediately convert.
Take viewing a webpage. A person interested in learning more about what your ad is offering may do this automatically. Actions like purchasing tickets, though, are more complicated. It frequently takes more than just one click, day, or even week for someone to buy or convert. Remember: Facebook’s conversion tracking is both click-based and view-based. They can track sales regardless of whether has clicked on your ad.
What is an attribution window? The number of days between when a person views or clicks your ad and subsequently performs a key action is called an attribution window. On ToneDen, your attribution window is set to 28-day view and 28-day click: you'll receive credit for actions that happen up to 28 days after someone viewed or clicked your ad.
Why? This improves optimization. Understanding the right people and audiences drives more actions and provides you with stronger results.
Typically, Ads Manager uses a 1-day view and 28-day click window. But with ToneDen’s 28-day view and 28-day click, someone who views or clicks your ad and purchases at any point in that 28-day period counts as a conversion. On the other hand, Facebook’s 1-day view and 28-day click window means that your ad only gets credit for the conversion if the purchaser viewing your ad has actually clicked and converted in the 28 days after first viewing the ad.
What's the difference between ToneDen and Facebook's attribution window? ToneDen's 28-day view widens the window to account for all the people that never click your ads but still end up buying. The analysis is more accurate, reflecting the effectiveness of your ad and its different audiences and creative combinations.
ToneDen also uses more granular data to further improve your campaign's budget optimization. By analyzing higher quality signals over a longer period, our optimization algorithm can learn from and adapt to more data, improving how our system allocates your budget to higher performing audiences over the course of your campaigns.
ToneDen's 28-day view widens the window to account for all the people who never click your ads but still end up buying. The result is a more accurate analysis of your ad's effectiveness, factoring in different audiences and creative combinations.
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Introduction to the Event Marketing Lifecycle.
Let's dig into the sales curve for events and the event marketing life cycle, two separate but interrelated concepts that are invaluable for event organizers.
A sales curve for events means daily or weekly sales volume plotted from when your event goes on sale to when your event occurs.
Below, the X axis represents the time period—Week 1, Week 2, etc. up until the week of event. The Y axis reflects gross ticket sales sold during a specific period of time.
The Event Marketing Lifecycle
Why is it important to understand a sales curve? Individuals have predictable buying habits. They tend to buy at certain times, so certain times look better than others when measuring gross ticket sales. Ticket sales cluster around the on-sale and the close-out periods.
The event marketing lifecycle consists of four distinct periods, each necessitating specific marketing activities.
Presale (optional): Tickets aren’t on-sale to the public (only through promotions like fan clubs).
On-Sale: 7-14 days after your event goes on sale to the public.
Maintenance: The days between on-sale sale and close-out. Typically the slowest sales period.
Close-out: The 7-14 days leading up to your event.
Why does the event marketing lifecycle matter? There are two key reasons.
1) The event marketing lifecycle helps manage expectations. Events are stressful. There's a lot of money on the line. There's a lot riding on whether or not the event will be successful. If you know when most of your tickets will sell, you can manage expectations. If it’s week four and your ads aren't selling tickets, that's probably not a concern: it's the maintenance period.
2) The event marketing lifecycle determines budget allocation. If sales are slow during the maintenance period, don’t blow your budget there. If your sales boom during on-sale and close-out, flex your budget. Ad dollars aren't as impactful if they're distributed evenly from presale to close-out. Maximize your budget by spending when individuals are most likely to buy.
Watch to learn more about sales curves and event marketing life cycles by vertical:
Music Festivals and Conventions
Food & Beverage, Comedy, & Nightclubs
Tip: Plotting out your sales curve gives you insights specific to your organization. Take the time and effort to export the information from your ticketing company and plot out average daily or weekly sales volume during your event’s lifecycle.
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Creating your first event ad campaign using ToneDen.
Our event creator-friendly version of Facebook Ads Manager helps you make ad campaigns perfect for marketing any event. Here, we break down the step-by-step instructions
for creating your first event ad campaign using ToneDen.
1. Create New Campaign
In your dashboard, create a new ad campaign by selecting Advertising followed by +Create New Ad Campaign in the right-hand corner. Select the Event template and Facebook Ad Campaign which is optimized to sell more tickets and increase attendance of your event on Facebook and Instagram.
2. Edit Objective
Your campaign starts by asking you the question: what do you want your ad to do? Set up your campaign to achieve the right outcome for your event, whether that's driving ticket sales or awareness. ToneDen automatically optimizes your ad campaign depending on what objective you specify here.
Conversion campaigns use conversion tracking to track revenue and allow you target people who are likely to purchase. For event creators, we recommend Get people to buy your tickets.
Learn more about conversion tracking and conversion campaigns here
3. Select Accounts
When you select the ad account you'd like to pay for your campaign with and run your ad from, we'll link the ad accounts associated with your personal Facebook account to your ToneDen account.
4. Event Details
Enter the location and age range of your event.
Tip: Use +50 mile radius. The wider the geographic range, the more successful the campaign. If the location you're trying to target doesn't show up, enter the city name without commas and select it from the drop-down.
5. Modify Target Audiences
Press the Add New button to add an audience. Select an Audience Template for your audience in the Audience Builder section. Audience Templates let you quickly target a particular type of person on Facebook or Instagram.
Different Audience Templates provide different targeting options. You can pick Audience Templates in the Recipes column and different data sources in the Ingredients column. Choosing the right audiences is extremely important to your campaign's success.
For example, the Facebook Interest Audience template in the Facebook Ingredients data source allows you to create an audience of all Facebook users narrowed by specific interests of people on Facebook. The Facebook Page Likes template in the Facebook Ingredients data source allows you to create an audience of individuals who are “connected” to your Facebook Page.
Tip #1: Multiple audiences increase the number of conversions by 20%.
Tip #2: Our automated budget allocation will automatically portion your budget so you're always spending on the audiences most likely to purchase.
6. Set Schedule
Choose the day you'd like your ad campaign to begin and end.
Campaigns that run within 1-14 days of the day of your event’s on-sale and 1-14 days of your event date yield the best results.
7. Set Budget
This is where you can determine how much money to spend on your Facebook Ad campaign.
Use Total Budget if you don't plan to frequently adjust the budget of your campaign once it's launched. Facebook will take the total amount you input into the Amount field and spend it evenly across the total number of days you chose in the Set Schedule step. A four-day campaign with a $100 Total Budget will spend $25/day.
Use Daily Budget if you plan to adjust the budget of your campaign once it's launched. When you use the Daily Budget option, Facebook will take the amount you input into the Amount field and spend it daily. A four-day campaign with a $25 Daily Budget will spend $25/day.
Maximize your campaigns reach by using Total Budget and spending at least $7/day.
$1/day per audience is the minimum cost per campaign. If your budget isn't large enough to include all your audiences, shorten the campaign rather than exclude audiences.
8. Design Ad
Choose how your ad(s) will appear on Facebook and/or Instagram by customizing each part of your ad with images/videos, post text, headline, link description, and a call-to-action.
ToneDen tests every combination to find the ad your audiences respond to best. Create multiple variations by adding more than one creative variant to a creative section. For example, if you already have an image and click the Add Image button, ToneDen will create two different ad combinations for the campaign.
10. Select a Goal
Select the specific action you'd like your Facebook Ad campaign to optimize for. Your event will determine how ToneDen will optimize your campaign’s budget while your ads are live.
Choose an event aligned with what you'd like your ads to accomplish to get the best results. For example, if you choose the “Purchase” event, ToneDen will automatically shift budget towards audiences that get you the most purchases at the best cost. Optimize for the “Purchase” event whenever possible to maximize sales.
Takeaway: Setting your goal to the Purchase event is more effective for driving sales than optimizing for Link Clicks. Facebook reports no significant correlation between click-through rates and purchase intent.