The world of paid ads can sometimes feel a little overwhelming, especially if you’re new to the game and wondering where to even start.

Wouldn’t it be nice to find a nice and easy (and effective) way of dipping your toes in?

I’m only a few months removed from this post exploring paid ads as a total noob, which I remain, and I’ve done my very best since to be a sponge for all the paid ads experiments and strategies I can find. 

We just so happened to come onto a neat one here at Buffer.

It’s simple and quick, powerful and effective, and I’d love to share it with you to get your thoughts.

If you only have $5 to spend …

A simple tip for maxing your social ads

Details are below, fully written out with the complete strategy here. I thought I’d also add things into a quick video as sometimes it’s a bit easier to see someone step through things!

Here’s the gist …

  1. Log in to your social media stats at Twitter or Facebook.
  2. Check out your most recent day/week’s posts, looking specifically for impressions and engagement.
  3. Gawk in wonder at the ones with high engagement + low impressions.
  4. Boost those!

which posts should i boost

Here’s the complete detail

How to find the impressions and engagement data for your posts

On Facebook

One of the big challenges for marketers on Facebook is the question of reach: Where’s it all gone and how to get more? One of the nice benefits of this conundrum is that we all know — perhaps know too well in some cases! — where our reach currently stands.

Facebook makes it easy to see Reach.


And Facebook Reach is the same as impressions.

To get the engagement data on a particular post, you can click on the “xx people reached” link to see lots more data. After clicking, a popover will appear with all the vital stats from your post, including a total for engagement of likes, comments, and shares, as well as data on clicks. You can combine these two numbers (in the example below, it would be 23 plus 150) to get your total engagement.

facebook stats expanded

Then to calculate engagement-per-impression, take the total engagements and divide by the number of people reached.

In the example above, it would be 173/3,299, for a total of 5.2%. (Not bad!)

To check these per-post stats in bulk, you can navigate to your Facebook Insights at the top of the screen (available for all page admins). The Posts tab has all the data on each of your posts, and you can run some quick math or cast a quick eyeball to see which posts fall into the “low impression, high engagement” window.

Facebook engagement stats

You can also get this data from an export and run the calculations through a spreadsheet.

For Buffer users, all this Facebook info is available automatically in your Buffer Analytics.

Free users can scroll through post history, looking at engagement stats and reach.

Business users can export all this data and calculate the engagement-per-impression rate with a simple formula:

(Here’s a sample spreadsheet.)

facebook export

On Twitter

Twitter impression stats (a relatively new feature) appear in the Twitter Analytics section of the site. All users can access this for free by clicking on Analytics from the drop-down menu at top right.

twitter analytics

Once inside analytics, click over to the Tweets tab.

tweets analytics

The Tweets tab shows all your recent tweets in a big long list, along with some quick stats beside each. Impressions live here, as well as an Engagement Rate, which Twitter calculates by dividing total engagement with impressions.

Voila! Just what we’re looking for!

engagement rate

To dig a little deeper, you can click for details on any tweet to see the precise breakdown of engagements: how many clicks, retweets, likes, profile clicks, media plays, follows, and tons of other minutiae.

For a large-scale look at engagement and impressions, Twitter offers an export, which contains columns for each of these major stats.

Here’s an example export along with a simple calculation to find the best engagement-per-impression rate.

(I added a column in peach that calculates click rate, in case you’re particularly keen on click stats.)

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 11.30.45 AM

Note: Twitter has thus far held its impression data pretty tight to its chest. We’d love to get this into your Buffer Analytics just as soon as we can!

How to boost a post on Facebook and Twitter

On Facebook

If you’ve ever visited your Facebook page when logged in as a page admin, you’ve likely seen how easy Facebook makes it to boost a post.

Scrolling through your feed, each post has a blue “Boost Post” button at the bottom.


When you click this button, you’ll see a popup that shows all the different settings for targeting, budget, timeframe, and more.

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 8.25.04 AM

  1. Audience: Choose to boost the post to 1) your fans, 2) your fans and their friends, or 3) a custom audience or segment.
  2. Budget and duration: Choose how much you’d like to spend and how long to run the campaign
  3. Tracking conversions: To see purchases and signups on your site that started made from this ad, you can install a Facebook tracking pixel and select it from the list (more on tracking pixels here)
  4. Payment

You can also quickly boost a Facebook post from the Facebook Insights section, right from the default dashboard. All your recent posts are listed in a table, with a big blue Boost Post button to the right.

Boost post list

On Twitter

Twitter’s Promoted tweets options are available from within the analytics dashboards and not, like Facebook, shown on the updates in your timeline.

Once you’ve identified a tweet you’d like to promote, one that has high engagement and low views:

1. Click the “Tweet Activity” link underneath any update on the Tweet stats page

tweet activity

2. Click the blue “Promote your Tweet” button that appears in the left column.

promote a tweet

From here, you can customize a handful of high-level settings for your tweet: Location targeting for your local area, country, or worldwide; and budget, along with an estimate of clicks you could expect to receive. (And then the payment info of course.)

Promoted tweet options

Impressions: One of our favorite stats here at Buffer (and why)

One of the early lessons I learned on social media — and I learned it the hard way — was in making a distinction between followers and reach.

Followers (and fans) are all those folks who have clicked to like or follow your profile.

Reach is the number of folks who actually see an individual post that you share.

For example, at Buffer we have 47,000 likes on Facebook and our posts reach an average of 1,600 people. We reach 3.4% of our audience!

Knowing about this difference in fans vs. engagement, it’s made a big difference for me in the way that I analyze campaigns. Instead of comparing every result to the number of people who’ve liked or followed our profiles, the more accurate data is going to come from assessing a campaign based on how many people actually saw it.

We’re experimenting with ways to increase our reach, too. Here’re a couple of early thoughts:

  1. Get more followers! Sounds a bit counterintuitive in this context, right? The idea here would be that if we reach 1,600 people per post (3.4% of our fans), then we’d theoretically reach 3,400 people per post if we could get to 100,000 followers.
  2. Pay for reach. We’re looking to learn fast with paid ads on social, and we’ll love to pass along our takeaways!
  3. Encourage organic, viral boosts. We’d also love to find ways to make content that people will love to share with others: reshare on Facebook, retweet, repin, etc.

What if you’re not into total engagement?

The paid ads strategy we’ve outlined here is quite dependent on a certain performance stat: engagement.

And I recognize that not everyone might be into total engagement!

It’s completely fine to adjust this to whatever stats best suit your business and your goals. If clicks is most important to you, then perhaps clicks-per-impression could be a good route to try. If you’re hoping to build brand awareness and positive sentiment, then maybe likes or reshares matters more.

In general, the idea behind this ads process is a data-tracking, goal-setting method called Intriguing Metric. It sees metrics as fitting into one of four buckets:

  1. High traffic, low conversion
  2. Low traffic, high conversion
  3. High traffic, high conversion
  4. Low traffic, low conversion

The first two buckets are the ones where you’ll find the biggest opportunities for growth. Bucket No. 3 isn’t half bad either. Bucket No. 4 is best to be left alone.

intriguing metric

In the case of the particular ads strategy we’ve laid out here, engagement represents the high conversion square and impressions the low traffic square.

You can run through this matrix with anything — social ads or otherwise.

Would love to learn if you happen upon any neat metrics to chase!

Over to you

What have you been experiment with for your social advertising?

Does this method ring true for you? Anything you’d change or alter?

I’d love the chance to discover more here and to get any tips on ways we could improve. Excited to continue the conversation in the comments!

Image sources: Pablo

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Written by Kevan Lee

Director of marketing at Buffer, the social media publishing tool for brands, agencies, and marketers. We’ve got a new podcast! ?

  • I went to the Facebook bootcamp when it came to town, and I took the opportunity to ask an awful lot of questions, especially as it pertains to marketing for artists, authors, and service providers (like massage therapists) etc.. Because marketing for these types of groups (and for concepts) can be very different than it is for something else – say like cowboy boots or food. Anyway, the FB people were great at listening. And while they acknowledged some shortcomings in their models for such niches, overall the whole experience also opened my eyes to what I could do. My best results on a shoe-string (so far) have come from dialing in my target audience and sending them to my website. It takes a little more planning and time to do, and a little more effort in understanding our customers’ desires, but it converts best so far and it costs me less. I simply suggest really playing with the possibilities and test, test, test. Because conversions vary from month to month too. And I think for things like art and service, conversions can be moody from month to month, depending on the time of year and what’s going on in the world.

    • Marcus Snyder

      Hey Julia!

      Super smart perspective here! You’re exactly right in that there is probably going to be differences in approaches that work best depending on the vertical and product. Even within a niche, things can be surprisingly different! For example, take a look at car insurance companies and compare the approaches between some of the top players: GEICO, State Farm, Progressive – they’re all super different and yet they’re competing for the same customers!

      The inconsistencies that you mentioned can make marketing extremely challenging, however, when we get it right, it can be the most rewarding feeling in the world!

      It sounds like you’ve taken a great approach to your own personal marketing challenges by testing the waters with some different strategies. Would love to hear all about it when you find your next big win 🙂

  • Joe Lean

    I went on a seminar recently and they said don’t just focus on the engagement rate (ER). Since it’s a ratio it’s a crude measurement which doesn’t really tell you what’s going on. Eg: your reach and interactions could both be falling but ER would stay the same, or your interactions could be stable and your reach falling and your ER will be going up, so you might think you’re doing well.

    But perhaps this is more for considering longer term trends and using ER for this. Is the matrix tool designed to overcome this issue?

    • Marcus Snyder

      Heya Joe!

      Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts – super valid concerns here 🙂 I’ll do my best to answer this one without going on for too long!

      Context: Buffer’s current strategy is to post to Twitter 10 times a day and to post to Facebook 3 times a day (not counting unscheduled posts). So, we’ve got content out there that we want you all to see, but Twitter moves insanely fast and saying that Facebook holds back on organic reach might be the understatement of the year.

      To achieve our visibility goals, we’ve opted to run some campaigns, and we’re updating them on a daily basis. This post outlines how I go about deciding how those campaigns are updated.

      At a high-level, I’ll look at the 10 Tweets from yesterday and I’ll look at the 3 FB posts and since the data is relatively limited, I’m using engagement rate as one metric to help make that decision a little easier (there are of course other factors that go into it as well!).

      For me personally, engagement rate feels like a good metric to use because that’s the end objective; we love engagement! Seeing a high engagement rate on a post with a small organic reach could be an indicator that it might continue to do well if we promoted it a bit – however, like you explained, there’s always the risk that the exact opposite could happen; reach could go up and engagement might not move much, causing the ER to fall dramatically. Womp womp.

      Another biggie for us to keep in mind is that we’re promoting our content to an audience that’s bigger than our own following – so what initially works great for our fans might not work out so well for those who aren’t as familiar with Buffer, if at all.

      There’s lots of variables at play here and lots of room for testing, for sure! Hope that helps 😀

  • Great, inspiring article.

  • Divya Ramamurthy

    It seems like a lot of a business’ marketing is done on social media sites and social networking sites. Also, many strategies are directed towards posting and increasing traffic to your actual website from the social media page. Though it may seem excessive, I agree with everything this article says. Social media marketing and efficiency is crucial to a business’ success nowadays.
    For more about social media marketing, visit:

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