Facebook Promoted Posts: The Solution to the Spam Problem [Part 2]

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[This is a two-part series. The first part focused on the issue of spam impacting Promoted Posts. Part 2 focuses on the solution.]

Yesterday, I was a bit of a Facebook Promoted Posts buzz kill. While the reported results have been excellent, I’m seeing more and more spam. Not only that, but the budget I’m allocating towards Fans only is actually being spent mostly on non-Fans.

It’s a bleak picture. So, Promoted Posts are completely worthless, right?

Not really. It’s a loaded question with a loaded answer. But there’s also a very pleasant solution.

Before we get to that, I need to explain something…

A Promoted Post is Not an Ad Unit

There’s a misconception that Facebook Promoted Posts provide an opportunity to Facebook marketers that was previously not available. In reality, it’s only the packaging that’s new.

A Promoted Post is a Facebook campaign consisting of two (or three) ads: One (or two) Page Post Ads that appear in the News Feeds of Fans (and possibly friends of Fans) and a Sponsored Story.

What Facebook did was make it extremely easy for you to create that campaign. Previously, you would have had to go into Facebook Power Editor (which is clunky and difficult to use) to create this campaign because ads that show up only in News Feeds can’t be initiated from the Facebook Ads Manager.

Now, Facebook packages these three ads together and says, “Here. We’ll create these for you. Just click one button.”

The result is convenience. But not necessarily what you want.

Facebook doesn’t allow you to edit these campaigns. You get what you get. They throw in the Sponsored Story to reach more people and add perceived value.

It’s like spending $10 on a car wash and getting a free tire. You didn’t want that tire, but thanks.

In the case of a Promoted Post, the tire I didn’t want consists of the following:

  • Optimized CPM Bidding
  • Non-Fan Targeting
  • Fixed Geo Targeting

Promoted Posts are extremely efficient on the surface, but they’d be a heck of a lot better if I could eliminate the spam and focus entirely on Fans.

The truth is that you can.

You could create an ad entirely from scratch to do this. Like I said, it’s just like creating a Page Post Ad in Power Editor that only goes into News Feeds.

But we can actually leverage the Promoted Post that was created and work with it to make it awesome. There are several ways that you can do this:

  1. Delete the Sponsored Story
  2. Duplicate the Promoted Post and Change Bidding to CPM
  3. Duplicate the Promoted Post and Change Geo Targeting

1. Delete the Sponsored Story

This may be the only step you need to take to make your Promoted Post infinitely more effective.

As discussed yesterday, most Pages do not have enough fans to run up a bill of more than a few dollars when targeting their Fans only. If you reach 2,000 Fans with an ad that has a CPM of $1.00, you’ll spend $2.

This is why, presumably, Facebook tacks on the Sponsored Story. You tell Facebook you want to spend $30 to promoted your post. Facebook knows there’s no way that you can spend that much in three days by targeting only your Fans. So the budget is moved more and more towards non-Fans.

You’ll notice this is the case more as you spend more. Budget goes up, so does spam.

Instead, I encourage you to keep the budget low and focus entirely on Fans. You do that by deleting the Sponsored Story.

Immediately after creating your Promoted Post, go into your Facebook Ads Manager and find this new campaign.

promoted post campaign 600x93 Facebook Promoted Posts: The Solution to the Spam Problem [Part 2]

Click on it. You’ll then get a view of all of the ads that make up your campaign. If you chose the Promoted Post that targets only Fans, there will be two ads. Otherwise, there will be three…

promoted post sponsored story2 Facebook Promoted Posts: The Solution to the Spam Problem [Part 2]

The Sponsored Story is the ad that you do not want. It’s the ad that targets anyone who is the friend or subscriber of someone who interacts with your content. On the surface, that may sound great. But combined with Optimized CPM, this leads to bots and spam.

I covered this yesterday, but the reason is simple. When using Optimized CPM, Facebook targets your ads at people most likely to perform a desired action. That often ends up being bots. If your Page is relatively free of bots, targeting them won’t be a problem. But outside of your Page’s Fans is the Wild West.

So, we want to stop or remove that Sponsored Story so that we can do what we wanted to do in the first place: Promote our post to our Fans.

The problem, of course, is that Promoted Posts are extremely rigid. There is very little editing that you can do. You can’t even pause individual ads.

But what you can do, though, is delete an ad.

promoted post sponsored story delete Facebook Promoted Posts: The Solution to the Spam Problem [Part 2]

Now the only ad that will be running is the ad promoting your post in the News Feeds of Fans.

2. Change Bidding to CPM

Just by completing step 1, you’ll make your promotion infinitely more effective and efficient. But maybe you actually want to keep the Sponsored Story. Or maybe you want to delete the Sponsored Story, but you want to curb the bot problem you have with your own Fans.

You can do this by changing the bidding from Optimized CPM to CPM.

As I’ve mentioned before, Optimized CPM is a major source of the problem with Facebook ads. While they seem great in theory, they inevitably target bots and undesirable accounts because those accounts perform actions more often than most humans.

The problem, though, is that Facebook doesn’t allow you to edit this within a Promoted Post. It’s automatically set up as Optimized CPM. And even if you attempt to edit it in Power Editor, you’ll be shot an error.

The solution: Duplicate the ad and recreate it, but with CPM.

Within Power Editor, filter to view only Active Campaigns. Find your campaign, click on it and click the Ads menu item.

Then find the ad that you want to edit, select it and click Duplicate.

promoted post edit cpm Facebook Promoted Posts: The Solution to the Spam Problem [Part 2]

Now you’ll need to edit the name of this duplicated ad. If you don’t, Facebook will think it is another Promoted Post and you’ll be given an error when you try to upload it. Change it to something like “Fans Only CPM.” Just make sure it isn’t “Promoting…” or in a similar format as the original.

Now you have this duplicate ad. Click on it and then select Pricing & Status. Change it to CPM and set a bid.

promoted post edit cpm2 600x190 Facebook Promoted Posts: The Solution to the Spam Problem [Part 2]

When you’re done, go ahead and upload it. Note that you will probably get an error. As long as it’s for only one ad, that error is for the original ad you clicked on. Just go into the Facebook Ad Manager to confirm the new ad is there, and your change was a success.

3. Change Geo Targeting

Bots appear to be concentrated in specific countries. That aside, maybe your business is only relevant in particular locations. You’ll want to limit the geographic targeting of these ads.

Do what you did in step 2, but this time click Audience instead of Pricing & Status. Your ad is targeted at every country that is represented by your current Fans.

promoted post edit geo targeting 600x202 Facebook Promoted Posts: The Solution to the Spam Problem [Part 2]

Simply “X” out the countries that you don’t want to target. When you’re done, click Upload.

Note: The more countries you eliminate, the smaller your potential audience and less likely that Facebook will run your ad. So for Pages with smaller audiences, you may need to bite the bullet on geo targeting.

The Drawback

There is one drawback of deleting ads generated by a Promoted Post: You’ll no longer get the Facebook Insights within the associated post. Those stats are still available within the Facebook Ad Manager of course, but you’ll lose that convenience.

If you delete the Sponsored Story and keep the other ad, you’ll get an error because Facebook will be confused by the missing Sponsored Story. But you should get the associated Facebook Insights within the post.

In Conclusion


The concept of Promoted Posts is a great one: Reach more of the people who care most about your content, and therefore click on and engage on that content at a higher rate. If you can actually target these people instead of being forced to pay for non-fans and bots, success can be awesome.

Still need help? Watch the video at the top!3

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About Jon Loomer

Jon Loomer is a digital marketing consultant with a unique perspective on social media. He was introduced to Facebook in 2007 while with the NBA (back before Pages) and has been using Facebook for business ever since. Stay in touch by liking his Facebook Page (Jon Loomer Digital).

  • Sonya

    Great article Jon! Will try your suggestion for sure. Question: Which countries have bots? I mean are there specific countries that have bots coming from that I can deselect?

    • http://twitter.com/MikeStraus Mike Straus

      I think there are likely many but I personally have seen them from Taiwan, Philippines, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia. I am sure they also are in many others.

  • http://twitter.com/MikeStraus Mike Straus

    Great article on strategies to combat promoted post spam. Have you tried targeting you post to a specific location when you make it, then promoting it? Does doing this target the add the same as the post? The “gating” method would HAVE to as people outside that region can’t even see the post, but not sure if the newsfeed targeting would do the same or not. This strategy might work for pages that really only need to target a single country.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Mike — This is actually something that Hugh Briss of Social Identities recommends. I’ve never done it though.

      I guess it depends on if you’re a local business. I wouldn’t do this since I’m not a local business and I want to reach as many people with my regular content as I can. Even people in countries that have a lot of spam. Note that even if you include every country represented by your fans in targeting, the number targeted will be less than your total Fans. I assume this is because not everyone includes their country. So my concern here is that if I limit this up front, I’m keeping my content from people who wanted to see it.

      This is different from the promotion side of it. I think limiting countries when you spend money to promote is definitely something to consider. I just have never seen the utility of limiting the audience for actual posts, at least for my Page.

      Thanks for your comment!

      • http://twitter.com/MikeStraus Mike Straus

        Agree this does not work for all businesses or posts, and you may miss some people this way (due to missing location data or strange bugs). I wish Facebook made this one easier on us all.

        • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

          This is just an example of making things harder by making them easier. Promoted Posts are too easy. By removing options, we get stuff we don’t want. In reality, those of us who know what we’re doing probably shouldn’t use Promoted Posts and should instead create all of our ads manuall.

  • Alan Redmond

    Hi John,
    Great insights as usual. If I am targeting fans of my wife’s clothes shop FB page, I like the idea of the sponsored story creating virality among the friends of the fans. Can I set up an ad in the power editor promoting a particular post using regular cpm instead of optimised cpm? Will this help me avoid a bot and spam problem or should I remove the sponsored story and hope to get virality by fans liking and commenting on the post? Thanks Alan

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Hey, Alan! Right, you’d duplicate the Sponsored Story as I describe duplicating the regular ad above, then just use regular CPM. It won’t completely eliminate bots, of course (nothing will), but the focus won’t be entirely on people who click.

      Also, is your wife’s shop only local? You may also consider limiting the geo targeting.

      Good luck!

      • Alan Redmond

        Thanks Jon, I watched your video a second time and Eurika

        • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

          Hah! Glad you figured it out, Alan.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ReidRosefelt Reid Rosefelt

    Thank you so much for this Jon. It is a great gift, One thing I always do is to go on their pages and report them to Facebook as fakes by hitting the little down arrow on their message box. FB used to let you block and report but now you have to choose one or the other. I think I have shaken a few but I can’t be sure. Most of my bots are in Morocco so I check my insights for that. Hopefully as Facebook deletes counterfeit pages they will pay attention to these reports.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Thanks, Reid! You’ve gotta think that this will be vastly improved if/when Facebook deletes more accounts. So far, they’ve deleted fewer than 1%, and it was previously reported that about 9% of Facebook accounts are “undesirable.” I’d love to use Optimized CPM if I knew the accounts were actually real people.

      Thanks for your comment!

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  • http://hubze.com/ David Foster

    I am wondering now that you can target location on the promoted posts, will that help now as far as the bots are concerned, or will it still target the sponsored story side to friends of fans etc?

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      David — Hugh Briss of Social Identities suggests this. I think it depends… Personally, I’m not a fan of the post targeting feature because it limits my audience unnecessarily. I don’t have spam issues with my content generally, so if I target my content I limit the legitimate people who see it. It also seems that you don’t pick up everyone when you target a country. Not sure if this is due to people not listing their country or what.

      So while it makes sense to limit the audience with ads since you could be throwing money away, I’m not sold in the case of post targeting. But it’s worth a try, at least, particularly for businesses that are relevant in only one country or region.

  • Liz

    Thanks for this post! Very good info.

  • http://twitter.com/Paul_Spartans Paul Dorset

    Thank you so much for this article, Jon. We’ve ran 3 promoted posts over the last 10 days or so. The first post we ran was a HUGE success. Great engagement and great sales figures for the product we were promoting. That lead us to running 2 more. Great engagement again, but practically zero sales. Why? Because all the engagement came from spam. To quote the wise Monty Python, “I don’t like spam!” I think promoted posts are a great idea, and I’d still like to include them in my company’s media plan. This will help us definitely help us be strategic in planning our posts in the future.

  • http://twitter.com/maxogles Max Ogles

    Thanks for this, Jon, very helpful.

  • Leslie

    Jon. Thanks so much for this. I have tried it a few times and the ad is not showing up in my power editor. Am I doing something wrong? Also, we sometimes want to go outside of our fan base (around 37K). Would you recommend the same steps and include friends of fans (if you can edit the target audience to eliminate bots)?

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Leslie — Strange, I don’t see my latest promoted post within Power Editor either. My older ones are there though. Don’t know if this is a change they’ve made or a bug.

      Note that even if you target fans only, Facebook will generate a sponsored story that will reach non-fans. So you could target fans only and still expand your reach. Otherwise, if you are a local company I would look to limit the audience of your post to a specific country to cut down on spam before including non-fans. The alternative is recreating this promotion and using regular CPM.

      Good luck!

      • Viktor Nord

        I had the same problem, my latest promoted post doesn’t show in Power Editor. Worked last week thou. Anyone got an solution?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/vizachero Vincent Vizachero

    Thanks for this post. The Sponsored Story was eating about 80% of my “Promoted Posts” budget and returning very little benefit. This tip was very valuable.

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  • http://www.about.me/Kareemsamara Kareem SaMaRa

    Thanks for this great post.
    I follow all your steps but i had a problem with it.
    after i duplicate my ads and create new one, i found that the new ads didn’t reach anyone and i don’t know why…please help?
    thanks in advance

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      I would do the duplication before running the original ads. Facebook has already started running the original promoted post ads, so they are preferring them over your duplicates. So I would start over and immediately delete the original ads after duplicating.

      • http://www.about.me/Kareemsamara Kareem SaMaRa

        Thanks… i will try to delete it and see how other ads will work.
        I read about “Relative Version of Optimized CPM” i think its to create an ad about specific actions, Reach, Clicks and social …did you plan to make an article about this :)

  • Carter

    I’m having the same issue as Kareem. I duplicated and deleted the originals before it was approved but it would appear that the duplicates are not showing.

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  • Carey

    Tried this today and totally botched it. I’ll give it another go next week!

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