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How to Create Custom Audiences on Facebook

This post originally appeared on ArtsHacker.com. Head over there for lots of great information for arts administrators.

Did you know that you can upload your ticket buyer list and show Facebook ads directly to them?

If you are running paid Facebook campaigns, you need to know about the power of Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences.

As per Facebook, “a Custom Audience from a customer list is a type of audience you can create made up of your existing customers.” And, “Lookalike Audiences are a way to reach new people who are likely to be interested in your business because they’re similar to customers you care about.”

How to Create Custom Audiences on Facebook

I’m sure you can immediately see the value is serving content to these types of groups on Facebook.

Let’s jump right in and I’ll show you how to create them.

1. Create a Facebook ad campaign in your Ads Manager

After you create the campaign, at the top of the screen should be the Audience area.  Right at the top you will see Custom Audiences.  Since this is your first time, you will need to create one by clicking on Create New under the text field.


Choose Custom Audience (I’ll get to Lookalike Audiences later) and then choose Customer File here:


On the next screen, choose Choose a File or Copy and Paste Data

2. Upload your list

This is where the real fun starts.  You’ll need to have your list as a .CSV file and you can upload it here.


3. Map your data

You can then map your data fields however you’d like.  It used to be that Facebook could just get a match based on an email or phone number, but that’s not the case anymore.  You can match using a combination of many fields such as name, zip code, gender, age, and more.


Click Upload & Create and you are on your way!

Now, once that Custom Audience has been created, you can use it as part of  your targeting for your Facebook ads by going back to the Audience area again in your Ad Set (Step 1) and typing in the name of the audience.

About Lookalike Audiences

Lookalike Audiences are super powerful because they allow you to easily create an audience that is similar to a Custom Audience you’ve already uploaded.  Say you want to create a lookalike audience of your new acquisitions for the opera Carmen.

1. Upload your base Custom Audience

The first thing you’ll want to do is upload your new acquisition ticket buyers for that particular show as a Custom Audience using the steps above.

2. Go back to your Audience area in your Ad Set and choose Create New > Lookalike Audience


3.  Choose the audience you want to clone

The cool thing about Lookalike Audiences is that you can based them on either a Custom Audience or people who like your Facebook Page.  If you want to clone your Carmen new acquisition ticket buyers, you will see that Custom Audience in the list of options.  If you want to use your page, you’ll see that there as well.


Then click Create Audience. That’s it!

After you start with a Custom Audience, you can still refine that targeting to people within that audience who live in a certain geographic area, have certain interests, etc.

Do you use Custom Audiences already? I’d love to hear about your successes!

Stop Buying Online Ads Direct Right Now

This post originally appeared on ArtsHacker.com. Head over there for lots of great information for arts administrators.

So, when you want to run some online display ads, are you placing them through your local newspaper, TV news station, or magazine?


Placing ads direct on sites like these is the equivalent of ye olde “spray and pray” approach which is rarely successful with limited arts organization budgets.  You end up spending a lot of money for little to no results.

Success in online display advertising is all about targeting. You want to serve ad content to people who have a good chance of purchasing tickets.  These are people who may already like the opera/ballet/symphony/museum, or who like similar cultural events. These are also people who you feel are good prospects for whatever event you are promoting even if they don’t directly like your particular art form.

You can do this by placing ads through the Google Display Network (GDN).  GDN uses the power of behavior and interest targeting to show your ads to people not just on websites you think they might visit, but on the actual websites they go to no matter where they are on the internet.

Let’s take a look at a little case study from Palm Beach Opera.*

Like most of you, we placed our online ads direct each year with our local newspaper and TV new stations.  The number of impressions and clicks for each show was lackluster at best every single time.  Here is a screenshot of some of that data:


For this particular opera campaign, we got a total of just 77,724 impressions and 102 clicks.  We were spending $2,500 – $3,000 PER OPERA, PER WEBSITE for this kind of result.

I knew there had to be a better way.

We switched everything over to the Google Display Network (with the help of the fine folks over at Capacity Interactive) and stopped placing direct on local websites.  In our very first outing (for the opera Macbeth), we dramatically increased our impressions and clicks.


WHAAAAAAAAAAA!? We ended up with just under 900,000 (yes, that is the right amount of zeros) and 1,800 clicks. All for under $3,000, saving us thousands of dollars. Not to mention the fact that we installed Google’s tracking pixel on our website so that we could track conversions…

One of the biggest concerns we had was that our ads weren’t going to show up on any local websites.  That turned out not to be the case.  Here is a sample of where our ads were shown:


You can clearly see the national sites there but our local sites (WPTV, CBS12, WPBF, Gossip Extra) are still included.

You may be looking at this and thinking that this is all well and good, but your organization doesn’t have $3,000 per show to put towards advertising like this.

Let’s look at another, smaller organization that was working with a much smaller budget.

Earlier this year, I worked with the Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival to promote their summer season.  We had a small budget of just $800 for online advertising.  Their result with that budget was this:


They ended up with just under 1.5 MILLION impressions and over 9,000 clicks which is incredibly significant for an organization of their size (or any size, really).

So, now that I’ve got you totally convinced to switch over your online advertising to GDN, here are some tips:

  • If you or a member of your team would like to try out running these ads in-house, Google offers some great tutorials on how to get things set up.   If you are not sure you want to attempt this on your own, reach out to a professional like Capacity Interactive or similar.
  • Always be sure to run multiple ad sizes and not just the standard 300 x 250 and 728 x 90.  Google gives some good guidance on which sizes tend to work the best.
  • Utilize remarketing campaigns in conjunction to your new acquisition campaigns.  This will show your ads again to people who clicked through on a previous ad.  If you are tracking conversions, this is most likely where you’ll see the highest ROI. (Google also has some instructions on how to set that up.)
  • Make sure that the landing page you are directing people to upon click through is optimized so that they can find out more about the event and then purchase a ticket quickly and easily. My colleague Marc van Bree wrote a great post on how to do this here on Arts Hacker.

One more piece of advice. If you have been placing online ads with your local newspaper ad rep, they may not react favorably when you tell them that you are not going to be doing that anymore.  They will most likely try to get you to place in their “ad network” or even on the Google Display Network through them. I can’t tell you what decision to make but, keep in mind that it is their job to sell you things and bring in revenue for the paper and not to help you create campaigns that bring in revenue for your organization.

NOTE: Google will not let you run your Google Grants and paid GDN campaigns from the same account.  If you are using Google Grants (which you absolutely should be), you will need to make a separate account to run your display advertising.

*Full disclosure mode: I was the Director of Communications at Palm Beach Opera until December 2015.

How To Create Custom Dashboards

This post originally appeared on ArtsHacker.com. Head over there for lots of great information for arts administrators.

Do you have specific pieces of data that you always want to see when you’re checking your Google Analytics? (Because I know you are checking your Google Analytics regularly, right? Yes. Yes, you are.)

A super handy way to streamline the process is to create a custom dashboard. You can take almost any data set that is in Google Analytics and put it into a dashboard.  Let me show you!

Step 1: Login to your GA account and navigate to some data that you regularly look at.

In this example, I’m looking at pageviews.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.25.37 AM

Step 2: Click the Add To Dashboard link at the top of the page

Check that out! Did you ever notice that before?

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.25.37 AM 2

Step 3: Add it to your Dashboard

Because you most likely don’t have any dashboards already created, choose New Dashboard as where you want this data to go.  For me, I want a timeline view (which is the same as what you would see usually in GA) so I’m going choose that option.  Then click Add To Dashboard

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.29.38 AM

After this, it will take you directly to your dashboard that you’ve just created.

Once you’re there, you can customize the look of the dashboard by clicking the Customize Dashboard link in the top right and you can also edit the data that you have in there as well.

Step 4:  Share your Dashboard

One of the great things about Dashboards is that you can share them easily.  My favorite way to do this is to set up an automated email to the members of my team so that everyone can keep up to date with how things are going.  You could also create dashboards for different departments and customize the data to their interests. (For example, you could do one for your Development department with information about Fundraising pages.)

To set up an email, simply go to your dashboard and click the Email link at the top.  You will then see this:

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.36.56 AM

Just fill in the email address(es) of the people you want to get the email and you are ready to go!

Do you use Dashboards already? Share how you use them in the comments below!

How to Create Custom Dashboards

No One Cares About Your Website Slider

This post originally appeared on ArtsHacker.com. Head over there for lots of great information for arts administrators.

I’m sorry but it’s true.

Most arts organizations have some sort of slider feature (also called a carousel) on their website.  You probably do right now.  Well, the cold hard truth is that very few people are actually seeing that slider content.

How do I know this?  DATA. (No, not this Data.  I’m talking about real facts that have been collected and analyzed over time.)

I think it makes us (meaning arts marketers and arts administrators) feel better to have a slider of some sort on our website but that doesn’t mean that it is effective.

A couple of years ago, the folks at Notre Dame did a study on this and here’s what they found. Only about 1% of people click on a slider feature on websites.   Of these clicks, 84% were on the first slider feature.

Ok, let’s take a second for that to sink in…

So, now that we’ve accepted the fact that no one is even looking at let alone clicking on our slider features, what do we do about it?  We’ve got some awesome things going on that we want to feature there to make sure people see them.  What do we do?!?!?!?

Let’s totally rethink the point of the slider for a second.  The information there is related to very important shows/programs/information, right?  Let’s figure out a better way to get people to do what we want them to do upon getting to our website.

1. Switch to a hero image with a clear and prominent CTA.

A couple of seasons ago at Palm Beach Opera*, I moved to this design from a more traditional slider and the number of clicks on the CTA button improved dramatically.  This option is probably the easiest to implement on your website (especially if it is running on WordPress).


When I thought about it, the point of that slider for me was to get people to see all of our events.  That large CTA button linked to a page with all of those events listed (with an image) in chronological order.  (Yes, it was a bit scary to make this switch but, luckily, my General Director was incredibly supportive of us trying something new.)

Here are some other non-arts samples of this approach:



2. Run a slideshow or video behind the content

This approach enables you to still feature all of that great production photography you have but still keep the same copy and CTA to ensure people see what you want.  My favorite nonprofit example of this is from the Nashville Zoo.  Here’s a screenshot but you’ve really got to go to their website to see it for yourself.


It is clear from this homepage that they have three main actions they want people to take: plan a visit, become a member, and to purchase tickets.  They are so clear right when the page loads and remain throughout the slideshow behind.

Squarespace also does this same sort of thing using video (albeit with just one CTA):


3. Go totally custom

Recently, The Metropolitan Opera redesigned their website and, whilst initially it featured large hero videos, at some point in the past few months, they switched over to a modified sprite carousel.  This is a custom option but it is so effective because the background images automatically switch out when you start to scroll so you can’t help but see all of them.


I challenge you to broaden your thinking on how you can better facilitate clicks on your homepage.  I’d love to know how it turns out!

(PS – If you’re looking for ways to definitively see how people are really interacting with your website, I highly recommend this and this.)

*NOTE: I was the Director of Communications at Palm Beach Opera until the end of December 2015.

How To Find The Truth About Your Audience Demographics

We all have anecdotal information about who buys tickets to our organization’s event.  “Well, our people are all [insert adjective here]” or “our people are [insert adjective here] so they prefer to…” If this sounds familiar to you, you are not alone.

But how well do you REALLY know your audience?  Do you actually have data that shows who, demographically, is purchasing tickets or memberships?  If you do, awesome! If you don’t, I’ve got a couple of ways that will help you find out.

How To Find The Truth About Your Audience DemographicsWhy should you find out the demographics of your audience for real?  Most arts organizations need to not only grow their audiences, but grow specific segments of their audience.  Yes, an opera company may need to grow their audience generally, but the Baby Boomer segment is a particular interest in their market.  Maybe you have programming that fits in with a particular demographic group and you want to reach out to them specifically for those events.  Perhaps your audience doesn’t accurately reflect the demographics of your area and you want to improve that.

I’ve got two tools that I highly recommend you check out to get some demographic intel on your audience.  Those of you who regularly read my posts know that I’m the queen of free and low-cost solutions.  This is not necessarily one of them.  However, I firmly believe that getting and using accurate data is an investment and I’ve have many occasions where the return was absolutely worth the cost.

Tool #1

Reach out to a list broker or mailhouse in your area that can do a list matching for you.  (If you’re in my neck of the woods, call these guys and ask for Scott.)  A list matching is a process where they take your patron lists and run them against their database and attach demographics to each person.  Some of the demographic information could include age, presence of children in the home, annual income, etc.  You can work with them to find specific pieces of information that you might want to know above and beyond the standard (like if they own a boat, for example).


Beyond that, they can use the demographic profile of those on your existing list to find new, qualified prospects.  These prospects could match all of the demographics and basically be a clone of your existing patron set, or they can be a clone of a segment within your patron set that you want to grow.

Tool #2

There is a new software on the market called PatronLink360 which is developed by Arts & Analytics (which is headed by the guy who literally wrote the book on precision marketing.)  Arts & Analytics was created to provide big data services specifically for arts organizations.  If you’re even the slightest bit tech savvy, PatronLink is a self-service way to get this demographic information as well as to clone varying segments.

You load in your list, the software runs its magic, and you have demographic data in just a few minutes.  If you want to clone your list to get new prospects, you can do that with just a couple of clicks.

Arts & Analytics

The cool thing about this software is that rather than paying per service, you pay a monthly fee so you are free to load in as many lists as you’d like whenever you want.  Want to find out the demographics of the people who attended your world premiere?  Check. Are you looking to see the growth of a particular segment year over year? Check. Need to get real life demographic numbers for a particular program for a grant application or report? Check.

I’ve used both of these tools personally and can attest to their efficacy.  Let’s stop making up estimating demographics and get some real data to back us up.

How have you used demographics to guide your marketing?  I’d love to hear your experience!

Disclosure: I used both tools recommended in this post while working as a practitioner at Palm Beach Opera.  Currently, I provide Arts & Analytics with marketing consulting services.

Adding heatmapping to your website

If you know me even just a little, you know that I love data.  Especially in the field of arts marketing because we tend to have our own preconceived notions as arts marketers on what “our people” like, what they want, and how they behave.  Good data can either back that up or contradict it and put you on the right path.

This is so true with websites.  In my travels, I find that most arts organizations are very concerned with how their website looks which is understandable because we are so visual.  However, what if that visually stunning website actually hurts your conversion rate or is hard for people to navigate?

I hope that everyone reading this has Google Analytics installed on their site and that you regularly look at the data.  If you don’t, install it IMMEDIATELY.  If you do, go and look at the data right now.  RIGHT NOW.  If you aren’t sure how to read the data, Google has lots of free resources to help you.

Another way to see how people are interacting with your site is through heatmapping.  I’ve had heatmapping installed on the Palm Beach Opera website for the past few years and, I’ve got to say, that I love it.  It gives you a different take on the data because you can see not just what content people are viewing, but where they are looking on each page of your site.

Here’s a sample heatmap:

CrazyEgg Landing Page


You don’t have to be some sort of tech genius to see that the Buy Tickets button is performing pretty well here.

You can set up any number of what they call “snapshots” which are really just pages for them to track.  Let them fun for a few weeks to see what people are looking at most, or what might be more useful, what people aren’t looking at.

They offer a nonprofit rate and I end up paying about $100 for the entire year which is affordable for even a small nonprofit.

Canva Sample 1

How to make great email and social media graphics without Photoshop

As arts marketers, our time is limited and we often don’t have professional graphic designers on staff.  Although I’m skilled in Photoshop, it can be time consuming to create even a simple graphic for a Facebook post or a quick email blast.

That was until I found Canva.  This FREE handy little website allows you to create social media graphics, blog graphics, Twitter photos, and more quickly and easily.

The interface is super easy to work with and comes pre-loaded with tons of layouts:

Canva Sample 1


You can upload your own photos or use stock that you can purchase directly from them for $1 per image.

They also have tons of fun graphic elements, stickers, and banners:

Canva Sample 2

Never let lack of PhotoShop or money for a graphic designer get in the way of producing the imagery necessary for your emails, Instagram posts, and Facebook ads again.

The New Arts Model (Repost)

Michael Kaiser recently wrote about the new arts model in the Huffington Post.  What are your thoughts on his thoughts?

If I hear one more pundit or read one more blog suggesting that ‘old models’ of arts organizations are dying and that ‘new models’ are needed I am going to scream. Expert after expert are calling for ‘new models’ without explaining what these new models are or what specifically they are meant to address, except for a vague unhappiness with how things are working (or not working) now.

We in the arts face major challenges, including, but certainly not limited to, the short-term economic situation in which we all work. But simply suggesting that ‘things must change’ without giving us concrete proposals is not helpful.

What exactly do these people mean by ‘old models’ anyway? Do they mean that arts organizations are all going to die and that there will be no more arts institutions in the future? I doubt that will be the case. I predict that in fifty years there will still be large and mid-sized and small organizations producing theater and music and dance. There may be more or less of them than there are today and there may be several venerable organizations that do not survive. But that does not mean that big arts organizations are going to be extinct. Many large corporations die as well. Remember Arthur Andersen? American Motors? Texaco? Wang? No one is selling off the stock market today suggesting that the corporate model is dead simply because some corporations go bankrupt or merge with others.

Do these experts mean that in the future all art will be created by groups of artists who work on specific, individual projects and then disband? I hope not. That means that every time artists conceive of a project they must start from scratch to find the resources they need. They will not benefit from the family of donors and ticket buyers that current arts organizations count on for support year after year. They will have to reinvent their support bases anew every time they wish to produce art. And they will not benefit from the huge marketing networks that established arts organizations have created. It will be far more difficult and expensive to attract audience members if this scenario obtains. There will be no subscriptions because there will be no organization that can guarantee a series of performances. And the name recognition enjoyed by major arts organizations will be a thing of the past.

Do they mean that large-scale arts projects will be replaced by smaller ones? That would be a shame. As much as I truly enjoy a chamber-sized program, I also enjoy large scale works. Are we never to experience Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand again? Or Der Rosenkavalier? Or Swan Lake? Must we toss out an entire canon of great works in an effort to make way for the new? Of course we must invest in new operas and dances and works of theater. But we can also cherish the great works that have formed the foundation of our culture. There is no question that our view of what is art is growing and diversifying. This is all to the good. My experiences with Arab and Indian and Chinese art have been life-changing and have broadened by view of the world. But that does not diminish at all my love of Beethoven and Shakespeare.

Read Part II of his article here…

Have you thought about an arts virtual assistant?

Launching today: ArtsArmy.org arts virtual assistants, a new firm trying a different approach to solving “brain drain” caused by high turnover in arts and cultural organizations. ArtsArmy.org gives arts groups access to skilled part-time workers who know the arts and can do tasks such as creating email newsletters, engaging audiences on Facebook, or writing grants. This creates savings on overhead, while allowing nonprofit workers to gain work from a wide audience of clients. To see a video and learn more, check out the homepage of http://bit.ly/Mu04Qn and follow on Twitter @artsarmyVA