According to our Millennial Running Study, 64 percent of millennial runners reported learning about endurance events through social media, and of that, 94 percent discovered them on Facebook. The Running USA 2016 National Running Study also reported that one in four runners named social media as their number one choice for event information.

Put simply: In the endurance industry, social media cannot be overlooked.

Broadening your brand awareness and building engagement through social media has grown exponentially in importance for race directors to differentiate races from others, attract new runners and keep past participants coming back. That’s why we continue to reiterate to our clients that social media – specifically Facebook – is a necessary part of their marketing plan.

Why Facebook?

Hands down, the social media platform with the most robust advertising tools is Facebook. Facebook advertising is a key component of your social strategy – and really, your overall marketing strategy. At over 1.8 billion monthly active users, Facebook provides the broadest reach to target both your current participant base as well as potential runners. According to a recent Pew Research Study, nearly eight in 10 Americans now use Facebook.

In addition to the online platform, Facebook also offers tools like mobile, messenger and Instagram to further increase its power, providing advertisers with unique capabilities to reach potential prospects based on how they interact with the platform, the device(s) they use and other behaviors.

How can race directors leverage Facebook’s capabilities? Read on for some of Facebook’s top tools you can use to take your digital marketing efforts to the next level.

The Facebook Pixel

The most crucial piece of Facebook’s in-depth tracking abilities is the Facebook pixel. The pixel is an analytics tool that allows you to measure the effectiveness of your advertising by understanding the actions people take on your website. By simply inserting a short line of code into the header of your website, your pixel will collect data, which allows you to:

  • Make sure your ads are being shown to the right people
  • Build advertising audiences
  • Drive more conversions (i.e., race registrations)

First, navigate to your page’s Business Manager account and generate your pixel code. Then install it (or have your website admin do so) into the header of your website. That’s it! When someone visits your website and takes an action (like looking at your registration page), the Facebook pixel is triggered and reports this action. This reporting lets you know who to retarget through future Facebook ads.

Custom Audiences

When promoting your race, ad segmentation is vital. Why? Well, not everyone you’re targeting has the same ability level. For example, people who ran your 10K won’t respond to messaging that is more appropriate for marathoners. So while a 10k runner might respond to messaging that focuses on the event experience, a marathon runner will be more likely to engage with content that emphasizes the route or whether the course meets the requirements to be a Boston Marathon qualifier.

When creating ads in your Business Manager account, you have the ability to launch a variety of ads to a variety of audiences using Facebook’s custom audience feature. Through Facebook, custom audiences can be built in multiple ways. For existing customers (like past runners), you can simply upload an email list of last year’s registrants. You can also create audiences based on behaviors – like a specific action taken on your website that was captured through your site’s pixel. These specific audiences allow you to get the right message in front of the right audience for the best chance at conversion (that is, registration).

Lookalike Audiences

Facebook also makes it easy to reach new people through lookalike audiences. Lookalike audiences are, quite simply, new people who share characteristics with your custom audiences. For example, maybe you want to reach people who have never run your race before but who are demographically similar to past runners. In this scenario, Facebook helps read the profiles of people from the custom past runner audience (created from uploaded your email list), and then targets people who share similar demographics (like age, location, interests and more).

You can also create lookalike audiences off custom audiences you created from pixel data. Once pixel data has been collected of people who take a specific action (like, say, going through the registration process but not actually finalizing it), you can create another list of people who look demographically similar to those people to reach a new audience. Studying the behaviors and interests of your current website visitors and then finding others like them is a key strategy in optimizing your campaigns and finding new potential race participants.

Audience Network

Audience Network lets you extend your ad campaigns beyond Facebook to reach your audiences on websites and apps across multiple devices. In other words, while ads target people within the Facebook browser or app, Audience Network targets Facebook users when they’ve left Facebook for different websites or apps – and even across multiple devices.

Audience Network can greatly increase your reach to target participants in other places than just on Facebook. From the platform’s own research, it’s been determined that Audience Network lets businesses get access to 16% more people on average globally than on Facebook alone – and that removing Audience Network can lead to 15% fewer average conversions.

Facebook Insights

The beauty of fully leveraging digital and social advertising tools versus utilizing more traditional approaches is that you don’t have to guess about the results. Monitoring campaign metrics allows you to tweak and optimize campaigns as they unfold. For example, if you’re running an ad that’s converting for one audience but not another, you can easily keep one going while trying a new tactic for the other.

Facebook’s in-depth reporting metrics (called Facebook Insights) give you a real-time understanding of how your tactics are performing – and if you’re getting a bang for your buck. For each campaign, we suggest using Facebook Insights to review metrics like:

  • Reach: The number of people that saw the ad
  • Engagement: Reactions to ads (likes, shares, clicks, etc.)
  • Conversion: Email signups, race registrations, product purchases and more

While definitions differ, Facebook lets you calculate ROI for your social tactics by determining cost per acquisition, cost per conversion and more so you know if your efforts are working – and worth it.

In essence, Facebook advertising is one of the most effective ways to spend your time and budget. And when combined with other digital and traditional channels – like email, for example – you’re on your way to having a solid strategy for reaching past participants, finding new runners and creating an event to remember.

Need help with your event’s digital marketing or don’t know where to start? Contact us today to talk about how to take your digital marketing program to the next level.