An Event Executive’s Guide to Facebook and Instagram Advertising

How are marketers using Facebook and Instagram advertising for events? We break it down into the 5 things all event execs need to know in order to maximize all things online and off (a.k.a. URL meets IRL).

Whether you’re a world-class business conference or 3-day craft festival, companies are racing to combine their URL and their IRL (in-real-life) activities in a meaningful and measurable way.

Facebook and Instagram have emerged as the leading paid platforms to do just that.

Even PR firms are getting into the act to offer these services to their clients as a means of leveraging their own event activations and media clips into concrete sales.

So, How Are Marketers Using Facebook for Events?

  • Building and Capturing Warm Audiences (Your Own)
  • Video Custom Audiences
  • Facebook Live Custom Audiences
  • Facebook Groups
  • Real-Time Event Content Marketing — Bringing Your Offline Audiences into Facebook

Building Warm Audiences

“92% of top marketing performers say they are focused on building audiences in 2018, an 18% year-over-year increase.” — Content Marketing Institute survey

Basically, this means anything you can do to create a relationship with your audience before “the ask” is going to be way more productive for your event registration and vendor sales — while fending off audience fatigue in a big way.

Credit: Hubspot

Fortunately, Facebook and Instagram have targeting tools called “custom audiences” that allow you to create and target “warm” audiences of people who have already interacted with your website content, your FB company pages, your Instagram business profiles and with video content of yours they’ve already watched.

Facebook actually has about 65(!) types of these “custom audiences” to choose from. But we’ll focus here on some of our favorites.

Video Custom Audiences: Facebook and Instagram

Each time a Facebook or Instagram user engages with your video content they become a part of a “custom audience” you can target with more “direct” ads in the future.

The amazing thing is that you can create audiences of people who’ve watched a specific percentage of your videos.

Running a video “views” campaign on Facebook is affordable, efficient and allows you to quickly build a warm audience before and during your event.

In theory, someone who has watched at least 75-95% percent of your video is as “warm” as you can get. The more they watch, the warmer the lead.

Facebook Live Custom Audiences: Leveraging FOMO

This works exactly like any other type of video custom audiences in Facebook’s ad manager in that you can recapture and retarget your Facebook live audiences based on viewing percentages.

In this example, private membership and workspace Neuehouse can use their IRL talk series to generate specific custom audiences to target with offers later. (You know, the people who couldn’t make it but wish they had!)

This is a brilliant approach to building laser-targeted online audiences from offline, event-generated content of all kinds.

Facebook Groups: Two Ways

Right now there is an avalanche of content and ads coming at people from everywhere.

The antidote? People are seeking high-quality, purposeful online communities where they can make meaningful connections and get accurate information without all of the noise.

Enter Facebook Groups.

Tactic #1: Create and Manage Your Own

Event executives are now creating “closed” Facebook Groups and inviting only attendees who’ve already registered or purchased tickets to join.


The posts inside closed groups are only visible to members so there’s a sense of being part of an exclusive community — a laser-targeted one ready to act. And really large event organizers are even peeling off core verticals into their own separate groups.

The great thing here is that you can ask qualifying questions and learn more about your audience before they join — and only accept those who qualify.

In this example, the Propelify Innovation Festival has created a closed Facebook Group called “Propelify Insiders” which provides tips, in-group FB live programming, as well as member-only promotions and Q&As.

You’ll need resources in two important areas: moderation and content.

Tactic #2: Targeting Groups You Don’t Own with Ads

Now that we have video retargeting in our arsenal, we can now add Groups for even warmer audiences.  

But can you target people that belong to groups that you would want to reach with ads? Even though Facebook doesn’t offer this targeting feature (yet!), there is a way.

And it all depends on the editorial quality (read: 100% helpfulness) of your video content.

  1. Start with a video and post it to your own FB business page.
  2. Then, share that video from your business page into the target group as an individual member.
  3. Go into ads manager and create a video engagement custom audience of people who watched the video.

Real-Time Event Marketing: Capturing and Impacting Offline Audiences

This is the secret sauce. Your attendees won’t be checking their emails on the show floor, but chances are they will be checking FB or IG.

Consistent paid Facebook and Instagram advertising and content distro on-site during your show connects buyers, speakers, and sellers at scale — and moves people around your show floor efficiently.

On-Site Email Custom Audiences

On a more tactical level here is where you can collect email addresses of all attendees at the end of each day and upload them into the Facebook ad platform.

Then you can deliver real-time content to drive traffic to vendor booths, speakers, and anything that’s trending out there.

On-Site Video Engagement Custom Audiences

By running video custom audience campaigns in FB and IG on-site you can ensure you’re capturing almost everyone who has attended your event — so that you can target them later.

Why All of This Matters: It Greatly Lowers Your CPA (and Increases Your Verification Rates)

By applying everything we’ve just talked about you can significantly lower your attendee and vendor CPA (cost-per-acquisition) while increasing your attendee verification rates.

In some cases, you can even reduce your CPA 6X-10x over the course of a campaign(!). Scale those savings across an organization and you’re really on to something.

What Now?

As you can probably tell by now, this is the year (at the latest) to start building year-round digital audiences with content instead of just hitting people with cold event ads.

Next time we’ll go deeper into the Facebook Pixel (a.k.a. what we like to call our “magic line of money-making code”).

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