Content Marketing

The Social Media Marketing Strategy That Smart Marketer Used to Grow a $155 Million Brand.

by Ezra Firestone

So, you created some content. Nice!

You spent precious time and resources coming up with content ideas, paying someone to make it for you (or making it yourself), and putting it out into the world to connect with your audience and attract people to your brand.

The problem is that your content isn’t getting enough eyeballs. It’s not driving the level of clicks and engagement you’d hoped for, and now you’re worried that all your hard work is going to waste.

I’ve been there and it hurts, but don’t worry — you’re in the right place.

In this article, you will learn how to use content to grow any brand regardless of its size or business model.

This is the same Social Media Marketing Strategy I used to build a $155 million Shopify store (BOOM! By Cindy Joseph) from the ground up, and it can help make sure your hard work translates into real value for your audience and real dollars for you.

What’s in This Article

Chapter 1

Why “Content Amplification” is the Secret to a Profitable, Sustainable Social Media Marketing Strategy.

In this chapter, you will learn the key to a profitable, sustainable social media marketing strategy.

I’ll explain what “Content Amplification” is, how it compares to organic marketing and traditional paid advertising, and the platform you should use to start leveraging it for your brand.

Chapter 1 Table of Contents

Organic Marketing vs. Content Amplification: What’s the Best Strategy for Growing a Blog?

It doesn’t matter whether creating content is your passion or if you simply use content to promote a product or service.

If you want to get more eyeballs on your content, then you need to:

  • Get new fans to consume your content, and…
  • Get your current fans to consume more of your content. (This one is often ignored, but as you’ll see it’s incredibly important.)

To accomplish these goals, you have two main strategies at your disposal:

1. Organic Marketing: These are all the ways of promoting your content that don’t cost money.

This includes social media posts, search engine optimization, content swaps, stuff like that.

Organic reach across social media platforms.
Source: Ignite Social Media

The obvious advantage of organic marketing is that it’s basically free. The drawbacks are that it takes a long time, it’s hard to reach new people, and surprisingly, it’s even hard to reach your followers.

In the past few years, organic reach has dropped significantly on most social platforms. It’s down to just 2% on Facebook and 9% on Instagram, meaning that even after you go through the trouble of building an audience, the content you post still won’t reach 92–98% of them!

If this is all you’ve done so far, don’t worry. It’s a good place to start.

Organic marketing is something you should absolutely be doing as a long-term investment, but you might not see quick and significant results from this strategy.

2. Content Amplification: This is where you pay an advertising platform — like Facebook, Instagram or YouTube — to show your content to its users.

What’s great about this option is that you can get your content in front of a lot of new people quickly, consistently, and at scale.

You can reach 1,000,000 people this week, 1,000,000 more next week, and on and on for years. (Try accomplishing that with organic marketing!)

Just as importantly, you can use Content Amplification to help make sure all of your followers see your posts. These are the people who have consumed your content on your blog or social media profiles, have visited your website, etc.

These followers are incredibly valuable to your brand, and while you can only reach about 2–8% of them organically, you can amplify your content to reach your entire audience and keep them engaged.

The only drawback of Content Amplification is, of course, that it costs money — but it’s well worth it. As I’m going to explain, content is an essential part of growing any sustainable business, and it can deliver a high ROI on your investment.

 Pros and cons of Organic Marketing vs. Content Amplification.

What is the Difference Between Content Amplification and Traditional Advertising?

Okay, you might be thinking, “Hm, so I can pay to get my message in front of people… That sounds a lot like traditional advertising!”

But there are actually important differences between paid advertising and content amplification, namely:

  • The type of post being promoted
  • The strategy behind it

What is Traditional Advertising?

While both of these strategies use a platform like Facebook to amplify their message, traditional ads promote 1) an offer (i.e., a product or service) or 2) a piece of gated content in exchange for an email address.

Example of a Facebook ad promoting product offer and a piece of gated content

The nature of the interaction with the customer is an exchange — what I have for what you have.

What is Content Amplification?

Content Amplification, on the other hand, is promoting a piece of free content and asking for nothing in return.

But you do get something in return — 4 things, in fact:

1. You drive immediate conversions.

Yes, if you do this correctly, content posts can drive sales or opt-ins even without making an offer. Last year, my brand generated $2.4 million in direct sales from social media alone.

Here’s an example.

This is a Facebook post for a blog article we wrote sharing a successful email campaign:

Example of a Facebook post promoting free content.

And here’s the landing page for that blog article:

Example of how free content can still drive sales.

This page delivers on the promise of free content while also having several calls to action, including a pitch for a relevant offer (our new Email Mentorship), a link to our courses in the header, and an opt-in box to subscribe to our blog.

Everything you post should create interest in your products, even if it’s indirectly.

2. You develop long-term relationships.

I believe that a modern brand is simply an ongoing conversation with a group of people about something that interests them. That’s it.

And while traditional ads do little to develop relationships, by consistently posting content you gain a voice in the conversation and place in people’s lives.

This is how you turn strangers into loyal fans, and it’s how I built an audience of 360K Facebook likes and 700K email subscribers.

3. You set yourself apart from the competition.

The more crowded the marketplace gets, the harder it becomes to offer a product or service that’s truly unique.

Most competitors can match you on price, shipping and features, but if you use content to establish your authority in the marketplace and develop a relationship with your community, that’s something they can’t copy!

4. You can monetize your audience.

While content posts do drive quick conversions, that’s not the main goal of a content marketing strategy.

The big payoff comes after you generate a group of loyal fans when you monetize these warm audiences through promotions, ad space, affiliate offers, etc.

As I will show you later, content is a key part of the marketing strategy I used to grow a $125 million online brand.

Now that we understand the differences between these two strategies, let’s move on to the best platform to use for Content Amplification.

Why is Facebook the Best Platform for Using Content Amplification to Grow Your Brand?

While it may not be the best platform for organic reach, Facebook is still far and away the best tool for using Content Amplification to grow a brand. Why?

1. Facebook has A LOT of users.

In Q3 of 2021, Facebook (now Meta) posted 2.89 billion monthly active users, with
3.5 billion unique users across their 4 core products: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger. Now that’s scale.

So not only are your current fans on there, but an incredible number of potential new engagers are, too.

Meta reaches 3.6 billion people each month.

2. Facebook works for ALL content types.

Different people respond to different content types. Some like to read while others prefer to watch or listen.

Fortunately, Facebook is optimized for just about every type of content, including:

  • Articles (1)
  • Podcasts (2)
  • Long-form Videos (3)
  • Example of Content Amplification with different content types (Article, Podcast, Video).

    Meanwhile, a platform like YouTube specializes in videos but doesn’t work well for static images, while Google is great with static images but doesn’t work well with video.

    3. Facebook has the MOST targeting options.

    What’s the use of having access to 3 billion people if you can’t find the right ones, am I right? It’d be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

    Don’t worry — that’s where targeting comes in.

    Targeting helps you get your posts in front of the people most likely to enjoy them, and no platform has more targeting options than Facebook.

    Facebook collects hundreds, even thousands of data points on its users — including their interests, behavior and demographics:

    Facebook targeting options to use with Content Amplification.

    Or how about this example: if you’re looking for someone to watch your bicycle video, would you rather:

    • Pick a random person out of a crowd and see if they’re interested in bikes?


    • Pick a person who you know owns a bike, buys bike merchandise and watches other bike videos?

    It’s an easy decision.

    And in Part 2 of this article (below), I’m going to show you how to build the Facebook audiences for all your best prospects — including your past buyers, email subscribers, followers on Facebook or Instagram, and anyone Facebook thinks is similar to these people.

    If you’re serious about getting more people to consume your content so you can reap the rewards of all your hard work, then keep reading!

    Chapter 2

    Using Facebook for Content Amplification: How to Get Posts in Front of Your Buyers, Subscribers, Fans & Ideal Prospects

    Now that we understand the fundamentals of Content Amplification, let’s dig into the process of actually amplifying your content.

    In Chapter 2, you will learn how to get your content in front of the people who are most valuable to your business, including how to set up the 7 most important audiences inside of Facebook’s Ads Manager.

    Chapter 2: Table of Contents

    How to Get Started With Facebook Custom Audiences

    One of the reasons Facebook is the perfect tool for Content Amplification is because it has 2.89 billion users, with hundreds of data points on just about every one of them!

    The trick is finding the right users to consume your content. To do that, we’re going to use Custom Audiences.

    What is a Custom Audience?

    A Custom Audience is “an ad targeting option that lets you find your existing audiences among people who are on Facebook.”

    How to Create a Custom Audience

    No matter what kind of Custom Audience you’re creating, the first three steps will be the same.

    • Step 1 – Within Facebook’s Ads Manager, click the “All Tools” hamburger menu in the top-left corner:

    Finding the "All Tools" menu in Facebook Ads Manager.

    • Step 2 – Click on Audiences:

    Finding "Audiences" in Facebook Ads Manager.

    • Step 3 – Click Create Audience and choose Custom Audience.

    Finding "Custom Audiences" in Facebook Ads Manager.

    From here you will be prompted to choose an Audience Source, which will change depending on the type of Custom Audience you want to create.

    The first source we’ll look at is Facebook.

    (You can read more about the advanced options for Custom Audiences here.)

    TIP Don’t “Boost” your posts.

    You’ve probably seen Facebook’s “Boost” button on your posts, inviting you to pay to get your content in front of a wider audience. While this seems like a convenient option, it will actually ruin your content marketing strategy.
    Build your audiences instead. This gives you more control over budgeting, segmentation and scale, and it will be helpful later when you want to monetize.

    Read more about why you shouldn’t use the “Boost” button in my blog post.

    How to Create Audiences of Facebook & Instagram Fans

    As I said in Part 1, organic reach is way down on social platforms.

    Your social fans and engagers are people who have already expressed interest in your brand, so it’s important that you use Custom Audiences to get your content in front of as many of them as possible.

    Audience #1 | Facebook Page Engagers

    Facebook Page Engagers are “people who have visited your Page or taken an action on a post or ad, such as reactions, shares, comments, link clicks or carousel swipes.”

    Here’s how to build an audience of Facebook Page Engagers:

    • Step 1 – Choose a Custom Audience Source

      In the “Choose a Custom Audience Source” pop-up, select Facebook Page and click Next.

    Choosing a "Custom Audience Source" in Facebook Ads Manager.

    • Step 2 – Select Facebook Fan Page

      From here, select the fan page that you want to create the audience for (in this example, the page is BOOM by Cindy Joseph).

    Selecting a Facebook Fan Page to create a custom audience for in Facebook Ads Manager.

    • Step 3 – Choose Event(s)

      “Events” are the actions that define the audience segment. For this audience, choose Everyone who engaged with your Page.

    Choosing "Events" that define your audience segment in Facebook Ads Manager.

    • Set Retention Window

      This is the time window in which Facebook will look at these events.

      I like to do 90 days but you can go higher, especially if you have a smaller audience. This means that anyone who engaged with your Facebook Fan Page in the last 90 days will be included in this audience.

    Setting a retention window for your custom audience events in Facebook Ads Manager.

  • Name and Create Audience

    Once you have your segments and engagement duration set, give your Audience a name that is easily recognizable. I like to follow the formula [Traffic Source] + [Segment Type] + [Retention Window].

    For this audience, the name would be FB Page Engagers 90 Days (I accidentally left out “FB” in the image).

    Once you’ve named it, click Create Audience.

  • Let the audience populate.

    Before you start running ads to this audience, wait for the audience to populate. You’ll know the audience is ready when the “Populating” text disappears — this usually takes a couple hours.

Letting the new audience audience populate in Facebook Ads Manager.

Message about audience populating in Facebook Ads Manager.

Audience #2 | Facebook Fans

Facebook Fans are “people who currently like or follow your Page on Facebook. People who unlike or unfollow your Page will be removed from this audience.”

To create this audience, use the same process as above, except:

  • For your Event, choose People who currently like or follow your Page.

Choosing "Events" for your Facebook Fans custom audience in Facebook Ads Manager.

  • Name the audience something like FB Fans. (There is no retention window, because they are either Fans of your page or they aren’t.)

Creating audience name for your Facebook Fans custom audience in Facebook Ads Manager.

Audience #3 | Instagram Account Engagers

Instagram Account Engagers are “people who took an action on this post or ad, such as likes, comments, saves, carousel swipes, button taps or shares.” This will also include people who follow you.

To create this audience, follow the same process as the previous 2, except:

  • As your Audience Source, choose Instagram account.

  • As your Event, choose “Everyone who engaged with this professional account”.

Choosing "Everyone who has engaged with this professional account" as your Event for your custom audience in Facebook Ads Manager.

  • Name your audience something like, “Insta Engagers 90 Days”.

Okay, so now we have audiences for Facebook Page Engagers, Facebook Fans and Instagram Page Engagers.

This is the pillar of people in our social orbit, and these 3 audiences will make up 1 ad set in our Page Post Engagement Campaign. (We will get more into campaign structure in Part 3.)

Our next step is to create audiences of our email subscribers and buyers.

Creating Audiences for Email Subscribers & Buyers

While email has higher organic reach than social, you still face issues with deliverability, the dreaded spam folder, and new complications due to iOS 15 — not to mention the likelihood that your content gets lost in the 160+ emails people receive each day!

That’s why we want to import our email subscribers into Facebook so we can communicate with them everywhere they hang out, not just on a single channel.

Audience #4 | Email Subscribers

How to Create an Email Audience Using Your CRM’s Facebook Advertising Integration (Recommended)

Most CRMs these days include an option to dynamically sync your email list over to Facebook. This is a real time saver.

To find instructions on how to do this with your CRM, I suggest Googling “[Your CRM name] Facebook Audience Integration”. One of the first hits should be a help article showing you how to do it.

After you sync your email list with Facebook, you will end up with an audience that looks like this:

How to Create an Email Audience Manually (Not Recommended)

If for some reason your CRM does not have an auto-sync option with Facebook, then you need to build your audience manually. Here’s how.

  • Create a Custom Audience.
  • As the Audience Source, select Customer list.

Selecting "Customer list" as audience source for a custom audience in Facebook Ads Manager.

  • Prepare Your Customer List

Next, you need to import your email list into Facebook. They give you a few different ways of doing that:

Preparing your customer list to import in Facebook Ads Manager.

If you have Mailchimp you can import your list directly from this screen. If not, click Download File Template and fill out the template with the data from your CRM.

  • Select a list type.

On the next page, it will ask you if your list includes a column for “Value”, meaning a number assigned to each subscriber based on their value to your business. If you’re a marketing ninja, maybe your list has this. Otherwise just select “No”.

Indicating whether your customer list includes a "Value" column in Facebook Ads Manager.

  • Add your customer list.

Update the template you filled out with your email subscriber data.

Adding your customer list using a template in Facebook Ads Manager.

  • Name and Create your audience.

Name your new audience something like, “All Subscribers [DATE]”.

Creating and naming your "All Subscribers" custom audience in Facebook Ads Manager.

TIP Be sure to manually update these Audiences at least once a month.

If you are manually creating these email subscriber and buyer audiences, be aware that new people will not be added to these segments automatically as would be the case with a dynamic sync.

So make sure to manually update these audiences at least once a month, and to include the current date at the end of the Audience name (in this example, “9/1/21”) so you don’t forget the last time you did it.

Audience #5 | Buyers

Now, follow the same process you used to sync your email list to sync your customer list.

  • I include buyers in the last 2 years. If they haven’t bought from me in the last 2 years and haven’t ended up on one of my other Custom Audiences, then they’re probably no longer relevant to my brand.
  • Name your audience “Buyers [DATE]”.

So now you have audiences for your Facebook page engagers, Facebook fans, Instagram page engagers, email subscribers, and buyers.

Next, we’re going to pivot away from Custom Audiences to a different type of Facebook audience called Lookalikes.

TIP “Does email syncing comply with GDPR?”

The short answer is yes it does. As long as they subscribed to your list, you’re good to go.

Learn more about GDPR compliance in this episode of The Smart Marketer Podcast.

Creating Lookalike & Super Lookalike Audiences

So far in this article, we’ve focused on finding people who already know about and interact with our brands — i.e., warm audiences.

But Lookalikes and Super Lookalikes allow us to target cold audiences so we can grow the number of people who consume our content.

That’s the beauty of Content Amplification: it works in both top-of-funnel and middle-of-funnel campaigns, ensuring that your content is being leveraged throughout the customer journey.

Audience #6 | Lookalike

Lookalike Audiences are “a way your ads can reach new people who are likely to be interested in your business because they share similar characteristics to your existing customers.”

Facebook is essentially using what they know about people who like your brand to find other people who are similar to them (because hopefully they like your brand, too!).

Here’s how to create this audience.

  • Choose an audience to create a Lookalike from.

And make sure the audience is finished populating before trying to create a Lookalike.

  • Click Create Lookalike.

Creating a lookalike audience in Facebook Ads Manager.

  • Select Country

Choose the country that you want to create the Lookalike in.

Choosing the audience location for your lookalike audience in Facebook Ads Manager.

  • Select Audience Size

We’re going to create what’s called a 1% lookalike. You can do up to 10%, but 1% will be the people that look the most similar to your buyers.

Now, Facebook is going to look at all the people who bought from you in the last two years and it’s going to find the 1% of people who share the most data points with them.

Selecting the audience size for your lookalike audience in Facebook Ads Manager.

  • Click Create Audience.

Creating a lookalike audience in Facebook Ads Manager.

Audience #7 | Super Lookalikes (Advanced)

A Super Lookalike audience is a collection of different Lookalikes that you target in a single ad set.

So instead of increasing the percentage of your Lookalike (say from 1% to 5%) and thereby lowering the quality of the audience, you can simply make several Lookalikes of all of your best segments.

That way, you get more people to market to while still ensuring they’re the best prospects Facebook has to offer.

Here’s how to create this audience.

  • Create several Lookalikes

Use the process above to make Lookalike audiences for your best customer segments.

In my case, I did a Lookalike of buyers in the last 90 days, of buyers who have a high average order value, of buyers from Facebook, etc.

A list of different customer segments you can use to create lookalike audiences in Facebook Ads Manager.

  • Combine in a single ad set

Make sure all of your Lookalikes are in the same ad set. You can name this ad set “Super LL 1%”. (We will get more into campaign structure in Part 3.)

TIP Exclude Buyers & Subscribers from your Lookalike Audiences

When amplifying content, you want separate ad sets for your Lookalikes and your Buyers/Subscribers. I’ll get more into ad sets in the next part of this series, but for now just make a mental note.

To review, in this article we created Facebook audiences for:

  • Facebook Page Engagers
  • Facebook Fans
  • Instagram Page Engagers
  • Email Subscribers
  • Customers
  • Lookalikes
  • Super Lookalikes

Good job!

Now that you have your audiences set up, you’re ready to create the actual campaigns that you will use to amplify your content.

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