How to find your long lost rave buddy using Facebook ads

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When your best friend comes to town and you dress up as a squid and an octopus for Halloween, you know that’s going to be special. And when you and your saltwater buddy have their tentacles held by Dan, who you met that night, and you improvise a friendship rap together, you know lifelong bonds have been formed.

This is the situation my best friend and I found ourselves in while attending Howl 2014, an annual Halloween rave at Branx/Rotture in Portland, Oregon.

Here’s how I found Dan with less than $3 in Facebook ads.

How we met Dan

Find Dan Howl 2014 Portland

Like at most parties, we found ourselves seeing the same faces over and over all night. One of those faces was Dan’s – he was dressed as some sort of golden-haired viking lady. He was the jolliest man ever and we quickly became friends after he held our tentacles while we all created an impromptu friendship rap.

Once the party was over and it was time to leave, we realized there was no way to get in touch, and all he had was this picture to remind us of our new friend.

That’s when I got an idea

How do you find someone you met one night in a city when you know only their first name and have a grainy photo of them?

One option is to search Facebook for every male in Portland named Dan or Daniel, but I tried that and it didn’t work.

I thought about how it’d be effective to post “Have you seen my friend?” flyers around the city to begin a “lost cat” style search, but it would be haphazard, time-consuming, and expensive. Assuming we actually did find Dan after decorating the city in “lost cat” flyers, I’m afraid he’d be too creeped out to even let us know. Then I realized I could marry the power of social connectivity and Facebook advertising.

The first step was to create the Find Dan Facebook Page, because unless your ad is tied to a Facebook Page, then you’re stuck advertising on the right sidebar where users have no way to engage with it. We needed a sponsored post that would be displayed in the news feed.

ads manager facebookNext I created an ad and choose targeting options. There were no good ways to narrow down the target audience to just people who went to Howl (unless I had their email registration list) because the number of people on their Page isn’t sufficient to qualify for targeting. It became clear that any heavy duty targeting may overly limit my audience, so I left it broad and relied on the power of social connectivity to bring in results.

Here’s what I specified:

  • 25-34 year olds (gleaned from Howl’s Facebook Page)
  • People living in Portland, Oregon (removed the +25 mile range)
  • English speakers

Knowing that Howl is the largest Halloween party each year in Portland, I called upon those who saw my ad and had attended to share it on their own personal Facebook walls to create a homing torpedo of virality. Therefore, I chose “Post Engagement” as my campaign objective. I figured if enough attendees saw the post, then eventually one would know him and the search would be over.

Here’s the ad I posted on November 4th:

find dan facebook ad

Complete strangers started sharing it immediately. Others publicly ridiculed my gross misuse of spare funds, and suggested that I instead donate the money or even pay them to find Dan.

While there was unforeseen negativity, it was light enough and most people found it funny or weird, either of which is fine with me. The important part to remember is that the post is being shared and my ad dollars are being stretched far (you don’t pay for organic impressions from shares.)