Let’s go about them one by one:
- Create a Facebook ads account
It turns out every Facebook account already comes with the ability to run ads. You’ll need to setup billing and familiarize yourself with the ads system. Here’s some resources to do exactly that:
- Facebook’s help portal for ads. It’s probably worth going through the beginners guides.
- A guide to Facebook ads from Buffer.
- If you feel more comfortable getting an intro on YouTube, maybe have a look at this.
If you have a family member or friend who knows Facebook ads, that would probably be the way to go: just ask them to help you with this.
2. Gather all the information you need
We suggest to have the following info ready for setting up the ad in the next step:
- Missing person’s name, height, age, look.
- Description of the circumstances, place and time under which they went missing.
- Picture of the missing person, preferably two.
- Location where a search makes sense; where they can reasonably excepted to be, considering means of transport and such.
- Police contact and telephone number that can be published — where people are expected to call, when they see your missing loved one.
- Links to media articles about the case (if they exist).
3. Create the ad campaign
The links in step 1 cover how to create an actual ad campaign as well. Have a look at them and we will discuss what is important for our purposes in the following.
We’d recommend to do a campaign optimized for reach, which means your missing person alert will be shown to a maximum number of people — under your budget constraint. Awareness could also be chosen, the difference being that here just the impressions count, not necessarily the amount of people reached.
You will have to chose a page your ad will be associated with, in the next step. The Facebook ad manager allows you to create a page right in the ad creation process. We would suggest you either name the page something like “Missing Person in [area]: [name of the person]” or just something generic like “Missing Person Alert.” It’s important to try to draw peoples’ attention. Mentioning the place of the search area, such as a city or region, seems beneficial, as people will recognize it as being their area.
Next comes one of the most important steps: targeting the area/region you want to show your missing person ad in. In the audience selection you can choose any geographic region or place, like a city or town, and then give a radius around that place to be included. It will look something like this:
You can add multiple places or greater regions (counties, states, etc.) as well. On the right hand side of the picture you can see the potential reach and the estimated daily reach, which are important measures to gauge your campaign with. The estimated daily reach will depend on the budget you choose for your campaign — which brings us to the next point:
You will have to decide how much you want to spend on the ads. It will certainly depend on your budget. We would suggest around 50–200 USD daily, but it’s tough to give general advice here.
Age and gender targeting we would keep as broad as possible. Let’s get to the actual design of the ad now:
You want to draw attention to your ad. You can start your ad out with something like: “Have you seen this person?” or “Missing person in [area]” Then you should go on to describe what is important for the general public to know — some of the info we have gathered in the previous step: name, age, height, look, what they were wearing, circumstances, the area they might be in, and also info such as if they have mental problems and who to call (probably police incl. a (emergency) number) if they see them. You also want to ad a call to action like: “Please share in the [area]”
It probably makes sense to add two pictures to your ad — maybe one portrait and one full body shot, if you have. If media already reported about the case, it might make sense to link to it in the ad, as people are more engaged with media stories and hopefully can find more info on the media link about the case.
Here’s how such a post could look like:
Your ad is then good to go, and you should publish it as timely as possible. One last suggestion here, you might want to use a more traditional missing person poster layout (big red “MISSING” on top) for your picture that gives a bunch of information about the person in the poster, including their pictures. It is not clear weather this should be done, as Facebook usually penalizes ads with text in the picture. They might be more lenient in a missing person case though, if you request a manual approval for the picture.
4. Run the ad campaign
OK, most of the work — creating the ad — is done now. Running the campaign, it’s important to keep an eye on the costs — depending on what you want to spend. Secondly, it’s important to keep an eye on the ad itself. You can ask friends and family to do so as well by sending them a link to it and asking them to turn on notifications for it like so:
Keeping an eye on the ad is important as people might comment valuable information. If they do, it’s often important to try to establish contact to them. Since they are already on Facebook, it’s worth trying it right there: either through replying to their comments or by trying to directly message them (maybe it’s necessary to send a friend request on Facebook first). Don’t forget to pass on new information to the officials (police, search parties).
A last remark here: it might become necessary to adjust the campaign as new information arrives — such as possible sightings, where you might want to focus the ad delivery to new or more specified areas.
5. Cancel the ad campaign when your missing loved one is found
This is the last and hopefully quick-to-come step. Don’t forget: most missing person cases are resolved within the first week and and an even greater percentage within the first month. Don’t give up hope and do what you can to help the search.