Build Back Your Dance Retail Traffic—With Facebook and Instagram Ads

Social media advertising is a powerful way to attract customers to your dance store. And creating effective ads on Facebook and Instagram is easier than you think.

photo illustration of person at computer keyboard looking at digital ads.
Narrow targeting is what makes Facebook and Instagram ads so powerful. Getty Images

This fall, more than ever, dance retailers need a great back-to-dance season to move our businesses toward recovery in this pandemic economy. We can make that happen by advertising better, smarter and more than ever before.

Email blasts and flyers in the schools can still be effective, but we need to do more to reach potential customers through multiple channels—and especially on their phones, where they live. That’s why it’s time for a robust digital ad campaign.

I’ve already covered how to set up a Google ad campaign and have your ad show up in a search. Now let’s look at how to target potential customers and create top-of-mind awareness using social media ads effectively.

The Best Advertising Platforms

Facebook and Instagram are the top social media sites for narrowly targeting customers and building awareness with ads. Worldwide, 1.9 billion people are on Facebook, and over 500 million are on Instagram every day. 

Facebook (which owns Instagram) allows you to target your ads by interest and demographics. That means you only pay to have your ads seen by real prospects.

This narrow targeting is what makes Facebook and Instagram ads so powerful. And very cost-effective. But with great power comes great complexity. Setting up your ad can be a little intimidating at first. 

It doesn’t need to be. Here, I’ll cover the basic principles of running a successful Facebook/Instagram ad campaign with confidence—whether it’s your first campaign or you’ve already run digital ads and are looking to fine-tune and improve this year’s campaign. 

Get Started: Set Up Your Campaign

Your first step is to go to Facebook Ads Manager and set up a campaign. The campaign level is where you set your objective (for instance, clicks to your website). All the ads under that campaign will have the same objective. If you want different ads with different objectives, set up separate campaigns.

When you set an objective, Facebook will show your ad to people who are likely to take the action you want. So if you want people to engage with your post, choose “engagement” as the objective, and Facebook’s algorithm will show your ad to people who engage with posts.

Setting the right objective is critical. With the wrong objective, Facebook will show your ads to the wrong people, and you will be wasting your money. 

What objective should you choose for your back-to-dance campaign? I recommend focusing on the Awareness-Reach or Consideration-Traffic objectives. The Awareness-Reach objective will get your ad in front of as many people as possible that matches the target audience you define (including demographics and location). This objective will build brand awareness of your store because it will be shown to as many people as possible. 

On the other hand, if you have a solid website or a landing page featuring your fall flyer (and you should), the Consideration-Traffic objective may be your best bet. With this objective, Facebook will show your ad to people who are likely to click through to websites. This objective is a great way to drive customers to your website to learn more about your store. 

The Conversion objectives are good if you want to generate sales from your website or your Facebook catalog. But I think our goal should be to drive customers to our stores, where we can impress them with our service—and get the add-on sales.

However, I don’t recommend the Store Traffic objective for dancewear stores. First of all, it requires that you have multiple locations. Secondly, it serves up the ads based on proximity to the store, not demographics. That would make sense if we sold T-shirts. But we cater to such a narrow market that advertising to people just because they are nearby isn’t cost-effective.

Step 2: Create Your Ad Sets

Once you’ve set your objective, the next step is to create your ad sets. You can have up to 50 ads in an ad set. I wouldn’t advise that many, but do run enough different ads under an ad set to see which one performs better.

For each ad set, you will define your target audience, budget and placement. You decide who will see your ad, where they will see it (Instagram, Facebook and/or audience network), and how much you want to pay for them to see it. The audience network option will feed your ad to mobile apps connected to Facebook.  

If you have different types of customers, you should create a separate ad set for each one. (Use these tips to define your customer types.) For example, you could have an ad set for young parents with kids just starting ballet and show it on Facebook. Another could be for advanced teen dancers, and you’d only show it on Instagram. Just remember to name the ad set with its characteristics so you can tell them apart.

What audiences should you target? To start, I would make an audience of your existing customers. You create this audience by uploading a file of their emails. If you can refine your list by customer type, then create different audiences for each type (pointe customers, young dancers, etc.). Your best prospects will always be the people who have already shopped with you. Make sure they see your ads, so they keep shopping with you. 

After this, create other audiences. Think of your different customer types and create an audience that matches each one. You should define their location, gender, age and language. Then refine your audience further with behaviors, interests and demographics. 

I would be sure to create an audience of parents of preschool and early-school–age children (find it under “behaviors”). These are the parents about to start their kids in dance. They’re lost. Let them know where they can get help purchasing the right dancewear, and they could be a customer for a very long time.

Another powerful audience to create is people who have been to your website but haven’t purchased yet. Install the Facebook pixel on your website and retarget these web visitors with Facebook ads.

Step 3: Design Your Ads 

The best type of social media ads for independent retailers are image, video and carousel ads.

Image ads are the easiest to create. Make sure you use a compelling, high-quality image that shows not just the product but a dancer using the product.

Video ads can grab the viewer’s attention. Try this format if you have a great video—one that quickly engages the viewer’s attention and shows how they’ll feel using your product. Think happy kids in their tutus or the ritual of putting on pointe shoes. You can also create a video from still photos with an easy-to-use program like Animoto.     

Carousel ads are an excellent option for dancewear stores. They allow you to feature up to 10 photos or videos to tell a story or use different images of a product. For example, if you were targeting parents of young kids, you could create a carousel ad of everything included in your “baby beginner” package. (All worn by cute kids, of course.)

Each image in a carousel ad has its own copy and separate link, so you can tell quite a story and drive the customer to different parts of your website.

Step 4: Set Your Budget and You’re Done

After you’ve created your ads, decide how much you want to spend and submit your ads for approval. I would start all your ads with a small budget several weeks before the rush. Plan on spending $1 to $4 a day. We are lucky that the back-to-school season is a pretty tight window. So running a lot of ads for a short while won’t cost you that much. 

Be sure to monitor which ads or audiences are getting the best response. Then you can put more dollars into those ads and shut down or lower the budget on the others. (Note that Facebook will optimize the budget for each ad set for you if you turn on “budget optimization” at the campaign level. I would not recommend turning it on, however—you want to be able to control the budget for each ad set based on your priorities.)

Final Thoughts

Make sure that each of your ads has a compelling headline that grabs attention. And copy that makes readers want to shop with you. (For tips, see “How to Craft a Winning Marketing Message.”) Remember that different ads target different audiences, so make sure your copy is speaking specifically to each audience and addressing their needs. Finally, don’t forget to use call-to-action buttons.

Bottom line: This is the year to try Facebook and Instagram campaigns. They’re easy to set up. They’re powerful. And they will help you build back your customer base.

Gilbert Russell is president of Brio Bodywear, which has two brick-and-mortar dancewear stores in Ottawa, Canada. Through his consulting firm, No Qualms Retail, he shares his experience and knowledge with other independent retailers.