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The following is a guest post by Dave Rigotti who has participated in nine Startup Weekend events and is the cofounder of ApproveForMe, an easy way to create, track, and manage document approvals.

Startup Weekend is a fantastic way to meet great people, practice or learn something new, and break out of a day job and be scrappy. However, building a company and product from scratch in a weekend is no small feat.

If you’ve never done a StartupWeekend before, one of the key judging criteria is the business plan, in particular the opportunity. Sometimes figuring this out in a weekend with some degree of confidence can be difficult, especially if the team isn’t familiar with the audience. That’s where Facebook ads comes in handy, at least for consumer-oriented projects.

Looking at Facebook ads

Using Facebook Ads, it’s really easy to estimate your market opportunity, especially given that Facebook now has over 1.1 billion users with high penetration in the U.S.

One of the great things about Facebook ads is that it’ll tell you the number of people who match your targeting criteria. Let’s say you’re developing a mobile app for 20-something males in the U.S. who use an iPhone (4 or higher):

In two minutes, you now know the market size is at least 9 million people. And with Facebook partner categories, you can get even more specific in your targeting and look at 20-something males in the U.S. who use an iPhone (4 or higher) who are in the market for buying a car. Talk about granularity.

Putting Facebook ads to good use

You go even further by running a test with Facebook ads on a pre-launch landing page to gain insights like:

  1. Hone the target audience by running tests and looking at who converted the highest.

  2. Understand costs by looking at costs per signups.

  3. Test messaging by looking at which ads had the best CTR and conversion.

Looking at costs

In my experience in running Facebook ads, start with the low end of the suggest bid Facebook provides. If your budget is a few thousand dollars or less per month and the audience is large enough, you should be able to stay within 20% of the lowest suggested bid amount or you could have Facebook automatically adjust the bid. Keep checking it often – daily if possible – to make optimizations, control your spending, and run new tests.

Claire Topalian Claire Topalian
(@clairetopalian) Blog, Professional Writing, Communications and PR Specialist. I craft compelling, mission-driven content for companies and individuals that amplifies brand awareness, fosters community, and drives engagement. My experience includes work with tech startups, major corporations, and international non-profits. @clairetopalian