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A few days before Christmas Below7 was featured in an article in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. The online version appeared in traveller.com.au, which is where all online Travel related articles in these major papers seem to end up being published. The article followed a brief interview I had with a journalist about lightweight travel, its benefits and why people might consider packing below 7kgs for their next adventure. This topic obviously stoked interest in people. On the day that it was published website views hit an all time high of 6,850. This is a pretty impressive result for a new and unknown website. It means that the viewer would have had to read the physical newspaper on that day, find the article, actually read the article and then put down the paper to visit the website (or google below7).

Comparing online to offline

This 6,850 views was obviously followed by a drop in views the following day but the tail off from the article lasted a few more weeks. In total the article generated about 15,000 visits from potential customers to the website over a 3 week period. This is roughly double what we managed to generate via a paid Facebook marketing campaign during in September and October. Interestingly the conversions from views to sales was substantially greater for visitors coming from the offline newspaper article. Possibly this is because papers like The Sydney Morning Herald are a more trusted source than a random ad that appears in a Facebook feed. Or because people who have taken the time to read an article about lightweight travel are more invested in the idea, aware of the benefits and are therefore in a more informed position to make a purchase decision.

The uncomfortable problem with Facebook Advertising

Either way this experiment has confirmed for me a nagging concern I had about Social Media advertising. Like many IT people I’ve become increasingly worried about the data platforms like Google and Facebook are collecting on their users, and how they are selling this data to target and manipulate those same users. By advertising on these platforms Below7 has been supporting this business model. It simply is contrary to our values of letting go and heading a more unencumbered life. It also doesn’t make financial sense as the cost of advertising is substantially higher than the returns.

No more Facebook Ads

So, I’ll be halting all Facebook advertisings and only use FB/Instagram as a communications platform. We’ll focus on spreading the word of lightweight travel through offline channels, such as newspaper articles, airline magazines, meetup groups and retail outlets. In the future you’ll see more of Below7 in the real world, and less in the artificial world of your Facebook feed.