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There are many things I love about Facebook advertising, but one stands out in particular. It works.
That doesn’t mean you can start, with no experience, and get great results. In fact, there are many advertisers -- from small businesses to international brands -- wasting money. Avalanches of it.
How do I know this? Because I’ve worked with a lot of them and it isn’t pretty. But if you take a little time to understand the key components of Facebook advertising, you’ll start creating better campaigns immediately. So I decided to write a guide to help you do just that.
Now, I’m not the first person to write a Facebook ads guide. Far from it. But there’s something missing from the others. They cover generic features, benefits and stats but don’t align them with strategies and experiences. That’s what I’m aiming to do here. The whole caboodle.
Forewarning -- it’s a long read. So use the contents below to jump to each section, bookmark this page for later and share with anyone you think will find it useful.
And enjoy, I guess.
1. Why Advertise On Facebook?
Why should you advertise on the platform? Because with a reach of over 2 billion on Facebook, 800 million on Instagram, 1.3 billion on Messenger and 1.5 billion on WhatsApp -- it’s where your customers are.
But you already know this, don’t you? That’s why you’re reading this guide. So I’ll stop regurgitating generic stats and tell you why I think you should advertise on Facebook.
- Depth of Targeting: Facebook’s data is mindblowing. It dwarfs anything available on other social networks. The only way you can get close through display advertising is by incorporating a DMP (Data Management Platform), which comes at an extra cost. In addition to data gathered by people’s usage of its site and apps, Facebook also incorporates DMP data in some regions. Quite simply, the range of targeting options at your disposal and ease of using them is currently unrivaled in digital advertising.
- Flexibility of Ad Formats: There are many ad styles on Facebook. From simple image ads, to videos, to canvases, to lead forms, to dynamic ecommerce carousels. The variety of formats you can use gives a flexibility to engage audiences that you don’t get via other paid digital media. And they’re all simple to create.
- Ease of Optimization and Management: On Facebook you create targeting groups -- comprised of many targeting options -- and optimize them as groups. On AdWords, you create ad groups -- comprised of multiple keywords -- and optimize each keyword individually. The manual management required by Facebook is paltry in comparison to AdWords. The Facebook Ads Manager is also easy to use in comparison to platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn, both for campaign creation and management.
- Cross-Device Accuracy: As people are only targeted if they are logged into Facebook, the cross-device and cross-app targeting accuracy is great. This is the same for all social networks that work on a login ID basis. But others don’t have the reach of Facebook.
- Full-Funnel Flexibility: The range of campaign objectives, ad formats and audience targeting options mean that you can use Facebook ads across the entire customer journey. This doesn’t mean you should throw search advertising or display retargeting out of the window. But you shouldn’t discount Facebook’s impact across the entire funnel. It’s especially effective when syncing messaging and audiences with other channels throughout your customer journey.
- Performance: Display advertising CTRs (Click Through Rates) are lousy (averaging just 0.05% across all formats). Facebook’s however, are not. Create engaging content on Facebook and people will engage with it. And with the advance of chatbots you can use Messenger as an alternative to email. When it comes to open rates and CTRs, Messenger trounces email.
- Development: Facebook is constantly developing its platform. From introducing new ad formats and objectives to optimizations and analytics, there’s always something to experiment with. If you wondered why -- in the first section -- I included WhatsApp’s user numbers when you can’t advertise on it yet, it’s because it’s already being tested as an ad destination.
2. How Facebook Ads Works
Before we get started I think it’s useful to understand how Facebook advertising works. This isn’t vital or need-to-know. But it will help when it comes to grasping how the different types of bidding, budgeting and optimization affect your campaign. Here goes.
Facebook advertising -- like many other forms of programmatic -- works as a blind auction. This means you’re bidding in real-time against your competitors to win an ad slot. How does Facebook decide which ad wins? Basically, whichever it thinks will generate it the most revenue.
Which ads generate Facebook the most revenue? The best performing ones, of course. I’ll get into more detail about how your bids, budgets and optimizations affect this in later sections, but here’s what you need to know.
Every component of your Facebook campaign will impact your chance of winning an auction slot.
You need to select the right campaign objective, use the right ad formats, target the right audiences, set the right bids and optimize like a pro. If you don’t, your campaign won’t perform. If your campaign doesn’t perform, you’ll start paying more to win the auction. And you don’t want that.
3. Getting Started With Facebook Ads
To run an actual Facebook campaign there are only a couple of things you need -- a Facebook Page and a Facebook ad account.
But there are a lot of other tools at your disposal that you should consider. These tools can help you both create and run better campaigns as well as assist with the admin side of managing your accounts.
In this section I’ll run through what you need.
Every ad you run on Facebook connects a Facebook Page. So you need one to advertise with. The page you use must have at least 50 likes and you must have back-end access to be able to associate your ads with it.
Below is an Facebook mobile feed ad associated with the Save the Children US Facebook Page. The page name and profile picture are automatically pulled in to the ad.
Facebook Ad Account
Your campaigns link to and are billed through a Facebook Ad Account. Everyone has their own personal ad account automatically, but you need to set up one for your business -- or be given access to an existing one -- if you want to associate your campaigns with a business account. In order to set one up, you need to use Business Manager.
The Facebook Business Manager is a management portal developed by Facebook. It’s great for many of reasons:
- You can manage multiple Facebook Pages, ad accounts, pixels and more from one place. You don’t need to have created these accounts or pages, the managers of those can just grant you access.
- You can invite people to access your Business Manager and you don’t need to be connected to them on Facebook. Once they’re part of your Business Manager you can grant them a variety of permissions to every ad account or page you have access to. You can also revoke access whenever needed.
- Your Business Manager login details don’t need to be the same as your Facebook login details. But you can still access it through your personal Facebook account. This enables you to keep your personal life and work separate, while using one Facebook account.
I recommend setting up a Business Manager account. For brands, it gives the flexibility to manage many users (internal or external). For agencies or freelancers, it enables accessing multiple client pages and ad accounts in one place:
Here’s more information on how to set up your Business Manager.
If you plan on creating a campaign that leads people to your website or you want to target people who have visited your website, then you need the Facebook pixel. It’s a little snippet of code that goes on every page of your website. It will track anyone who visits your website if they’re logged into Facebook.
This gives you the superpowers that you need to:
- Build audiences of website visitors to retarget or exclude from your advertising. You can do this based on specific pages they visit or actions they take, such as if they begin a checkout procedure but don’t complete it.
- Create and track specific conversions that take place on your website, such as someone filling out a form or purchasing a product. You can then attribute that conversion to individual ads and audiences you targeted during your campaign.
- Optimize your ads towards the conversions you’ve created. Facebook will learn what type of people are most likely to complete your desired conversion (such as a website purchase) and target your ads towards these people.
These are all things you should want to do. So install the Facebook Pixel. Here’s a quick guide on how to do that.
If you’re running a campaign that leads people to a mobile app then you need to get your developer to install a Mobile SDK (software development kit). You also need to register your app with Facebook to associate it with the correct app store. Similarly to the Facebook Pixel for websites, the Mobile SDK will track all users, downloads and actions on your app. This will allow you to:
- Build audiences of app users based on how they use your app, such as specific actions they take within your app. You can retarget or exclude them from your campaign based on how they use your app.
- Create and track downloads of your app as well as specific actions that take place within it. This will allow you to understand and target engaged users of your app.
- Optimize your ads towards app downloads or specific app engagements. Facebook will learn what type of people are most likely to download your app and target your ads towards these people.
You’ll need to get your app developer to install the Mobile SDK, here’s more info on how to do that.
If you have a physical store and want to see how your Facebook ads drive footfall that result in purchases, then Offline Events are for you. Setting them up involves uploading your purchase data to Facebook -- either manually, via API or partner integration -- which is then mapped to your campaign data. You need to keep this data up to date to ensure you’re reporting correctly, which is why it’s worth automating this. Offline Events will allow you to:
- Build audiences of people who have purchased items at your physical store.
- Track purchases that take place in your physical store and attribute those purchases to individual ads and audiences.
- Optimize your ads towards the Offline Events you’ve created. Facebook will learn what type of people are most likely to purchase at your store and target your ads towards these people.
You need to have Business Manager set up to use Offline Events, find out more info on how to set them up here.
That’s right. Before you get started, you need a strategy.
This may sound obvious, but I’ve encountered many advertisers who don’t seem to realize it -- so I’ll just say it. You can’t upload a couple of images, add a catchy headline, target your Facebook fans and expect great results.
Facebook ads won’t perform miracles if they’re not part of a marketing strategy. If you don’t have a coherent narrative your target audience will have a disjointed experience.
Before you do anything, think about how your campaign will fit into your wider marketing strategy. What is your goal? How will you measure success? Who will you target? What action do you expect them to take? Where does this fit into your customer journey? Is your campaign aligned with your other marketing efforts? What results do you expect? What steps do you take after this campaign?
4. Creating Facebook Campaigns
Facebook Ads Manager
The Facebook Ads Manager is where you create and manage your campaigns. This is what the homepage of your account will look like.
All of the tools talked about in the last section and the rest of this guide can be found from the Ads Manager main menu.
I’ll get into more detail on the interfaces you’ll encounter when creating and analyzing your campaigns in later sections. To start creating your campaign, just click the green Create button.
Campaign Creation Flow
When creating your campaign you’ll be guided through three stages, during which you select your objective, set all elements associated with your ad set and create your ads. The stages will differ slightly depending on your campaign objective. Below is the flow for a Traffic campaign.
Once you’ve completed each stage you’ll see a tick next to it.
In the next four sections I’ll run through the key elements of selecting an objective, audience targeting, creating ads and setting bids and budgets.
5. Selecting Facebook Campaign Objectives
When you start creating a new campaign you’re asked what your objective is. These are separated into two categories; Auction and Reach and Frequency.
Auction objectives enable you to spend as little or as much as you like with few restrictions and a lot of flexibility with how you optimize your ads. This is most likely what you need. If you’re just getting started or looking to drive actions such as purchases, app downloads, website visits or video views -- then it’s definitely what you need.
Reach and Frequency objectives enable you to pay a fixed price (CPM) for a guaranteed audience reach. It’s similar to buying ad slots on broadcast media. This method of running Facebook ads is generally reserved for big brands and has minimum requirements, such as needing to reach an audience of at least 200,000 and only targeting location at the country level.
Here’s how your objective selection will affect your campaign:
- Your optimization goal will change depending on your objective. For example, you can optimize a Traffic campaign impressions or link clicks, but not website conversions. (You need to use the Conversion objective for this.) What does this mean? Facebook will try to show your ad to someone who is most likely to complete the optimization you have selected, for the lowest cost.
- How you’re charged will differ between objectives. If you’re running a Traffic or App Install campaign you can select to be charged for each Link Click or App Install. A Conversion campaign however, can only be charged by Impression, which is calculated as CPM (Cost Per Mille) meaning per 1,000 impressions.
- The ads you create look different for various objectives. An Engagement campaign ad aimed at getting Page Likes will look different from a Traffic campaign ad.
- The ad placements you can use differ for various objective. For a mobile app install campaign you won’t be able to use the desktop ad placement. For a Page Like campaign you won’t be able to use Instagram Stories. And so on.
Facebook breaks its objectives into three stages -- Awareness, Consideration and Conversion -- mapping to a typical three-stage marketing funnel. This is a neat way to do it. But you don’t have to stick to their categorizations.
For example, a great way to generate awareness at the top of the funnel is through a Video View campaign. You can then use custom audiences to retarget these people further down your funnel. But Facebook has placed this objective in its Consideration section. So ignore them. Feel free to use the Video View objective and optimize your top of funnel campaign towards people most likely to watch your video.
Below are the optimizations, charge types and ad placements that are available for each auction objective.
|Objective||Optimization||Charge Type||Ad Placement|
|Brand Awareness||Ad Recall Lift (delivered to people most likely to remember seeing your ad)|
Brand Awareness (delivered to people most likely to pay attention to them)
|Reach||Impressions (delivered to people as many times as possible)|
Reach (delivered to the maximum number of people with the ability to add a frequency cap)
Daily Unique Reach (delivered to people up to once a day)
Link Clicks (delivered to people most likely to click your ad)
Landing Page Views (delivered to people most likely to click on your ad and wait for the landing page to load
Daily Unique Reach
Post Engagement (delivered to people most likely to react, share or comment on your post)
|Impression||Facebook mobile feed|
Facebook desktop feed
|Page Likes (delivered to people most likely to like your page)||Impression|
|Facebook mobile feed|
Facebook desktop feed
Daily Unique Reach
Event Responses (delivered to people most likely to be interest in your event)
|Facebook mobile feed|
Facebook desktop feed
|App Installs||Link Clicks|
Video Views (delivered to people most likely to view 10 seconds of your video ad)
App Events (delivered to people most likely to take a specified in-app action)
App Installs (delivered to people most likely to install your app)
|Facebook mobile feed|
|Video Views||Video View||Impression|
10-second video view
|Facebook mobile feed|
Facebook desktop feed
|Lead Generation||Leads (delivered to people most likely to fill out your lead form)||Impression||Facebook mobile feed|
Facebook desktop feed
|Messages||Replies (people most likely to have a conversation with you through messenger)||Impression||Facebook mobile feed|
Facebook desktop feed
Daily Unique Reach
Landing Page Views
Conversions (delivered to people most likely to complete your website conversion)
|Product Catalog Sales||Impressions|
|Facebook mobile feed|
Facebook desktop feed
|Store Visits||Daily Unique Reach|
Store Visits (delivered to people most likely to visit your business location)
|Impression||Facebook mobile feed|
Facebook desktop feed
Once you’ve selected your objective and launched your campaign, you can’t change it. So know your goal and how you want to optimize your ad before getting started.
Auction objectives also give you the opportunity to conduct split tests. This is a useful feature if you want to be more scientific than just uploading multiple creatives to one ad set.
The split testing feature works by dividing your target audience into random, non-overlapping groups. This randomization ensures other factors won’t skew your test results. You can then test different versions of your ads, audiences or delivery optimizations.
If the primary goal of your campaign is information gathering -- discovering which audiences or ads perform bests, for example -- then the split test feature is useful.
Reach and Frequency Objectives
For reach and frequency objectives, your optimization will be reach and charge type will be impression. You don’t get a choice. Ad placements vary similarly to the above auction objectives. So I won’t go into the detail of that here, except to say that you can’t currently advertise on Messenger with these objectives.
Reach and frequency objectives however, also give you a few other cool functionalities.
Every objective allows you to set a frequency cap of impressions per day(s) that each user can see. With auction objectives, this functionality is only available for the reach objective.
You can serve your ads to users in a specific sequence. This is great if you’re looking to tell a story over a number of ads. You can ensure your targets see a specific set of ads in an established order.
You can build, compare and share media plans before you launch. This enables you to see total reach for your selected budget, frequency cap, placements and other parameters. Once built, you can purchase the media plan through campaign planner. This is great for media planners.
Again, reach and frequency campaign objectives -- and the tools that go with it -- are really for big brands and agencies. If you’re not looking to run big branding campaigns with big budgets -- but drive actions like conversions, engagement, video views, website traffic etc -- then auction campaign objectives are for you.
6. Targeting Audiences On Facebook
After selecting your campaign objective, you begin defining your target audience.
In this section, I’ll cover the actual targeting options available to you, some useful tools Facebook provides and some audience targeting tips. You select your target audience at the ad set level, which is the second step in the campaign creation process.
Audience targeting is one of Facebook’s great strengths -- it has an abundance of data available for advertisers.
Every moment someone spends on a Facebook app or website; every link they click, video they watch, post they like, pixel event they trigger, helps Facebook better refine its understanding of that user. Then you get to use it for advertising.
Audience Targeting Options
Facebook breaks its targeting options into a few key categories, I’ll cover each category here and how it can be used. For every single targeting option available in Facebook, check out this great infographic from Wordstream.
Location, Age, Gender, Language -- all pretty basic demographics are available as expected.
In addition to this, Facebook also has a lot of other demographic data gathered from how people fill out their profile and what they share. This includes Education, Financial, Home, Life Events, Parents, Politics (US), Relationship and Work.
These are obviously a necessity for beginning your audience -- you’ll likely always want to target specific locations, age ranges and languages. Use these to set the foundations of your audience and then build on it with interests, behaviors, connections or custom audiences.
Facebook builds a profile of every user based on how they interact with content on the platform and from this constructs groups of things they are interested in. You can view your own here. These interests go deep, allowing you to target people based on incredibly specific keywords.
The top level categories are Business and Industry, Entertainment, Family and Relationships, Fitness and Wellness, Food and Drinks, Hobbies and Activities, Shopping and Fashion, Sports and Technology.
Each category has numerous sub-categories and many of these have their own sub-categories too. Mousing over each one will give you an estimation of the total number of people on Facebook who match this interest.
You can also freely enter keywords you’d like to target. This will bring up many more targeting options that drill down much further than you can by browsing the categories available. These options are great if you’re not looking to go too broad in your targeting.
Interest targeting is great for prospecting audiences. These options enable you to reach new people who are likely not familiar with your brand. Bear this in mind when you are creating your ads and messaging -- you might want a different message to the one you’re delivering to current customers or hot prospects.
Facebook behavioral targeting is based on how people access the platform and also external data sources. As data partners provide some of these options, a few are only available in certain regions due to licensing agreements. Find more information on this directly on Facebook.
Behavioral targeting options include Automotive, Business-to-Business, Charitable Donations, Consumer Classification, Digital Activities, Expats, Financial, Media, Mobile Device Users, Purchase Behavior, Residential Profiles and Travel.
Some options provided by data partners are brilliant for certain industries, such as the automotive category. This allows you to target people based on whether they are in the market for a new vehicle and what type of vehicle they are looking for. But other categories contain gems too.
The travel category, for example, enables targeting of commuters, business travellers and frequent flyers. Outside of the US, Facebook doesn’t allow you to target people based on job titles or seniority anymore (compared to LinkedIn, it was never that good in the first place anyway). So this is a great way to get around that. Target a frequent flyer who travels business class and you’ve likely got someone who’s a senior executive. Combine this targeting with keyword interests such as “AdWords”, “Display Advertising” or “Marketing Strategy” and you’ve probably got a senior marketer.
Combining behavioral, interest and demographic targeting options is a great way to pinpoint your targeting selection. Get creative with combinations to find on your ideal customer. If you’re wondering where to get started and what interests your audience might have, then the section on the Audience Insights tool below will help give you some inspiration.
Facebook connection targeting allows you to target people who already have a specific connection to your brand. This includes the option to target (or exclude) people who like your Facebook Page, have responded to one of your Facebook Events or have used one of your apps. You can also target the friends of people who like your Facebook Page or have used your app.
Custom Audiences are a powerful way to re-engage with people who have already interacted with your brand in some way. This is something you’ll want to do if your campaign fits into a defined customer journey or marketing funnel.
To use a custom audience you have to create it in Audience Manager first (more details on how to do that here). Once you’ve done that you can select it from the drop down at the top of the audience selection screen.
You can build custom audiences of people who have engaged with specific content on Facebook (such as watching one of your videos), visited your website (you’ll need the Facebook Pixel installed to do this) or from your own external list uploaded directly to Facebook. These audiences can be potent:
- Find engaged prospects by building audiences of people who have interacted with your mobile app, video, event, ad or canvas.
- Retarget website visitors by building audiences of people who have visited your website, specific pages or combinations of pages within it.
- Target current customers by uploading lists of names and email addresses directly via CSV or API.
- Build audiences similar to current customers by taking advantage of Facebook’s Lookalike audience functionality
For audiences built from engagements in Facebook or your website, these will be automatically updated based on, for example, new website visitors or your own restrictions, such as a 30 day limit on membership of a list. You set this limit when you create the audience.
Lookalike audiences are built based on your custom audiences. This is where Facebook will create a new targeting group of people that closely match the characteristics of the custom audience you based it on. For example, if you have a list of 10,000 customers, Facebook will build a list of new targets who are similar to your current customers. This is great for finding new prospects.
Building custom audiences of website visitors is an easy way to engage in remarketing. You can also add time limits to these lists, i.e., remove someone from the list after 30 days if they don’t visit your website during that period. You should do this if you don’t want to be one of those businesses that stalks people across the Internet after you visit their website once.
You can save any audience you create and use it again. This will spare time if you plan on reusing specific combinations of interests, behaviors or demographics in other campaigns. Simply click Save This Audience button when you are done creating your targeting set.
This audience will be saved to audience manager -- alongside your custom and lookalike audiences -- and labelled as a saved audience.
Including, Excluding and Narrowing Audiences
In addition to adding targeting audiences you can exclude and narrow by them as well. Excluding means that anyone who matches your selected exclusion will not be targeting with your ad. Narrowing means that people will have to match both your original selected targeting and the audience you have narrowed by. Click the Exclude People or Narrow Audience links to make your selections.
There’s a few useful ways you should use these functionalities:
- If your offer is a one-time conversion (such as registering for an event) then you should exclude people who have converted. You can do this by creating a custom audience of converters (either by uploading a list or based on a pixel event, such as a registration) and excluding this audience.
- If your prospecting target audiences are too broad you can narrow them by combining demographics, behaviors, interests or custom audiences.
- If you want to build a multi-stage customer journey, then ensure the top stages of your funnel exclude all the audiences that you are targeting later in the funnel. This will ensure you are not overlapping your targeting at each stage and sending mixed messages to prospects.
While you’re creating your ad set, you’ll see the estimated reach for your targeting parameters displayed in the right hand column.
This is helpful as you want to ensure your target audience is large enough to get results. The Estimated Daily Results will adjust based on the budget and bids you enter later.
For retargeting ad sets you can go a lower, as there’ll be times where your custom lists are smaller than this. In order to fight audience fatigue here, it’s a good idea to have several ads you can rotate through.
Audience Insights Tool
In addition to providing a lot of targeting options Facebook has useful audience discovery and analysis tools. Audience Insights is a great one.
It’s simple to use. Select filters in the left hand column and Facebook will display demographic, page like, location and activity data for this audience. In the US, you also get household and purchase data from third party data partners. This allows you to see the key characteristics of different data sets, which can then be used as the basis for selecting target audiences in your campaign.
There’s a couple of ways I like to use it:
- Filter only by location, such as New York City, and see a breakdown of the entire audience in that region. This is great for seeing things like age and gender split, as well as key devices used, popular interests, common job titles, education level and more in that region. This will help you understand whether the location you’re targeting is a good match.
- Select a custom audience, such as a customer list, and see a breakdown of the common characteristics for your customer list. This is great for understanding who your current customers are. You can find out lots of interesting things here, such as shared common interests that you wouldn’t have realised otherwise. Use these insights to build new prospecting audiences.
- Select a combination of behaviors, interests or demographics that you know are common among your customer base. You can then see other characteristics that can help you further define your audience or create new prospecting audiences based on entirely different targeting options.
Getting your audience selection right is critical to your campaign, and it’s not something you perfect straight away. It takes a lot of testing. Use Audience Insights to find new audiences to test before you launch and also after you launch and need to expand your audience targeting.
Audience Overlap Tool
You can discover the overlap in your target audiences using the audience overlap tool. This exists in your audience manager. Select up to five audiences then click show audience overlap.
You’ll then see the percentage of your original audience that overlaps with the other selections.
This is helpful as you don’t want to create multiple ad sets that are targeting the same people.
Separate audience targeting into ad sets based on where people are in your customer journey and what you want to know about them.
For example, if you’re prospecting people based on interests and also retargeting people who visited your website, these should go into different ad sets. The performance of each group will be very different and you should bid, budget and optimize accordingly. In this instance, you should also exclude the website retargeting audience from your prospecting. You may also want to split your prospecting targeting into multiple ad sets in order to see how different audience and behaviors perform and then adjusts bids, budgets and optimizations based on this.
7. Setting Budget, Bids and Schedules
Setting your budgets, bids and schedules is straightforward. But the options you select will influence how your money is spent.
The following selections are made at the ad set level -- not the ad level, which is a common misconception -- after you’ve selected your targeting and ad placements.
Budgets and Schedules
You can choose to set a Daily Budget or a Lifetime Budget. A daily budget will be the average amount you’ll spend every day, a lifetime budget will be the maximum amount you’ll spend over the entire lifetime of your ad set. If you set a bid cap (also called manual bid) however, it’s probable you won’t spend your full budget (more on this below).
If you want more control over how you spend your money -- such as increasing spend when you’re getting good results -- then daily budget will give you much more flexibility. Lifetime budget is better to use if you want more consistent spend over the course of your campaign and leave pacing up to Facebook.
Scheduling is pretty simple -- select to run your ad set continuously as soon as you launch, or set future start and end dates. If you want to use a lifetime budget then you’ll have to select a start and end date.
Optimization, Bids and Charge Types
Click Show Advanced Options to get the opportunity to have far more control over how Facebook spends your money. Spoiler alert: you should really care how Facebook spends your money.
Optimization for Ad Delivery
This is where you select how you want Facebook to optimize your ad delivery. As discussed in section 5, these options will differ based on what campaign objective you have chosen.
To recap, if you select an action such as Link Click or Video View, Facebook will try to show your ad to people most likely to complete that action. If you select Impressions, Facebook will simply show your ad as many times as possible.
Think carefully about what your goal is before selecting your optimization.
If you don’t enter a bid cap then Facebook will spend your full daily budget or lifetime budget -- trying to get as many actions or impressions as possible based on your selected optimizations -- with no restrictions. Great, right? In certain situations, yes. But in others, it may not be ideal.
If you have strict KPI’s based on CPC or CPA for example, you might want to enter a bid cap. This will tell Facebook that you don’t want to spend more than your bid cap to achieve your selected optimization. If your bid is too low, you likely won’t spend your full daily budget amount. This extra control however, can help keep you from overspending and not achieving your KPI’s.
One way around this problem is to set higher daily budgets with lower bid caps. You won’t spend your full daily budget so this can help you achieve more actions at a lower cost. This strategy will require much more manual management though, as the amount you spend per day can vary a lot. So only use do this if you’re confident in your bid and budget optimization skills.
For example, if you want to target website visitors and set bid caps, you may want to create two ad sets, one targeting desktop newsfeed and one mobile newsfeed. You can set a higher bid cap for the desktop newsfeed placement while keeping the bid cap for the mobile newsfeed placement much lower. This will help you get the best performance for each placement.
Splitting your ad set audience targeting based on these elements will give you much more control over how you optimize, bid and budget once your campaign is up and running.
When You Get Charged
For certain campaign objectives you can choose when you get charged. For a traffic campaign for example, you can choose whether you get charged by impression or link click.
This has a big impact on how you end up spending money. I won’t go into the details here, but this blog covers how charge type affects your performance. I recommend reading it.
This is very straightforward. You can run your ads continuously or select specific times and days of the week.
If you already know when your ads perform well then you can select those times here, if not, then you can run them continuously. Once your campaign is up and running you can review the daily and hourly performance and always return to edit your ad scheduling if needed.
You can choose between Standard and Accelerated delivery. Standard delivery evenly paces the spend of your ad set during your schedule, whereas accelerated delivery spends as quickly as possible, regardless of your schedule.
Accelerated delivery needs to be used with a bid cap and you’ll often see your costs rise when using it. Unless you have a time sensitive promotion or a specific reason to spend as much money as possible in a short period of time, I’d recommend sticking with standard delivery.
7. Setting Budget, Bids and Schedules
Now for the fun part. It’s your chance to get creative.
In this section, I’ll run through the key elements of a Facebook ad and some of the different types of ad you can create -- the components can differ between campaign objectives. But first, I’ll cover the ad placements available to you through Facebook.
You actually select your ad placements at the ad set level before setting your budget. I’ve included it in this section however, to keep all the information about ads in one place.
Your ad placement selection determines where your ad will appear within Facebook and its associated apps. The number of placements has ballooned since Facebook first started allowing advertisements. Each placement will have a slightly different looking ad and may perform more favourably for certain campaign objectives and creative types.
Below is an example of an image or video ad for each placement. Bear in mind, not all placements are available with each campaign objective:
The Key Elements of a Facebook Ad
Apart from the ad placement, you set the main elements of an ad in the third section of the campaign setup process.
Facebook ads are comprised of a few key things that present a variety of options for you to play with. Below, I’ll run through the options available to you for each element, which I’ve broken down into Identity, Creative, Content, Destination and Conversion Tracking.
When you first start creating your ad, you need to associate it with a Facebook page and an Instagram account. If you don’t have an Instagram account, you can run ads on Instagram and associate them with your Facebook page instead. You can only associate ads with pages and accounts for which you have advertiser rights.
Facebook gives you a variety of different creative formats to use. For a standard traffic campaign these include Carousel, Single Image, Single Video, Slideshow and Collection.
If you want to create an Instagram Stories ad, you will need to do this in a separate ad set with the placement selected by itself. You can then choose between uploading an image or video for your ad.
If you want to use a dynamic product feed from your website, then you need to use the carousel ad format. Before selecting this option you have to set up the dynamic product feed. Once you’ve done this you can add dynamic overlays, such as product price, provided the information is available in your product feed. Dynamic ads are great for retargeting people who have visited an ecommerce website without purchasing a product. You get the chance to put the product right back in front of them, along with similar items that may interest them.
Ad copy -- it’s pretty damn important. This is your chance to convince your target audience to engage with your ad and complete your desired action. There’s a few elements of copy you get to use in your Facebook ad. The availability of these elements differs slightly between ad placements and ad formats, as does the number of characters shown. I’ve highlighted a couple of the significant differences below.
- Headline: This is the largest and most prominent piece of text in your ad. So make it something good. Your text will truncate in some placements after 40 characters.
- Text: This is your main ad copy where you get to go into more detail about your product, brand or offer. Just remember that on certain placements (such as right column, instant article and Messenger) this will truncate after about 90 characters. So it’s a good idea to keep it snappy and to the point.
- Newsfeed Text: This is where you can add additional text to emphasize your offering. This will only show up on Facebook feeds though, so be wary not to put any critical information in here as it won’t show up on most placements.
- Call To Action: Choose from a variety of calls to action, that will placed in your ad as button. Try to choose the action most closely associated with what you want your target audience to do.
For objectives that allow multiple destinations (such as Traffic or Conversion) you actually select the general destination -- website, Messenger or app -- at the start of creating your ad sets.
For objectives such as App Install, Messages or Engagement, the destination is already set as part of the objective. You specify the exact destination -- website URL, Messenger sequence, app deep link or canvas -- when creating your ad.
There are a few places you can send someone after they click your ad, depending on your objective:
- A website: To send them to your website you simply enter the URL of the landing page you want to send them to. If you want to track your traffic through Google Analytics or a similar platform then it’s a good idea to append parameters.
- Canvas: To send them to a full screen canvas within Facebook you need to create the canvas first. You can do this by selecting Add a Fullscreen Experience when choosing your ad creative format. Here’s more information on creating a canvas.
- Messenger: To send them to Messenger -- where they will be able to open a direct conversation with you -- you need to set up a Messenger bot first. This is a great option to create one-to-one connections directly with someone, but I recommend only using it if you understand how to use Chatbots. If not, find out more about how to get started with Chatbots.
- An app: When you create an app install or engagement ad you select the app your ad is associated with at the ad set level. If it’s an app install ad, then at the ad level you will send them to the app store associated with the ad. If it’s an app engagement ad, then you will enter a deeplink to your app to send people to.
Remember the Facebook Pixel, Offline Events or App Events you set up? This is where you need to select them for most campaign objectives. If you have multiple pixels or events set up, then you can select the one you want to associate your ad with from the drop down box.
Tracking conversions is absolutely vital to make the most of your Facebook ad. If you want to do this make sure you have these elements correctly set up (as covered in section 3) and selected.
You can create up to 50 ads per ad set. So it’s worth testing different creatives, formats and content to see how each one performs. Facebook will automatically begin showing the best performing ads in favour of lower performing ones. It does however, have a tendency to make this decision before giving every ad a fair run. So if you have a few ads you are testing, you can manually turn them on and off to make sure they all get a decent number of impressions, before deciding on the best performers.
Creative Mockup Tool
While you’re creating your ad you’ll see a live preview of what it looks like. But if you want to get an idea of what your ads will look like before going through the campaign creation process, or need to show mockups to internal or external stakeholders, then Facebook’s got you covered.
In its Creative Hub -- which is full of useful tips and inspiration for creating ads -- it has an ad mockup tool. This allows you to upload images and play around with ad copy to see exactly what your ad will look like before you get started.
And that’s it -- you’ve created your Facebook campaign. Simple, eh? Before you launch you can review what you’ve created to check it’s all set up as planned. When you’re ready to go, click confirm to finalise the creation of your campaign and launch to Ads Manager.
If you’re sending people to a website, all of the optimization and effort you’re putting into getting them to click your ad is only the first step in the process. You should be putting similar work into optimizing the experience after they click your ad. Create multiple landing pages for different stages in the customer journey and different buyer personas. Test, iterate and, for goodness sake, optimize for mobile!
9. Managing and Optimizing Facebook Campaigns
Once you launch your campaign, the Ads Manager dashboard will be your bible. It’s where you manage, optimize and update your campaign.
My first suggestion is to create a custom column preset and save it. You can do this by clicking Customize Columns… from the Columns drop down menu.
From here you can select the columns you want to appear on your default dashboard.
Add some basic performance metrics, such as Reach, Impressions, CPM, Link Clicks, CPC and CTR. Then add metrics specific to your campaign, such as Conversions, Engagements, App Installs and so on. You should add Spend, Budget and Bid to this column preset as well. It’s helpful to see what you’re bidding and budgeting for each ad set on the dashboard, as you can make quick adjustments straight from here when optimizing.
In the example above, you can see a mixture of bids for my ad sets. These include Auto which indicates that I have not added a bid cap and am therefore relying on Facebook’s autobidding capabilities.
Once you set up your dashboard, get familiar with the breakdown menu. This allows you to dive more deeply into various elements of your campaign performance, such as time of day, placement, age, gender and more.
The structure of the dashboard is set up as four tabs. An account overview tab, then three tabs that match the hierarchy of a Facebook campaign: Campaign, Ad Sets, Ads. This should be familiar to you following the campaign creation flow you’ve been through. Going through each tab will allow you to see your campaigns, ad sets and ads.
Basic Optimization Tips
So let’s get on to some basic things you should look for when optimizing your campaign. Some of the following tips are more relevant for optimizing with a daily budget vs a lifetime budget. As mentioned in section 7, you have a lot less control over the pacing of your spend when using lifetime budget, regardless of whether you’re autobidding or setting bid caps. Here goes.
Fix Ad Fatigue
Keep an eye on ad frequency (this is a metric you can add to your columns on the dashboard). The ad frequency is the average number of times your ad has been seen by people in your specified date range. If all your ads are in the range of two or three frequency, then your audience will begin experiencing ad fatigue. Create new ads for each of your ad sets and pause the old ones.
Another way to spot ad fatigue is by keeping an eye on CTRs. When your CTR starts to drop, it’s time to refresh your ads.
Keep Targeting Fresh
You can see the estimated reach for your ad set (when you click Edit) and you can also see the actual reach as a column on your dashboard. With this, you can see how much of your target audience you have already reached. If you’ve nearly reached all of them, it’s time to refresh your targeting. Create new ad sets with some new audiences and (unless you current ad sets are still performing well) shift budget to the new ones.
If you’re struggling to think of new audiences to target, try using the a href="#audienceinsights">Audience Insights Tool. Add the targeting criteria for your top performing ad sets and you can see the key demographics, interests and behaviors of them. Use these as a basis for your new audience.
If you’re using a strategy that involves multiple ad sets, you need to do a lot of optimizing to ensure smart spending. Here’s a couple tips:
- Increase bids on top performers: You want your top performing ad sets to win as many auctions as possible, so increase bids until you’re doing this. Increase your bid by 10 to 20 percent, until your bid is significantly higher than the actual amount you’re paying to win the auction.
- Increase budgets on top performers: You want to focus your spend on your top performing audiences and maximize your spend here. So shift more of your budget to top performing ad sets to spend smartly.
- Cut lower performers: Don’t spend money where you aren’t getting results. If ad sets are not performing well and you’re sure you’ve done everything you can to improve performance, then cut budget and give it to better performing ad sets. (Quick note: it’s important to ensure you’re measuring the success of each ad set with the correct KPIs. Read the Attribution section below for more info on this).
One thing to note here: if you’re looking to significantly scale volume by increasing bids and budgets drastically, your cost per conversion / click / impression etc will increase as well. You can’t spend ten times as much money and get exactly the same cost performance ratio.
Don’t Be Too Hasty
Every major bid and budget adjustment “resets” Facebook’s internal algorithms. So don’t make changes too often. Once you make changes let them take effect for two to three days, review results and then make new changes. Anything more often is too much.
Also, make sure you have enough data before making changes. If you make assumptions on performance too early -- before you have statistically significant data -- it’s basically just guess work.
As with A/B testing, changing too much at once will mean you won’t know what impacted the result. When you make changes, make sure you’ll be able to pinpoint what impacted the result.
There may be many reasons why your campaign performance isn’t meeting expectations. Your KPIs may be unreasonable for your target audience and, simply, unachievable. You may not have found the right offer, market-fit or audience yet.
But here are a couple of things to start with when you have the following problems:
- No impressions: If you’re bidding high enough to get impressions but still aren’t receiving them, then Facebook likely thinks your ads are a bad match for the audience.
- Low click or engagement related metrics: Your ads themselves are not resonating with your audience, try experimenting with new ad copy, creatives or ad formats and see what raises engagement.
- Low conversion rates: If you’re getting decent clicks on your ad but no conversions, there’s likely a bottleneck somewhere else in your funnel. If it’s a web based campaign then use Facebook Analytics or Google Analytics to find out where people are exiting your purchase funnel. If it’s an app install campaign, you’ve likely got a problem with the content on your app store page. Also, double check your conversion tracking is set up properly. For web based campaigns the Facebook Pixel Helper is what you need.
As a marketer your goal is to build awareness of a product or brand, foster interest and consideration and then drive conversions. This customer journey is often illustrated using the basic marketing funnel model.
Facebook ads can work across this entire marketing funnel, even within the same campaign.
Different ad sets can optimize towards different goals and create a coherent customer journey. So there’s one important thing to remember: when it comes to measuring KPIs for your ad set, make sure you’re measuring the right ones.
What do I mean by this? If you’re running a two stage campaign, with prospecting ad sets aimed at raising awareness of your product, and retargeting ad sets aimed at driving purchases, you can’t measure the success of both ad sets by the number of purchases they drive. Why? Because Facebook ads work on a last-click attribution model.
This means that the last ad that someone clicks on Facebook will get credited with the conversion. So if someone engaged with your prospecting ad, then later clicked on a retargeting ad, the retargeting ad would receive all the credit. Yet the prospecting ad of course played a vital role in the journey. So measuring its involvement via the purchase conversion on Facebook won’t show this. You may, therefore, end up believing it’s not performing well, reduce its budget or turn it off. Bad move. This will cut off the initial stage of your customer journey and ruin your whole campaign.
So how can you get around this? Ensure you’re measuring each ad set with its most appropriate KPI. If you’re leading people to a website for example, then tag the URLs of the ads for each ad set to tell them apart, then use attribution modelling to determine its actual role in the customer journey. I won’t go into the details here, but this blog runs through the common attribution models and how they can help judge performance at each stage of your customer journey.
If you have the Facebook Pixel installed on your website, then you can start using Facebook Analytics. It’s a fairly new tool with some interesting functionalities. Like the other tools in this guide, it’s accessed via the drop down menu at the top of your Business Manager.
Like Google Analytics it will show the activity of people on your website, but with Facebook data -- such as Page Likes, age, gender etc -- available as well. There’s a few other useful tools such as Funnels and a Lifetime Value dashboard that will help you get a better understanding of you prospects and customers.
For more info on how to use some of these functionalities, check out this useful blog.
10. Final Thoughts
Almost every business in the world should be able to generate results through Facebook advertising, but many don’t. Why?
They’re only scraping the surface of what Facebook ads offers and haven’t taken the time to understand how to use it or where it should fit into their marketing strategy (if they have one at all). Don’t be one of these people.
Facebook offers a genuinely unique opportunity to connect with your customers across multiple devices and apps. Using it well can help you do just that -- connect. And as marketers, that’s what we’re all striving to do.
Take the time to understand Facebook ads; the numerous campaign optimizations, the minutiae of targeting options, the variety of ad formats, the fundamentals of bidding, the strategies that suit your business and the abundance of free tools.
Sure, it’ll take a little time, but you’ll reap the benefits.