Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Ads

Paid Media Advertising, Social Media

As far as we’re concerned, organic Facebook reach is the new white whale. So we’re going to tell you how to do what we know how to do best here, paid Facebook Ads.

Facebook Ads Strategy – Where to Start

It might seem daunting, but it’s actually not all that hard to get started with Facebook ads. As you read through this guide, don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions – we love to talk about this stuff, whether you want to work with us or not!

Set up Your Business Page

First things first! If you’re not already a Facebook user, you’ll need to set up an account, then using that account, you can create a page for your business. Facebook makes this really easy and intuitive, and will walk you through the steps.

Get to Know Facebook Ads Manager

Once you create a business page, you’ll automatically have an Ads Manager account. You can find it in the left-hand column of your business page. Once you’re in there, you should view and confirm or update your account settings and enter a payment method. Facebook provides very clear guides to most of these processes, and here’s some official info on doing these first couple tasks.

Once you have this set up, it’s time to dive into the great and vast world of Facebook advertising!

Types of Facebook Ads

There are a number of ways you can advertise on Facebook, from images to in-ad games, and this blog will really only scratch the surface of the opportunities out there. Each type I cover below has countless blog articles written specifically about them, and I don’t even list every single type available. 

I’ll dive into 6 ad types currently available, and for each I’ll provide the following information:

  1. What is it
  2. When/why to use it
  3. Best practices
  4. An external educational resource

There are four places within the Facebook universe where you can serve ads – Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and the Audience Network – but in this particular post we are going to focus on Facebook itself. Let’s go!

Video Ads

Video is huge. The statistics around how many users watch Facebook videos daily (over 500 million), including ads, are overwhelming, and video is an excellent medium to introduce and educate around your products and services. And since the incredible proliferation of video, platforms like Facebook have made it extremely easy to create, load, and edit a video ad. Professionally-shot, high-production-value videos still have their place, but if you have an iPhone you can get in the video ads game. 

Video is primarily a brand awareness tactic, which you’d measure by views of the video. Like any ad, however, its purpose will depend on the content and messaging, and the audience you’re serving it to. So don’t shy away from a strong lead-generation video message, especially if you’re showing it to an audience who is already familiar with your brand.

Some quick best practices:

  • Be ready to make a quick first impression – you have 2-3 seconds for a good or bad first impression and around 15 seconds of their total attention. Facebook recommends keeping it to 15 seconds tops
  • Design and optimize your video ad for mobile – it’s where most Facebook users hang out
  • Make your video compelling with or without sound
  • Optimize the copy around the video – this includes a title and description, a caption, and a call-to-action button 

Exabytes has a great video guide

Image Ads

This is pretty straightforward: it’s an ad, and it’s an image. It’s an image ad. If you’ve done online advertising before, or even print advertising, then you’ve probably made an image ad. Facebook image ads can be used for any type of business or brand, and depending on 1) the image itself, 2) the messaging/ad copy you write, and 3) the audience targeting, image ads can be amazing for brand awareness, lead gen, sales, etc. The opportunities with images run the gamut.

Quick best practices:

  • Pay attention to aspect ratios for your images – get this info straight from the horse’s mouth
  • Write great ad copy but keep it very, very minimal – the imagery is telling the story
  • Use great photography – this means high resolution, compelling, beautiful, professionally-shot photography. If you have to use stock, be very thoughtful in your selection
  • Choose photos contextually related to your brand, product, or service, and message
  • Choose photos of happy people! They are statistically successful
  • Make your photos eye-catching – colorful, visually interesting, etc. Sometimes visually interesting means very simple, there doesn’t have to be too much going on

AdEspresso has an excellent article on image ads

Carousel Ads

Facebook carousel ads is a format that lets you show up to 10 images or videos in one ad. The killer part of this is that each image can have its own link and call-to-action. This is a great way to showcase products, show your services, tell a story, or even do a tutorial. You can create a carousel ad campaign for brand awareness, lead generation, or conversions/sales – it totally depends on the message you send with your images.

If you’re an ecommerce business, you can use carousel ads to show up to 10 of your products to your desired audience, each with a link to that specific product page. I can tell you from lots of personal experience, that these ads work. My closet reads like a slightly shameful success story for Facebook carousel product ads. 

If you offer services like home remodeling, for example, you could use carousel ads to show before and after pictures of projects. You could also use them to show step-by-step process photos of different projects. There are countless ways to take advantage of carousel ads – use your imagination and start keeping your eye out for how other companies are doing it.

Quick best practices:

  • Great photography, of course
  • Make sure each image links to the best possible/most relevant page 
  • Write great headlines and calls to action
  • Experiment and test with different images and headlines

Slideshow Ads

These are fun and offer endless possibilities! Facebook describes slideshow ads as “video-like ads that use motion, sound and text to tell your story beautifully across divides. They load quickly so they play well on every connection speed.”  Facebook offers this tool to create an immersive experience similar to a video, but cheaper, faster, and easier. You can create them with video, if you have it, or just with images. You can even create them from your mobile device.

Facebook slideshow ads can be used for branding, traffic, conversions, etc., depending on what you create. Because they can be made so quickly, you’re able to make more of them, and target them specifically to a particular audience and what you want that audience to do.

Quick best practices:

  • Map out a storyboard in advance
  • Use excellent photography 
  • Write compelling copy that complements the imagery and leads the user where you want them to go
  • Experiment with different slide timing, and 2 seconds is a great place to start

Instapage has a great resource article to get you started!

Collection Ads, aka Instant Experience Ads

Okay, so collection ads and Instant Experience ads aren’t exactly the same thing, but I’m combining into one section. Basically, a collection ad is a mini catalog for your business, and when a user clicks into it, they’re taken to a (mobile-only) page, powered by Instant Experience, that acts as a mini storefront for your business. This is an ad format best explained through an example:

You can actually use Instant Experience in conjunction with most Facebook ad types.  Once a user clicks on your ad and lands in the Instant Experience, they can explore images, fill out forms, watch videos, etc., and they do this without leaving Facebook. That makes it incredibly fast, seamless, and immersive.

Collection ads and instant experience ads, when used together, are ideal to display ecommerce products, or a service-based business that showcases itself well through photography. These ads can be used at any stage of the marketing funnel.

Some quick best practices:

  • Choose your product images carefully. Facebook can do this for you dynamically, or you can choose 4 of your products; if you choose them yourself you can also decide the order they should go in
  • You must use excellent photography (this is becoming a pattern.…)
  • This is entirely on mobile, so when a user goes from the Instant Experience to your site, your site or landing page better be ready to convert them right there on their mobile device

I found Hello Social’s article to be helpful and straightforward.

Lead Generation Ads

Facebook lead ads let you create an ad with an embedded lead gen form. The form, which you can customize with your own set of questions, lets users submit their information without leaving Facebook, and the forms will automatically populate with their information. The forms will integrate with most CRMs, making it a quick and easy way to generate leads.

There are a number of reasons a user might want to fill out a form, including the following:

  • Receive a coupon or special offer
  • Sign up for your newsletter 
  • Receive an ebook
  • Receive a download or asset
  • Receive information about your product or service
  • Join a waitlist
  • Enter a contest or giveaway

Quick best practices:

  • Keep your forms short and relevant
  • Ad copy should be clear and concise
  • Use your strongest call to action
  • Automate a fast response – get them whatever they signed up for quickly
  • Use fantastic photography and imagery (want me to stop saying that?)

Check out Sleeknote for some examples and tips.

Facebook Targeting: Placement & Audience

Ad Placement

Facebook offers 6 different ad placement options:

  1. Feed – ad shows in the news feed
  2. Right Column – ad shows in the right-hand column, and it’s desktop-only
  3. Instant Articles – ad shows in Instant Articles on the Facebook app
  4. In-stream Video – ads show as short videos in Facebook Live video and Video on Demand
  5. Stories – ad shows to people browsing Facebook stories
  6. Marketplace – ad shows in the Marketplace when someone is browsing and/or on the Marketplace home page

When it comes time to select your placements, it’ll depend on what kind of ads you created, and where your audience is. Facebook offers an automatic placement option, which isn’t a bad idea if you’re just starting out. In theory, Facebook’s algorithm will look at your audience targeting and place your ads in the locations where they’re likely to perform best. I’m always a bit skeptical of any “automatic” actions within ad platforms because, of course, the platform benefits from you spending more of your money.

But again, not a bad place to start if you’re a beginner at this. If you do decide to “Edit placements” yourself, you can choose device type, followed by the location your specific ads are likely to perform the best. As far as device type, stick with “All Devices” or “Mobile Only,” since only roughly 5% of Facebook’s users are on their desktops. You’ll be watching your campaigns closely after they are live, and you can and should continuously test out different ads and different placements. None of your choices here are set in stone! 

Audience Targeting

This is one of the most exciting and compelling parts of running Facebook ad campaigns!

In order to avoid writing a novel, I’m going to cover some of the basics, and provide a few resources to help you dig into the step-by-step process. 

There are three main audience types within Facebook’s ad platform:

  1. Saved Audiences
  2. Custom Audiences
  3. Lookalike Audiences

Saved Audiences

With a saved audience, you’ll create a set of qualities and characteristics for your desired target audience, and Facebook will make up a list of all its users that fit your set of criteria. There are more than a thousand targeting characteristics available, and you can scale your target audience up and down depending on how many characteristics you choose.

The main criteria you’ll be setting are based on user geography, demographics, interests, and behaviors. If you already have a Facebook page you can use Facebook Insights, Facebook’s native analytics platform, to learn more about your current audience. If you’re new to Facebook and to ads, you’ll need to put on your marketing hat and do some customer-base analysis.

It’s great to start by creating some broad saved audiences, so you can use them and further customize them on an as-needed basis. Hence the term, Saved Audience. Here’s some more info and a step-by-step.

Custom Audiences

Custom audiences are all about retargeting to users who have shown interest in or interacted with your business. Shopify has a nice beginner’s guide to this. Once a Facebook user has interacted with your Facebook page, visited your website, purchased, or submitted their information to you via form, their information is stored and transferred via Facebook’s tracking pixel so you can serve ads to them in the future. 

Lookalike Audiences

The magic of Facebook ad targeting really shines in lookalike audiences. Once you’ve created a custom audience based on users who have previously shown some level of interest in you, Facebook will create a similar “lookalike” audience of users. These are users who match the criteria of your current custom audience, but who may not be familiar yet with your brand. It’s a pretty cool feature and an amazing way to build your audience and customers. 

If you’re ready to jump into this yourself and have questions, we are totally available to chat about strategy. If you’re ready for some help and guidance through the Facebook Ads process, we’d love to work with you!

About the Author

Nick Footer

Nick Footer is an entrepreneur and founder of Intuitive Digital, a national award-winning digital marketing agency in Portland, Oregon. With over 15 years of experience, he has helped hundreds of businesses improve their online presence through search engine optimization, paid advertising, and website design.

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