Social Media Marketing

A Comprehensive Look At How-To Run Facebook Ads For Massive Gains

By now, you know that traffic is fundamental to generating leads.

If you’re able to steer qualified traffic to your site, you’ll be more likely to make the sales necessary to stay in business.

You can either invest time and manhours in the organic search route, or invest money in paid search advertising. If executed correctly, paid search can take your growth trajectory into overdrive.

Being the world’s largest social network, Facebook is a great place to reach your target audience.

Unlike Google Adwords, people aren’t actively looking for a solution on Facebook. They are on the platform to unwind, relax, and socialize.

Your job here is to appropriately tailor your message to gently guide potential customers down your sales funnel, without disrupting their experience.

In this post, I’ll show you how to set up a Facebook ad and help you determine which ad format to use to accomplish your marketing objectives.

I’ve broken the post into two sections.

In Section 1, I’ll help you determine the best type of ad to run. In section 2, I’ll show you how to set up that ad.

Let’s get to it!

Section 1: Determining What Ad to Run

Why Choose Facebook?

Social is the future of advertising.

We already know that interrupting people with messages on TV, radio, and print brings limited success. If you want attention, you have to be active where people are listening.

Facebook happens to be one of these places.

People today are glued to Facebook. Even while watching conventional TV, people have a tablet or smartphone closeby to browse Facebook during breaks or boring segments.

And it’s not just to laugh at a silly meme or post a comment on a family photo.

Nearly half of all Americans use Facebook as a news source.

This makes Facebook and the other prevalent social channels the modern age equivalent to network news giants like NBC, FOX, ABC, and CBS.

Smartphones and tablets are simply a means to access information.

No wonder then an overwhelming 96% of marketers favor Facebook when it comes to advertising on social.

preference for facebook

There’s some serious cash to be made from Facebook if you know what to do.

With the number of monthly active users on Facebook nearing 2 billion, you have the potential to reach an audience unparalleled by any other social network.

facebook active users

Moreover, Facebook users spend 35 minutes per day on the platform.

This is a lot of time for someone to see your ad, think about it, and then follow-through.

What’s more, compared to other advertising channels, Facebook is incredibly cheap. The average cost per click for a facebook ad is $0.26 (in the US).

cpc facebook ads

Compare this with other marketing channels where you pay per impression, and the value of Facebook advertising becomes apparent.

Even more valuable? With Facebook advertising you can see right away when someone sees your ad or reacts to it, allowing you to make adjustments to style and copy more rapidly than other marketing channels.

Social ad spending is expected to be $35 billion in 2017. People are growing accustomed to ads joining their Facebook feed, but only those that blend in seamlessly are successful.

What Makes Facebook Ads Unique

On Facebook, you never have to “pull” customers in.

Facebook already knows your potential customer inside and out based on information provided willingly by users.

This includes but is not limited to:

With this information, Facebook’s algorithm chooses relevant ads to show a user.

For example, while browsing your newsfeed you may come across something very similar to this ad by NatureBox:

example facebook ad

What’s important to note in this example is that the ad doesn’t disrupt user experience.

Most Facebook ads display in a user’s newsfeed and mimic native content. As users scroll down, they have to train themselves to determine whether the content is an ad or not.

Here are the tell-tale signs that you’re looking at an ad:

If someone decides that they don’t want to see an ad, they can just keep scrolling.

Notice how this is the exact same thing they would need to do if they wanted to ignore unappealing content in their newsfeed.

Some facebook ads on the full site are also shown on the sidebar.

facebook sidebar ad

Again, these don’t prevent users from scrolling down their feed and as a result don’t disrupt user experience.

In addition to news feed and sidebar ads, you also have the Facebook Audience Network.

With it, brands can extend their Facebook ads onto other third-party platforms and websites in the form of native content or video ads to further increase their reach.

The Different Formats of Facebook Ads

Let’s start by reviewing the basic anatomy of an ad.

Here are the components of the average Facebook ad:

facebook ad anatomy

No matter what Facebook ad format you choose, your ads will incorporate these same key elements.

Your ads should encourage users to click-through, leave Facebook, and visit your website.

The longer users stay on Facebook, the more chance for distractions arise.

Let’s take a look at a few different ad formats you can use to encourage users to follow your desired action plan.

  1. The Image Ad

An image ad appears on a user’s newsfeed with an image, accompanying text, and sometimes even a CTA.

facebook image ad

As soon as a user clicks anywhere on this ad, they’ll be led away from Facebook.

It lets you upload an image of your choice that is clickable. Facebook recommends an image size of 1200 x 628 pixels for best-quality.

To drive clicks, you’ll want to go beyond just having a quality image, though.

Make sure your images tell a story, capture attention, and leave a lasting impression.

  1. Video ads

Video ads appear in the same format as an image ad, yet offer some unique advantages.

When viewed on desktop, the video plays on top with the CTA below it.

desktop video ad

On mobile, the destination URL opens below the video as it plays.

With Facebook’s decision to prioritize video content in the newsfeed and introduction of the video autoplay feature, video ads have incredible reach.

If you incorporate transcripted text overlayed on your video, it will auto-play as the user scrolls, allowing you to engage passive viewers. They can see an expanded message without having to actually click to hear audio.

  1. Carousel ads

A carousel ad is basically 10 photo ads lumped together as one.

Users can scroll horizontally to view 10 different images with each potentially linking to the same or different CTA.

They’re great for showcasing a product, demonstrating how-to use your service, or simply tell a story through pictures.

In case you’ve never seen these before, here’s what they look like:

carousel ad

  1. Collection Ads

People buy into stories and experiences.

A single image or video ad may not be enough to convince prospects to buy-in.

The collection ad format lets you pair an image or video ad with 4 additional images within a single advert.

This let you complement your main featured ad with themes and stories to create an immersive experience.

What’s great is that each additional image can open in full-screen templates without the user ever having to leave Facebook.

Think of it as having mini landing pages within Facebook.

Here’s how they look in a user’s feed:

collection ad

Decide Which Ad Type To Use To Achieve Your Objective

When running an ad campaign, you should have a clear goal or objective.

Do you want to raise brand awareness? Gather leads? Drive product sales?

Some ad types are naturally better suited for certain objectives over others. If you’re clear about your objective, selecting the best ad type and format isn’t too difficult.

For example, if your objective is to gather leads, running an image ad that leads users to an ungated blog post isn’t the best idea.

Mismatches like this negatively impact the effectiveness of your ad campaign.

Facebook has made it incredibly easy to match your objectives with an ad type by configuring them to match the stages of the sales funnel.

sales funnel

When you go to create your ad in Ads Manager, this is the first thing you see:

facebook ads manager

Notice how it lines up with the sales funnel?

To identify which stage you should target with your ads, ask yourself the following questions:

Your answers to these questions will dictate which ad types to run and which format to use.

A new business venture needs to start with awareness, while an established brand might focus on engagement or store visits.

In case you’re stuck, here’s a roadmap of the most common ad offers used by marketers at each stage:

Raise Awareness

Ads in this stage are meant to increase brand visibility.

You want to provide users value without asking for anything in return. This increases the likelihood of users following your brand page and engaging with future offers.

Here are a couple of ad styles that increase awareness:

  1. Promoting Ungated Content

These ads lead users to specific content on your website.

Your goal is to provide something useful: introduce your brand as a solution to a problem or pain point that the target may not even realize they have, provide helpful tutorials or establish yourself as a thought leader in the market.

This could be a blog post, infographic, or even video. A user simply has to click-through in order to access the content which is why it’s referred to as ‘ungated content.’

Users don’t have to give up their email or pull out their wallet.

Since the level of commitment from users isn’t high, an image ad here could suffice. A video ad is even better.

Make sure the ad copy (text above the image) is relatively short.

You don’t want to keep ad copy concise enough that users don’t have to click a ‘see more’ option. The idea is to hook users and quickly get them to leave Facebook.

This Facebook ad makes it clear where a click leads:

ungated content ad

  1. Promotional offer

These ads offer something free or risk-free to lure potential leads into engagement.

For example, you might offer a limited period free trial version of your software to coax potential customers to come explore your business.

These ads are highly effective for relatively inexpensive purchases.

Since you’re not asking users for something big, an image ad with short copy will work fine.

Notice how this ad for Dr. Pepper is short and sweet

facebook ad promo

This ad accomplishes a few things:

Consideration

Ads in this stage target users who are already familiar with your brand.

You can’t convert everyone from the awareness stage, especially if your ask is high. For example, a costly purchase will require a longer warm up process to get someone to trust an unknown brand.

In these situations, you’ll have to move users along your funnel step-by-step.

To do that, there are a number of ad types that let you provide value in exchange for emails (leads) that you can nurture until eventual conversion.

  1. Use a lead magnet

Lead magnets are downloadable content such as checklists, eBooks, and whitepapers.

Instead of asking users to become a paying customers, many Facebook ads simply offer value through a lead magnet at the cost of an email address.

LinkedIn entices users to give up their email with helpful eBooks.

linkedin lead ad

If you’ve created something users really value, they won’t think twice about handing over their email address to get it.

But that email address has value - you can continue to touch on and grow that casual window-shopper into a lead, and eventually into a customer.

You don’t need super long copy here. Your lead magnet should do the talking for you.

An image or video ad with relatively short copy and a prominent call to action should do the trick.

  1. Entice participation with a quiz/survey

Quiz and survey-based ads are extremely popular due to their high engagement rate.

With these ads, you’re basically ‘gamifying’ the process of conversion and data mining.

You must have seen these sort of quizzes pop-up in your newsfeed all the time.

facebook ads quiz

By running a quiz, you’re effectively reducing a user’s guard by inviting them to participate in something fun.

By the end of the activity, a stunning reveal or insight should create desire for further action.

This could be to sign up for your newsletter or an offer to entice a purchase.

The ad format to use for a quiz largely depends on what happens after a user finishes.

If you’re happy with people moving on with their day and forgetting they even took a quiz, a short copy ad will work just fine.

But if you want users to stick around and commit, you’ll need long copy or even video.

A quiz has to be relevant to your brand and your target demographic. Bonus: make results complementary and shareable, encouraging your new leads to invite their friends to participate.

  1. Promote a webinar

Webinars are interactive workshops or seminars held online.

They happen in real-time and give participants the opportunity to interact and enhance their learning experience.

You can use a webinar to show your expertise on a particular subject matter.

Ultimately, this can warm up cold leads and push them over the finish line.

To get users to participate, you’ll ask for an email address and maybe even a fee to attend.

Amy Porterfield ran a successful ad campaign urging users to sign up for her webinar on creating profitable online courses.

webinar ad

Asking users to block off time and hand over something is a pretty big ask.

It’s best to use image ads with long copy or video. This will give you enough opportunity to convince users as to why they should attend.

Conversion

It’s tempting to jump straight to conversion ads.

But this is really the final step in a social media ad campaign. You don’t want the first experience seeing your brand on Facebook to be a sales pitch. That type of disruptive marketing will turn of Facebook users looking to engage with friends or check out interesting stuff.

Only after you’ve connected with interested followers on Facebook or have a history with a customer can you launch into conversion ads.

These ads are designed to get the viewer to take action. It’s best to create some urgency.

facebook ad urgency

Ads that directly prompt users to make a purchase are asking a lot more than just providing some information or an email address.

Whether it’s a one-time product purchase or a recurring monthly subscription, users need to be convinced on value here.

Video ads work great for things that are not inherently self-explanatory.

For example, if you’re selling a $1000 marketing automation software, you’ll probably need a lengthy video ad to convince a users why they need your tool.

On the other hand, if you’re selling something that’s around $50-100, long copy photo ads or even carousel ads can also deliver results.

long copy carousel

How To Get Users To Act On Your Ad

Of course, you can’t just conjure up any old ad and put it out there.

If you want people to pay attention and click on your ads, you need a few tricks up your sleeve to coax and convince people to pause their scroll and give it an honest look.

In the previous section, I frequently mentioned appropriate ad copy length.

That is just one of many ways to invite attention onto your ads.

Let’s take a look at what else you can do to increase your click-through rate (CTR).

  1. Keep it short and sweet

An in-depth look into successful Facebook ad copy by AdEspresso found that the most popular headline is just 5 words long.

Concise wording that gets straight to the point will quickly engage the viewer:

short and sweet

In addition, ads that are phrased positively garner the most clicks.

  1. Social proof

Social proof is an effective trust builder on web pages, landing pages, email, and just about anywhere else.

It’s no different when it comes to Facebook ads.

And you don’t even need a testimonial or review.

Facebook ads show family, friends, and influencers from a user’s profile that already like the business page of the company showing the ad.

Check out this ad from Shopify:

social proof

A user is much more likely to ‘listen’ and take action when they see that people they trust have already committed to the brand.

  1. Urgency

Urgency triggers a natural reaction to avoid loss.

Push users to take action immediately through time-limited incentives and copy that brings to light the immediacy of the situation.

Udemy is pretty good at eliciting fast action:

udemy urgency ad

  1. Scarcity

Similar to urgency, scarcity works on the principle of loss aversion.

Instead of imposing time-limits, scarcity works by creating an impression that a product, service, or offer is limited.

In other words, if users don’t act now, they might never get the chance to do so again.

  1. Copy that evokes curiosity

While users on Facebook aren’t actively looking for solutions to their problems, they will notice content in passing that promises to help solve a pain point.

In your ad copy, address these issues and frustrations.

This ad from the American Massage Therapy Association suggests that therapists may develop health problems if they don’t take certain actions.

compelling copy fb ad

Questions are a great way to hook people in and get them to keep reading from one line to the next until they’ve ‘bought’ in to your ad. Make them nod their subconscious head in agreement and you’ve got them hooked.

“Are you frustrated by…” “Do you struggle to…” “Tired of…”

You get the idea.

Section 2: Setting up a Killer Facebook Ad

Now that you’ve got a good idea of the kind of ad you need, let’s put pen to paper and start crafting your ads.

Creating An Ad

Creating an ad is like painting.

It can take days, even weeks, and you’ll always be making minor adjustments. It’s hard to know when you’re actually ‘done.’

You have two tools to create ads with:

I’ll go over Ads Manager here since it is beginner-friendly.

Head over to the Facebook Ads Manager page. You should see tabs with the following 4 options: Account Overview, Campaigns, Ad Sets and Ads.

facebook ad account overview

Your account section acts as a directory where everything related to your ads can be found.

This is where you create ads for a single objective from Facebook’s pre-determined options: awareness, consideration, and conversion.

Under this tab you can set the schedule for ad duration and select the target audience.

Organize the different ads you’re running in each ad campaign.

For example, in the awareness stage, you might be running an image ad to ungated content and a promotional offer simultaneously to two different target audiences. But you can group the awareness campaigns together, or organize by audience, etc.

In the ads section, you choose the ad format.

Are you going to run a Photo Ad, Video or Carousel?

Ads in this section represent the final version of what users will see on their Facebook feed.

Here's a visual explanation of this hierarchy

facebook ad manager structure

Got it?

If so, you’re ready to get your hands dirty.

Let’s take a look at the steps required to create a Facebook ad:

This should already be straightforward by now.

While you may intend to have multiple ad campaigns run concurrently, let’s focus on one at a time.

Naming your campaign appropriately should not be overlooked.

Once you have launched and run numerous ads with different objectives, targets and messages, it can be hard to distinguish one ad from another.

Name your ads to include its objective and a date range. This makes it easier to differentiate one ad from another when you revisit them at a later time.

campaign name

The audience you choose to show an ad ultimately defines its success.

Ideally, your ad should be as relevant as possible to the people who come across it. Audience selection determines if your ad will be shown to a large general audience or a narrow custom group of people.

Facebook gives you many options to create an audience.

You can select from options such as age, gender, location, interests, behaviors, income level, and much more.

This is where the true power of Facebook ads lies.

As tempting as it may be to show your ad to a large swath of people, it's best to start small and targeted to test an ad’s CTR and conversion before you roll it out to a mass audience.

Also keep in mind that it’s rare that one message will resonate with all people. Honing your message to speak directly to fewer people will convert better than a generic ad pushed out to the masses.

Remember how I mentioned ads can be displayed within the newsfeed, sidebar, or audience network?

This is where you select where your ads will display within Facebook.

Keep in mind that sidebar ads show on desktop only. A large number of Facebook users access their newsfeed primarily via the mobile platform, so you’ll limit your reach selecting this option.

Selecting a Budget

The next step is pivotal to the success of your campaign, so I’ve dedicated an entire section to it.

The budget section is where you’ll make decisions that will determine the costs related to running your Facebook ad campaigns.

Since there are thousands of others running the same ads as you and trying to achieve the same goals, spending power factors into ad visibility.

Here’s a glimpse of what the budget page looks like:

facebook ad budget page

The first thing you’ll want to do is define a daily or lifetime budget.

A daily budget is simply how much you’re willing to spend on an ad campaign per day whereas the lifetime budget is the total amount you’re willing to spend over a period of time on this specific ad.

If you choose a lifetime budget, you’ll need to set a start and end time. If you opt instead for a daily budget, you can choose to run the ad continuously or choose a start and end date.

Optimization for Ad Delivery

This option is how you tell Facebook what you hope to gain through this campaign.

facebook ad bidding

Choosing “conversions” tells Facebook to determine which users it thinks will find your ad most relevant and be most likely to complete your goal action (giving you an email address, purchasing a product, etc).

“Link Clicks to your Website” is similar to conversions in that you’re telling Facebook’s algorithm to pick the people most likely to click through your ad to your website.

If you’re running an awareness campaign, you’ll likely opt for an impressions or “Daily Unique Reach” campaign to maximize the number of times your ad is shown.

The bid section is like an auction.

It lets you define a monetary value that you’re willing to pay-per-click, per impression, or per conversion from an ad.

In other words, it tells Facebook how much you’re willing to pay per action defined.

Facebook compares this value with what others are willing to pay and adjusts ad visibility.

You get two options when bidding - automatic and manual.

bid amount

If you’re a novice, go with the automated option.

You can limit your reach by bidding too low or spend more than needed by bidding too high.

Facebook wants to keep you advertising on their platform, so they are very careful with your bids. This is in direct contrast to Adwords which blows through your budget as quickly as possible under the ad parameters you set.

While automated bids are safe, taking a risk with manual bidding can get the most bang for your buck. But I’d recommend this option only if clicks are not that valuable to you.

Otherwise, use your daily or lifetime ad budget to set the limits of your ad spend and take the automated route.

This section lets you control how often and how fast your ads are displayed.

If you’re only running ads for a few hours a day or have a time-sensitive offer, go with the accelerated option.

Otherwise, use the standard delivery method.

delivery type

That’s all there is to it!

Place your order, publish your ads, and wait for the results.

Measure Ad Performance And Optimize

It’s never a bad idea to review progress of an ad campaign to see how things are going.

Facebook Ads Manager has an in-built analytics section where you can browse through campaigns and measure performance of any ad.

To access it, click on Account > Campaigns tab.

Select a date range for the length of time for which you want to analyze ad performance.

You’ll see a bunch of metrics such as cost-per-click, cost-per-conversion, impressions, and unique link clicks (new version of ads manager).

in built analytics

If you wish, you can also customize the metrics you see.

Click on the ‘Columns’ option to select between different ad reports and change the metrics shown in your reports.

custom facebook metrics

The choice of ad metrics you want to see depends on your campaign goal.

This makes it easy to gauge the success of your campaign relative to the goals you set for that specific ad. You can then use this data to optimize your campaign.

AdEspresso by Hootsuite analyzed 37,259 Facebook ads to determine that while most companies run only one ad, the most successful Facebook marketers have hundreds.

Try different phrasing, shorten or expand your message, change our your image and test different ad styles to find the one - or twelve - that resonate most with your fans and customers.

Just make sure that you track modifications so that if a tweak results in a decrease in performance you can revert back easily. And - of course - change one thing at a time so you can more easily isolate the cause of an increase or decrease in performance.

Insightful data is just always a few clicks away.

Conclusion

Facebook ads have something to offer every business.

Facebook may be facing increased competition but it’s still a superstar tool for marketers. You can tailor ad parameters to fit your objectives, budget, and time constraints.

Whether you’re looking to increase brand awareness, gather leads or solicit direct sales, Facebook offers a variety of ad types and targeting to allow you to get your message in front of your future customers.

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About The Author: Ryan Eldridge is Chief Strategist at Squirrel Digital Marketing, a data-driven growth marketing company and digital marketing agency. He is also CEO and Co-Founder of Nerds on Call, a computer repair company servicing clients throughout California and Oregon. He appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and Fox 2 in Oakland, offering viewers insight into tech news and marketing. See Ryan in action at ryaneldridge.tv