Facebook is probably the most neglected online advertising channel of them all.
How often do you hear things like:
“Facebook has been dead since everybody’s parents started using it.”
“Instagram has 10x the engagement rate!”
“Email crushes Facebook.”
Yeah yeah, we get it, Facebook is lame.
So, how come their revenue is growing so fast?
(Taken from an infographic on Hubspot)
Not only do they have the biggest user base, with about 1.4 billion monthly active users, but they also seem to make plenty of money with their advertising system.
I think there’s a whole bunch of hypocrites out there.
If one out of every $10 in advertising is spent on Facebook ads, how come everybody shuns the platform, except for a few?
You know what I think?
I think every business tries Facebook ads, fails at it and then blames the platform.
People just suck at making Facebook ads work for them. They don’t truly understand their target audience, so they place ads in the news feed of the wrong people, etc.
Today, I’ll help you out with that.
I’m going to show you a few examples of people who’ve been successful with Facebook ads and then walk you through setting up your first campaign without breaking a sweat.
Even if you’re a complete newbie, after reading this guide, you’ll have a good grasp of Facebook ads.
I mean it.
I’ll start at the very beginning.
“Wait, you can advertise on Facebook?”
If that was your initial reaction to this post’s headline, then you’re a little late to the party. But, no worries, I’ll get you up to speed.
Since Facebook gets tons of data from their users, who enter it voluntarily on their profile (things like age, location and interests), they have a good idea of who users are and what they like.
Therefore, they can serve them targeted ads that show them products that they are likely to buy, sites they tend to like or events they’d love to attend.
For example, I recently joined a Facebook group about Udemy, the online course platform.
Naturally, Facebook jumps on my choice and starts showing me ads that prompt me to sign up for a course (they thought I might like to learn about creating video games).
You might say: “Wait Neil, are you sure this isn’t just a news feed post from Udemy? Did you maybe like their page? How do you know this is an ad?”
There are a few features that every Facebook ad has and these make ads unmistakable. With these, I can know for sure that it’s an ad.
Here they are:
You can see a “Sponsored” tag right underneath the name of the page that is advertising to you.
There’s also a unique “Like Page” button, in the top right corner, that’s never visible on regular posts.
Finally, unlike regular news feed items, all Facebook ads have a call-to-action (also called a CTA), in the bottom right corner, which might say one of the following things:
- Learn More
- Sign Up
- Contact Us
- Shop Now
- Book Now
- Watch More
- Apply Now
Facebook has a predefined set of CTA buttons.
So, remember, you can spot Facebook ads by paying attention to these 3 things:
- A “sponsored” tag, below the name of the site
- The prompt to like the page in the top right corner
- A call-to-action button in the bottom right corner
You might wonder why Facebook doesn’t make its advertising more aggressive and obvious, like YouTube.
(does anyone like YouTube ads?)
YouTube forces you to sit through an ad for every 3 or 4 videos that you watch. For a while, you can skip the ads, but eventually, you’ll have to sit through an entire 30 second video.
For long videos (>1hr), they even show you commercials during the video (just like TV commercials).
The result: Everyone HATES YouTube ads.
Do you know anyone who doesn’t block these things or who leaves their computer and returns once it’s over?
The reason we hate YouTube ads is because they disrupt the flow of the user experience.
We want our experience to be us just watching video after video, for as long as we like, until we decide to stop.
YouTube changes the experience for us, forcefully, by interrupting it with their ads.
We don’t like being interrupted. As a matter of fact, we face enough interruptions each day, costing us our precious brain power and challenging our self-control.
Facebook is smarter than YouTube.
They want to integrate their ads into the natural flow of the experience, as seamlessly as possible.
Flow is actually a great term for this. Think about how you navigate Facebook.
You always scroll down through your news feed, either with your mouse or your finger. Since they just drop an ad into your feed, you are not interrupted. You can look at it or just keep on scrolling.
It doesn’t change your user experience at all.
Note: There are also sidebar ads, which are similar to banners, but they just cover what would otherwise be white space, so there’s also no interruption there.
Making the ads blend in and not be recognized as such, to the untrained eye, is one of the secrets behind Facebook’s huge revenue growth.
So, advertising on Facebook is, in a nutshell, paying to place promotions and product offers in the news feed of a specific, targeted audience on Facebook.
Before we dive into some case studies and how to set up your first ad, we need to lay some groundwork.
There are 5 types of Facebook ads:
- Inside the news feed on desktop
- Inside the news feed on mobile
- Right-hand sidebar on desktop
- Audience network on mobile
- On Instagram
Instagram was just added and they opened advertising to everybody at the end of September 2015.
Placing ads in the news feed or on the right column is pretty obvious, but what does an audience network ad look like?
These ads are placed on regular websites, inside apps or even in games.
(Image via Techcrunch)
That way, Facebook extended its possibilities for advertising from just inside Facebook to basically any real estate that they own.
Instagram advertising was opened to big brands not so long ago, but now everyone can do it.
Instagram ads are also placed inside the app’s natural feed, which relies on the same principle as native Facebook ads: don’t interrupt the user experience.
Ben and Jerry’s has done a great job with them:
(Image via Postano)
Thanks to a few creative campaigns, their Instagram account now boasts almost 600,000 followers.
There are 2 ways to manage your Facebook ads, which often confuse people.
First, there’s the Ads Manager, which is the standard dashboard that you get when creating your ad account.
(screenshots courtesy of a friend I recently helped get started)
This is the go-to option for beginners and you should use it too, when starting out. Then, there’s the Power Editor, which is for more advanced users.
The Power Editor just a different way of organizing your ads and gives you a few more options to customize your advertising.
Instagram ads, for example, can only be run using the Power Editor.
When you first sign up for Facebook advertising, they will immediately prompt you to create your first campaign.
A campaign is the most abstract and broad level of your advertising efforts. The only thing that’s determined here is your target outcome, which can be things such as increasing likes, sending traffic to a website, converting prospects to buyers and getting app downloads.
For example, if you want to promote your new game app, like Plants vs. Zombies, and get more downloads in the first week to make it popular, you can set that target here.
(seriously, don’t download this, it’s addictive)
The level that follows is ad sets. An ad set is where you decide what type of ads that you want to run and the target audience that you want to see your ads.
Continuing with the game example, you could create one set for Instagram ads and one for desktop feed ads.
Finally, there’s the ads themselves. This is the level where you actually design your ads and decide elements like copy, images and CTA buttons.
You can have multiple ads in each ad set, to test which ones work best.
If that reminds you strongly of Google Adwords, that’s because it’s exactly the same structure.
Now, we’ve covered all of the basics that you need to know, in order to not feel like an idiot when someone mentions Facebook ads.
But, before I help you turn into a pro (well, compared to 90% of the rest of the world, that is), let’s see whether this actually works.
3 case studies from successful Facebook advertisers
Luckily, not all businesses screw up Facebook ads, so I have some successful campaigns to show you.
First, here’s one that completely blew my mind the other day.
Look at this ad:
(Image source: Leadpages)
Wait a second…an ad for a giveaway?
Is she trying to flush money down the toilet? She’s already giving away something and then she’s paying to promote that?
And, I don’t think she regrets a single dollar spent.
This campaign helped Marina De Giovanni collect 17,000 emails in 6 weeks.
To pull this off, she gave away a $300 item every month. Sometimes, it was a piece of jewelry, sometimes a box with cool make-up, etc.
The final part of her set up was using Facebook ads to drive traffic to the sign up page.
Efficient? Hell yeah!
Yes, she spent some money on this, but she’s also monetizing her blog and email list, for example, through private coaching sessions for $225 each (which is fully booked, btw).
The question is: Would you spend $1,000 to make $10,000?
Of course you would!
Some other success factors of her campaign were:
- Using video to welcome people and tell them how to enter
- Letting the traffic stay inside Facebook, which makes it more likely for people to sign up (since they trust Facebook)
- Constantly testing and tweaking her ads and doubling down on the best ones
You might have heard that you can expect to make $1 per month per subscriber from your email list.
Even if you only do half as good, you can still make a good living off an email list the size of Marina’s.
Okay, fine, it works for bloggers, but does it also work for startups?
I’ll show you that it does.
Look at this ad:
(Image source: WP Curve)
Design Pickle offers unlimited graphic requests, something which would typically make people skeptical.
This ad with its “Ah, a free design can’t hurt” attitude is directly responsible for almost $6,000 in monthly recurring revenue for Design Pickle.
They used it to target highly qualified leads, which were then sent to this survey.
What? So many questions? Ugh!
Won’t that drive down conversions?
Yes. But, they chose to do that, on purpose. They decided to weed out the freeloaders, so they only got leads which were likely to convert.
Doing a free graphic design within a day is a lot of work and they follow up with each client via phone within 24 hours of delivering, so the last thing they need is thousands of people to call who won’t buy a thing.
Instead, their campaign generated around 500 leads, 30 of which turned into subscribers to their $200/mo service.
What’s more, they estimate their customer lifetime value (CLV, the average expected money a customer will spend with them, once a customer) to be around $1,100, resulting in an awesome 633% ROI for the campaign.
Okay, okay, so it works for bloggers and startups. But, what about big brands?
Well, how about Pedigree? Should ring a bell? They’re the folks with the dog food?
(Image source: SIUC English)
They used Facebook ads to create awareness for dogs in shelters, growing the likes on their Facebook page from 55,000 to over a million and raising over $600,000 in donations.
The list of brands who’ve been successful with Facebook ads goes on and on.
Adidas, AT&T, Pepsi, Baskin Robbins, American Express…
Alright, enough with the bragging, how about we get to work?
It’s time to set up your first Facebook ad campaign.
Step 1: Create a fan page
If you don’t already have a fan page, you must create one. Facebook ads can only be attached to businesses, never individuals.
Go to the create page site and pick an option.
(Facebook is one of the best places for personal branding)
For example, if you want to create a personal brand page, like my facebook page, you would choose “Artist, Band or Public Figure.”
Then, you need to pick the category…
…and pick a name.
Next, you have to enter some info about your page, a website and what you want the page name to be, inside Facebook.
Then, it’s time to set a profile picture. Smile!
Skip adding it to your favorites (or do if you feel like it).
After that, you can describe your ideal target audience a bit, so Facebook has an idea of who to suggest your page to.
Set a country, or even specific states and cities, as well as the right age and gender categories.
Under interests, select a few likes that they share with you or your brand. These can also be other influencers in your industry or products or companies.
Once you’ve saved, you’ll be redirected to your page. Congrats!
But, before starting to create ads, you should do at least two things. Add a cover and create a call-to-action.
You can set a cover by clicking on the button in the top left corner.
Your cover should be simple, uplifting and ideally, if you have a company tied to your name, just show its logo.
Don’t overthink this.
You can use this cover creator to craft one in 2 minutes.
If you want to get it right (and you should, the cover takes up 25% of the entire page!), take a look at Hubspot’s cover photo do’s and don’ts first.
Second, the call-to-action.
Facebook gives you a pre-selected range of options here, depending on your goal, similar to what’s possible within ad sets.
In my case, ‘Sign up’ makes the most sense, since I want people to sign up to my email list on my homepage, which is where I will send them when they click.
You can even preview what it will look like on mobile.
That’s it! You’re all set and ready to go and start running Facebook ads!
Step 2: Create your first campaign
To get started, go to the top right of your fan page, click promote and then select ‘Go to Ads Manager.’
You will then be redirected to the dashboard that I showed you earlier, where you should click ‘Create Campaign.’
Then, you can choose your objective. As with our Google ads, we want to keep it as simple as possible, to just get started.
So, choose ‘Send people to your website.’
Now, enter the link to your website. If you’re promoting a product, this would be the sales page. If you’re promoting an event, make it the sign up page.
In my case, I’ll send traffic straight to my homepage, since people have a chance to sign up to my email list there.
Note: This is just an example, I don’t encourage you to spend money on email addresses, especially if you don’t have a way of monetizing them yet. Remember, profit is the only thing that counts!
That’s it. Creating a campaign is as simple as that, because it’s just the top part of the structure.
On to the next step!
Step 3: Create your ad set
You’ll then be taken to the ad set creation section, where you first must decide on your target audience.
The narrower your target audience, the better.
Shoot for 10,000 people or less, in the beginning. You can always expand later. Knowing your target audience demographics is key.
Pick a few specific cities in the countries that you want to target (even better to focus on one country) and narrow down the age span to about 10 years.
For example, if I want to get young entrepreneurs to sign up to my email list, I can narrow down the age group to 24-32, then select that I want only men in Seattle and specify even further.
If I find a statistic that shows that most entrepreneurs in that age category are single, then I can set that as a criteria for my targeting, too.
After selecting a few interests and behaviors, my audience immediately shrinks down to less than 1,000. That’s too little, but you can easily open it up again, by adding a few more locations.
I just added a few more big cities, especially ones with high concentrations of tech entrepreneurs, like San Francisco, New York and Austin.
Voila, my audience jumps to 6,700 people. Perfect.
Next up, you need to set a budget.
You want to start small, remember? This is just an experiment.
So, set your daily budget to $3.33 and fix the end date for the ad campaign to be a month from today.
That way, you won’t spend more than $100.
Under ‘Optimize For,’ set it to ‘Link Clicks to Website.’ You don’t want to pay for impressions, you want to pay for actual clicks.
Otherwise, Facebook will happily show your ad to as many people in your audience as possible, instead of trying to get them to actually click (by maybe showing them the same ad more than once).
Under ‘Pricing,’ change the bid to manual and make it $0.75. This should also be in the range that Facebook suggests, but on the lower end.
For ‘Ad Scheduling,’ you have to leave it set to running ads all of the time, since your campaign has a fixed start and end date. You could change this by setting it to ongoing and then just turning the ads off manually at the end date.
‘Delivery Type’ should be set to ‘Standard’ as well.
Alright, time for the good stuff!
Step 4: Create your first ad
Now, you get to choose the layout of your ad and what content to put in it.
If you choose multiple images in one ad, you will get a carousel that looks like this:
(Image source: Hubspot)
The images will slide through the ad, giving you more space to advertise. You can also use video in your ads.
Do we want that?
Again: Keep it simple!
Stay with a single image and then choose ‘Select Images.’
You can then choose to upload your own picture or browse free stock images. Always use your own pictures.
But, take a look at the right sidebar. Facebook has some guidelines as to the types of images that you can use and those that you can’t.
The most important requirement is the 20% text rule. Facebook doesn’t allow more than 20% of your image to be text.
But, it’s hard to guess how much 20% is.
Fortunately, there’s a free tool that you can use to find that out.
Play around until it fits. Or, if you want to skip the hassle of this altogether, just go with a nice head shot of yourself.
It’s always worth a try, especially if you appear trustworthy in your picture. It’s even more important if you’re building a personal brand.
Once you’ve cropped the image and formatted it correctly, you’ll see a simple preview of your ad.
Now you need to write the copy for your ad and choose your CTA button. Your Facebook fan page will be automatically connected (unless you have multiple ones).
Headline: This is easy. Give your prospects something for free. This could be a giveaway, as in Marina’s example, or an ebook or, as in my case, a free webinar that I’m running right now. Make sure that your headline grabs your reader’s attention.
Text: Try to get 2 things into this. A call-to-action and some social proof. Claire Pells has some awesome advice on what makes great ad copy.
News Feed Link Description (under ‘Show Advanced Options’): Provide a clear call-to-action for your readers that will be to their benefit.
CTA button: Choose “Learn more.” It’s been proven to convert the best.
(Study done by Adroll)
Here are the headline and copy I chose for my ad (just whipped this up in 2 minutes).
Headline: Free Webinar Today
Text: The 3-step process I’ve used to build 4 multi-million dollar businesses.
News Feed Link Description: Get the inside scoop on how I run the show, so you can take your business to the next level fast.
This is what the preview of the ad looks like:
When you’re done, hit place order (don’t worry, nothing will happen, just yet).
Your ad is now in approval mode. You will get a Facebook notification, once it’s approved.
You’ll then be redirected to your dashboard. While you’re waiting for your ad to be approved, you should do a few more things.
First, turn off your ad set, again.
Then, go to ‘Edit Ad Set,’ (the button will show up right next to your ad set name).
A tab will slide in from the right side, which, as a side note, shows you how many people your campaign will likely reach each day.
(this gives you a good idea of what to expect)
Scroll all the way down and uncheck everything, except ‘Desktop News Feed.’
The reason is that we only want one ad in one channel, because otherwise, you won’t be able to analyze the results.
Running one ad simultaneously on mobile, desktop and in the right sidebar will give you data for all three combined, making it impossible to know which ad worked and which didn’t.
But, having just one ad on one channel also won’t give you much to analyze – the success of an ad can only be determined by comparing it to another ad.
That’s why you need to split test.
Step 5: Create 2 more ads for A/B testing
Go to your campaign and click on the name of the ad set.
You’ll then be taken inside of the ad set, where your first ad lives.
Check the box in front of your ad and click on ‘Create Similar Ad.’
You’ll be taken to a new ad screen.
Facebook already hints that we should tweak something. However, don’t change up too much…
I have to correct them. You should actually just change 1 thing.
The only way for you to determine what works and what doesn’t, is by changing one single element, from ad to ad.
Imagine that you change both the copy and the image for the second ad. Then, you change these two things again and create a third ad.
How will you know what made ad B better than ad A and, eventually, ad C better than B?
Was it the new image? The updated headline? The CTA, maybe?
The only way to get absolute certainty of where your results come from is by changing one thing at a time.
Since images get 53% more likes, double the comments and 84% more click-throughs, we’ll start with only changing those.
They are also generally the biggest success factor for your ad. Always focus on the big wins first.
Just scroll down and upload a new image.
Besides my own, beautiful face, what else can I use?
According to Facebook image best practices, happy people have a good click-through rate.
Since I talk about making money on the webinar, maybe money + happy people = win?
How can we find out? Test it!
I’m showing my ad only to guys, so I’m definitely going to include a woman in the image, since we all know that they get more clicks than men.
I’ll just use this picture from Flickr.
The new ad will look like this:
While we’re at it, let’s create a third ad. Three is a good number to start testing with.
We’ll keep this one simple, with just an encouraging CTA in a simple design.
Canva.com makes this happen in a matter of seconds. They even have templates for Facebook ads, ready to use.
Using those, I whipped this up in less than 2 minutes:
Alright, time to get the party started. Hit ‘Place Order.’
And now…you wait.
Step 6: Wait for 24 hours
After the new ads pass the review, turn on your ad set and let it run for a day to get some results.
Play a little Candy Crush – just kidding, work on something else!
Step 7: Kill the ads that don’t work
Once you have some data on which ad works the best, turn off the other two. Run with the best performing ad until it stops working.
This might be a week, although it’s usually more in the range of 4 to 5 days.
Then, you’ll have to change the image and copy, because everyone relevant will have seen your ad already.
It also depends on how big your audience is.
If your ad is served to 500 people per day, you’ll go through most people from a 3,000 people audience within 5 days.
Step 8 [Optional]: Increase your budget Step 9 [Intro]: Expand your reach with custom audiences
Before you dump more money into the ads, make sure that you’re converting on the back end!
If your ads drive sales directly, that’s perfect. But, if you’re collecting emails or app download, make sure that the math holds up and that people end up actually paying you.
Otherwise, this step could lead to a big hole in your wallet, really fast.
However, if you’re positive that your ads are providing a positive ROI, you can start increasing your budget, slowly and creating more ads and reaching the news feed of more Facebook users.
Step 9 [Intro]: Expand your reach with custom & lookalike audiences
I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about custom and lookalike audiences, but I’ll give you an introduction so that you can look into it later. I’ve also written this article about tools to enhance your Facebook ads success and this one about more advanced Facebook ad management.
But, custom and lookalike audiences are a great way to increase the detail of your ad targeting (custom audience) and expand your target audience reach (lookalike audience) to maximize your ad campaign results.
As you can see, Facebook ads aren’t rocket science.
This guide gives you everything that you need to get started today, in less than an hour.
You’ve seen the various uses and ways to make Facebook ads work.
You know all of the basic terms and how to set up your first campaign.
How will you use this new knowledge?
What will you advertise for?
Let me know the headline of your first ad and what you’re hoping to achieve with your first campaign.