facebook ads guide

Facebook Ads: The Complete Guide for Beginners

If you’re new to the world on Facebook ads, and you want to learn how to set up and optimize a Facebook campaign, you’re at the right place! In this Facebook Ads Guide, we walk you through how to set up your very first campaign, plus give you Facebook advertising and targeting tips and tricks to make the most out of your ad budget.

Now, if you’ve previously experimented with AdWords campaigns, but you now want to focus on Facebook, you’re not alone.

In recent years, business owners and marketers are increasingly shifting their budget away from Google AdWords…

And spending more on Facebook ads.

Why is this the case?

Well, first of all, Google AdWords is becoming insanely expensive.

Back in 2008, the average Cost Per Conversion on AdWords used to be $7.02.

In 2012, it increased to $24.40.

And in 2016, it increased yet again, this time to $33.

Costs aside, you typically get more conversions with a Facebook ad campaign as opposed to a Google AdWords campaign.

More specifically, the average conversion rate on Facebook is a whopping 9.21% (as compared to AdWords’ 2.70%).

Now, if you’re a business owner or marketer who wants to get more bang for your buck using Facebook ads, you’re in the right place.

In this comprehensive Facebook Ads Guide, I’ll walk you through how to set up and optimize your very first Facebook ad campaign.

I’ll even throw in a couple of case studies, so you can see how other folks are utilizing different facebook advertising tips and maximizing the value of their ad campaigns.

Ready? Let’s jump right in!

Prerequisites: Business Manager Account + Ad Account

Before you set up your first Facebook ad campaign, you’ve got to have two things…

A Business Manager account, and a Facebook ad account.

If you haven’t already set these up, these resources will help you do just that:

Done? Alright, let’s move onto creating your first campaign!

Step 1: Choose your campaign objective

To create your first campaign on Facebook, navigate to your Ad Manager and click on the green “+ Create” button on the left.

Now, the first thing you’ll have to do is choose your campaign objective.

There are 11 different objectives you can pick from, including:

  • Brand awareness
  • Reach
  • Traffic
  • Engagement
  • App installs
  • Video views
  • Lead generation
  • Messages
  • Conversions
  • Catalog sales
  • Store visits

Let’s run through each of these objectives…

#1: Brand awareness
Purpose: Exposing your brand/products to a wider audience
Typically used by: Advertisers launching a new brand or products

#2: Reach
Purpose: Maximizing your ad impressions over a short period of time
Typically used by: Advertisers promoting limited-time offers

#3: Traffic
Purpose: Driving more traffic to your site
Typically used by: Advertisers who want to get more site visits

#4: Engagement
Purpose: Reaching a wider audience and driving engagement
Typically used by: Advertisers who want to build up their social media following and engagement

#5: App installs
Purpose: Getting consumers to install your mobile app
Typically used by: Advertisers who want their customers to install their mobile app

#6: Video views
Purpose: Getting more views on your videos
Typically used by: Advertisers who want to generate more video views

#7: Lead generation
Purpose: Collecting leads for your business
Typically used by: Advertisers who want to get more newsletter subscribers or leads. These advertisers may be in the B2B or SaaS industry. Note that you’ll need to make sure that your facebook lead ads are GDPR-compliant.

#8: Messages
Purpose: Starting conversations with your consumers
Typically used by: Advertisers who want to nurture their leads. These advertisers may be in the B2B or SaaS industry.

#9: Conversions
Purpose: Encouraging consumers to visit and convert on your website
Typically used by: Advertisers who want their consumers to convert (ie sign up for a form, or make a purchase) on their website.

#10: Catalog sales
Purpose: Driving more sales for your eCommerce store
Typically used by: Advertisers who want to optimize their ads to maximize eCommerce sales.

#11: Store visits
Purpose: Encouraging consumers who live nearby to visit your local business
Typically used by: Advertisers who want to reach out to local customers. These advertisers may be in the retail industry.

If you want to get people to take an action on your website (eg purchase an item or complete a form), I’d say you should go with “conversions”.

Alternatively, if you’re trying to generate leads, you can also use the “lead generation” objective.

This will prompt you to set up a Facebook Lead Ads campaign; click on my Facebook Lead Ads Guide to learn more.

As a general rule of thumb, I’d steer clear of the “reach” and “brand awareness” objectives.

With these objectives, Facebook will spend your budget on getting as many impressions and views as possible — but it won’t optimize your ads to maximize your conversions.

Now that’s clear, let’s move on to step two… deciding who you want to target!

Step 2: Decide who you want to target

Many newbie advertisers will simply set up their audience targeting based on demographic information, including:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Location

Guess what?

This is a good start, but it isn’t enough.

If you want to enjoy high conversion rates and low Cost Per Conversions, you’ll have to get more granular than that!

For example, say I own an eCommerce store selling activewear.

Here are a few options I could go with…

OPTION 1: Target according to interest.

Consumers who are interested in sports will probably be a good fit for my brand, so it makes sense for me to serve my ads to these people…

Setting this up is simple.

After you choose your campaign objective, you’ll get redirected to a page that allows you to create a new ad set.

Scroll down to the “Audience” section, input your demographic information…

Then scroll down to “Detailed targeting” and add in the interests you want to target.

OPTION 2: Target according to brand

The “Sports” interest is relevant to my business, but it’s still a bit too generic. If I want to get more focused, I can also target consumers according to the brand.

With this option, I’ll make a list of other brands that my potential customers might be interested in, and serve my ads to Facebook users who are looking at these brands.

OPTION C: Target according to publications/influencers

Brands aside, I can also look at what publications my consumers read, or which influencers they look up to and follow.

In the fitness space, for example, one of the most prolific influencers is Kayla. This Australian personal trainer and entrepreneur, has her own app called Sweat With Kayla, and here’s how I can target the people who use her app:

OPTION D: Target according to job title

Next, I also have the option of targeting consumers according to their job titles.

Say I specifically want to reach out to those in the fitness industry. Here’s how I’d serve my ads to these folks:

OPTION E: Target according to the Facebook page

What if I want to reach out to the people who have already Liked my Facebook page?

I can do that as well…

In fact, Facebook also gives you options to reach out to friends of people who like your Page. Pretty neat, huh?

This feature is available under “Connections”, which is right under “Detailed targeting”.

OPTION F: Target people who have visited your site

This is my personal favorite Facebook advertising strategy!

Facebook is so powerful, you can even have the ability to target people who haven’t interacted with you on Facebook, but have visited your website.

To do this, click on the “Create New” button under the “Custom Audiences” feature and choose “Custom Audience”…

And then click on “Website traffic”.

Note that you’ll need to have your Facebook Pixel set up properly in order for this to work. If you haven’t done so yet, check out this Facebook Help Guide.

Option G: Target people in your mailing list

Last but not least, you can also target the people who have signed up for your mailing list, and serve them with Facebook ads.

First, click on the “Create New” button under the “Custom Audiences” feature and choose “Custom Audience”…

Then click on “Customer File” (that’s the option above “Website Traffic”).

You can either upload your customer’s email addresses manually or connect your Facebook ad account to MailChimp to import the addresses from there.

Got it? Great!

Let’s move on to talk about your offer.

Step 3: Decide on your offer

Now that you’ve identified who you want to target with your ads, the next step is to come up with an offer that they can’t resist.

Why is this so important?

Think about it:

People log onto Facebook to check in with their friends and watch funny dog videos… not to shop for products.

Whenever Facebook serves your ad to a user, they’re essentially interrupting this user in their flow and asking for their attention.

Now, if your ad is irrelevant and your offer is unattractive, you don’t stand a chance.

The consumer will simply continue watching their video or stalking their ex.

If your ad does feature a great offer, though, that’s when your consumer will decide, alright, I don’t mind taking two minutes to check this company out.

How do you craft a great offer?

Here are a few ways…

1. Take into consideration your industry and type of product

As a general rule of thumb, your offer will be highly dependent on the industry you’re in.

If you’re an eCommerce business, you won’t go wrong with involving discounts and gift-with-purchase deals in your offer.

If you’re a SaaS company, then you might offer a free trial or product demo.

What about if you’re a marketing or digital agency? Then you might entice your target audience with some sort of white paper or calculator.

2. Consider what stage of the Buyer’s Journey your customer is at

If your customer is at the Consideration stage, then it doesn’t make sense for you to try and sell them your product.

After all, they’re still researching their options, and they’re not ready to make a purchase! What should you do instead?

Simple — offer them a free lead magnet (eg eBook), and nurture them from there.

3. Link your offer to a tangible outcome or benefit

Finally, make sure you explain to your customer how your offer gives them a tangible outcome or benefit.

If you’re offering your customer an eBook, for example, you might tell them that this eBook will teach them how to do XYZ in 7 days.

If you’re selling a product, the same thing goes.

Don’t just talk about your product’s specs and features…

Tell them the tangible benefits that your product brings!

Here’s a negative example:

Our Waterproof Headphones come with 8 hours of wireless playback with a Built-in MP3 Player.

And a positive one:

With our Waterproof Headphones, you can now hold marathon karaoke sessions in the shower. Your voice will go hoarse before the battery runs out!

Step 4: Decide on your placements

Cool beans — you now know how to come up with a great offer to use with your Facebook ads.

The next step is to decide on your placements.

Here’s a complete list of the available placements:

Facebook:

  • Feeds
  • Instant articles
  • In-stream videos
  • Right column
  • Suggested videos
  • Marketplace
  • Stories

Instagram:

  • Feed
  • Stories

Audience Network:

  • Native, Banner and Interstitial
  • In-stream videos
  • Rewarded videos

Messenger:

  • Inbox
  • Sponsored messages: Here are Facebook’s official recommendations on which placements you should use, based on your campaign objective:
    • Brand awareness: Facebook and Instagram
    • Engagement: Facebook and Instagram
    • Video views: Facebook, Instagram and Audience Network
    • App installs: Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Audience Network
    • Traffic: Facebook, Messenger and Audience Network
    • Catalog sales: Facebook and Audience Network
    • Conversions: Facebook, Messenger and Audience Network.

If you want to narrow your choices down, though, here’s our take:

  • Facebook and Instagram are the “standard” picks.
  • Messenger is a good fit for some brands.
  • You should never use the Audience Network as a placement.

Let’s talk about Messenger ads first.

If your goal is to start a conversation with your customer (instead of driving a purchase or conversion, then these will be right up your alley).

If you’re keen to experiment with this placement, check out these Facebook Messenger Ads Best Practices.

Now, what about Audience Network ads?

These placements appear on partner sites outside of Facebook, and they consist of:

  • Native, banner, and interstitial ads
  • In-stream videos (aka video ads that run between other videos)
  • Rewarded videos (aka video ads that run when users play games on their phones)

The upside of these ads?

They drive a lot of cheap clicks for your campaign.

The downside of these ads?

The traffic that you get is extremely low-quality. You’re basically getting a ton of accidental clicks, which means that your traffic will bounce within one or two seconds.

So here’s the bottom line…

Stick with Facebook and Instagram ads (and Messenger, if it’s relevant for you!), and avoid Audience Network like the plague.

Now, let’s talk about how to edit your placements.

Looking at your Facebook Ads Manager, we’re still on the same page that we previously left off, but we’re going to move on from the “Audience” section to the “Placements” section.

By default, all placements will be turned on…

Go ahead and click on “Edit placements”, and this is what you’ll see:

First things first: using the “Device Types” drop-down list, you can choose whether you want to serve ads to users on mobile, desktop, or both.

If you’re trying to get people to buy a product or service, it might make sense to use both. Some consumers will research and read up about a product using their mobile devices, but still, switch to using a desktop when they make their actual purchase.

If you’re simply promoting an eBook download or some other lead magnet, on the other hand, then keep it to mobile only.

The vast majority of people use their mobile phones to access Facebook, and this will help you keep your Cost Per Click and Cost Per Conversion low.

Next, decide which placements you want to show your ads on, and edit those accordingly.

Step 5: Decide on your Budget

Alright, moving on to your budget!

There are three things you’ll have to do here:

  1. Decide between a daily budget or a lifetime budget
  2. Choose what you want to optimize your ad delivery for
  3. Choose whether you want to bid using Lowest Cost or Target Cost

We’ll go through these one at a time.

Deciding if you want to use a daily budget or lifetime budget

If you use a daily budget, you’re basically telling Facebook to spend this amount of money every single day.

If you use a lifetime budget, on the other hand, you’re allowing Facebook to spend at its own discretion.

Say your lifetime budget is $500, and your campaign runs over the course of a week.

Facebook might spend $50 on the first day, $70 on the next, and then $20 on the third day. That said, they won’t exceed $500 by the end of the campaign.

Generally speaking, most business owners and marketers find that using lifetime budgets gives them better results.

For instance, here’s a case study about how switching from daily to lifetime budget resulted in a 3x increase in click-through rate, and a 30% decrease in Cost Per Click.

Choosing what you want to optimize your ad delivery for

Assuming you previously chose “Conversions” as your campaign objective, you should stick to the same optimization option here.

Choosing whether to bid with Lowest Cost or Target Cost

With the lowest cost, it’s pretty straightforward — you’re getting Facebook to bid with the goal of getting you the lowest possible cost per conversion.

With target cost, however, you’re asking Facebook to try and adhere to your target cost per conversion. Facebook says that this particular Facebook advertising strategy is suitable for those who are looking to “achieve more stable results” as their ad spend increases.

Here’s an example:

With the lowest cost, you might get your first 20 conversions at an average cost of $8 per conversion. But once you increase your ad spend, your conversions might start costing you $12 per conversion on average.

With target cost, say you set your target cost to be $10. This means you’ll achieve an average cost of $10 per conversion — and this (theoretically!) won’t change, even as you scale up your ad spend.

Now, you might be wondering…

Well, why can’t I just use the target cost and set a low target cost of $2?

You can definitely do that, but if Facebook deems your target cost unrealistically low, they might only spend a portion of your budget, or they might even stop delivering your ad altogether.

So, is the lowest cost or target cost better?

We recommend starting out with the lowest cost, just so you can figure out what your baseline is.

Once you start increasing your budget and your costs start creeping up, however, you can switch to the target cost.

Remember to bid realistically for your target cost, though, so that Facebook will serve your ads!

Step 6: Design your Ads

Now, onto the fun part… designing and creating your ads!

Before we teach you how to do this, let’s look at the different types of ad formats:

  • Single image
  • Carousel
  • Single video
  • Slideshow
  • Collection

Here’s a breakdown of each type of ad…

#1: Single Image
What it is: A single banner ad
Suitable for: Advertisers who want to drive awareness or conversions
Pros: Easy and straightforward to create
Cons: Might be hard to stand out against the competition

#2: Carousel
What it is: An ad that allows you to showcase up to ten images or videos, each with its own link
Suitable for: Advertisers who want to showcase different products OR specific details about a single product, service or promotion
Pros: Allows you to tell a more compelling story
Cons: Need to ensure that every single image or video used within the ad is compelling

#3: Single video
What it is: A single video
Suitable for: Advertisers who want to draw people in and capture their attention
Pros: More engaging than banner or carousel ads
Cons: Challenging to create a great video to use with your ads. Keep in mind that Facebook users prefer shorter video ads that span 15 seconds or less.

#4: Slideshow
What it is: Video-like ads that use a combination of animated photos and text to tell a story.
Suitable for: Advertisers who want to experiment with video ads, but find it too time-consuming to create a live video.
Pros: Quick and affordable to create (as compared to video ads).
Cons: Though lightweight, they’re less compelling than live video ads.

#5: Collection
What it is: Ads that redirect users to an “Instant experience” (something like a full-screen landing page). Collection ads may be used with different templates such as “Instant Storefront”, “Instant Lookbook”, “Instant Customer Acquisition” and “Instant Storytelling”.
Suitable for: Advertisers whose goal is to drive engagement.
Pros: Users can browse through your content without leaving Facebook or Instagram.
Cons: Takes more effort to set up as opposed to standard banner ads.

Alright, now that you’re up to speed on what ad format works for what type of advertiser, let’s walk you through how to create your ads:

After you’ve set your budget, click on the “Continue” button at the bottom of the page, and this will redirect you to a page where you can create your ad.

First, input your ad name, and then scroll down to choose your ad format.

You have quite a few options here, but to start off with, we recommend going with a simple banner ad.

Once you get more familiar with Facebook, you can start experimenting with other ad formats, such as carousel ads, video ads, and more.

Now that you’ve chosen your ad format, it’s time to create and upload your ad image.

To do this, we recommend using Canva.com, which is a simple drag-and-drop tool that you can use to design images.

Here’s a quick guide on how to create a Facebook ad using Canva

Once you’re done, go back to your “Create An Ad” page, and click on “Upload image”.

Then fill in your text, website URL, headline, and choose your Call To Action (CTA).

As you edit your ad, you’ll be able to check out how it looks in the preview panel on the right.

Be sure to click the drop-down menu on the top, to check that your ad looks good across all the different formats you’re using.

Once you’re done, scroll down and click “Confirm”.

Now all you have to do is wait for your ad to be approved. Once that’s done, Facebook will start serving your ad to users!

Before we move on, here’s one last tip to keep in mind:

If you’re using a text overlay on your ad, Facebook stipulates that this should not take up more than 20% of the ad’s space.

If you go over this 20%, your ad’s deliverability might be affected, or it might not run at all:

If you’re not sure if your ad is floating that 20% rule, you can use Facebook’s Image Text Check function to find out.

Go ahead and upload your image to the page…

And Facebook will rate it accordingly.

Step 7: Optimize your Ads

In this section, we’ll run through a few ways in which you can optimize your ads. The goal is to convert as many users as possible while spending the least amount of money!

Facebook Ad Best Practices and Optimization methods

There are plenty of Facebook ad best practices out there; here are a few to get you started.

Ads and creatives:

Talk about benefits and outcomes, not product features or specifications. Take Apple, for example – they killed it when they launched the iPod with the tagline “1000 songs in your pocket”. If they had framed it as “16GB worth of memory” instead, it wouldn’t have made such a huge impact!

Use eye-catching colors, and add a border around your ad to make it “pop”. Your ad has to stand out while your consumer is scrolling through their newsfeed!

Include a CTA in your ad copy (yes, despite the fact that you have another CTA button within your ad). This will encourage the user to take action, and drive more conversions for your ad campaign.

Use powerful and emotive words (eg “skyrocket your leads”, “destroy your competition”). This increases the likelihood that your ad will evoke some sort of emotion in the user; when that happens, your user has a higher chance of taking action.

Experiment with using emojis in ads. Again, this boils down to standing out. Go ahead and jazz up your caption with some eye-catching emojis!

Targeting:

Experiment with using Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences. With the former, you can target people who are fans of your page or people who have joined your mailing list; with the latter, you can reach out to people who have similar profiles as your highest-paying customers.

Retarget users who have previously visited your site. Retargeting your existing customers is shown to be a lot more effective than reaching out to a new pool of customers. For all the eCommerce store owners out there, make sure you get those customers who have abandoned their carts to come back and convert!

Use Facebook Audience Insights to refine your targeting. Look at your campaigns, figure out what’s working and what’s not, and then fine-tune them accordingly.

There’s a ton more — just Google “Facebook ads tips” or “Facebook ads best practices”, or “Facebook ad targeting tips” and knock yourself out!

A word of caution:

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to running Facebook ads, and what works for other people might not work for you.

Bearing this in mind, you shouldn’t blindly follow the Facebook ad best practices that you read about online.

You can definitely experiment and try out different Facebook advertising tips and tricks, but at the same time, run A/B tests so that you know which techniques are the most effective for you!

Run A/B test on your campaigns

If you want to optimize your ads, you’ll have to measure and track everything — simple as that.

Where do A/B tests come into the picture?

Well, with these tests, you’re tracking the success and effectiveness of TWO different variants of the same campaign, ad set or ad.

Once you figure out which variant is more effective, you can then switch out all your campaigns, ad sets or ads to mimic that variant. This will boost your conversion rate, and decrease your CPC and CPA.

There are two ways in which you can A/B test your ads.

The first way is to create an “official” A/B test using Facebook.

To do this, toggle the “Create Split Test” option that you get at the point where you create a new campaign…

On the next page, decide what variables you want to test:

Your options include:

  • Creatives
  • Delivery optimization
  • Audience
  • Placement

After you decide on your variables, the next step is to set your budget and determine how you want to split it. (You should always go for 50-50; allocating more budget to a certain ad set or variant will mess up your results).

Alternatively, your other option is to run your A/B test manually.

If you want to test your targeting, you can set up two different ad sets within the same campaign:

Ad Set 1 = Male, 25-50, United States, Interest: Nike
Ad Set 2 = Male, 25-50, United States, Interest: Adidas

Make sure you only change ONE element at a time. If you change multiple elements, you won’t know which factor is the one that has contributed to the success of your winning ad set.

What if you want to test your ad copy?

Simple — set up two different ads within the same ad set:

Copy for Ad 1 = “Shop our hiking gear at 20% off now.”
Copy for Ad 2 = “Waterproof backpack for hiking, rated 5-stars by 2,000+ customers. Now at 20% off!”

Again, when you’re testing your ad copy, you shouldn’t change any other element of your ad.

Your CTA, headline, banner — everything has to remain the same.

Experiment with different ad formats

Apart from optimizing your ads, you should also experiment with other ad formats, like how we discussed in Step 6 of this article.

More specifically, we recommend trying out video ads.

Most marketers and business owners understand, on an intuitive level, that video ads are more engaging and attractive than typical banner ads.

That’s not all — video ads also convey messages better.

Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video, but they only retain 10% of that same message when reading it in text.

How does this impact your bottom line?

Well, statistics show that marketers who use video grow their revenue 49% faster than those who don’t use videos.

Pretty impressive, don’t you think?

If you want to experiment with using video ads in your Facebook campaigns, we recommend using a tool such as Shakr.

Closing Thoughts

You’ve made it all the way to the end of this bumper Facebook ads guide… give yourself a pat on your back!

Remember: running Facebook ads isn’t just about setting up a campaign, uploading your banner ad, and calling it a day.

You’ll also have to put in the time and energy to A/B test your ads. (In fact, we’d say that you should spend the bulk of your time doing this).

Are you still in the midst of creating your first campaign, or have you been working with Facebook ads for some time now?

Comment to let us know what you’re struggling with, or to share any of your favorite Facebook advertising tips!

About the Author: Cherie Foo

Cherie is a full-stack marketer who is in love with writing and communications, and also fascinated by the power and precision of digital marketing. For fun, she likes hiking, travelling, and drinking tea.