IT'S VERY EASY to get Facebook Ads all wrong and waste a lot of money in a short space of time.
Learning how to advertise on Facebook - successfully - takes time, effort and yes, money.
That doesn't necessarily have to mean thousands and thousands but if you only have £50 to spend, I'm afraid you aren't magically going to turn that into a ton of sales overnight.
PLUS, there's one common trap that everyone falls into.
Yep, it's that 'boost' button that Facebook makes so prominent and tempting and sends you all those notifications about (you know the ones I mean: 'you have a high performing post, boost it!') and it's just so simple and easy to hit...
...BUT, most of the time you are just giving Facebook money for a few likes and comments on that post and nothing else. Don't be seduced by the fact you 'reached 5,000 people' - did that actually do anything for your business?
Hitting that boost button for even £10 once a week might seem like nothing at the time, but when you look at it over a year that's more than £500 you've spent just to get a few likes, heart faces and comments.
Last time I checked, likes and heart faces didn't pay my bills.
And most small businesses I know can't afford to waste £500 a year on something that doesn't help pay their bills, either.
The pros and cons of boosting posts deserve their own tale, however, so I'll cover that in another blog very soon (subscribe here to make sure you don't miss that one).
Now, let's get down to business.
Facebook Ads are very powerful in the right hands (and the wrong ones, too, it seems).
So powerful, in fact, they helped Donald Trump become President when he was a 25-1 rank outsider at the start of his campaign (now that's definitely another story).
To really get the most out of Facebook Ads though, you need to be venturing into that scary-looking thing called 'Adverts Manager'.
Which, after you've read this and become more familiar with the options available in Ads Manager and used it yourself a few times, won't actually seem all that scary at all.
In fact, it could be your business's new best friend.
Being able to advertise successfully will soon become essential to your marketing if Facebook implements these changes they have been testing which would effectively kill your business page unless you are paying for ads!
So, there's really no better time to be getting to grips with this and making a head-start on your competition.
Coming up, you'll learn 10 steps you can follow to give your Facebook Ads campaigns the best chance of success and start seeing a return on your ad money.
Grab a coffee, tea, beer or glass of wine (if you are seeing this in the evening, obviously) and read on.
1. What Are You Trying To Say?
STEP ONE: DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING!
NOPE, NO BUTTONS AND DON'T YOU EVEN DARE GO NEAR ADVERTS MANAGER YET!
YOU DON'T EVEN NEED YOUR LAPTOP, FOR NOW.
Leave them all alone. You can play with them in a minute.
Before you do ANYTHING....you need to know what you are trying to say first.
After all, if you don't have a clear idea of what your message is, how will all the thousands of potential customers you are about to try and speak to have a clue what you are on about?
Especially when they are scrolling down their Facebook feed at 50 miles an hour and don't even have the faintest idea of who you are.
Now, are you introducing them for the first time to your business and products or have they seen or bought from you before?
You may have heard of funnels or 'customer journeys'. Although at first glance these may sound like something more relevant to plumbers or the script of a Lord of the Rings film, they are key to any successful business marketing in 2017.
Here is a good, basic guide from Kissmetrics to check out after you've read this, as sales/marketing funnels are a whole other topic of their own.
However, being the nice, helpful guy I am, I will give you a simple example here for free. This is a classic 'AIDA' funnel:
Basically, a funnel maps out the different stages your customers go through before they buy from you, with more detailed funnels also mapping out the different marketing you would use at each stage.
Facebook simplifies your funnel into 3 stages: 'Awareness > Consideration > Conversion (I'll show you exactly what this looks like in Ads Manager in Awesome Step Number 4).
At the top of the funnel are your 'cold' audiences - people who have only just heard of you or don't even know who you are.
In terms of what you are trying to achieve with these types of people - you wouldn't ask someone to marry you on the first date, would you?!
And yet, too many businesses jump straight in on Facebook Ads with discount offers, 'special sales', 'amazing deals' or something similar, to a completely cold audience that has never even considered buying from them and doesn't have a clue who they are in the first place, then wonder why they get poor results and jump to the conclusion that 'Facebook Ads are rubbish.'
You've probably seen (or rather, not seen) plenty of ads like this yourself that you just ignore straight away because you have no idea who the company is and have zero trust built up with them.
Once you have people's attention and they at least have some concept of who you are, then you can move them further down your funnel by offering something of value or showing why you are the best option for them (using case studies, reviews, guides etc).
Only after this can you expect to start seeing results from your offers, when people know enough about you to be comfortable buying from you.
So, what stage of your funnel are your target audience at and what message are you trying to get across to them?
When you boil it down, there are three basic messages for each of the three funnel stages on Facebook:
'Hi, I'm Gil, this is what I do and you might want to consider buying from me sometime'
'Hi again, I'm Gil and I'm the best person for you to buy this from'
'Hello my friend, it's Gil here again and now it's time to buy from me!'
Once you have your message clear, make sure this is consistent in all aspects of your ads - targeting, ad copy, images/videos, landing pages, all of it.
Which leads me onto Awesome Step Number 2 - once you know what you are trying to say...
2. Who Are You Saying It To?
You still shouldn't be touching your Ads Manager just yet.
After all, how can you sell something if you don't know who the ideal customer that you should be trying to sell to is?
Don't get so caught up thinking about what your business and your products offer that you forget the most important thing - the customer!
Without a full understanding of who they are your ads are doomed to failure before you've even started running them.
Are they male or female? What sort of age? Where do they live? What do they like doing? Where do they hang out? What do they do for work?
All these and more are what you need to know and understand before you even touch your Facebook Ads dashboard.
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You won't get a better opportunity to target your ideal customers than with Facebook Ads.
Want to target men within a 40-mile radius of your business, aged 30-40, who like football, Netflix, run their own business and earn over £45,000 a year?
Or, single women aged 35-50 who like Instagram, watch The Apprentice and Strictly Come Dancing?
You can do all this with Facebook Ads.
All you have to do is identify what your ideal customer looks like and then match them to the powerful targeting options available in Ads Manager.
Remember, 'trying to be everything to everyone only ends up in you being nothing to anyone.'
So, nail down who your customers are, what they need and what they like and then be the best you can be at servicing these customers and their needs.
3. Have You Got Your Pixel Installed?
The usual response I get when I ask this question looks something like this:
So, if that's you too, don't worry you are not alone.
The Facebook Pixel is a piece of code that you create in your Ads Manager and then copy onto your website, which allows Facebook to track visits to your website and also events on certain pages.
It's basically like Google Analytics for Facebook (on steroids).
'So what's the big deal about this, Gil?' I hear you ask.
The big deal is - the Pixel not only sits there collecting valuable data, it allows you to actively use this data to make your ad campaigns more effective!
It's the fuel for the engine of ALL your Facebook Ads.
Without it, you are flying blind.
To effectively run conversion ads (where you want someone to take a direct action on your website) you need to give the 'Facebook Ads Brain' data to work with and the only way to do this is if it can track your efforts using the Pixel.
The Pixel also allows you to take advantage of the lowest-cost, most efficient form of Facebook Ads - retargeting - which makes customers up to 70% more likely to purchase. But more on that in a minute.
Here's a practical example of how the Pixel helps you:
Say you own a health food shop and run a conversion ad for your newest product 'Super Soup' to encourage people to buy directly from your website
Having your Pixel installed means Facebook can track not only every single person who clicked on your ad, but who added 'Super Soup' to their cart and who actually went through and purchased it
Facebook knowing who actually purchased means that, once it has collected enough data, you can then target other people likely to purchase too by creating what's called a 'Lookalike Audience'
Not only this, but you can retarget everyone who added 'Super Soup' to their cart but didn't buy with a special offer designed to get them to complete their purchase!
Without your Facebook Pixel installed, you can't do any of this.
So please, even if you haven't started advertising yet, get yours installed on your website today so it can start collecting data for you that will be priceless to your business in future.
For the official Facebook lowdown on how to create and install yours, check this out here.
If you still find yourself struggling after that, send me an email and I can do it for you and check everything is tracking properly for only £40 (Pixel creation/installation/validation is also included in all my management plans).
4. At Last! Time to hit Ads Manager and Select your Campaign Objective
As you have already nailed down what you are saying with your campaign, you have made this step much easier for yourself - instead of having to stare at the screen about for ten minutes trying to decide which option you should choose!
Remember the funnel we talked about? That decides for you which of the three columns above you should be looking at.
Then, just by hovering your mouse over the objectives under that column you can decide which one suits your campaign best.
Are you just trying to reach as many thousands of different people as possible? Drive traffic to your website? Get people to buy something from your online store? Grow your email list?
You can achieve all these objectives and much more with Facebook Ads.
Choosing the right objective, however, is crucial and you may need to test a couple of different ones out for a campaign in order to get the best results.
5. Choose Your Audience
Again, by following the first few steps you have made what can be a complicated process relatively simple.
You will already know who you are targeting so all you need to do now is plug this information into Ads Manager.
Targeting is the also the first of what I call 'The Big Three' of Facebook Ads - along with copy and images which I will cover in a minute - that if you get right, gives your campaign an excellent chance of success.
Audience selection looks something like this:
You can target people based on location, age, gender, interests, job titles (although use of these has been restricted recently due to misuse), behaviours and other demographics.
PRO TIP: Using income targeting and some other options where Facebook uses third-party data to micro-target audiences costs more, so use these wisely (it will tell you this at the bottom of the 'Source' section)
This is also where, if you have started creating them, you can advertise to your custom audiences e.g people that have visited your website or interacted with your page, start retargeting people or using the power of Facebook's 'Lookalike' options.
Remember to avoid trying to be 'everything to everyone' and narrow your audience down (you can also 'exclude' targeting options as well as including them - useful for ensuring your regular customers don't see your general awareness campaigns).
Facebook also gives you a barometer of your audience size on the right-hand side which is a useful rough guide for anyone new to Facebook Ads.
'Good' audience sizes vary depending on your objectives, budget and location, but particularly when you are starting off - unless you only have a very local market - try and avoid being too specific.
Small audiences of only a few thousand present two problems: firstly, they don't give Facebook much room to optimize; and secondly, if you have a decent daily budget you will burn your audience out quickly.
This means that you need to keep an eye on the frequency stats of your campaigns (how often the same people are seeing the same ad) in order to avoid turning your audience off, rather than on, to your brand.
In a new awareness or reach campaign to cold, top-of-funnel audiences, higher frequency can actually be a good thing because you are trying just to get noticed in the first place, which takes some repetition.
For lower-funnel audiences, however, they may look at being served your latest '10% sale' offer ad 4+ times in a couple of days as being pushy and the equivalent of 'hard-selling' on Facebook (unless you have a one-off weekend sale or something similarly short-term/urgent where repeated reminders are in their interest).
As a general rule, this Adespresso study suggests that you should seriously consider refreshing your ads (image/copy) or switching audiences up once your frequency hits around 5.
Which makes sense - after all, if you've seen an ad 5 or 6 times without clicking on it, you probably aren't that interested are you?
6. Which Placements/Budget/Delivery/Format?
'Placements' refers to exactly where your ads are shown (e.g Instagram as well as on Facebook, on Facebook's 'Audience Network', in the desktop right feed or just in news feeds, etc) and should only really be edited once you have some data to work with.
For example, you might notice after a couple of weeks that Instagram clicks are costing you three times as much as other placements, as well as performing worse in terms of results.
In this case, it might make sense to then stop your ad showing on Instagram and focus your budget on more profitable areas.
Talking of budget, only you can really decide what you can afford to spend.
As I mentioned earlier, Facebook Ads will not necessarily get you spectacular results immediately, so you need to be prepared to invest money initially in a learning phase (basically to 'buy' data) and then when you know which audiences and ads work best is when you can start seeing real returns on your money.
Setting your budget can be done by working backwards from your customer - what is the average customer worth over their lifetime of buying from you (their 'Life Time Value/LTV')?
Let's look at some practical examples:
If you are a gym where the average member pays £25 a month for a 12-month contract = £300
If you run a dental practice where your average client spends £250 a year and stays with you for at least 10 years = £2500
If you own a shop where customers spend £30 a month on an ongoing basis - maybe you'd average this over a year and say they are worth approx. £300 each
Then you'd take the above, deduct any costs and decide what you are happy spending to acquire each customer with Facebook Ads (your 'Cost Per Acquisition/Action/CPA').
So, in the above example, after deducting costs, the gym might decide they can afford to spend up to £50 per customer; the dental practice up to £500 per customer, and the shop up to £30 per customer.
Then, simply decide how many new customers you want per month and multiply that by the above to get your monthly budget.
After a few weeks/months, you will have a better idea of the costs and returns of your ads and can then adjust your budget accordingly, hopefully being in the nice position of raising it secure in the knowledge that will equal more customers!
Now, onto bidding.
Here's a secret - even advanced Facebook Advertisers usually stick to the automatic bidding option.
There are some circumstances where we'd use manual bids, but as a rule, the Facebook Ads Brain is much cleverer than any human being and so usually gets far better results on its own.
99% of the time, this means you are safe to leave this on automatic and let Facebook do the work for you.
In terms of the next options for ad scheduling and delivery type; unless you run a business where, for example, you might only want to show ads during your opening hours, you will generally leave your ads to show 'all the time' - and unless you need to get a message out very quickly leave delivery type as 'standard' - which will spread your budget over each day as opposed to 'accelerated' which uses it as fast as possible.
There are numerous different types of ad formats you can run - here is a basic guide as again, I could write a whole other article on this.
Your campaign objective dictates exactly which ad formats are available but in short, my advice would be this:
Use videos initially if you can, as they will get to a larger audience at a lower cost (that you can then retarget)
Single-image ads still generally work better than other 'fancier' types
Canvas ads (the full screen ones) look great on mobile but in terms of overall conversions still haven't caught up with more established ad formats
7. Craft Your Copy (#2 of The Big Three)
NEWSFLASH: people DON'T CARE.
YOU might love your business or products and think they are amazing (in fact, you should!) but to a cold audience, you are just another one on a conveyor belt of hundreds of businesses trying to get their attention on a daily basis.
Put your ego and feelings about your business aside and accept you are starting from zero.
This is a much better opening position than misguidedly thinking everyone is hanging on your every word and begging to buy your products and you needing to fail miserably (and probably waste a load of money) in order to realise your mistake.
Forget yourself, you need to tell people what's in it for them.
You need to stop them scrolling. And the only way to do that is with an eye-catching headline, ad copy or image/video (or a grand slam combo of all three).
There are three ways to do this:
Do one of those three successfully and you might just be able to make someone's thumb or middle finger hover mid-scroll for half-a-second over your ad.
Then, you need to continue to grab their attention and get them on the path to whatever objective you set out for your ad, right at the start.
Normally, this involves a CLICK.
Not selling your product or service - all you are selling at this point is just a CLICK.
This may surprise some people, or make you see things in a whole new light but never forget this.
You need to make clicking whatever you've chosen seem like the most important thing in the world at that moment, everything else is secondary.
Once your potential customer does that, they have started on the journey through your sales funnel - and the rest is up to you.
'Good' ad copy varies hugely with industry, business type and many other factors and ultimately, all that defines good Facebook Ad copy is the results.
I regularly see ads with poor grammar, spelling mistakes etc but if that ad is generating clicks and conversions, who cares? It's not a high school English exam.
The only way, therefore, is to test - before you submit any new ad always get at least one other person to look over it for you.
Does it make sense to them?
Are there any typos?
Does it appeal to them?
Most importantly (assuming they are in your target market) would your ad grab their attention and get them to CLICK?
Assuming you have the budget for it, never set just one ad out on its own. Test both longer and shorter, snappier copy (you'd be amazed how well 'stories' can do in some markets) as well as different types of headlines.
Question-type headlines can work well, as well as numbered 'how-tos' and more clickbaity-type ones (think of the kind you see on internet news sites).
There are plenty of headline formula guides out there to help you but, for example, let's look at the one I chose for this article itself - which clearly worked well enough to make you click, at least...
'10 Awesome Steps In A Successful Facebook Ads Campaign'
> What's in it for you? Successful Facebook Ads campaigns
> How will you get there? With my 10 awesome steps
> What can you expect? I've given you a number to set this expectation, would just 'Awesome Steps In A Facebook Ads Campaign' have worked as well? For whatever reason, people like numbers and the thought of easy-to-digest bullet points
> What are the two most important words? 'Awesome' and 'Successful', power words that get attention and drive action a.k.a. CLICKS
In any ad, you also need a clear call-to-action (CTA) to tell people what to do once you've got their attention. Things like:
And loads more.
Just make sure there's a CTA somewhere, you aren't Nike who needs no introduction or explanation for what they're selling!
8. Eye-Catching Image
This is the last one of 'The Big Three' that if you get right, gives you a fighting chance with your ads.
The image you choose is the one thing that, above all else, will make people's idle thumbs STOP scrolling over their screen and pay attention.
Try and avoid blue as much as you can as it will blend in with the Facebook colours, the same as having excessive white in your background.
Happy faces and people generally perform better than other types of subject and unless you absolutely HAVE to, avoid using one of the millions of stock images available online or through Facebook themselves!
Initially, these may seem like a good idea as they look 'professional'...but they are also generally boring, bland and have been totally done to death by thousands of other advertisers.
This adds up to a bad recipe for standing out on people's news feeds and getting their attention.
If you really have to use a stock photo, you can at least jazz it up a bit using a tool like Canva (which I 100% recommend for any small business, full stop).
Once you've played around with a few images, stop for a second, step back and think, 'if I saw that as I scrolled through my Facebook would it make me stop and pay attention?'
Try and find something that elicits a positive emotion in your audience.
And, similarly to copy, always try and get a second/third opinion on your choice of image.
Again, as with copy, you need to test different images to find the winners and you will often be surprised at which ones deliver the best results.
Here's a good/bad example from two massive brands:
Amazon with a winner above, some white space contrasted with bright colours and a pattern on the left that draws your eye to the main product and message. Invites you to 'check out today's deals' with a Shop Now button as well. Assuming it was targeted at cat owners!
An example of how even 'the big boys' get it wrong here with EE. Excessive white space makes it highly scroll-past-able, weak CTA (why would you like the page based on this?), image not eye-catching, copy is bland and just a load of features and numbers with no benefits. Does 'unlimited minutes and texts' even count as an offer now in 2017?!
9. Leave Your Ads Alone For 48-72 Hours
Here is one of the hardest parts.
DON'T TOUCH YOUR ADS.
I know you're excited after taking the time to plan a campaign, define and target your audience, write some snappy ad copy and find an eye-catching image.
But the worst thing you can do is then start messing about with your Facebook Ads.
'But it's been four hours and only 5 people liked my post/there's only been 3 clicks/I haven't made any sales!'
Everyone knows by now about Facebook's algorithm, which basically hides all your business page posts from your followers and only shows them what their friends ate for breakfast or funny cat videos.
There's an even more powerful machine learning algorithm for Facebook Ads which, as soon as your ad is approved, goes to work finding the people most likely to take whatever action you desired when you set your campaign up.
However, in the same way that Facebook Ads themselves aren't a magic solution to all your problems straight away, neither is the 'Facebook Ads Brain'.
It takes time to learn; 48-to-72 hours, in fact.
Once your ads have reached 500 people you will be able to see a 'relevance score' which is an indication of how well your ad is targeted.
But this is still way too early to make any changes. I've seen ads that looked dead after 24-30 hours and I was tempted to pause or change them, then suddenly the cost started coming down as the 'Facebook Ad Brain' kicked in and began finding the right audience with more success.
So, back your ads for at least two days before you even think of doing anything, and then be ruthless with them.
You can create the best-looking ad, with what you think is a great headline and then make another one you aren't as keen on, just to test against it.
You'll often be surprised at which one ultimately performs better so don't 'fall in love' with certain ads over others, fall in love with their results!
10. Optimize - You Can't Just Leave Your Ads Alone
Facebook Ads, similar to Google AdWords, need ongoing management and optimization in order to get the best results.
Because Facebook makes boosting posts so easy as I mentioned earlier, many businesses get caught in the trap of just boosting various things for a few days and that's all they think there is to it.
Hopefully, having read this you have realised there is so much more you could be doing with them - which is why in the first half of 2017 alone over 5 million businesses spent $9 BILLION on them.
However, Facebook Ads are not like other kinds of advertising you may have done in the past, such as newspaper/magazine ads or leaflet drops.
They are not a 'set and forget' form of advertising - your work is never really done if you want to maximise your returns.
This is why using a specialist Facebook Ads Manager is becoming increasingly popular because most business owners barely have time to even make one ad, let alone test 6+ for a week and then regularly monitor and optimize them!
You also need to understand that you are unlikely to hit a home run with your ads the first time.
The great thing about Facebook Ads is - you don't need to!
Unlike newspaper, magazine, radio ads etc, you don't have to sink hundreds of pounds in hoping it will work straight away.
You can start from as little as £5/$5 a day and if something isn't showing any signs of promise after a few days, you can stop it, use it as a learning experience and try something else.
On the other hand, if it is delivering then you can start scaling up and testing ways to make your Facebook Ad get you even bigger and better results.
So, let's recap those/TL: DR/here's something to copy and paste or make a note of somewhere, as long as you make use of it!
What Are You Trying To Say?
Who Are You Trying To Say It To?
Get Your Facebook Pixel Installed
Select The Right Campaign Objective
Choose Your Audience
Craft Your Copy
Leave Them Alone For A Few Days
Optimize - Look After Them!
Here's a bonus number 11: if you get stuck, send me a message. I'm always happy to help :-)
By reading this, you have now gained a clearer understanding of how to get your Facebook Ads right.
There is a science to them that far exceeds the basic boosting too many businesses fall into the trap of.
Given time and effort, you can find winning ads that enable you to rapidly grow your business at a lower cost and with targeting options unrivalled by other online advertising platforms such as Google AdWords.
That's why all the big names, and probably plenty of your local competitors, are using Facebook Ads.
The difference is, you now know how to use them right!
Gil is a Digital Marketing Consultant specialising in social media marketing and Facebook Ads. He has worked in sales, marketing and business management for over 12 years and has been a Facebook user since 2006, when his sister made the whole family create accounts just to keep up with her as she travelled the world for a year. Otherwise, he might still be on Bebo. You can also find Gil on LinkedIn here