A few years ago it was fairly simple to get your business noticed with Facebook ads. You could even get a massive boost from a single ad. Only a handful of businesses were using Facebook advertising campaigns; they stood out simply by being there first.

Then Facebook pages began to see a massive decline in organic reach. This decline has continued through 2017, pushing more businesses to participate in Facebook’s advertising program. Now over five million businesses advertise on Facebook.

Facebook ads are still one of the most effective ways to market your business, but you have to work much harder to make yours stand out.

Today we’re going to help you build a strategy that works in the over-crowded Facebook advertising space. We’ll look at the resources you’ll need, the type of content to use, how to use Facebook’s targeting, and how to tweak your ads to maximize success. We’ll also share a list of tools you can use to streamline the process.

What you’ll need to run a successful Facebook advertising campaign

One of the most common mistakes small business owners make is thinking they can run a successful campaign with $20. This myth is perpetuated by dozens of marketing blogs, all encouraging you to start with a simple $5 boost.

You can’t blame them for this approach either. Technically you can test Facebook ads out by spending as little as $5. And for cash-strapped small businesses, this sounds like the smartest approach.

Unfortunately $5 doesn’t get you very far anymore. It isn’t even enough money to do a proper test run, as you can easily spend it within a day. If you want to create an effective Facebook advertising system for your business, you need to invest in proper testing.

How much should you put aside for a test run? That depends on your audience size, your goals, and the length of test you want to run. A good rule of thumb is to start with a one week test, spending no more than $10 a day. Once you’ve run the test, you can adjust the ad to improve your chances of success.

You can use the free advertising budget calculator to determine how much you’ll need to achieve your goals.
Facebook advertising campaigns: calculator

The other costs of Facebook advertising campaigns

In the early days of Facebook advertising, you could throw an ad together in half an hour and see a significant boost in your business. Your competition was low, so virtually anything could make an impression.

Now your ads are competing with thousands of others. You need to spend time researching your competitors’ ads so you know how to change things up. You need to make the copy sparkle, and create stunning graphics to go with them. And when the week ends, you need to measure your success and tweak it for further testing.

You – or one of your employees – will need to sink a lot of time into this process. Many small business owners think of time as their one endless, free resource, but time is money. It should be incorporated into your budget. This will help you determine your ROI (Return on Investment) later on.

For instance, managing your ads can take up easily an hour a day when you’re just getting started, and then anything from 10-30 minutes a day later on once you get a hang of it.

The most effective types of content for Facebook advertising campaigns

You have two things to consider here:

  1. what you’re going to advertise, and
  2. what those advertisements will look like.

What to advertise on Facebook

Facebook advertising campaigns can be used in many ways, from lead generation to direct sales. That said, some things do better than others – and the most effective type of ad often varies from one industry to the next.

Getting sales directly from your campaign is the most difficult, and often most expensive, option. The majority of business owners find it most profitable to use Facebook advertising as a way to collect email subscribers or draw people into events.

No matter what your goal is, your advertisement needs to offer something of value. This can be a newsletter freebie, a free trial, a special discount, or anything else that appeals to your customers.

What type of advertisements to create

You’ll have to figure out what works for your business through trial and error, but there are a few general rules you can follow to maximize the success of your Facebook advertising campaigns:

  • Always use text free images – Facebook algorithms favor images without text because they look more like regular social media shares. Removing text from your images can lower your CPC by 6-7%.
  • Make sure those images are spectacular – The images you use account for 75-90% of your ad’s performance. Take the time to perfect those images or be prepared to pay for a graphic designer.
  • Keep your copy concise – According to research done in spring 2017, the ideal length for headlines is 4 words. And it’s not much better for link descriptions, with the most popular length being 15 words.
  • Always include a specific call to action – You need to make it 100% clear what you want people to do, or they’ll simply scroll past your ad.
  • Try advertising with Facebook video – The organic reach of Facebook videos is 135% higher than the organic reach of Facebook photos, and video is often considered the most shareable content. And it doesn’t have to be anything huge – in fact, the most successful Facebook video advertisements are under 30 seconds long.
  • Put captions on that video 85% of Facebook video is watched without sound. Without captions, most people will never know what your video is about. You can use SubRip to create accurately timed captions for free.

There may also be specific rules that work in your industry. You can figure these out by looking at your competitors’ current ads or asking around on industry forums or at live networking events.

How to target your Facebook advertising campaigns

Once you’ve created an excellent advertisement, it’s time to start the campaign. The first thing you’ll be asked to do is select an ad type. This should be pretty straightforward based on your existing advertisement and goals, but if you’re confused check out this guide to Facebook ad types.
ad types

The complicated part – and the part most small business owners mess up – is the targeting. Facebook has an unparalleled amount of demographic information about their users, giving advertisers full targeting customization capabilities. Used right, this makes your ads incredibly effective. Used wrong, it ensures that only a handful of people will ever see your campaign.

Pro Tip: Facebook targeting assumes you already know your target audience. If you don’t already have one, make sure you set up at least one demographics profile.

The three main strategies for targeting are:

  • lookalike lists,
  • retargeting,
  • interest-based targeting.

Let’s take a quick look at each one:

Lookalike lists

Lookalike lists use your existing audience as a source and target similar people for your Facebook advertising campaigns. You can use your Facebook “likes”, email list, or a conversion pixel from your website to create the source audience.

If you already have an audience this is by far the most effective way to target your ads. And the more your audience grows, the more effective it becomes.


Retargeting happens when you direct your Facebook ad towards someone who has previously visited your website. Meaning, a person first goes to your website, even if just for a second, and then when they go to Facebook, they see your ad there.

This is all done due to a tracking pixel being inserted into their web browser when they first see your website. That pixel is then used to recognize the person when they go to Facebook.

Retargeting is a great way to reestablish a relationship with your past visitors and perhaps convince them to pay you one more visit.

Want to know more? Check out this Acquisio’s 4-step retargeting guide can walk you through how to use this targeting method.

Interest based targeting

Interest based targeting is exactly what it sounds like: targeting people based on things they’ve established an interest in. What makes this technique particularly valuable for Facebook advertising campaigns is the sheer amount of data Facebook has on every member. This means you can get extremely specific with interests and Facebook will still be able to accurately target them.

Facebook does have a pre-set list of interests you can use for this type of targeting. These can be a good starting point, but are rarely useful as your primary tracking tool. For best effects, use this interest based targeting guide to create custom interest groups.

Tracking and tweaking your Facebook advertising campaigns

At this point it’s tempting to rock back on your heels and relax, but the true work is just beginning. Now you need to track your campaign – using the metrics that actually matter to your business – and experiment with it. This is a time consuming and often tedious process, but it can dramatically reduce your CPC and increase your ROI.

Follow these guidelines for successful testing:

  • Give each test enough time – Facebook lets you run ads for a single day, but that’s not enough time to test anything. For meaningful results, you need to give each individual advertisement at least one full week of testing. Two weeks to a month is ideal.
  • Only make one change at a time – If you change your entire ad, you won’t know what changes worked and which ones didn’t. Every new iteration of your ad should make one single change, making it easy for you to measure the impact of each one.
  • Run ads concurrently when possible – Running multiple ads with slight differences at the same time allows you to reduce the number of variables that might impact an ad’s performance. This gives you the best possible testing data.
  • Don’t let metrics take over your life – Checking your metrics every hour does more harm than good. You won’t see significant changes, and you’ll waste time better spent on other things.
  • But do check up on them once in a while – At some point you’ll be satisfied with how your ads are performing and focus your marketing attention elsewhere. That’s great! But Facebook metrics are always changing. Your ad’s performance will eventually change too. Check your data once every six months. If something’s underperforming, start testing again.

You may also want to read HubSpot’s Comprehensive Guide to Social Media ROI to better understand this process.

Final advice

The best thing you can do with Facebook ads is approach them with a long term mindset. You probably won’t get amazing results right away, but no great advertising campaign was built in a day. Take the time to create a proper advertising strategy – and optimize it based on initial results – and your business will reap all the rewards Facebook can offer.

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By Dianna Gunn

Dianna Gunn is an SEO strategist and freelance writer who provides content solutions to businesses of all shapes and sizes at www.thedabbler.ca

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