Facebook and Instagram Ads
This resource page will take you through the fundamentals of how the Facebook Ads platform works. Facebook and Instagram are owned by the same company, so when you learn the “Business Manager” (what their ads platform is called), it means you can run ads on both social media platforms.
This information below will get you started, but be sure to watch the overview video in Step 4 about paid advertising, along with the “DIY vs Outsource” video. Running successful ads is one of the more complex areas of online business, and we recommend that you hire it out when possible.
However, even if you do hire an ads agency, it’s important to understand how the platform works.
Create your Facebook Ads Account:
One of the very first things you need to do in order to run ads is to get set up with an Ads Manager account with Facebook.
The “Ads Manager” is where you create, organize, and track all your ads. Without an Ads Manager account, you won’t be able to create Facebook ads.
To create an Ads Manager account:
Go to business.facebook.com/create and select Create Account.
Enter your name and confirm your identity with Facebook login credentials.
Follow the prompts to create your business account.
More details can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/business/learn/how-business-manager-works/guide
Facebook will generate an account for you and guide you through setting up your first ad campaign. You can go through that guided ad campaign setup, or just close it out and go to the menu in the top left to begin using and checking out the system on your own.
Along with getting set up with the Ads Manager platform, setting up your “Facebook pixel” is a very important first step to starting to run ads.
What is the "Facebook Pixel"?
Even if you don’t plan on running ads for a while, we recommend getting your pixel up and running as soon as you can, so it starts to collect data.
Your facebook pixel is a snippet of code. You take the code from Facebook and put it onto your website to collect data on whoever visits your site.
As your pixel collects data from the people visiting your website, it uses machine-learning to learn who your best target market is. This is called ‘maturing’ your pixel, and it’s done by running ads over time.
Setting up your Pixel:
Here are Facebook’s own instructions for setting up your pixel: https://www.facebook.com/business/help/952192354843755
The quick “how to” is that you click ‘Pixels’ under ‘events manager’ in your Ads Manager menu, then click ‘create pixel’. You can name it whatever you want (choosing your website name is a good idea) and download the code they provide.
From there, you have to place that code on your website. This is going to look different depending on where you have your website hosted. It’s generally in the “header” area of your website. Just google search instructions for your specific website platform and you’ll find it!
Facebook/Instagram Ad Types Overview:
The very first thing you do when you go to create your first ad is choose the campaign type you want.
These relate to different objectives you might have with your ad, and they are broken down into three main categories:
Awareness – when you just want people to know about you (increasing your brand awareness)
Consideration – when people are aware of you and considering your product (building that relationship with your audience)
Conversion – when people are ready to buy (actually making the sale)
There are two campaign objectives under the ‘awareness’:
1. Brand Awareness
Brand awareness is used to increase your audience’s awareness of your brand. Only use this objective if you just want to get your brand in front of people and don’t necessarily care about an immediate ROI. It’s one of the least expensive ad types.
Reach is designed to show your ad to as many people as possible. Like brand awareness, you are only charged per impression, not per click. This objective is best if you have a small audience and want to reach as many people in that audience as possible. Otherwise, you’ll just be showing your ad to lots of people who may or may not be potential customers.
The ‘consideration’ category has a 6 objective types:
The traffic objective is designed to send people straight to your website, without completing a specific action like entering an email address or making a purchase. Basically, it's just to drive traffic to a website (best for blog posts and articles).
An engagement ad is used to get more engagement - things like likes, comments, or shares, on your post. These are often used when a post performs well organically and you want to increase the reach and engagement.
3. App Installs
App install objective is exactly what it sounds like – a way to get more installs of an app.
4. Video Views
Video views are a way to get more views of your Facebook video. Video can create really high engagement, so this can be utilized in a really smart way to increase your audience understanding and engagement with your brand.
One way that you can use video view ads are to use them as a stepping stone to building a warm audience. You would run a video view ad and then anyone who watch at least 10 seconds of it, would be put into an audience that you could retarget with either another video view ad, or a lead magnet ad (where they sign up for your webinar, challenge, quiz, etc.).
5. Lead Generation
Lead generation campaigns are where you are trying to get the audience's email address - you are offering them a lead magnet in exchange for their email address. This is where you would follow up with your funnel.
The messages objective prompts users to have a conversation with you in Facebook messenger, to complete purchases, answer questions, or get support.
There are 3 objectives in the ‘conversion’ category:
Conversion objectives are used when you want people to perform a certain action, such as add to cart or buy a product. This is the most common type of Facebook ad, as it is directly tied in with your business's ROI.
2. Catalog sales
The catalog sales objective is specific to eCommerce websites that have uploaded their product catalog to Facebook. It allows you to retarget anyone who visited your catalog but didn’t buy.
3. Store Visits
The store visits is just for people who have brick and mortar stores. The idea is that you can advertise to people who have actually physically visited one of your stores.
In all likelihood, you will end up using a variety of ad types. You might run some “video view” ads to warm up your audience with some great videos you create, and then potentially some lead generation ads or conversion ads to get people to actually sign up for your lead magnet, webinar, and product.
Ad Targeting Overview:
It’s all well and good to create an ad with beautiful imagery or great video and some on-point captions, but ultimately excellent ad targeting is the key to a successful ad campaign. You could have the best funnel in the world with the most amazing product, but if you’re targeting the wrong people, no one will buy.
Understanding your target audience
This is where understanding you target audience becomes crucial (head back to the ‘foundations’ section at the beginning of the Method if you need to grow through this again).
Do you know exactly who your product is for? If not, you need to tap into your social media following, email list, and more, and start to ask your audience questions. Get to know them. Not just gender, age, and geography, but things like their hobbies and interests, fave celebrities and mentors, etc. This is going to help you target those people.
This is where the “riches in the niches” thing becomes apparent. If you have a product that is for a super specific group of people, you are going to be able to target them very effectively with ads.
There are 3 main types of targeting you can use with your ads:
Facebook custom audiences & lookalike audiences
Retargeting ads (sometimes called “Facebook Remarketing Ads”)
Let's dive into each of these in more depth below, and how you can use each one.
Facebook "Lookalike" Audiences:
Facebook lookalike audiences are custom audiences who are similar in demographics and interests to a current audience you’ve saved.
For example, you can create a lookalike audience of people who are similar to your current customers. If you had an excel list of your current customers - you could upload that to Facebook and Facebook would know how to create an audience that "looked like" that same customer list. Pretty neat, eh?
Lookalike audiences are one of the best ways to run ads, since you know you are going to get more of your highest converting customers!
Other than lookalikes of current customers, you can also create lookalike audiences from other groups, such as:
People who visited a specific page on your site
People who performed a specific action on your site (like viewing a video)
Lookalikes of your email subscriber list
People who engaged with your Facebook posts or viewed a Facebook video
Lookalikes of your Facebook page likes
Similar to your customer list, you can use your email list to create a lookalike audience.
In terms of creating a lookalike audience from your website visitors, this is where installing the Facebook Pixel (which we went through above) is so important. You want to get that pixel installed as soon as possible, so it can start to build up an understanding of your website visitors as you start to build your traffic. Once it hits a certain threshold, then you'll be able to create a lookalike audience from those website visitors.
Interest-Based Ad Targeting:
When we talk about "interest based" ad targeting, it refers to running ads to audiences that are interested in certain things.
So for example, Whole Foods would target people who are in the age, income and geographic demographic they are interested in, and show interests like organic eating, toxin free living, and vegetarianism (as an example). See how that is targeting people based on interest?
Interest-based targeting can be hugely beneficial to open you up to a whole new group of people, but it’s also generally the least reliable targeting method on Facebook. It requires a lot of market research and ultimately, it's a little bit like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what will stick. Your ads could potentially flop.
This is the only targeting method where YOU decide on the audience, rather than uploading people who are already engaging with or buying from you, or letting Facebook use their algorithms to create the audience for you.
If you don’t have a lot of website visitors, customers, or Facebook page engagement, interest-based targeting is pretty much your only option. It’s the only method that doesn’t require you to have any prior data.
The most important thing with this type of targeting is to be as specific as possible. Instead of using really broad interests, like "movies", you want to drill further down, like "Harry Potter movies".
You need to understand your buyer persona and do your market research to learn the exact interests and behaviours your target customer uses.
The way you create these interest groups is by defining the Facebook 'Fan Pages' you want your targeted audience to like. You can also just put in keywords, but Fan Pages are known to perform better.
Here are a few tips when defining your interest audience:
Target highly engaged fan pages. Don't just do any fan page out there. Take the time to check that those Fan Pages not only have lots of likes, but also have engagement (comments on their posts and videos, likes, shares, etc). That way you know you are reaching a group of people who are genuinely interested in that topic.
Layer multiple Fan Pages and even keywords together to get an even more specific audience. You want to get as focused on the right audience as you possibly can. Facebook allows you to do this by using the fan pages, layering in keyword interests, and even excluding the wrong people from seeing your ad.
You might be surprised at the combinations that work for you. One of my best combinations for some of my ads were “Amy Porterfield Fan Page” + “Interest in Backpacking”. Weird! ;)
Facebook retargeting ads (also sometimes called Facebook "remarketing ads") are one of the best and easiest ways to increase your sales. These are an absolute MUST.
The idea behind retargeting ads is that they show ads to people who have already seen them on your site/in your funnel/been on your webinar/etc. You know they have interacted with your in your funnel already, and you are showing them ads to really do that final push of the sale.
Let’s say Mary signs up for my webinar. She has watched the webinar and is now going through my email funnel but hasn’t purchased yet. If I have retargeting ads setup, Mary will see a few of my ads that show her case studies and testimonials of my students, a video from me that encourages her to sign up, and maybe a “doors are closing!” ad to hammer home the urgency. These ads will help work alongside the emails she is getting in her inbox to encourage her to buy my product.
The average person needs to see something 7 times before they buy, so getting them on social media as well as inside their email inbox is a great way to increase the likelihood of a sale.
I'm sure you have noticed this in your own personal life. You are looking at something online, and then suddenly start seeing that thing pop up everywhere. Those are retargeting ads!
There are tons of ad types out there. You can use images, video, carousels, and more. And unfortunately, there aren’t any hard and fast rules about what will or won’t work for your business. Since each business is unique, all with your own custom audiences, the way that audience reacts to your ads is all going to differ.
However, there are some general rules of thumb you can use as you get started with ads:
Your imagery needs to be excellent. Bright and well composed photos is always going to attract more interest than bad, dark photos.
I personally use a mixture of images that are photographs of me, photos I source from places like UnSplash, and some photos with mock-ups of my product on them. I test them against one another and constantly watch which ones perform the best. Some have text overlay, and some don’t. It’s always a testing game!
Generally speaking, to sell digital products like online courses, membership programs, etc. you will want to use longer captions. You want to weave that story and personality into your captions.
In ecommerce, on the other hand, ads have shorter captions. If you’re selling apparel or accessories, you don’t need to paint this long vivid story in the caption. It’s more just about the photo. See the difference?
Keep the copy in your ads fun, full of personality, and even add in some emoji’s! Try and make it look like a cute post, and not necessarily an ad. The first few lines are the most critical to get people hooked. So lead with your biggest thought-provoking questions or pain points.
Keep text overlay to a minimum.
Text can be hard to read for the user (think of them seeing the ad on their phone), and Facebook may actually disapprove your ad if it’s too text heavy. I suggest sticking to the 20% rule: Don't let your text take up more than 20% of the image in your ad.
Headlines are the part of the ad that are at the bottom of the image. Research has shown that a five-word headline is the perfect length. You can see in the image above, that my headline is “Looking to launch an e-commerce business?” (technically 6 words… but I’m close!!).
Some headline suggestions:
Use numbers at the beginning of your headline.
Create a sense of urgency with limited-time offers.
Be clear about your offer (avoid being too vague).
Ask questions that people want to be answered.
OK, we can all use a little inspiration here and there, right?!
One thing I love to do to get inspiration for my ads is to look at other people’s ads. You don’t have to just stick with your competitors here - check out what other businesses in different niches are doing. You might get some amazing ideas to try for your business!
The way to see the ads other companies are running is to go to their Facebook Page, and on the left hand sidebar scroll down until you see “Info and Ads”. See in on Amy’s page below at the bottom of the sidebar?
Click on that section, and suddenly you’ll see a whole list of the ads that that company is running in your country. If you don’t see any ads, switch it to United States, and you’ll likely see some pop up!
As always, never copy what someone else is doing… but instead take note of what you like about their imagery, their copy, their title, etc. Make a bunch of notes to help you with the creation of your ads!
Create for Both Platforms:
You will want to run ads for both facebook and instagram and watch which ones perform better.
For Facebook ads, generally square or slightly horizontal images and video work best, but for Instagram, you'll need either square or tall images for stories. Think this through when you are developing your creative.
I personally find that instagram ads - both regular post ads AND story ads - are the most successful for my own products.
When you are ad stalking, you’ll see ads that look like this. They are clearly IG story ads - you can tell from the long vertical video and the fact that there usually isn’t too much other text.
Want to learn more about how to create your own ad campaigns?
Check out Rachel McMichael’s course, The AcADemy. Rachel is an ads whiz and helps break down the tech really well. Her course is geared for online course creators, digital product sellers, and coaches. I have personally met Rachel and she is a stellar business mentor and tech whiz!
Or feeling totally overwhelmed by it all?
Yep, I get that too. Facebook ads have a lot of nuances. However, go through the material here in The Passive Project so that you have a solid understanding of how it works, and then start to interview ad agencies to find yourself a great ads manager. We have listed some recommended agencies in Step 4.