Ch4 - Facebook Ads

(NOTE: You can download a copy of this chapter in PDF format at the very bottom of this page.)

Social Media Marketing Primer

Chapter 4: Facebook Ads    


Welcome to the Social Media Marketing Primer. If you’ve come across this material on its own – it has two homes – one is a site where you can download copies of the chapters or read them online, at - the other is a LinkedIn Group, Social Media Marketing Café, where you can discuss the material and ask questions:

In This Chapter

This chapter is an introduction to Facebook ads, which are a common tool in social media marketing; there’s some discussion of the type of ads and the traditional value of using them, as well as some things that have changed in Facebook as new types of ads have been introduced. There’s also an opportunity to try creating a Facebook ad. This would be an opportunity to advertise a blog or site you may have created after reading chapter 2 – you can also use Facebook ads to advertise a Facebook page that you may have created in chapter 3. So my recommendation would be to either make or find a website that you might like to advertise a bit, make an ad, and try running it for a week or so. Towards the end of this chapter, we’ll look at “monitoring” facebook ads, to look at their performance.

.What Are Facebook Ads and Why Should I Use Them?

The most common type of Facebook ad is the kind that appears on the right side of the page when you log into Facebook. Here are some examples.

.Another type of ad appears right in your news feed, alongside posts from your friends and from Facebook pages that you have “liked”. At the very top it says “Suggested Post”:

But you don’t need to be a business selling a product or service to use Facebook ads – anyone can use them. For example, I made this little ad to see if I could lure some people into reading a science fiction short story:

And it leads to a site called Wattpad. So I wasn’t selling anything per se – just promoting some fiction that I had written:

When to Use Facebook Ads

The bottom line on Facebook ads is that for the foreseeable future, people are still spending a lot of time on Facebook. There’s evidence to suggest that younger people are spending more time on messaging apps like Snapchat or Whatsapp or others, and maybe spending less time on Facebook (since their parents are on it?) – but at the end of the day, people are still spending a lot of time on Facebook.

So one principle about Facebook ads, and any kind of social media marketing is, that it “goes with the flow”, that is, wherever people are spending time.

Another thing to keep in mind about “trending” is that people are increasingly spending time on mobile devices, and the way ads appear on mobile devices is different than “desktop” ads that would appear when you’re on Facebook or other social networks based on using a desktop or laptop computer. In the case of Facebook ads, you’ll see that there’s an option for making them available to mobile users, and if I’m not mistaken I think that roughly half the ads on Facebook at time of writing are displaying to mobile users.

In terms of when to use Facebook ads, there’s not really a right or wrong time to use them – but the most common uses include promoting Facebook pages, where the ad is on Facebook, it is displayed to Facebook users, and the goal is to get people to visit a Facebook page and click the “like” button.

As discussed in previous chapters, one fundamental question to ask is whether you are getting a return on investment from something like a facebook page – but if you or your client has the goal of “increasing likes”, then a Facebook ad would be a good way to get a social media presence established. At a very basic level, even if you’re not planning or necessarily assuming you’ll actually make money with social media marketing, you might end up seeing it as a credibility issue – “because everyone else is doing it”. It is arguable that when people are looking at a business or organization that some may come to view the page on Facebook, either through a google search or some other way.

What I’ve seen professionally is a trend towards using Facebook ads for “traditional” display advertising, meaning using an ad on Facebook, pointing to an external website, with some kind of image and text. This is an example of some overlap with “traditional” Internet marketing and social media marketing. In traditional Internet marketing, a display ad might appear on a news website, for example, and consist of some kind of image or animation, text, and pointing towards some kind of website. Social networks came along, “social media marketing” was born, and the general goal and scope of social media marketing is to establish and maintain a presence on social media. But in the case of Facebook ads, the point is, an ad can be used for “traditional” purposes – it might just be to advertise a website.

It might be a topic worth discussing or even debating – some would argue that any presence on the Internet is necessarily social, and that social media marketing helps businesses to understand that the new era of consumer interaction is more personal. So it could be argued that a “Traditional” website should be thought of as part of an overall social media presence.

Purchase Intent

I think another helpful principle when considering Facebook ads, is the question of purchase intent. In general, placing an ad on a search engine is different than placing one on a “general” site – because a person is more likely to go on Google or other search engines when they are researching a product – basically when they have an intent to purchase. While it may change over time, it’s generally accepted that people are mostly going on Facebook to see what their friends are up to, or to post material – not necessarily to purchase. There may very well be posts that amount to social referral”, like “hey look what I’ve got”, or “hey I recommend this”. But it’s still the case that the purchase intent is probably significantly lower than on search engines.

So what this means is more or less statistics – even though there is less of a chance of people intending to purchase when spending time on Facebook, advertisers still place ads there – the statistics may be lower on getting purchases, but it can still happen. Just something to keep in mind.


While learning about Facebook ads, there are some concepts that are worth considering – Facebook and other ad platforms display a lot of information when you’re running an ad campaign. You don’t necessarily need to know all the particulars in order to make use of it – I recommend exploring and seeing it as an experiment, and getting familiar. The more you use Facebook ads in a business setting, over time the more you’ll be interested in some of the finer points.

At a high level, when you make an ad on Facebook, there will be a variety of information displayed, that shows you how an ad performed:

But a central concept, perhaps “the” central concept, is the question of how many clicks an add got:

Because in the end, the purpose of the ad is to get people to click on it, and to go and visit a particular page or site.

Another concept to consider is click through rate. It’s also known as “CTR”.

For example, in the below visual, we see in the “reach” category, that in theory, in this campaign, the ad was displayed to 61,432 people. And there were 81 clicks. So the click through rate was .081%

So when you have an ad, aside from the number of clicks there are, the “click through rate” gives you a way to look at performance. So you might start out with a particular click through rate, or you might try having multiple versions of an ad, with different images and text, and see which gives you a better click through rate.

Another central concept in ads is “targeting”. When you make an ad on Facebook, you have the ability to pick specific audiences, and in general, with social media marketing or “search” ads on google, the more targeted your ad is, the better it will perform. In other words, the more your ad is focused on appealing to a particular audience, the better it will do.

So part of the “targeting” process is the ad itself. In a really simple example earlier, I included some phrases about the story I wrote, which might be of interest to people who like science fiction:

And then, in Facebook, in the “targeting” section, I chose people who expressed an interest in Science fiction, in their Facebook profiles. I also chose a particular area, and language:

So targeting is a way to match your advertisement with a particular audience.

Now for the fun stuff!


Creating a Campaign

To create a campaign, go to:

And click on Create an Ad.

You can also go directly to:

From time to time Facebook will change their interface; at the time of writing the “wizard” allows you to choose from various kinds of ads – I suggest trying “Page Likes” or “Clicks to Website”:

With the clicks to website ad, you’ll want to have the link to a website you want to send people to, such as the blog you created in chapter 2 (nudge nudge):

So you just enter the link and click Continue:

.(Note: when you enter the link it may flip you to another page even before you click Continue)

On the next page you’ll have the opportunity to do some “targeting”, by choosing what audience you want the ad to display to:

.Basically as you make choices on the left side, on the right side the “Audience Definition” will be updated in real-time:

So this is an interesting area to experiment with. To start, try entering language options.

.Then try entering “interests” – this is the area where you can really focus on a particular audience.

If you’re keeping track of the numbers, you’ll see that at the time of writing, you start out with around 184,000,000 people you can send an ad to if you don’t target them at all – people who speak English in the United States who are on Facebook.

As soon as you start entering interests in – the numbers go down – people who have expressed a particular interest or liked a page that falls in a particular category – etc. So there’s a smaller potential pool – but this is a good thing. Because the ad is more targeted, and therefore people are more likely to click on it, in theory.

For now, I’d suggest skipping over behaviors and connections – but you might like to click on the little “I” circular icons in these sections to get more information.

.Next you get into the “account and campaign” section.

Budgeting for Facebook ads is an art and a science. There’s no universal rules, but a basic principle is that the more competition there is for a particular audience, the more ads will cost.

Two methods for paying for ads is based on quantity, that is, the number of ads that are displayed to people, and the other is where you only pay for the clicks, when and if they happen.

This is an area that periodically goes through changes in the interface, but the basic idea is you figure out a schedule, how much you’re willing to pay, and then set it in motion.

And Now For Something Really, Really, Really Important

And I think the most important thing to keep in mind, especially when learning, is to know how to set a start and end date – so that your credit card does not get continuously depleted! So click on “Set a start and end date”.

If you’re learning, you might want to go for a week long campaign.

And instead of a suggested daily budget, you might click on the “Per day” drop down menu and choose a lifetime budget:

Then it will gladly suggest a $50 budget, but you can click on Other:

And then type in something like $10-20:

Then, be sure to set an end date:

You’ll also want to try clicking on “Show Advanced Options”:

Facebook will automatically bid on ads for you. That means that it will look at your ad, the audience, and choose the best bid to get you clicks – that is, x amount will be paid for each click. On Facebook, or Google, in the end advertising price is like an auction – you indicate a willingness to pay a certain amount, and depending on competition, the price will go up or down. And you can always limit the maximum you will pay for a “click”.

For example, you can click “Manually set your maximum bid for clicks (CPC)”:

And there is a little suggested range, and you can accept the specific suggestion, or change it.

(You can also change this after a campaign is running)

Next, Facebook allows you to upload an image for the ad. In some cases, if you’re making an ad for a Facebook page, it will look on the page and automatically suggest the logo. With an external website, it can also suggest images. This is a section that highlights the need for content (Chapter 2 – nudge nudge), and working with digital images. So you might want to try learning how to get images from, or working with them in Photoshop or a free program like GIMP, and adding text to the image. But to experiment, you can just use a digital picture.

TIP: if you know of an image that you want to use, you can also right click on it on the web (windows) or do CTRL + click (Mac) and download it to your computer. Remember to respect copyright!

TIP: If you’re looking for image, you might like to review a google search such as:

Or try exploring a site like:

.Next, you can select the headline and text for an ad.

So in the Text and links area, you can type in a headline, and some text. Also, to keep things simple, in this scenario, click “Turn Off News Feed Ads”. (An ad that appears in the news feed has to come from somewhere – that is, it will show like someone posted it, so it can use the icon of your facebook page).

When you type in a headline, it gives you a little running count of how many letters you have left:

So the idea is to keep things simple, offer a value proposition, and a call to action of some kind:

.Just look at what you’re working on, consider – what would get you to click on it?

On the right side of the screen, it’s giving you some information about where the ad is going to appear.

So this is an area where you can activate an ad appearing on mobile, by clicking the Add link:

Then, finally, click Place Order:

(Note: if it is the first time you are making an ad, you’ll need to enter billing information. Remember to make sure you’re aware of how long the ad will be running.)


Monitoring the Campaign

The ad has to be reviewed, approved, and you can check to see how things are going by going to:

What you’ll see is the “campaign” – so you can click on the campaign name to “drill down” to the ad level:

After an ad starts running, it will show “reach”, meaning how many people may have looked at it, and then it will show any clicks that have occurred. At this point you will be looking at an “ad set”, which is a group of ads in the same campaign. You can create multiple ads with various images/copy/targeting, and see how they perform against each other. To drill down further, click on the “ad set name”:

Then, to get a closer look at the ad, click on the ad name:

Then you’ll see the information and images you originally put into the ad, and this is also where you can edit things if you want to:

In this case, I wanted to generate some clicks, so the performance I wanted to see is how many clicks I got:

And then I also wanted to see how much money was spent.

So speaking, in order to get about 80 people to come and see the short story, it cost me about 50 cents a click.


Learning More

There are a lot of resources out there for learning more about how ads work. And though I have a healthy skepticism for “ROI”, it is definitely true that many businesses have gotten a return on investment on facebook. For example, see “success stories” on Facebook, such as:

Also, when you’re wandering around the interface, try clicking, on everything, such as the little question marks:

To learn about reach, click on the question mark next to it:

Additional areas for information include

as well as the main “help” section, which includes a program called “Start to Success” that you might be interested in:

So at the time of writing, there is a promotional webinar program where you can learn more about things, and you might like to explore it, (up until the point where they ask you to commit to the spending):


Free Facebook Ads

You might also be interested to explore promotions that Godaddy and Wix sometimes offer, which can result in free ad budget for trying ads.

For example, see:

So if you’re interested in learning, you might like to try starting a new website, make a basic site, and get your free ad budget, and think of it as a learning experience.

Free eBooks

There’s also a lot of free learning material out there, including white papers, articles, and some free ebooks, which you can find on google.

Below are a couple free books I wrote – the one on facebook advertising is in the style of this chapter – I haven’t updated it recently, (facebook changes the interface regularly) – but it might be helpful with concepts:

You might also be interested in learning more about advertising on Google:


Congratulations on making it through the chapter. The best advice I can give on learning about Facebook ads is to explore them, try them out, and spend some time in the help sections on Facebook. And I’d also suggest keeping things simple – it can be a lot of fun to see the clicks start coming through the first time you try it – and then this could naturally lead to learning more about the features and options that help with making the ads perform better.

Another approach would be if you’re an intern or student, is to find a website, and at first, set the goal of seeing how many clicks you can get – and then try again, to see if you can come up with more compelling images, or text, or more focused targeting. See what your original “click through rate” was, and see if you can improve it.

And then you may want to start asking the question, “what’s my ROI?” – and if you’re interested in actually selling something, you’ll want to start looking into a topic called “conversion”, that is, tracing an ad down to the point of actually selling something.

Best wishes!


You are welcome to visit and join the LinkedIn Group at - if you want to come on and say “huh?” or if you would like to set me straight on something, or just have some feedback.

Remember, there are NO DUMB QUESTIONS. If you have the question, someone else surely also did.

(NOTE: You can download a copy of this chapter in PDF format at the very bottom of this page.)

Todd Kelsey,
Jul 21, 2014, 8:43 AM