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How to Run Facebook Ads: Our Definitive Guide

August 27, 2020
Jacqueline Zote
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To run ads on Facebook, you need to invest time and energy into planning and testing — a process that can intimidate many novice advertisers. Even if you already know your way around the Facebook advertising landscape, you may not automatically see impressive results. 

We’re here to help. Here are detailed steps on how to run Facebook ads to help you maximize your returns.

The Preparation

Skipping the prep can be highly risky as it means you’re jumping in without a proper Facebook advertising strategy in place. If you’ve ever run a campaign that went out of hand, it’s likely because there wasn’t enough preparation. 

Before you start setting up ads on Facebook, make sure you’re thoroughly prepared so your campaign doesn’t go all over the place.

Step 1: Defining Your Goal

Have a clear idea of what you want out of the campaign. Whether you want to promote a new product or increase sales, know exactly what kind of progress you expect out of your social media ads.

This will help you work toward something specific and give your campaign a better sense of direction. It also will help shape your campaign by narrowing down on the most relevant performance metrics, target audience, ad types and placements.

Step 2: Deciding on Which Audience to Target

Next, decide on which types of people you want to reach through your ads. This step ensures that you display your ads to a highly targeted audience so you don’t waste your advertising dollars on irrelevant clicks and impressions.

Do you want to attract a new audience that shares the same characteristics as your high-value customers? Perhaps you want to target people in a specific geographic area and displaying an interest in a few specific topics.

For example, you could target people in the San Francisco Bay Area who have shown some interest in organic farming and organic food. Be prepared with this information so you can easily complete the ad setup later on.

Step 3: Choosing a Facebook Ad Type

This is where it gets a bit challenging even for seasoned marketers because Facebook offers plenty of ad types to choose from. The right one depends on factors such as your campaign goal and target audience. 

Here’s a look at the different types of Facebook ads available to advertisers so you can decide on ones that will fit your Facebook advertising strategy:

Image Ads

These Facebook sponsored ads feature a single photo and show up in your News Feed or Stories. Since these ads are simple to create, they’re a great way to get started with Facebook advertising.

Besides eye-catching, high-resolution images, you can use text overlay and graphic elements to describe the product/offer and get your message across.

Image ads feature a single photo and show up in your News Feed or Stories.

Video Ads

Video ads allow you to quickly capture attention and engage your target audience. You can make your Facebook video ads even more engaging with fun or emotional music that sets the right mood.

Keep in mind that you can use both filmed footage and animated graphics for your Facebook video ads depending on what works for you.

Video Poll Ads

This ad format, only available on mobile, combines video with an interactive poll to drive engagement. You could use this feature to ask people to vote between 2 options so you can collect their opinion or simply get them to engage with your ad.

Video poll ads, only available on mobile, combines video with an interactive poll to drive engagement.

Slideshow Ads

This type of ad combines 3-10 images into a slideshow that tells a story. Alternatively, it can convert a single video into a slide. This option can be a great way to highlight product details or provide an explainer. It could even help you reach people in areas with slow internet connections much more effectively than Facebook video ads.

A slideshow ad combines 3-10 images into a slideshow that tells a story.

Carousel Ads

This type of Facebook ad lets you display multiple images or videos that people can scroll through. You can choose up to 10 photos or videos to include in 1 carousel ad, with each of them having its own link. Use this to tell a story, feature multiple products, highlight product specs or give a product demo.

Carousel ads let you display multiple images or videos that people can scroll through.

Collection Ads

Collection ads work a bit like carousel ads in that you get to showcase multiple products in a single ad, but these ones are only available on mobile. Another difference is that they highlight the primary image or video on top of several smaller images so mobile users can seamlessly interact with your ad. Facebook also offers several templates for this type of ad.

Collection ads work a bit like carousel ads in that you get to showcase multiple products in a single ad, but these ones are only available on mobile.

Instant Experience

An Instant Experience ad opens and takes over the whole screen when someone clicks on your ad on mobile. This allows you to instantly grab attention and engage your target audience.

Messenger Ads

Messenger ads allow you to deliver your Facebook ads right into your audience’s inbox. This opens up more opportunity for engagement, though it requires proper execution because you don’t want to end up coming across as invasive.

Messenger ads allow you to deliver your Facebook ads right into your audience’s inbox.

Step 4: Preparing a Powerful Ad Creative

Your ad creative is the design and content of your social media ad, so it’s the main thing that determines whether someone stops to watch your ad or scrolls past it without a second thought. Whether you’re running ads with photos or videos, it’s crucial that you prepare highly-appealing visuals that can instantly catch the eye.

In the case of photos, you could add graphic elements and text overlay along with eye-catching color combinations. Videos could have mood-setting music and sound effects with professional editing. In both cases, make sure you use high-resolution imagery to instantly boost credibility.

In addition, use only the best product images and videos on your website, so you can still have compelling ad creative in case of ads that automatically pull content from your product catalog.

Step 5: Deciding on How Much to Spend

One of the best parts of Facebook advertising is that it’s suitable for all budget ranges. You’re in control of how much to spend on your campaign and the platform will try to get you the best result possible out of that budget. In that way, there’s flexibility with Facebook advertising cost and you can decide whether you want to spend just $10 a week or $10,000 for the entire campaign.

At the same time, you don’t want to directly throw in your entire advertising budget into a single campaign. It might be better to go on a trial run first and then use insights from that experiment to build an even more compelling Facebook advertising strategy. Make sure you decide beforehand how much you want to spend on a particular campaign.

The cost to advertise on Facebook varies depending on your campaign objective. According to an AdEspresso analysis, the cost-per-click (CPC) rate for Facebook ads for the first quarter of 2019 was 22 cents if link clicks were your main objective. You can expect to spend a bit more on reach and impressions objectives, with each having a CPC rate of $1.21 and 92 cents, respectively.

The Setup

To set up ads on Facebook, you need to do it through the Business Manager or the Facebook Ads Manager. Keep in mind that you need a Facebook business page to run ads on the platform, so make sure you create one if you haven’t already. Then follow the steps below to set up your campaign.

Step 1: Choosing an Objective

To start a new campaign, log in to your Ads Manager and click “Create” under the “Campaigns” tab. We’ll use the Guided Creation process instead of Quick Creation so the setup process is easier to understand.

If you don’t automatically see the Guided Creation window, click on “Switch to Guided Creation” on the right-hand side of the screen.

This will give you the option to choose from 11 marketing objectives:

  1. Brand Awareness – For introducing your brand to a new audience
  2. Reach – To display your ad to as many people as possible
  3. Traffic – For driving traffic to a specific destination
  4. Engagement – For increasing the number of interactions such as Page Likes, post engagement, etc.
  5. App Installs – Getting people to download and install your app
  6. Video Views – Getting as many people as possible to watch your video
  7. Lead Generation – To draw in new prospects into the funnel
  8. Messages – Getting more people to reach out to you via Messenger
  9. Conversions – Encouraging people to take a specific action such as signing up for a free trial or downloading your free e-book
  10. Catalog Sales – To display items from your product catalog as Facebook ads and drive sales
  11. Store Traffic – Encouraging more foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar store

Use the goal that you set earlier to choose a suitable objective. For this example, we’ll use the traffic objective. Keep in mind that the setup process and the placement options will vary depending on the objective you choose. Plus, some objectives will let you pay per action while others will let you pay based on the impressions your ad generates.

Step 2: Naming Your Campaign

Next, enter the name of your campaign. This is the part where you decide whether to turn on campaign budget optimization. You also can choose whether to create an A/B test. Then click on “Continue.”

Because we chose the traffic objective, we’ll also have to choose where we want to drive traffic. We could send traffic to a specific page on our site, to the app or even to Messenger or WhatsApp. For now, we’ll choose to send it to the website.

Additionally, Facebook will ask you whether you want to turn on offers and “dynamic creative.” This is an option to let Facebook automatically create optimized ad combinations based on different ad components such as image, video, title and description. The platform then collects the performance data for each of these ads to find a winning combination. 

Consider experimenting with these options to see how they affect your results.

Step 3: Choosing Your Target Audience

Scroll down and you’ll now get the option to choose whom to target for your campaign. Here, you can define your target audience based on geographic location, age, gender and language.

You can even turn on detailed targeting to include people whose interests, behaviors and demographics match certain keywords. For instance, if you include the keyword “organic food” in your detailed targeting field, your ad will target people who are interested in organic food.

Click on “save this audience,” then name the target group and proceed.

Besides this option, Facebook lets you add a custom or lookalike audience that you’ve previously created.

Step 4: Deciding on Ad Placement

Next, you’ll have to choose where you want your ads to show up. If you’re completely new to this, Automatic Placements is the easiest option. Here, Facebook will automatically display your ads across the Facebook family of apps and services such as Instagram and Messenger.

Since we’re learning how to create Facebook ads, we’ll choose Manual Placements for this example. Then we’ll select “Facebook” under the Platforms option and manually select all the places where we want to display the ad. You can decide if you want your ads to show up only in News Feeds or if you also want it to show up in video feeds, stories and so on.

Step 5: Setting the Budget and Schedule

If Facebook ads cost is your main concern, be extra careful with this step. This is where you decide how much you want to spend on the campaign and for how long you want your ad to run. Here, you need to start by choosing the event you want to optimize for. Facebook will automatically select the most relevant option for you (in this case, it’s for link clicks), but you can also select other options as well.

You’ll have the option to set how much you’re willing to spend per link click on average. This could be a great way to control costs and avoid having Facebook spend your entire budget too soon.

You can then set a daily budget (how much you want to spend per day) or a lifetime budget (how much you want to spend throughout the duration of the campaign). It might be helpful to set a start and end date so that you don’t accidentally run the ad for too long and end up overspending. 

Then click on “Continue.”

Step 6: Creating Your Ad

The next step is to create your ad. This is where you choose the ad format you want to use. Facebook will give you the option to use an existing post. Use this option in case you want to bolster a post that’s seen a lot of success and engagement with your followers.

After choosing the format, upload the media you want to use for your ad. You’ll have the option to create a slideshow or video from the same dashboard. You can even edit how your ad looks in one particular placement if it doesn’t seem to fit right.

Then fill in the details such as the primary text, the headline, the description and the website uniform resource locator (URL). In addition, consider adding a call-to-action (CTA) button that matches the action you want people to take.

Toward your right, you’ll get a preview of how your ad will look once it goes live. You can easily make changes from here using the “Edit” button until your ad looks perfect.

The Recipe for Successful Facebook Advertising

Knowing the steps to set up ads on Facebook isn’t enough. You have to go the extra mile if you want to see impressive results from your Facebook advertising efforts. 

So, make sure you follow these 3 best practices:

1. Run Experiments to See What Works

The beauty of Facebook advertising is that it offers an expansive room for experimentation. You can test anything from the bigger things such as ad objectives and ad types down to the minuscule details such as CTA buttons and captions.

So make the most of this opportunity to assess different possibilities before you narrow down on what works best.

2. Track and Make Improvements

Because you’re still working by assumption, there’s no guarantee that you’ll launch a compelling campaign the first time around. With that in mind, your Facebook advertising strategy should also include tracking and optimization. 

It’s crucial that you track the results of each campaign and each experiment so you can see what’s working and what isn’t. You can use the insights from your analysis to make improvements to your existing or future campaigns.

For example, maybe you’re seeing a lot of impressions but not enough clicks to your site. Perhaps you could reassess the offer, the description and the CTA and see if there’s anything that needs fixing.

3. Make the Most of Facebook Retargeting Ads

The most valuable targets are the ones who’ve already shown an interest in your business or products in the past. Maybe they’ve visited your site before to read your blog posts or browse through your products. Even if they disengage, there’s a good chance you might be able to bring them back with a little nudge.

So make the most of Facebook pixel to collect behavioral info about your visitors and then fire retargeting ads later on. This allows you to follow up on prospects that are highly likely to convert and remind them about your products and/or services.

For example, CuriosityStream will retarget visitors who spent some time on their site but didn’t sign up for a free trial.

CuriosityStream will retarget visitors who spent some time on their site but didn’t sign up for a free trial.

Start Creating Winning Ads

The Facebook advertising landscape can be challenging to navigate even if you’ve already had some experience on the platform. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the abundance of advertising options available.

Instead of coming up with ideas on the spot while setting up your ads, start with thorough planning and a clear goal in mind. This will allow your campaigns to head toward a specific direction and shape other aspects of your strategy.If it all seems too daunting, Kantaloupe can help you develop a winning Facebook advertising strategy and take over your campaigns.


Jacqueline Zote

Jacqueline Zote is a digital marketing and entertainment writer who makes regular contributions to Sprout Social and She also writes fiction and her short story has been published by HarperCollins Publishers and Zubaan Books.

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