How to set up your first Facebook Ads campaign
Right now, you have a problem that you don’t even know exists. In fact, it’s one of the biggest problems that businesses of all types face.
At any given time, you have people visiting your website, a percentage of whom are interested in the products and services you provide. Some of these people will go on to become customers, but the majority won’t—even those who are potentially interested in what you have to offer.
So what exactly is the issue?
It boils down to the customer’s buying journey.
As you probably already know, not every customer makes purchasing decisions the same way or in the same time frame. Some factors influencing their decision include:
How urgently they need the product or service
How much disposable cash they have
What the competition is offering
What this means for you is that you’re potentially missing out on a large number of customers if you don’t have an adequate strategy to account for their buying journey.
This is where Facebook ads come in.
Facebook ads allow you to effectively retarget the leads who have already shown an interest in your products or services. This way, you can nurture them along their buying journey and keep them in your marketing loop.
This strategy is called retargeting, and it solves the problem I listed above.
Facebook also collects vast amounts of data, which allows you to target others who are very similar to your customers using something called the Facebook Pixel.
So understanding how powerful Facebook ads can be in solving key marketing problems, let’s create a high-level plan for you to get started with your first Facebook ads campaign.
Decide on goals
Before you get started, you need to create a strategy and decide on your Facebook goals.
For the purpose of this article, let’s use the fundamental goal of all businesses: to increase sales.
In this case, you will need to conduct an audit of your business and offers to determine a few key things, including:
Are Facebook ads right for my business?
The fundamental question you need to answer is whether Facebook ads are the right fit for your business. Some businesses do very well using social ad channels, whereas others do not.
Some factors to consider include:
The margins on your products or services (higher margins cover the costs of ad spend)
The competition in the market (this affects the costs of ads)
The stage of your business (are you well funded, or just getting started?)
Which product or service do I want to promote?
If Facebook ads are indeed a good fit for your business, you need to decide on which of your products you want to advertise.
This will largely be influenced by the type of ads you run (which we will discuss later), but it is still a good idea to determine which products you can run as direct ads.
Some factors to consider include:
The cost of the product (for instance, a large consulting package may be too much of an ask to incentivize people to click through, whereas a quick 1-hour audit may do the trick)
The products currently being advertised on Facebook in your niche
How much am I willing to spend?
Facebook ads fall under the channel of paid advertising. Yes, that means they cost money! And depending on the current situation of your business, it may cost a significant amount before you see results.
This is because it usually takes some time for Facebook to understand the type of customers that you are looking for, especially if you are advertising for the first time.
You also need to get through the natural testing phase that comes with every ad campaign, during which you have to cycle through different ad copy, images, interests, and even products to find a formula that works.
This process costs time and money, which is why it’s appropriate to have the right expectations before you jump into advertising on Facebook.
Unfortunately, many business owners get burned out before turning a profit, causing them to miss out on one of the greatest marketing channels in history.
If done correctly, Facebook ads might just be the only marketing channel you will ever need. There are currently over 1.6 billion people using Facebook, which means you have the potential to reach a significant amount of your market using this platform alone.
For that reason, you or somebody on your team should master Facebook in order to tap into this gold mine of leads. To accomplish this, you need to dive under the hood of the machine and really understand its inner workings.
What is Facebook?
How would you answer this question? Perhaps you would call it a social media platform, and you would be right, but that isn’t the answer I’m looking for.
Facebook is ultimately a business with a market cap of over 600 billion USD and over 70 billion USD in revenue for 2019.
I highlight this because:
Facebook is driven by revenue, just like any other business
Facebook’s main revenue driver is advertisers (such as yourself)
With all of this capital, they have built one of the most sophisticated tech platforms in the world
The Facebook algorithm is the magic behind this monster. It is this seemingly mysterious entity, built by thousands of the world’s best minds, that makes the platform so powerful.
Nobody except the creators will ever fully understand the algorithm, but what we do know is that it was built to fundamentally increase revenue for Facebook, which creates some natural outcomes:
The algorithm is optimized to push your ads to the right users (so you keep spending money on more ads)
The algorithm punishers bad advertisers (scams, exaggerations, false advertising) to preserve the user experience and Facebook’s primary function as a social site
The algorithm wants to maximize revenue while keeping ad prices competitive. This means that your costs will reflect where and what you’re advertising.
In general, if you do things right and provide genuine value, Facebook will reward you. If you try to cheat the system, you will be punished.
Nobody is smarter than a 600-billion-dollar algorithm!
Before the Ad
Types of Ad Campaigns
Now, let’s get into the practicalities of launching your first ad campaign.
The first thing you will want to decide on is which type of campaign you want to run.
Your goal is to increase your sales and generate a positive return on investment from your ad campaign. However, there are multiple ways to reach that goal. Here are the main few:
Page like campaign - In order to run Facebook ads, you must first create a page for your brand or business. This page acts as your “website” on Facebook, where you can interact with your audience, post content, organize events and more. One potential ad campaign that you can launch is to simply drive people to your Facebook page and get them to like it so that you can target them later.
Post engagement - You can post a variety of content on your Facebook page, such as links to your blog or interesting images. You can then boost these posts using paid ads so that more people will see them. Depending on who you are targeting, this can be an effective strategy when buyers are still in the awareness stage in relation to your brand.
Website traffic - You might not have a specific product that you want to promote and just want to drive more visitors to your website instead, ideally target customers. In this case, your key metric is unique visitors as opposed to a specific outcome, such as leads collected or sales made.
Conversion campaign - This is the most direct type of campaign in terms of return on investment. You pick a product or service that you want to sell and advertise it directly to your target audience. When they click through, they will go to a landing page and hopefully make a purchase. This is tracked as a conversion in your sales funnel, hence the name.
Lead generation - Some business owners have a more long-term strategy, one in which they want to generate leads that they can nurture through content, consultations or email marketing. With lead generation campaigns, the goal isn’t to make a sale, but to collect contact information from your target audience so that leads can be guided along the sales funnel over time.
Finding your audience
Once you have decided on your ad campaign, you will need to start thinking about who you want to target and how you’re going to do it.
Now is the time to pull out your ideal customer profile (ICP). You have one of those, right?
If you don’t, it’s time to make one.
Essentially, an ICP is a mindmap of all the information and data points about your customer.
Here is a quick example:
Name: Chris Davies
My product: content marketing services
Title: Business Owner/VP of marketing
Education level: university educated
Interests: consumer trends, technology
Personality traits: curious, experimental
Income bracket: $70,000-$100,000
Personal aspirations: to grow business in a scalable manner
With this ICP in mind, we can then tap into the tools Facebook has on offer to find this ideal customer.
Here are some fundamental targeting tools you can use:
Demographics - This encompasses basic information about the customer, such as their age, gender, marital status, education level, religious affiliation and nationality.
Geography - This covers the location in which they live, which can be targeted at the national, regional and even local level.
Interests - Interests are one of the most powerful ways to niche down and really find your ideal customer. Because Facebook is such a broad platform, you can spend hours looking at your customers’ different interests. Tools such as Audience Insights can help you harness Facebook’s data to find similar adjacent interests, which could be a more effective way to reach your customers. Examples of interests include Health & Fitness, Spirituality and even books, such as Think Like A Man, Act Like A Lady by Steve Harvey.
Behaviors - It is also possible to target people by how they behave on Facebook. For instance, you can target proven shoppers who have made a purchase on the site within the past 90 days. You can also target people who use a certain phone and even narrow it down to whether they’re using WiFi or 4G internet.
There are other advanced targeting tools available, such as Facebook Pixel and Look Alike Audiences. These tools essentially leverage datasets of customers who look like your ICP and target their profiles directly. That’s a little more advanced, however, so you won’t need it to get started.
Determine your budget
Once you have figured out your targeting, you will need to decide how much you want to spend per day. This is subject to change, as the budget you allocate will impact performance.
For example, you may find that you get a better return on investment by spending $20 per day versus $30. This is because there is a lot happening behind the scenes in regards to the Facebook algorithm and how the bidding auctions work.
For now, set a budget which you are comfortable with, ideally starting smaller and scaling up.
Constructing a Winning Facebook Ad
Now is the time to get your creative juices flowing—or to perhaps consider getting help.
Either way, there is a general formula for creating a winning Facebook ad, and underpinning that formula is the deep understanding that Facebook, from the user’s perspective, is first and foremost a social platform.
People don’t come to Facebook to look at your ads, no matter how beautiful and creative they may be. They use Facebook to socialize with friends, keep on top of the news and kill some time.
For that reason, you need to advertise on Facebook in a specific way which is different from other platforms. Let’s take a look at the different components of a winning Facebook ad.
Although an ad has many elements, what ultimately drives clicks is the value it offers.
Let’s do a quick thought experiment.
Let’s say a brand has spent millions of dollars hiring the best copywriters, testing the best images and so forth. They’ve applied every best practice in the book.
But let’s say the ad is for a woman’s weight loss program, and you happen to be a man.
No matter how great the ad is, you simply will not click on it because it’s not relevant to you.
Therefore, your offers need to be two things:
Relevant - It goes without saying, but you need to ensure that you are targeting people who will actually be interested in what you’re advertising. Keep in mind that even though the people you reach may fit within your target audience, the particular way of advertising may not be relevant to them. For instance, you might be using a content magnet to educate them about a topic they already know about.
Incentivizing - Regardless of what you are advertising, it has to actually provide value for users clicking the ad. If you are selling a product, make sure it’s a good one that you know your customer will like. If you are collecting leads, consider the problems your customers have that you can solve with content.
Before you actually post an ad, it’s worth looking at external and internal data to see what types of offers interest your customers most. You can then use this data as the benchmark for your initial tests.
Now, let’s talk about the art and science behind creating the actual ad. You will come to find that both of these fields are significant factors in Facebook advertising.
On the one hand, you will be applying proven psychological techniques which are backed by millions of consumer purchases.
On the other, there is an element of randomness and creative flair in the process, particularly when it comes to the visuals.
With Facebook, the main visual you should use for your ads are images. There are other forms of visuals, such as slideshows and videos, but these are usually reserved for more advanced advertisers. This is because it’s harder to test and determine what elements are affecting ad performance when using alternate visuals.
Of course, it ultimately depends on your market. In certain industries, it may be much more impactful to show a video of the product you are promoting.
The key thing to remember is that the visual is the first thing people see when they encounter your ad, and in that sense, it’s the most important element.
For the sake of this article, let’s take a look at what constitutes a great image:
Pattern interrupting - Think about your ad from the user’s perspective. You see hundreds of ads every day as you scroll through your Facebook feed. In addition, you encounter a number of other posts from your friends and interests. In order to stand out, especially when advertising to someone’s feed, you need to essentially “disrupt” their eye with an image that catches their attention and breaks their autopilot mode.
Relevant - Catching their attention is one thing, but your image also has to be relevant to your product. Using a picture of a dancing pink elephant may pause your audience’s scrolling, but if they see that it’s not relevant to what you’re promoting, they might feel cheated. When this happens, they may dismiss your brand as not credible, even if you have a great offer for them.
Curiosity driving - Adding seeds of curiosity in your image is a great way to increase your click-through rate (the percentage of people going through to your landing page).
It can be difficult to achieve all of these elements, especially for certain niches and ad types. For instance, if you are selling home furniture directly to the user, then simply including an image of the sofa you are promoting won’t cause much of a pattern interrupt.
This is where the artistic aspect of Facebook advertising comes in. It’s all about coming up with creative angles.
An extreme and wacky example is having a clown sipping tea while relaxing on the sofa you are promoting. I don’t actually advise doing this, but hopefully it illustrates the concept of applying creative techniques to simpler products.
Next, you need to consider the headline you want to use. The headline is the first piece of text that the user will read, and it serves multiple functions. Here are some traits of a good headline:
Provides context - In some cases, you may just want your headline to summarize the key value that you are offering. For example, if you are running a discount, you may just get straight to the point with “20% off this designer Gucci handbag today.”
Adds to curiosity - You may want to leave the headline vague, especially if your goal is to drive as many clicks as possible. For example, if you are promoting an online course, a headline along the lines of “90% of people don’t know this method exists” can be quite effective.
The headline does not have to fulfill both of these functions at once, and in many cases, it will only fulfill one depending on the product you are promoting.
The copy (or the text) in your ad is where you can really sell what you have to offer. Depending on your goals, you can approach your copy in two ways:
You can try to sell through your copy. This is useful if your landing page goes directly to the purchasing page without any previous warmup.
You can try to incentivize as many clicks as possible. This is useful if your goal is to drive traffic and keep costs down.
If you are trying to sell through your copy, there are a few things you need to consider:
Hook them fast - Since most people would rather not be reading an ad, your copy needs to grab their attention and keep them reading.
Provide social proof - You can frame your ad copy as a story from one of your customers, or you can simply embed quotes in the copy. Either way, people need to see some validation quickly in order to believe your offer.
Outline benefits - Let them know in as clear of a manner as possible what they will gain from clicking through and purchasing your product.
If you are trying to drive as many clicks as possible, then your copy needs to:
Be very short - The user needs to be able to see all the relevant information without having to click “see more.” You have to make it as easy for them as possible.
Provide some value - As with every ad, the user needs to feel that there is something in it for them. Make it very clear what they will gain from clicking on your ad.
Keep it vague - At the same time, you don’t want to reveal too much information. You need to leave some questions unanswered so that users are incentivized to learn more.
The landing page
You’ve managed to craft the perfect ad. Great! But there is still one more thing you need to do to ensure that your ads will produce results: set up a high-converting landing page.
Your landing page is where users end up after clicking on your ad.
The goal of your landing page will vary depending on the type of campaign you are running. For instance, a lead generation campaign will have a landing page that collects emails, whereas a conversion campaign will direct to the buying page of the product being advertised.
Regardless of type, all landing pages should maximize the amount of positive user actions in the form of subscriptions, purchases and so forth.
This means that you must set up your landing page to serve this end. Here are some tips:
Fast loading - Ideally, your landing page needs to load in under 3 seconds. The quicker the better. People simply don’t have the patience to wait for a site to load, especially if it’s from an ad they clicked and they are more skeptical than normal.
One call to action - Your landing page needs to focus on maximizing the positive interactions of the user: the subscriptions, purchases, sign ups and so on. This means you should have only one clear call to action which serves this end in order to reduce any distractions.
Mobile optimized - More traffic these days is coming from mobile phones than desktops, especially on social platforms. Having a mobile landing page is now a prerequisite to running a successful ad campaign.
Strong copy - Depending on the ad you’re running, you may not have a chance to sell the prospect on what you’re advertising. The landing page gives you a second opportunity to do so, which means your copy needs to be padded with sales techniques, such as benefits, social proof and customer empathy.
Relevant - Imagine clicking an ad for an air conditioning unit, only to find a ceiling fan on the landing page. Don’t mislead the user about what you are offering. Everything needs to sync up.
A/B test - Testing is key when it comes to increasing positive user interactions. You might find that some copy resonates better than others or that one image of your product increases dwell time and conversions. Test everything on an ongoing basis until you find a winning formula.
Now that you have all your assets in place, it’s time to launch your ads.
But the work doesn’t end here.
In fact, Facebook advertising is an ongoing process in which you will constantly be testing, monitoring and evaluating your campaigns.
When you launch your first campaign, you will have to keep an eye on the data to see how it is performing and make changes as needed.
In general, here are the key metrics you will need to watch. Keep in mind that some of these will be more applicable to different campaigns:
Frequency - This is the number of times somebody has seen your ad. If your frequency is too high, it means the same people are seeing your ad over and over, which may require tweaking your audience.
CTR - Your clickthrough rate is the percentage of people who are clicking on your ad and going to your landing page. This is a key front-end metric which is optimized through your copy, image, offer and targeting. In general, the higher the clickthrough rate the more effective your ads will be.
ROAS - This stands for return on ad spend, and it is calculated by dividing the purchases made on your site into the total amount you have spent on ads. Over 1 means you’re breaking even based on these two metrics.
CPC - Cost per click refers to how much it costs every time someone clicks your ad.
CPM - Cost per impression refers to how much it costs for 1,000 people to see your ad.
Purchases - This is the number of people who have bought something from your site, tracked by the Facebook Pixel.
Leads - This is the number of sign ups or subscribers you have gained from your ad, tracked by the Facebook Pixel.
Final thoughts to consider
Because Facebook ads are a form of performance marketing, you need to have the appropriate parameters in place to manage what success and failure look like. With all the different metrics and unlimited things to test, Facebook ads can quickly become a drain if managed incorrectly.
The key question you will have to consider is when to kill, modify or scale an ad. This will vary on a case-by-case basis, but in general, if you are losing money consistently and there is no sign of improvement then you should kill the ad.
If you are losing money overall but are still seeing purchases and leads, then you should consider modifying the ad before killing it entirely.
And of course, if your ad is generating a return on your investment, then look into different ways to scale that ad.
This introduction should give you enough of an overview to get started, but remember that there is a lot more to it, and if we dove into every detail we would be writing an entire book! So seek expert help when setting up your campaigns—it will definitely pay off.