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Facebook Ads vs. boosted posts: Which should I use?

Part 3: Here’s how to pick your best option for advertising on Facebook.

As a social media specialist who spends every day on Facebook for a living, one of the most common questions I’m asked is when to use a Facebook Ad instead of ‘boosting’ a post.

It can be a challenge to determine the right tactic, especially when you’re just getting used to advertising on social media. There are many advantages to both options, so determining which to choose may come down to your ultimate goals.

Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of each option, along with a handy guide that explains when to use them.

When to use Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads are created through Facebook Business Manager, as described in Part One of our Facebook Ads series. It’s the most effective way of advertising to new audiences because the ad will appear to users who don’t yet follow you.

Although Facebook Ads have a lot of value, many social marketers are still unfamiliar with the intricacies of this social advertising tool.

The Pros:

1. Facebook Ads are a very effective way to reach new audiences directly.

2. You can modify the size of your target audience — from very broad to very specific, depending on your goals. As well, you can pick the location of your audience if regional targeting is relevant to your marketing campaign.

3. You'll get access to a detailed portal showing demographics, targeting and ad options — which is much more advanced than the basic boosted post options.

4. Facebook Ads have more format and style options including carousel ads, slideshow ads and canvas ads. With an eye-catching format, your ad could garner a lot of attention.

5. When you create an ad, you can choose to exclude it from your Facebook Page. This "unpublished" post will still appear to new audiences, but won’t appear on your Page, thereby avoiding post overload for your existing followers.

The Cons:

1. Because of the many options to choose from when creating an ad, it takes a bit of time and effort to set up.

2. For the same reason, the platform can be a little more confusing than when simply boosting a post.

3. This is a less ‘organic’ advertising option, and will seem more overtly like an ad to your audience than a boosted post. For example, Facebook Ads sometimes don’t appear in a user’s News Feed along with other posts, but rather in the side columns of their home page.

Choose Facebook Ads when:

  • Your goal is to explicitly reach new audiences
  • You want detailed targeting options with advanced demographics
  • You are launching a large campaign with multiple ads
  • Your call to action drives traffic to your website or landing page
  • Your objective is app installs, product promotion or lead generation
  • You want to A/B test your ads to determine which works best
  • You don’t want every ad to appear on your brand page

When to use boosted posts

Boosted posts are a simpler form of advertising that focuses on getting more reach with your existing News Feed content. Boosting puts the spotlight on a post within your followers’ News Feeds, thereby grabbing some added attention.

We explain in detail how to create a boosted post in Part Two of our Facebook Ads series, but here's the breakdown of why you may want to use them.

The Pros:

1. A boosted post shows a “Like” button, so there’s a better chance more people will follow your page and get exposed to future content.

2. Since the content has already been posted organically to your business page, boosted posts are really easy to start running.

3. Boosted posts appear as “Sponsored” content in people’s News Feed, and not in the side columns of a user’s Facebook home page, as ads sometimes do.

4. Boosted posts can be seen by a much wider audience while also remaining visible as a regular post on your Page.

5. Identifying content to boost is usually very easy to do. In many cases, it’s as simple as boosting something you’ve already posted to your page that’s been doing well on its own. This can lead to added social engagement based on the boosted content.

The Cons:

1. The audience targeting on a boosted post is somewhat limited, with only a few options to choose from — so you can’t get as targeted with boosts as you can with ads.

2. There are less call-to-action options on boosted posts, like form completions, which can help drive leads.

3. A boosted post does not appear in all of your followers’ News Feeds. Boosting a post  simply guarantees that when the post does appear in one of your followers’ News Feeds, it will be more prominent.

Choose to boost a post when:

  • Your main goal is to drive brand awareness
  • Your goal is engagement (comments, reactions, video views) or page likes
  • An existing organic post performed well and you want to get a broader reach
  • You want to dip your toe into advertising on Facebook and see which posts resonate with a new audience

You can’t go wrong with either option you choose, as both Facebook Ads and boosted posts are both very effective tools. But decide whether you want the immediate impact of meeting targeted goals like lead generations that can result from Facebook Ads, or if you want to improve your overall levels of social engagement that often arises from boosted posts.

Up Next: Check out Part One and Part Two of our Facebook Advertising series and learn how to create Facebook Ads and 'boosted' posts.

The beginner’s guide to Facebook Ads for business


How to boost posts on Facebook

Shannon Vaughan

Shannon Vaughan is a dedicated and creative social media strategist based in Winnipeg with expertise in developing social media plans, social media analytics and creating fun, innovative and exciting social media campaigns. A former communications professional in the Toronto not-for-profit sector, she has written for several other blogs in the past and has experience managing a wide range of communications, including developing media materials and dynamic web content.

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