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The beginner’s guide to Facebook Ads for business

Learn to maximize your advertising results with Facebook Business Manager.

“Social media is free.”

Unfortunately, this statement is no longer true. The days of posting on Facebook and expecting to reach all your followers are long gone, as Facebook’s algorithms are designed to help promote paid content and targeted ads.

Why the change? With 1.94 billion monthly active Facebook users in the world and an approximate 18 per cent increase every year, the advertising revenue has become a critical component of Facebook's business strategy. Business advertising is the key component, and according to, there were over 50 million active small business Facebook pages as of May 2016.

For most industries, using Facebook for business is essential, but with such a crowded marketplace, being strategic about the content you’re posting is also a must. And analyzing the results will help you get a higher ROI.

Why should I pay for Facebook Ads?

Sure, you can push content out for free, but you’ll only reach a fraction of those who follow you. With even a small budget, you can increase your reach exponentially, while also having almost complete control over who you reach.

You can also target specific audiences and take advantage of new publishing options added regularly to get creative with your Facebook content.

42% of marketers report that Facebook is critical or important to their business. So think of Facebook like any other paid advertising or communication channel that requires its own attention and percentage of your marketing budget.

Facebook advertising options

Facebook offers two main advertising types: boosted posts and Facebook Ads. These function in similar ways, but as an advertiser, you must set them up differently within the platform.

Boosted posts are the most simple form of ads that promote content directly from your brand page. Read more about how to use boosted posts here.

Facebook Ads are a more robust option available through Facebook Business Manager — and this is a must for any social media manager, content specialist or business that is serious about connecting with their audience on Facebook.

What exactly is Facebook Business Manager?

Facebook Business Manager is a powerful tool to have in your marketing toolkit, as it is the central hub for managing all advertising on their platform. Business Manager gives you access to a detailed portal showing you demographics, targeting and ad options — much more advanced than the basic boosted post options. 

When you create an ad through Business Manager, you also have the option to not have it show up on your Page. This "unpublished" post gives you more freedom to advertise to new audiences while not risking post overload for your existing followers.

Every ad you create is detailed along with your targeted audiences and budgets. This allows you to make changes, track results and view past history to perform accurate reports.

Business Manager also allows you to track your teams by providing or removing access to people who manage different pages. This is perfect if you're running multiple pages with different team members helping out, as they'll only have access to the information they need.

If you have several lines of business or departments within your organization, you can create separate accounts within Business Manager and store separate credit card numbers within each account. With large organizations, this feature keeps budgets organized and on track.

To use this tool you must first create a Facebook Ads Manager account, which is a simple process to set up by following the quick steps to connect your company Pages, team members and billing information. 

Facebook Business Manager

Find the right audiences

Business Manager also has a powerful demographics area that analyzes the available market on Facebook to show you exactly who you can target. Narrow in on your audience to learn more about your potential reach as you plan your ad strategy or campaigns.

The targeting combinations are seemingly endless, so to narrow down your audience consider the objectives and strategy surrounding your campaign. For instance, if you are a professional organization looking to target graduate students of a certain program across Canada, you can get as specific as targeting Canadian cities, universities, fields of study and years of graduation.

Conversely, other companies might consider targeting more broadly so they don't exclude possible customers. For a B2C e-commerce clothing business whose market includes trend conscious adults who shop online, you could go as broad as targeting all Canadians who are over 18 and have an interest in fashion.

Consider also whether you want to split your budget up between different languages like English and French, as this will also affect the reach and performance of your ads.

Facebook Business Manager demographics

How do I hit my marketing objectives?

Selecting your marketing objective is one of the first things to do when setting up Facebook Ads. You'll have the option to select one objective from the awareness, consideration and conversion categories.

For example, choose “video views” if you're promoting a video and want to drive views of it directly on Facebook. You can choose "traffic" to drive visitors to your website or landing page, "engagement" to get people liking or sharing your posts, or "lead generation" to generate marketing qualified leads that you can pass on to your sales team.

Marketing Objectives in Facebook Ads

What content should I promote?

If you already know the direction you want your social media strategy to take, then setting up an ad shouldn’t take you very long, although there’s a bit of a learning curve at first. The most important part is figuring out your call to action and why you are creating the ad in the first place.

Facebook Ads Analytics

Want to get people to volunteer, sign up for your newsletter or watch a video about a new project you’ve been working on? These are all great reasons to set up a Facebook Ad or to boost a post on your business page. Whatever your business goals, Facebook has created an ad format to help you achieve them.

Video content performs very well on Facebook, so it's worthwhile creating that content for your audience. And content that’s helpful, tells a story, provides info from an educational perspective and that doesn’t push a product usually performs best.

Content that ties into community projects and employee narratives also tends to perform well organically, and when a little budget is put behind it, garners a lot more engagement and furthers your reach exponentially.

Look at your organic posts that have been published over the past month or so. Are there a few that stand out and appear to be performing better than others? If so, then this might be a content which you could allocate some of your marketing dollars.

What should I say in the post?

The way you word a post makes a big difference on the performance of your ad. Follow these helpful tips for writing successful Facebook ad posts.

  1. You only have their attention for a few seconds, so put your most interesting line or “hook” at the front.
  2. Start off with a question or an interesting statistic or fact.
  3. Keep your Facebook posts under 250 characters.
  4. Keep the copy punchy and concise to make sure your post will reach the highest number of people.
Pro tip: Always think about the content from your audience’s perspective. Would you find the post interesting if you saw it in your news feed? Then your followers probably will, too.


What about images and budget?

In addition to the written copy, you can include other media like images, videos and links in your posts. If your goal is to drive traffic back to your owned properties, then include the URL to your website or landing page.

As a general rule of thumb, you'll see higher results by creating a unique image specifically for your campaign. Adding a bit of supportive text to the image is a creative way to include more info without making your post longer, although Facebook restricts the amount of text you can have on an image, so try to keep it less than 20 per cent of the entire image space. You can also use Facebook's Text Overlay tool to upload an image and see if it meets their advertising rules.

Your budget is up to you. Depending on the size of the campaign, you can spend as little as $1 for impressions, $5 for likes and other engagements, or all the way up to thousands of dollars for bigger campaigns. These small minimum budgets allow you a lot of freedom to test the waters and get involved without major risk.

Facebook Ads Audience Size Estimator

Facebook Ads also has a feature where you can draft campaigns to get estimates for reach and the potential link clicks that your ad will receive. This can give you get a better idea of performance even before you launch.

Play around a little – you may want to get very specific, broad or hover somewhere in the middle. Take some screenshots of the options you’ve created with the different budget options and run a couple by your team or manager to get their feedback. This will build a higher comfort level internally and help you craft better ads overall.

As mentioned, the targeting options are almost limitless and it's important to experiment with your ads through A/B testing.

Change the wording slightly or update the supporting visual. Change who you’re targeting or the day and time you schedule your posts. Or try a completely new style of post to drive your desired behaviour. Then use Facebook Business Manager or the Insights tab (available on the top of your Facebook Page) to learn about their performance, so you can hone in on where best to spend your money.

Stay tuned to the Business Hub for more ways to craft your Facebook Ads and best practices to reach your targeted audiences.

Up Next: Keep your social media work organized with 5 tools to set up an amazing social media calendar.

5 tools to set up an amazing social media calendar

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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