Facebook can be a powerful and accessible advertising tool for any business. But not everyone who follows you on Facebook sees everything you post. In fact, the average reach of a post could be as low as 4% of your total audience.

Spending money on ads will help you reach more of your audience, and to grow your audience by finding new fans. But how can you be sure you’re spending your money wisely? Here’s what we’ve learned from advertising Egar on Facebook.

Facebook’s Ad Manager tools are awesome

Facebook is doing something incredible with its advertising tools – it’s making them extremely user-friendly! There are tons of supporting documents designed to help you become an expert at creating good ads, even if you’ve never dreamed of running a Facebook ad campaign before.

However, it’s still a complicated system with loads of variables for you to experiment with. Every step of the ad process, you’re going to have to make a choice about what you want your ad to be. One of the first choices you’ll make is whether to run a full-blown ad campaign or simply promote a post.

About promoted posts

The idea behind a promoted post is simple – you pay to guarantee that more people see your content. And it is simple – you just click the Boost Post button and away you go. But is it the best way to spend your money?

When you boost a post, you’re presented with a few options for who you will see the promoted content, which we’ll talk more about in the bottom half of this post. You’ll also choose how much money you want to spend on the boost, and how long you want the promotion to last.

Edgar-promoted-facebook-post
Boost a post, and this is the interface you’ll see

In general, we’ve seen better results (well, higher ‘reach’ numbers) by using shorter time frames (like a day or two). That said, there are definitely times where running a promotion over a longer period of time makes sense – a seasonal or holiday post, for example.

All of this is fairly simple and straightforward, but there is one huge drawback to promoted posts – you can’t really measure their success against anything.

Sure, you might get huge numbers of people to see your promoted post – but each post is so unique that you can’t really compare it against anything other than itself. You can’t A/B test – and A/B testing is the key to good Facebook advertising.

Think about it this way: you have a post that’s doing well on its own, so you decide to goose it with a little spending. Let’s say you spend $10 on it, and it’s seen by 8,000 people.

Now let’s say you have another post that’s doing well, so you throw another $10 at it. And it’s seen by 12,000 people. Same spend, different results. But why? Who knows! The content of each post is so unique, there are just too many variables to tell why one post outperforms another on the same spend.

That’s why we tend to advise avoiding promoted posts. You just can’t learn enough from them to repeat your success – each one is pretty much a shot in the dark.

There are two exceptions to this rule (because what’s a rule without exceptions?):

  1. If a post is already getting vastly more clicks, shares and views than your average content, a paid boost could be just what it needs to truly go viral.
  2. If you’re promoting a contest, sale or event that is accessed through that post; think back to that 4% rule of thumb – is that really how much of your audience you want to know about whatever it is you’re promoting?

That being said, most times you are much better off using the Ads Tool for your paid content.

About the Ads Manager and why it’s a better bet

When you open up the Facebook Ads Manager for the first time, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. Do not panic. There is a LOT going on in there, but like we said before, Facebook does an admirable job of explaining it all. And it’s all of this control that makes the Ads Manager such a great tool for any would-be advertiser.

Find your audience

The place to start in the Ads Manager is with the Custom Audience tool. Finding the right audience for your ad is half the battle, and Facebook’s algorithms can actually make this kind of fun.

As a starting point, try creating a Lookalike audience. This is an audience of people who have things in common with people who already like a certain page, but who don’t like that page themselves. This is a beautiful and powerful thing. If Facebook thinks these people have similar interests to your current audience, chances are that some of them would be happy to become part of your audience!

The Lookalike Audience tool is easy to find and easy to use!
The Lookalike Audience tool is easy to find and easy to use!

Make an ad people will enjoy

Most people don’t want to look at ads. Think of your own browsing behavior – do you even look at the parts of a website that you know are ads, or do your eyes just kind of naturally avoid it?

That’s why you’ll want to make an ad that doesn’t look like an ad! Avoid advertising in the right-hand ad space column (not advertising in that space is already a default setting when you create the ad, so just don’t go out of your way to do it).

Create an ad that looks like it could be a regular old post (although a really interesting one, of course). Use an interesting photo or video, and write copy that isn’t blatantly an ad. Try to create something that someone would view and share on their own, without ever realizing it was an advertisement.

Was your eye drawn to the ad on the left, or the ones on the right? And do you now want key lime pie?
Was your eye drawn to the ad on the left, or the ones on the right? And do you now want key lime pie?

Testing, testing

Once you have one ad up and running, try creating a second ad within that same campaign. Make it exactly like your first ad, but change one thing. Maybe you use a different picture. Maybe you try a different message. Whatever you want, so long as you’re only altering once piece of the ad. Now let that ad run, and see how the results compare to your original ad.

And with that, you’re now officially running an A/B test, which makes you a real-deal Facebook Marketer! Go ahead, put it on your resume.

As you figure out which ad is more effective (the easiest way to do this is look at the Cost metric in the Ads Manager, which displays the cost-per-action of your ad), keep coming up with more things to test and continue to refine your ads to maximize their effectiveness.

None of this needs to be expensive, either! Your reach is always going to depend somewhat on the size of your audience, but spending just a few dollars can be enough to make your message visible. For every $10 you spend, your ad will reach somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 people (this could change if Facebook tweaks their advertising algorithms, so always check the expected reach displayed while creating your ad). For a small company, that could be a huge audience for very little money. For larger businesses, a penny per person is still a pretty good price on visibility.

Whatever your budget, you’ll always want to refine your ads for optimal efficiency. The ability to continuously test new ideas through the Ads Manager is its greatest strength, and it’s what makes this tool head and shoulders above simply promoting a single post. Take advantage of the ability to test and refine and you’ll see just how powerful – and cost effective – advertising on Facebook can be!

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Matt Thomas
A content writer for Edgar, Matt has a background in copywriting, online marketing and social media management.
  • Hey Matt, good recommendations. I’ve seen less success with manual bidding on FB than other platforms, like AdWords–it’s very counter-intuitive so it’s changing my instincts with regard to changes.

    Still, it’s proven to be very powerful in the mass amount of people you can reach and the leads it can generate. I’ve definitely learned that every business has to find a USP that may vary from other channels.

  • Giana Calvello

    Thanks for this Matt! I’m wondering where you find the audience tool, mine only shows saved audiences or new audience. What type of ad are you creating in the example? Thanks!