The Ultimate Guide To Online Advertising On Facebook

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ultimate guide online advertising facebook

Many small business owners are now getting started with online advertising on Facebook. After all, the social networking giant is a great place to reach your target audience.

Additionally, Facebook makes it easy for almost anyone to utilize online ads with their platform. Or do they?

There are five foundational areas you must get right with your online advertising on Facebook. Do you know where you need to spend the most effort? Read on to find out!

Facebook Is Pay To Play

First, focusing on Facebook is a smart move. With nearly 2.45 billion monthly active users, your target audience is likely here.

Second, you must know that Facebook is “pay to play.” What this means is that Facebook has throttled organic reach for years to ensure that brands spend money to get their content seen.


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Organic reach is defined as:

The number of people who had an unpaid post from your Page enter their screen.

Today, the average organic reach of a Facebook Page is less than 1%! That means if you have 100 Facebook Fans, and you post an organic piece of content to your Page, it’s likely only one of those 100 people will see your post in their newsfeed. Ouch.

This is the #1 reason you need to get started with online advertising on Facebook. Organic efforts just aren’t enough. Which isn’t to say organic social media is dead! Hardly.

Nearly 70% of consumers use social media to reach a brand with a customer service request. Customer Care is an organic effort that is HUGELY IMPORTANT.

To truly be successful, you’ll want to use organic and paid efforts in tandem.

Boosting Posts Versus Online Advertising With Facebook Ads

Another common misconception about online advertising with Facebook is that you can “boost” a post and that is the same thing as running an ad campaign. WRONG!

While Facebook calls boosting “the simplest way to advertise on Facebook” it is far less superior than running an actual ad campaign. In truth, this is where a lot of first-time Facebook advertisers get tripped up.

Don’t believe me? Just look at the differences between boosting a post and running an ad:


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With boosting, you get none of the bells and whistles that make online advertising with Facebook ads so effective.

The Foundational Five

Getting started, you should focus on what we call the “foundational five.” While these don’t encompass EVERYTHING that goes on with Facebook advertising, they are most often the areas that will help you achieve success.

This post will go take a deep-dive into these five areas, showing you the tactical and practical ways we attack each theme.

When online advertising on Facebook, here’s where we put a lot of our focus …

  1. Messaging
  2. Targeting
  3. Images & creative
  4. Delivery times
  5. Trends

As I write this, the world is gripped by COVID-19 and more people are online than ever before. Paid reach on Facebook is skyrocketing. And with people pausing ads due to the pandemic, the cost of ads are lower than usual.

Do the math: impressions are rising + ad prices dropping = now is a great time to get started with online advertising on Facebook. Marketing during tough times is essential!

Messaging & Words That Work

Why do you think advertising leaves a yucky taste in most people’s mouth?

Probably because most advertising is disruptive. Or it could be a myriad of set-up reasons that we’ve outlined in this post about advertising failure to launch.

To start, brands often use the same tired copy for their advertising.

  • “Buy now!”
  • “Download this!”
  • “Some kind of discount that you don’t care about!”

Conditions are always changing; your messaging needs to change with them. If not, you could risk alienating current and potential consumers.

For example, let’s use the current pandemic and how messaging around it has changed. Let’s say you’re running COVID-related ads on Facebook. Knowing that you want to use the same language as your customers, you’d want to understand which words work. Meaning, you’d want to know what verbiage they use to describe all things related to the virus.

In March of 2020, that language looked like this:


You can see that “coronavirus” was the most-used term to describe the virus. In return, that means we’d want our messaging and ad copy to use “coronavirus” as well.

However, in June, consumer messaging changed. It looked like this:


In June, “covid” and “pandemic” were the top two terms used to describe the virus. As an advertiser, you’d want to update your messaging to match what consumers most align with.

Right now, it’s important to be real. Staying true to your brand voice while recognizing that people have serious – and legitimate – concerns is critical to online advertising on Facebook.

Looking at these word cloud reports from our social listening tool help us stay on top of what words consumers use and show us how to remain relevant.

Additionally, you need to consistently be looking at the words consumers use around your industry, brand, and competitors and ensure your messaging matches that.

Targeting & Online Advertising On Facebook

Now that you know what to say with your Facebook ads, who will you be targeting with those messages?

Targeting may be the biggest opportunity when it comes to online advertising on Facebook. The genius of the Facebook Ads Manager is that you have endless ways to come up with audiences who will see your ads.

Ultimately, there are two types of audiences on Facebook …

  1. Cold Audiences: Building audiences based on things you know and saving that group or groups of people to your Facebook Ads Manager.
  2. Warm Audiences: Creating audiences based on connections, like website visitors, email lists or phone numbers, or by using the Facebook Pixel.

Now, there are three main ways to build both cold and warm audiences:

  1. Custom Audience [WARM]: Show your ads to people who have already showed an interest in your brand; created from your customer contacts, website traffic, or mobile app.
  2. Lookalike Audience [WARM]: Reach new people who are similar to audiences that convert; created from activities based on things like people who like your Page, conversion pixels, or any of your Custom Audiences.
  3. Saved Audience [COLD]: Save commonly used targeting options for reuse; created by choosing demographics, interests, and behaviors of the people you’d like to reach with your ads.

Because there’s so much to unpack with each of these three audiences, we’ll break them out separately.

Facebook Custom Audiences

Facebook Custom Audiences are probably your most high-value target audiences as they allow to retarget past website visitors and people who have engaged with your content or app.

Here’s what the targeting looks like in Facebook Ads Manager:


Let’s go over a few of the more popular choices with Custom Audiences.

Customer File

The first option on the Facebook Custom Audience list is based on your existing customer files. This can be things like email accounts, phone numbers or apple IDs.

The Customer File audience is a great way to target your newsletter subscribers or people who are app users with additional products or services.

Website Traffic

This is the Facebook Pixel option, where a snippet of code lives on your website to capture people who visit the website AND ALSO use Facebook. Facebook has instructions on how to install the Pixel on your website.

You can choose between multiple options as seen in the drop-down menu below.



You can also target the users that have engaged with your content on Facebook. For example, they could have viewed your videos or liked a Facebook Page post.


Notice #3 on the list above says, ‘People who clicked any call-to-action button.’ Your call-to-action (CTA) is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT! If you’re not sure what to write for your CTA, check out our 40 pre-written calls to action for Facebook.

Facebook Lookalike Audiences

To start, you MUST have created a Custom Audience to create a Lookalike Audience.

Facebook Lookalike Audiences help your ads be seen by the people who are like your existing customer database. This makes the Lookalike Audience more likely to convert and click your ad’s CTA.

For example, you could upload an email list with your very best customers to a Facebook Custom Audience named, “Best Customers List.” If the Custom Audience does well and has enough users, you could create a Lookalike Audience called, “Best Customers Lookalike List.”

Your Lookalike Audience will be targeting NEW people who are most like your Best Customers List. This type of campaign ensures you only target people who are likely to be interested in your offer.

Lookalike Audiences is a tactic that really helps boost online advertising on Facebook — using this after you nail down your Custom Audiences will extend the life of your campaigns!

Online Advertising On Facebook With The RIGHT Images & Creative

When it comes to online advertising on Facebook, the images and creative you choose are critical to getting noticed.

There are five “housekeeping” items we drill into our advertising team’s head when it comes to choosing the right images.

  1. Use Facebook’s recommended aspect ratio for text overlaid on images, which is less than 20%.
  2. Only use high resolution images.
  3. Showcase your product or brand.
  4. Your creative should match your copy and your message should be focused.
  5. Be sure to preview your ads before you set them live!

To create excellent looking graphics for your social media posts, consider using a design tool. There are plenty of free ones out there that will help you edit photos, create infographics, etc. Canva is our tool of choice but here are a few others …

Furthermore, keeping the current pandemic in mind, not only does ad copy need to be adjusted, but imagery choices need to be more sensitive too.

For example, one of our clients is a non-profit. They moved all of their walks to virtual walks as COVID spread across the U.S. but used imagery from last year’s walks for this year’s ads (see below).


And even though Best Buddies New Jersey has one of the most loyal, happy, and engaged audiences, they were NOT happy about using a picture of people who weren’t wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

In fact, we noted a lot of inbound comments on clients’ ads regarding how people are interacting, such as handshakes in photos or people out to eat or at the mall. We had to make changes accordingly. You will too!

Delivery Times

Unfortunately, as sophisticated as Facebook Ads Manager is, you still have to do a little work around WHEN your ads are delivered.

The point being that you want your ads to show when your target audience(s) are most likely to see them pop up in their newsfeed. There are a few ways to do this. 1) Let your advertising data show you what times work best. 2) Use your Facebook Page Insights to see when your Facebook Fans are most active.

When using Facebook Page Insights to help with your online advertising on Facebook, here’s what you’ll want to do.

First, when you visit your Facebook Page Insights, you’ll immediately go to the Overview Page. From there, click “Posts” in the left-hand menu.

See an example from our Page Insights below.


Second, on the Posts Insights Page, you’ll automatically be on “When Your Fans Are Online.”

Here’s another example from our Page Insights below.


Look at the red numbers 1-7. That’s just me going through and rating that week’s data by best day. Wednesday is our best day and Saturday is our least best day.

Our best time range for all days looks to be around 6:00am through 6:00pm with the BEST time being around 11:00am. We check this data WEEKLY for both our organic and online advertising efforts.

Next, when you go to choose advertising delivery times through Facebook Advertising Manager, there are a few things to know.

  • When you set a lifetime budget, you can schedule your ad set to run on a specific day and time.
  • Ad sets must run for at least one hour.
  • Your ad appears in your audience’s time zone.
  • If you want to understand how people are responding in each time zone, create a separate campaign for each time zone.

Here’s what it looks like in the Facebook Ads Manager when you set up your delivery schedule.


Finally, we have to mention the current times & pandemic again (yes, really!). It’s crazy, but COVID is truly changing everything – from consumers’ media habits to ad delivery.

Evaluating your data in-depth will enable you to understand the costs and benefits of different testing strategies and better understand which changes will be most worthwhile to your business.

For instance, we found that trends changed drastically, especially for one client. Pre-COVID, purchases were typically made late (between 11 PM – midnight). Now, most purchases for this client are made during the early morning hours between 6 – 8 AM.

Online Advertising On Facebook & Trend Watching

To start, let’s talk advertising trends. As I mentioned earlier, with consumers forced to spend more time indoors, their media consumption habits have changed.

  • U.S. e-commerce sales increased by 25% and online grocery sales doubled.
  • 48% of consumers reported having increased their online shopping, up from 31%.
  • 38% of Americans say they’re more open to engaging with ads on social media.


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I’ll say it again: The cost of ads have decreased. The propensity to engage with ads has increased. Despite the current pandemic, consumers are making more purchases through social media than in the past.

Furthermore, we’ve seen a push for better quality and healthier options. People seem interested in spending more time and money on home furnishings, and purchasing safe and eco-friendly products. We’ve also seen a surge in eating healthily.

When thinking about trends and how they are affecting your business — and thereby your ads — you should look at any current crisis (i.e the pandemic) as well as

  • Industry trends
  • Brand/company trends
  • Your competitor trends

Above all, that means spending a lot of time on research and reporting and social listening. Because running the same disruptive ads with the same boring and filled with brand-jargon ads will not work!

Even MORE Goes Into Online Advertising On Facebook

Finally, there’s are a lot more than the “foundational five” that goes into online advertising on Facebook. Over time, we plan to update this post with some of the more crucial themes. However, these five areas are a really good start if you’re just starting out.

Or if you’ve been using “boosting” and calling it advertising! [wink!]

In short, it takes a serious set of skills to create audiences and advertising campaigns that result in a solid ROAS (return on ad spend) time and time again. Luckily, we have a team of super-talented advertising specialist supporting our clients.

And if you think you need our help, book some time to chat with me!


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Brooke B. Sellas is an award-winning Customer Marketing Strategist and the CEO & Founder of B Squared Media. Her book, Conversations That Connect has been recognized nationally and is required reading for a Customer Experience class at NSU. Brooke's influence in digital marketing is not just about her accomplishments but also about her unwavering commitment to elevating the industry standard of digital customer experience and customer marketing.
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Category: Advertising
Tags: advertising, audience targeting, boosting Facebook posts, Brooke B. Sellas, Brooke Sellas, call-to-action, design tools, , , , , , , online advertising,
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