The Basics Of Advertising On Facebook

Facebook ads are a good way to boost your sales. For brands with large budgets it’s a bit easier — they can experiment with ads, test audiences and ads, and see what works and what doesn’t. But if you’re on a tight budget, those $500 you put into advertising better work and bring you some sales!

In this blog post I’ll share my experiences working with Facebook ads for Startup Vitamins and Printful, and reveal some tested tips and tactics on how to get maximum results with minimal spending.

A quick note:

I almost never use boosted posts. Boosted posts are optimized for likes, comments, and shares on the specific post. But you need purchases, not likes. For that reason, I only use Facebook Ads that are optimized for purchases or registrations. That means Facebook will spend our budget showing ads to people who are most likely to take our desired action.

So that’s why the rest of this post will focus on Facebook Ads, not boosted posts. Now, let’s go further and start with the basics.

3 types of targeting you can use in your Facebook Ads campaigns

Targeting is everything. You can spend thousands of dollars, but if you’re showing your ads to people who don’t care, you won’t get any results.

There are two kinds of audiences I usually use for my campaigns: lookalike audiences and audiences based on interests. And I also combine lookalike and interest-based audiences.

1. Lookalike audiences based on your customers’ or store vistiors’ profiles

If you’ve been running your store for a while, you should probably have a list of your customers’ emails. You can upload that list on Facebook and create a lookalike audience — aka people who have similar interests and behaviors as your existing customers.

This is how you create lookalike audiences from your customer emails:

  1. Take your list of emails and go to Audiences in your Facebook Ads Manager
  2. Create a Custom Audience by uploading the list and
  3. Create a Lookalike Audience from the Custom Audience you just created

You’ll need at least 100 emails from your target country to create a lookalike audience. If you have a big customer list, you can even segment these emails, and then create a lookalike audience for specific segments.

Let me explain what segmenting is:

Let’s say you sell leggings and hats on your store. You can segment your customers’ emails based on which product they’ve bought. In one list you’ll have all customers who’ve bought leggings, and in the other, those who’ve bought hats. Upload both email lists separately on Facebook, and create two lookalike audiences. Then advertise different products to each of them — to one group you can show ads with leggings:

And to the other group you show ads with hats:

What if my customer base isn’t big enough?

You can still create lookalike audiences, but based on your store’s visitors. To do that, you’ll first need to install the Facebook pixel on your store so it can track your visitors — read here for how it’s done. Once the pixel is up and running, you can create audiences from your store’s visitors.

This is how you create lookalike audiences from your store’s visitors:

  1. Go to your Facebook Ads Manager, then Audiences
  2. Click Custom Audience, and choose Website Traffic, then Anyone who visits your website, and pick your website
  3. Create a new Lookalike Audience from the custom audience you just created

Here, again, you can segment your visitors by product categories or specific pages they visit, and create different lookalike audiences. What you do is, on step #2, select People who visit specific web pages instead of Anyone who visits your website. Then add URL keywords from specific pages.

For example, I want to create an audience of visitors who are interested in posters. At the URL keywords I type in “poster” and the audience is created from all visitors who visited pages that contain the word ”poster” in their URLs:

2. User-interest based audiences and how to define them effectively

Okay, you’re probably thinking:

But what if I’ve JUST launched my store, have no customers yet and the only visitors to my store so far have been me, my best friend, and mom?

Then you use targeting that’s based on specific interests. And I really mean specific.

In other words:

If you’re selling designs with cute puppies, an interest ”puppies” is not specific enough. There are 15M people in the USA, aged 18–65+ who like puppies. You should think of something that’s really unique about the puppy lovers you want to target.

So one thing you can do is combine various interests, demographics and behaviors together to make your audience more specific. Think about who your puppy lovers are. How old they are? Single or with families? What do they like and what do they hate? (Try interests that start with ”I hate”) What books do they read? (Maybe something about dog training?) You get the idea — you should narrow down your audience until it’s specific.

For example, now I'm targeting women aged 25–40 who love puppies, are interested in dog training (read: serious interest in dogs), and are also interested in online shopping (read: shops online).

3. A mash-up of lookalike and interest-based audiences

Another way to make your targeting more specific is to combine interests with your lookalike audiences.

Let me show you:

Let's say, I want to find people on Facebook who might be interested in designing their own snapback hats and selling them online. So I select an interest ''snapback hat''. Facebook finds 9.3M people in the USA, aged 18–65+ who are interested in snapback hats.

But who are these people? Hats are a popular accessory that millions of people every day. How can I be sure that those 9.3M people are interested in designing and selling hats?

So here’s what I do:

First, I select a lookalike audience that’s created from our email list of existing customers who are already selling their designs on hats online. Then, I narrow it down with the interest ''snapback hat'':

Now my target audience for the campaign is just 320K. However, I can be more confident that these 320K will actually be interested in selling hats online because they’re similar to our existing customers AND are interested in snapback hats.

What kind of images and copy sell best in Facebook ads?

Now that you have your audience ready and defined, it's time to get creative.

Ad creatives contain two parts: visuals and copy.

When you look at parts of your ad, you can rank them in order of importance. Facebook already has created sort of visual hierarchy here — the bigger the element, the more importance it has:

The most important element is the image because it takes up most space in the ad, so it’s the first thing you notice. If the image speaks to you, you read the headline and post text, and finally link description.

Which images work best in Facebook ads?

I’ve tested a lot of images; here the types of visuals that perform the best:

1. High-quality product photos zoomed in. You want your product to be clearly visible both in newsfeed ads, as well as on the right-hand side and mobile ads. Here you can compare how ads look in the newsfeed and on the right-hand side:

2. People pointing. It feels like the person in the image is actually pointing and talking to you. The “cereal box psychology” that was found in an experiment works on adults too — eye contact seem to increase positive feelings towards the product and encourages consumers to buy it.

3. Colorful images that stand out in the feed. You’ve got only 2.5 seconds to catch the attention of users scrolling their news feed on desktop, and just 1.7 seconds on mobile — that’s the time people spend on a piece of content in their Facebook feeds.

Which copy works best in Facebook ads?

When it comes to copy, here’s what has worked for me:

1.Social proof. Nothing works better than showing that there are people who’ve already bought your product, trust you, or recommend you to others. There are various kinds of social proofs you can use in your ads, from expert social proof to user social proof. Here’s an example of user social proof I used in a Printful ad:

2. Use of words that your audience will recognize and/or relate to. For example, if you target women, use words like “women,” “lady,” or “girl” in your copy. If you target people who like puppies, use the word “puppy” in your copy.

3. Deal highlights. Create a special discount code for customers coming from Facebook ads, and highlight that discount code in your copy. For us it works best if I mention it right in our headline:

It’s rather difficult to separate ad visuals from the copy — they work together to persuade users to click. You should definitely test various images and copy in one campaign, in different combinations, and see what works and what doesn’t. I usually create at least 6 different ads for each campaign with 2–3 different images and copy versions.

Final thoughts

Year 2017 is definitely a great time to try Facebook Ads. Everyone is doing it, and you don't want to miss out — you too need to get in front of your potential customers. But it’s also true that competition is getting really tough, therefore you must be smart in your targeting and creative in your ads and campaigns.