How To Get Started With Facebook Ads: a complete (and candid) guide

Table of Contents

This article, blog, training or guide (whatever you might see it as) is something that I’ve been asked to make a fair bit, and so here it is.

Contained within are all the things you need to know and consider if you’re starting out in your facebook ads journey.

The aim of this guide is to give you a solid foundation and take some of the confusion and overwhelm out of the experience of starting with Facebook ads.

Running Facebook ads is often something you know you want to do but you have no idea where to start.

I want to be transparent and say that the reality of Facebook ads is that you can’t really ‘replicate’ exactly what I’m doing and see success.

Unfortunately, that’s just not how it works.

But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom, I’m going to give you a framework to follow, and I’m going to share what has worked and is working for me.

I’d be lying if I told you that all of it will work for you straight away.

I’m not saying this to scare you, but I’ve probably had more ads that didn’t work than most people who advertise on Facebook…

But the great news is that I have also had more winners.

This guide will flow ‘step by step’ as follows:

Don’t worry if that seems confusing or convoluted, I promise to keep this guide as jargon-free and succinct as I can.

A theme for this guide will be intention. It’s a principle that underlies any great marketing. Asking the right questions and doing the right thing for the right reasons.

Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is still the wrong thing!

With the preamble out of the way, let’s jump into the actionable content.

Step #1 – Set-Up/Preparation

This step starts before you ever touch ads manager, a pixel or anything else on Facebook for that matter.

Let’s talk about goals.

Not how much money you want to make or how much weight you want to lose, but what you want to get from Facebook ads.

The simple answer is “That’s easy, I just want loads of leads!”.

I often find that either clients are running ads to the wrong thing (lead magnet or product)

OR

They have no plan or logical next step once they have got the leads.

Either way, these result in wasted money.

In ‘step 1’ of this guide, I’m going to talk about what you need to take care of and prepare before you run any ads.

The 3 things you need to think about are:

  1. Your Offer (what you’re running ads to, webinar, book etc)
  2. Your Landing Page (the page they land on when they click your ad)
  3. Follow-Up (whether phone, email or both)

I could write a 1000 word essay on any of these but I want this guide to be as practical as possible, so you can gain clarity on what you need to do next.

With that said, let’s jump into no.1.

Your Offer

In my opinion this is by far the MOST important thing for you to get right, and it’s probably the thing that gets the least amount of thought. Your offer should be clearly defined, created and tested prior to even thinking about starting to run Facebook ads.

9/10 Facebook ad offers don’t work.

It’s also true that 80% of statistics are false…so that could be made up, but it sounds about right to me!

So where do you start, and how do you know if what you’re offering is suitable to run ads to?

The answer I’d like to give is ‘test it!’, but I know that’s not particularly helpful or empowering in many cases.

I have found from my own experience that free or low cost offers work well on Facebook ads.

Think along the lines of:

This is by no means an exhaustive list and other things can work.

You also need to make taking advantage of your offer a no-brainer for your prospect, added value such as bonuses or limited-time offers/discounts are a couple of examples of how to do this.

As with all my blogs, I want to give you guidance, but also leave space for you to think for yourself.

The key to building a strong offer is two-fold. The first thing is not to make your ‘lead magnet’ in an ivory tower.

I mean to say, don’t work in a room on your own to build something you think your prospects want, all the while you haven’t asked your prospects or got any data to suggest your target market will respond well to it.

The minimum viable product approach works well here, it’s best to test a lead magnet as soon as possible and then optimise and clean it up once you know it works.

Make sure it’s something your audience wants. You can either ask a current client, or if you don’t have one, then post in a Facebook group that you know has your ideal customer in.

If you post in a group, don’t overthink it, something like “I’m working on a guide to tell you how to get started with Facebook ads, who wants access when it’s ready?” works well.

You’ll either get crickets, a great response or somewhere in between.

Whatever happens, you’ll get feedback that’s valuable when it comes to knowing whether your offer will work or not.

Which brings me to the next – and most important – part of getting your offer right.

‘Validate Your Offer’

Before you run ads, you need to make sure people will hand over their email or credit card info for what you are offering.

You can do this using organic posting on Facebook or Linkedin, by emailing your list (however small) or any number of other ways that are free.

If they won’t, it’s very unlikely that it will work when you pay for people to see your offer.

I’m sure this guide/blog would get opt-ins pretty cheap if I was to require your contact details to access it.

In closing on this point about offers, sometimes what you already have will work.

However, don’t just try to shoehorn something you already have into a good offer for Facebook ads. 

Be willing to make something new.

It’s a false economy to think that because you have already made something that you need to use it, it’s a perfect example of sunk cost fallacy.

Remember, at every stage of your ‘funnel’, you want to give your prospect a new level of confidence and capability, this is the real key to success.

Your Landing Page

Take heed on the use of the word ‘landing page’ and not ‘website’.

The key difference between the two is that landing pages and sales pages only have 1 outcome or call to action on the page.

No navigation links, no ‘contact us’, no ‘about’ section.

They either buy your course, opt-in for your lead magnet or they close the page.

This simplicity and increased intentionality mean that the page performs much better than an unfocused website which serves a different purpose all together.

When it comes to landing pages, I’m learning to have more of a design eye, but my real genius is the conversion driving elements of any landing or sales page.

If you do nothing else, just having the sections listed below as a structure would be a great start.

  1. Headline and sub-head (benefit driven and clear about the what their looking at)
  2. Bullets (drive home the benefits and highlight who this offer is for)
  3. Offer Summary (summarise what they get if they buy or opt-in)
  4. Testimonials (client successes/wins, what other have said about you)
  5. FAQ (common objections or questions about your lead magnet or product)
  6. Offer Summary #2 (some people skip straight to the bottom so make sure they know what’s on offer, even if they didn’t read the rest of the page)

To see an example of a sales page I’ve made you can click here – www.eliteclosingacademy.com/eca-owacbookofferfbz

Conversion trumps design in all instances, as that is the intention of the page (to convert traffic).

So if any design elements make your copy hard to read, or in any way distract from the purpose of the page, then jettison them in favour of a simpler or scaled back design option.

Design has a role in signalling and in positioning your brand, however, this has an upper limit, beyond which design will only hurt conversions, not improve them.

The next one is something you’re definitely going to want to have in place.

 Follow-Up

Being a good steward of your leads is very important to your overall success with Facebook Ads and is key to maximising your return on ad spend (ROAS).

Before we dive into campaign objectives, ad-set audiences and creatives, it’s important to know what you’re going to do with all the leads you generate.

The first step is to define the next logical step.

Some people call this a ‘funnel’ but you can just as easily insert ‘customer journey’,  it deals with defining what the next step of interacting with your business is.

To use the example of the sales page I linked above, when someone buys Matt Elwell’s ‘Open With A Close’ book, the next logical step is to attend a free in-person event called the Sales Accelerator, where the content of the book is elaborated on and applied to their specific business.

Being clear on the singular next step for those book purchasers means that all email and phone follow-up is intentional and has the same objective.

It’s a universal truth that a lot of people won’t buy online and will need some human contact to make a buying decision, so please call your leads while they are still hot. Email alone won’t suffice.

I’m not saying don’t send automated emails and texts, I’m just imploring you to overcome your fear and just pick up the phone to these people who have shown an interest in your business.

You are doing them a disservice by not calling them to follow-up.

Leads don’t go cold on you, you go cold on them.

I’ve found my true calling as a marketer, but my past in sales has allowed me to see both sides of the coin, including how the follow-up from the leads you generate from Facebook ads is a key determining factor on whether you see a return on your investment.

Now all that’s out the way and you have an offer that works, a landing page that converts and a follow-up plan, we can get into the meat and potatoes of this guide.

Step #2 – Choose Your Objective (Campaign Level)

Before we go any further, I want to make sure we’re on the same page, both figuratively and literally.

The introduction of Facebook’s ‘Ad Centre’ has caused some confusion with ‘Ads Manager’.

To be clear, ‘Ads Manager’ is where you need to be, here is a link to find it – https://www.facebook.com/business/ads

Once you’re in the Ads manager, you can navigate with the menu on the left-hand side of the page. To get started with your first ad, click the green button in the top-right corner of the page.

You should then see this screen:

This pop-up lays out all the possible campaign objectives. Don’t worry about the buying type, as auction is the most common and effective buying type.

For those who care to know, basically every placement or space for ads on your Facebook or Instagram news feed is bidded on like an Ebay auction, and the highest bidding advertiser will win.

Don’t be too concerned about the ins and outs of this, I just thought it was worth explaining how your ads actually get shown.

Each objective is an overarching goal for your Facebook ad campaign.

With Facebook ads, there are many different ways of approaching an ad campaign.

Sometimes, and especially when I record video training about facebook ads, it becomes increasingly important to highlight what not to click on, as well as what the important settings are.

So if I don’t mention a setting in this guide, you can be confident that you don’t need to touch or change it.

Ads manager can be and look confusing, so hopefully these explanations will help codify what you need to know.

The campaign objectives fall within three categories which essentially mimic the customer journey.

In the past I only really used the conversion objective, as this allowed me to track leads and purchases as accurately as possible. 

With the new IOS 14 update, which, to give you a basic gestalt, means that it’s harder for Facebook to accurately track the actions your customers take on your website or landing page.

Paired with my greater understanding of how to run Facebook ad campaigns, the other objectives come into play much more when it comes to nurturing customers and keeping your cost per lead down.

Here is a basic breakdown of all the categories and objectives:

Awareness
Objectives that generate interest in your product or service:

Consideration
Objectives that get people to start thinking about your business and look for more information about it:

Conversion
Objectives that encourage people interested in your business to purchase or use your product or service:

Once you’ve selected your marketing objective, you’ll then be asked to name your campaign.

I recommend creating a naming convention that works for you, I normally use something like:

‘Name of lead magnet or product | Campaign or adset budgeting | Targeting | campaign objective’

Here is a real world example of this naming convention:

‘OWAC | CBO | Marketing Interests | Conversion [Lead]’

‘OWAC’ stands for open with a close, Matt Elwell’s book.

‘CBO’ stands for ‘Campaign Budget Optimisation’, a setting I recommend you turn on.

Then ‘Marketing interests’ is my targeting choice and finally ‘Conversion’ is my campaign objective.

Again, you don’t need to do exactly as I do, but find something that works for you and makes everything that is in that campaign clear in one glance.

For your first campaign, I recommend ‘traffic’ or ‘video views’.

They require the least amount of set-up, and are the easiest to grasp/use.

Video views will allow you to rack up views on a content video you create. This could be a promo video, a training or something else.

The true power of this campaign objective is that once it’s been running for a little while, you’ll be able to retarget people who watched 50%, 75% or any other amount.

It goes without saying that someone who watches 50% of one of your 2 minute videos has a level of interest in that content.

These people become your ‘warm’ audience. I don’t have time in this guide to go into all the ninja retargeting stuff, but maybe I will in a later blog.

Next is Traffic, the reason I suggest traffic and not conversion (which I mentioned earlier) is that conversion tracking requires some more advanced technical knowledge and some extra work when it comes to the FB pixel and code.

The aim of this blog is to get you up and running in the fastest and simplest way possible.

If you’re running campaigns with the ‘traffic’ objective, there are a few options when it comes to the optimisation of your campaign.

The default is ‘link clicks’, which works fine. When I run campaigns with the ‘traffic’ objective, there are only two different types of optimisation I use.

The first is ‘link clicks’, which will ask Facebook to optimise for people who are most likely to click on your ad.

You won’t be able to track sales or leads directly, but whatever CRM or website builder you use should let you know if it’s working, and you’ll be able to see the data there.

The second type is ‘landing page views’ which optimises for people to not only click, but also wait for your landing page to fully load.

Both of these will produce sales or leads, as long as your offer is strong.

Once you have selected your objective and clicked the green next button at the bottom right of your screen, you’ll move from the campaign level to the adset level.

Here is a visual of what that means:

Step 3: Define your audience and budget (Adset Level)

The title of this step is the two subjects I get the most questions on.

They also prove to be a sticking point for a lot of people.

If you know me personally, you’ll know I abhor answering any question with “it depends…”, and when it comes to the question “how much should my budget be?”, that’s the most obvious answer.

As always, I will endeavour to be as helpful as possible when it comes to these 2 very subjective parts of Facebook ads.

Let’s start with the audience.

Audience

This step is crucial for the success of your Facebook Ad campaigns.

If you haven’t already defined your target audience or ideal customer avatar, I suggest you do that now.

I like to think of my target audience as one person, to make this easier.

Let’s call him Bob for the purpose of this exercise.

Ask yourself:

How old is he? What does he do for fun? What are his interests/hobbies? Where does he live?

There are plenty of resources out there for identifying your target market, so I’ll leave that to you and move swiftly on to more Facebook specific advice.

The quickest free way to get some targetable audiences for Facebook ads does involve a bit of Facebook stalking.

I normally find 2-3 of my target audience and stalk their profile looking for 3 main things.

  1. What they post (frequency and types of post)
  2. What groups they are a part of
  3. What pages they like 

You’ll start to build a picture of who these people are and the patterns in their behaviour and interests on Facebook.

These two exercises will give you the basis for your Facebook ad audience which takes place at the adset level of your campaign.

The audience for your ad can be customized based on all the following demographics:

Example: Choosing an audience for a basic ad

Facebook recommends narrowing your reach in a targeted way in order to maximize the impact of your ad. 

I went relatively narrow with this experiment, choosing the following audience demographics:

Location: United Kingdom
Interests: Social media marketing
Excluded: People who already like your Facebook page
Age: 23-57
Language: English (UK)
This gave an estimated reach of up to 3,200 people out of 14 million. 

The 3,200 people are how many we could expect to be online any given day and potentially see our ad.

N.B. Not every page is targetable on Facebook so you may need to get creative, I would try typing the name of the page in the box but it may not always show up. Don’t despair, I have a tip for you.

There are so many examples I could name, but one springs to mind.

Recently, I’ve been helping someone who wants to target a business page that’s based on people interested in quitting alcohol.

There are a couple of reasons why this is a challenge. First is that the page is not available to target as an interest, and the second is that there are some challenges when it comes to any ads that mention addiction.The solution is not to think so linear.

They are not just people who want to quit beer, but also fathers, athletes, and business development managers, the list goes on.

They all show up on Facebook as all these different identities, not just the one you’re after.

Through some research, I found that a high percentage of their clients are also interested in things like the spartan race and tough mudder.

Both of which you can target on Facebook. It’s too early to say what the result will be long term, but I’m sure that this approach of thinking outside the box will pay off.

Budget

Once you’ve selected your target audience, you next need to choose how much you’d like to spend on your ad.

This is the toughest one to give advice on, as it is so personal.

I’d love to tell you to spend £1000 a day, but the reality is that your skill level, confidence and bank account aren’t ready to accommodate that kind of spend.

When you set a budget, it’s important to remember that this figure represents the maximum amount of money you want to spend.

There are two types of budget, Daily or Lifetime:

Daily: A daily budget is the average that you’ll spend every day.

Lifetime: A lifetime budget is the maximum that you’ll spend during the lifetime of your advert set.

When you’re starting out, I recommend using lifetime budgets and setting a specific end date for your campaign.

As with all campaigns on ads manager, they’re a test. The budget you choose should be an amount you’re willing to spend with the possibility that you  get no results.

It’s unlikely this will happen, but it’s possible.

To get down to brass tax, the advice I normally give people (rightly or wrongly) when they push for some help with what budget to set, is £100 for 7-10 days as a test.

This will by no means give you barn-storming results, but it will serve as a benchmark for future campaigns, and help you gain some confidence too.

I’m going to finish this budget section with some more advanced budgeting strategy, so please ignore the next part if you haven’t already got some ads manager experience under your belt.

The ultimate goal when it comes to scaling your budget is for your campaigns and adsets to exit the learning phase, which requires it to get at least 50 results in a 7-day period.

A simple calculation (for which you’ll need some previous data) is your target cost per lead multiplied by 50, then divided by 7 to give you your daily budget to ensure you reach Facebook’s requirement to exit the learning phase.

(Your target cost per lead (CPL) is not what you would like it to be but a realistic target based on previous campaign data)

This is an example of how this calculation works.

To keep it simple, let’s use round numbers. Say your cost per lead is £10.

Multiplied by 50 (the amount of results Facebook needs to optimise) is £500.

Divided by 7 (the days in a week) equals a £71.43 daily budget.

Like I said, this is more advanced stuff, but I wanted to share the real method I use to work out my minimum daily budgets.

Don’t be discouraged if your budget doesn’t allow you to spend at this level, as your confidence in your results grows and your skill level does too, you’ll want to spend more and get more results.

Step #4 – Ad Creative (what the ad looks like)

Now we have finally got to creating what your ad looks like, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Pro tip: I would take a break before jumping into designing your ad, everything we have done so far has been very left brain dependent, so trying to switch into a creative, right brain state isn’t a quick process.

I promise taking a break here will mean you’ll create better ads. It worked for me.

For your ad creative, you can use existing posts on your FB business page but I suggest creating something from scratch.

If you’d like to create your advert from a blank canvas, the first task is to select the format you’d like to use for your advert.

There are a bunch of options, but for your first advert, I recommend single image or single video.

The other options are listed below for your information.

Carousel: Create an advert with 2 or more scrollable images or videos
Single image: Create up to 6 variations of your advert using 1 image
Single video: Create an advert with one video
Slideshow: Create a looping video advert with up to 10 images
Canvas: Tell a more immersive story by combining images and videos

Note: The formats available to you will vary based on the objective you set for your advert during Step 2 a little earlier in this post.

Once the format is selected, you need to add the content to your advert (the images or video and the copy). 

This part is incredibly important in making your advert stand out within Facebook or Instagram’s feeds.

If your ad is going to be a success, you will need your image and copy to be enticing enough to make people want to click.

The recommended image or video specs are normally placed next to the area on the screen where you upload your content, but as a rule of thumb:

Image specs:

Recommended image size: 1200 x 628 pixels
Image ratio: 1.91:1

To maximize advert delivery, use an image that contains little or no overlaid text. 20% as a maximum is the widely accepted standard

Video specs:

Format: .MOV or .MP4 files
Resolution: at least 720p
File size: 2.3 GB max.
Recommended aspect ratio: widescreen (16:9)
Facebook: 60 minutes max.
Instagram: 60 seconds max.

The next part to take care of is the copy, the ‘primary text’ section is what appears above the image or video you chose.

You will be able to see in the preview box on the right side of your screen where the text is appearing and how it looks, it will update automatically as you write, and you can also see how your ad will look in different places like instagram stories, facebook mobile news feed etc.

Then comes your headline which appears on the grey box below your image or video.

This is confusing for some people, as a headline is normally at the top (or head) of a page or ad. However, in this case it’s not but should be treated as the same.

I’m going to layout a simple ad formula below, something I wouldn’t normally do as I feel it stifles creativity but here goes:

Primary text

Pattern Interupt Image

Benefit Headline

You can’t go too wrong following that formula for your ad and copy. With that said, it isn’t the only way to structure your copy or ad…so please take it with a pinch of salt!

Once you’ve got your primary text, headline and image sorted, you’re ready to hit the scary green publish button in the bottom right.

Once you click it, your ad will go into review, and as long as you haven’t violated any policies, your ad will be live in an hour or 2 (unless you scheduled it for later).

After you have clicked publish, it’s important to check top right on the dashboard, as it may be blue telling you to review and publish elements of your campaign, this is normal and you’ll know your campaign is ready when the delivery column on the ads manager dashboard displays ‘Active’ or ‘In Review’ instead of ‘Draft’

Which brings me nicely to the final step: how do you know if your campaign is working? What are the key performance indicators?

Step #5 – Metrics/Tracking (how to know if it’s working or not)

I have definitely overused the word ‘simple’ in this guide, but I’m committed to living a simple life and codifying complex subjects into a digestible context. And when it comes to metrics, there are lots of things you can track, but not all metrics were created equal.

I want to give you some guidance on the best way to know if your campaign is working, and hopefully help you identify the problem if it isn’t.

Let’s handle the first and most obvious question: “is my campaign spending money?”. You will see under the ‘amount spent’ column how much (if any) of your budget the campaign has spent.

The next thing to look at is cost per result, this column displays the amount of times your campaign objective was achieved, such as video views, link clicks, leads or purchases.

The results you see are very personal and depend on your offer, ad creative, targeting and budget. Below are some industry benchmarks that will hopefully guide you.

The average cost per acquisition (CPA) for Facebook ads is $18.68.

The average cost per click is $1.72.

These figures match my own experience closely…but to be transparent, I got them from a site called ‘wordstream’ – a reliable source of information from my experience.

The next thing to look at is your click through rate (CTR). The average is 0.90%. 

This is worked out as the number of people who saw your ad divided by the number of people who clicked on it.

Any number below 0.4% would suggest that either your ad creative or copy isn’t up to scratch and needs work, or you’re not targeting a relevant audience.

The final metric I pay close attention to is ‘frequency’, this number, which is normally between 1 and 5, indicates how many times on average the same person saw your ad.

I aim for anything below 3, but I will tolerate higher frequency in my retargeting campaigns, as these are often smaller audiences, and the people in the audience already expressed an interest in my business.

If your frequency is high, it’s a sign that your audience may be too small. There’s no magic number for audience size, but anything between 30,000 and 2,000,000 should be ok.

I hope by now you understand that I’m not avoiding giving you exact instructions on Facebook ads to avoid accountability, but rather to give the breathing room for you to learn what works for your audience, market and industry.

The next thing to do is to let your campaign run and (hopefully) see the results start to rack up.

Let me know how your first campaign goes using the comment section below. I hope you found it valuable.

I felt compelled to write this guide, as I see too many people who don’t run Facebook ads day-in day-out giving out advice, and as the old adage goes…

“Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”

For this reason, I’m careful about the advice I give, I won’t advise you to do anything I haven’t seen work first hand for me or for my clients.

I hope to have taken some of the fear out of getting started with Facebook ads. The real key is to jump in, you can’t steal 2nd base whilst keeping your foot on first.

That’s enough platitudes for one guide, so I’ll conclude it here.

If you have any questions, comment below or reach out to me on Facebook messenger, my name is Billy Porter.

Stay Classy,

Billy

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