Facebook Boosts vs Ads Manager: To boost or not to boost

Ah, the good ole’ days. Once upon a time, almost everyone who liked your Facebook page saw your posts automatically. But over the years, Facebook turned down the volume on organic reach. Nowadays you have to pay for that level of attention, either through boosted posts or by heading over to Facebook Ads manager.
Two smartphones displaying a growth chart and a mute icon on their screens, respectively.

Yes, it’s a bummer we can’t get tons of free attention anymore. But it’s not all bad. There are upsides to the system of Facebook ads and boosted posts.

How exactly does this system work, though? Which is more effective, an ad or a boosted post?

Facebook boosted posts vs ads

First, let’s get on the same page about boosts and ads.

Boosting a post on Facebook is essentially a method of paying for more reach on your posts. You pay for access to that old-fashioned organic reach, with slightly more control over who sees your content.

Facebook ads work a little differently. Instead of boosting directly from your Facebook feed, you create and manage ads through Facebook Ads Manager. You can either set up your ads manually or use a time-saving creative management platform that automatically builds ads from your assets. This gives you more control over what your ads look like, who sees them, and how you manage your budget.

There are best practices and strategies for getting the most from both Facebook ads and boosted posts. But if you want the biggest bang for your buck, you need to understand which option is best suited for your particular goals. After all, there’s no sense in boosting your marketing budget right out the window.

With that, here’s the big Facebook boosted posts vs Facebook Ads Manager showdown.

What the data says

We had our guesses, but we’re big fans of data-backed decisions around here. So, we ran an experiment to test our theory. We created a video and ran it twice, once as a boosted post and once via ads manager with a $75 budget behind both. Then, we let them do their thing.

This is where we landed:

  • Boost cost less. Per 1,000 views, the boosted post only cost $2.63 vs $7.72 for the Ads Manager post. So the Ads Manager post cost 193% more.
  • Ads Manager got more clicks. In terms of results, Ads Manager dominated boost. The Ads Manager post got 76 clicks, whereas the boosted post only got 23. That’s 230% more clicks for the Ads Manager post.
  • Ads Manager’s clicks cost less. This meant the cost per click also came out much lower. Each click cost $1.04 for the ad. The boost cost $3.09. That’s $197% more expensive per click, negating the lower cost of boost.
  • Ads Manager Ads were watched for longer. Ads Manager scored almost twice as many 3-second views (9,166 vs. 5,158), a higher percentage of the video was watched (85% vs. 64%), the average watch time was longer (5 seconds vs. 2 seconds), and, most importantly, almost twice as many people watched the Ads Manager post through to completion (7,097 compared to 3,647).
  • Ads Manager encouraged engagement. Ads Manager stomped the boosted post with almost twice as many interactions – 9,242 vs. 5,223.
  • Boost was better for reactions. Boost did far better in terms of reactions – 41 vs. 0. It also got one share, whereas the ad had none.

What does all that mean? Let’s get into it.

When to use Facebook boosted posts

Most Facebook experts agree that running ads through Ads Manager gets better performance in almost all Facebook marketing metrics. If that’s true, then why does Facebook even offer boosted posts?

The key here is almost. Facebook ads perform better in almost every metric. But when it comes to reactions and shares, boosted posts win hands down.

This is because boosted posts are just organic content you pay Facebook to distribute. People tend to respond to the content the same way they respond to ordinary posts in their feed. If your content is engaging, Facebook users will want to share it with their friends. On the other hand, people rarely react this way to ads.

But who cares about reactions and shares, right? Reactions and shares don’t pay the bills.

Actually, reactions and shares do have marketing value.

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Getting social proof on Facebook

If you’re familiar with marketing fundamentals, you’ve probably heard of social proof. Social proof is an incredibly powerful sales tactic. That’s why so many websites and sales pages feature customer testimonials and reviews.

At our core, we humans are pretty basic. If we see others reacting positively to something, we are more likely to follow suit.

On Facebook, reactions and shares are social proof. Think of them like tiny five-star reviews. When we see content on our feeds, we instinctively look at the reactions and shares to see if other people like it. And we are more likely to read, watch, or click on a post or ad if it has lots of reactions and shares.

Since Facebook boosted posts are much more likely to get reactions and shares, boosting is a good way to generate social proof for your content.

Once your boosted post gathers a good number of shares and reactions, put that post into Ads Manager and run it as an ad. Now you have a Facebook ad with ready-made social proof, which helps boost the performance. (See what we did there?)

Boost, but boost sparingly

Ultimately, Facebook boosted posts are a good way to prep your content for a successful run in the Facebook Ads Manager. If your goal is to get the sort of engagement you’d gather from a post with great organic reach, boosting your posts will help you get there.

However, boosted posts are not ideal for achieving more traditional marketing objectives. You simply don’t have enough control over the audience targeting, budget, and scheduling to get a good return on your marketing investment.

In other words— boost, but boost sparingly.

Here’s a quick list of questions to help decide if a boosted post is the right tool for the job:

Are you trying to get more attention for organic content or is your post actually an ad?

Avoid boosting super-promotional content or ads in disguise. It’s perfectly fine to have a call-to-action in your post. But, if your boosted post looks too much like an ad, people will treat it like one, which gets you fewer reactions and shares.

Are reactions and shares an integral part of your overall Facebook marketing strategy?

If reactions and shares are valuable enough to your Facebook marketing goals, and you can direct some of your budget to getting this type of engagement, then boosted posts are worthwhile.

Are you also running ads in the Facebook Ads Manager?

Facebook boosted posts are not great when you use them as standalone marketing content. But they work well in conjunction with ads created and managed in the Facebook Ads Manager. Boosted posts can be a good supplement to your paid ads.

When to use the Facebook Ads Manager

Yes, Facebook ads perform better than boosted posts. But it’s unwise to hop on Facebook Ads Manager and start running ads without a bit of planning.

Facebook ads are so effective because you can control almost every aspect of their delivery: audience demographics, ad campaign objectives, ad formats, advertising budget, and ad scheduling.

However, this control also leaves lots of room for error. Set one of the dials to the wrong setting and you might end up blowing your Facebook advertising budget. It’s important to have a few things in place before you start running ads.

Achieving your Facebook marketing dreams

Before you pop open the Ads Manager, you need to decide what you’re trying to achieve. The best part about Facebook ads is that you can tailor them to achieve almost any marketing objective.

Need more traffic for your website? There’s a campaign for that.

Need to get more leads through your lead magnet? Facebook ads can help.

You can even run campaigns to get more app installs.

Take time up front to figure out how your Facebook ads serve your marketing goals. Otherwise you’ll be aimlessly tuning the dials, hoping something lines up.

Here’s a checklist to determine if you’re ready for Facebook ads:

Do you have the resources to run video ads? (SPOILER ALERT: yes, you do)

Sure, you can throw up an image and call it an ad. But Facebook video ads outperform image ads every time. In fact, according to the latest marketing statistics, video performs better on Facebook all the way around (and on the rest of the internet, too).

You’ll get the best results right from the start if you use video. With an easy-to-use video maker like Biteable, you can create Facebook video ads without even leaving the office.

How do Facebook ads fit into your overall marketing strategy?

The Facebook advertising algorithm and ad targeting is impressively advanced. This makes Facebook ads super profitable when they’re done right. On the other hand, the targeting options are so specific that you’ll get poor results if your ad campaigns don’t match your larger marketing objectives.

In short, map out your marketing strategy and get a clear idea of how Facebook ads fit into the picture.

Do you have the Facebook pixel installed?

The Facebook pixel is a must-have for tracking ad performance. You need to set up your pixel before you start running ads. Otherwise, your ads won’t generate the right marketing data or your performance numbers will be inaccurate.

Final takes on Facebook boosts and ads

The takeaway? In a head-to-head battle against boosted posts, Facebook ads (especially video ads) almost always deliver the biggest bang for your buck.

Obviously, Facebook boosted posts have their place. You can use a boost if you’re really short on time or if you need to build social proof before running your content through Ads Manager. But boost is usually best when it’s used as a supporting tool for your Facebook ads. If you want views, clicks, or sales, Ads Manager is the way to go.

If you need help getting started with Facebook video ads, use Biteable’s powerful video editing tools and templates to make sales-snatching videos right in your browser. You’ll be rolling out video ads faster than you can say, “Facebook rules the world.”


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