11 experts reveal how to make the best Facebook ads possible

Facebook advertising has become a load-bearing column in the marketers’ spreadsheet. But with great power comes great… complexity? Facebook Ads Manager is confusing and creating ad content can feel like an exercise in operant conditioning with a random reward schedule. And don’t get us started on the shifting sands of the capricious Facebook algorithm.

So. We’ve been working to untangle and demystify Facebook ads in our Facebook Marketing Handbook and cover everything a budding Facebook marketer needs to know. While on this quest, we’ve been chatting to some of the brightest bulbs in the industry who have generously shared their trade secrets. We’ve boiled down their wisdom and turned it into delicious, bite-sized pieces for you to enjoy. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Your perfect posting time is unique to your audience

Bonnie Porter, Buffer

Fan theories about the best time to post your Facebook ad are like urban legends. They pop up every so often, claiming to originate from a reliable source (your colleague’s ex-boss’s barber who once worked at Facebook, for example), and always turn out to be purely anecdotal.

Of course, there are some industry-wide statistics we can point you to, like Monday is the highest-earning day for online retailers, but as we know, aggregate statistics mean nothing to the individual.

Sadly, there’s no secret sauce to posting times. Your audience is a unique subset and you know them best — don’t be afraid to guess, experiment, and draw your own conclusions about when to post.

Buffer

2. The golden ratio isn’t 1:1, it’s 6:5

Justin Lofton, Facebook strategist at Syncsumo

When it comes to creating video campaigns, aspect ratio is both incredibly important and incredibly overlooked. Lock in your aspect ratio before you jump into the fun part of actually creating the video content. After all, form should always follow function.

The mode of delivery will affect your aspect ratio. For Facebook newsfeed content, experiment with a 1:1 or 4:5 aspect ratio; for Stories, vertical 9:16 is an obvious winner.

For mobile, we like the 6:5 ratio. It’s big enough to take up most of the screen (obscuring competing content on either side of the post) while still showing the social proof below (reactions, comments, likes, and shares).

And considering most video views come from mobile, steer clear of the standard 16:9 ratio (rectangle) because it can look like an advertisement (and no one will flip their phone to the side to watch an ad).

Syncsumo

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3. Create intimate, shareable content and Facebook’s algorithm will work for you

Dennis Yu, BlitzMetrics

Facebook’s algorithm is very eager to please. Above all else, it serves the needs of the people and wants to prioritize content they’ll like. And what do people like to see? Their friends and family chatting away, making jokes and sharing moving stories. Facebook prioritizes this type of content and this type of content has certain characteristics that resonate with people. If you want the algorithm to serve your content too, there are a few things you can do:

  • Don’t make content that looks like an ad. That means no hashtags, and limit the number of links.
  • Be emotional, be real, and be funny. Every piece of content should have a little heart.
  • Get outside. Film in the real world, not in a sterile meeting room.
  • More video, less photos.

BlitzMetrics

4. Change marketing tactics but never lose sight of the goal

Amir Bazrafshan, Founder at Apricot

The old idiom ‘don’t put the cart before the horse’ has never been truer when it comes to content. The ‘why’ should always come before the ‘what’ and long before the ‘how’. Think of these as goal, strategy, and tactics.

When planning, set an overall goal, something quite ambitious but meaningful to your business. It should be both measurable and achievable, such as growing your email list by 20%. Your goal is a little cross on a map, a destination that might be just over the horizon or in another hemisphere.

Then consider a strategy to work toward the goal. This can be a broad theme, such as building authority. Your strategy is a map that you hope will guide to you the goal.

And finally, tactics. This is the nitty-gritty. When, who, and what to post. This is the fuel in the engine, inching you ever closer to your destination. Ditch the ones that don’t work and double down on the ones that do, but never change course or lose sight of the destination.

That said, make sure you’re measuring success the right way: not all KPIs are created equally. Metrics like reach, engagement, and shares are great if you want to raise awareness but if your audience are aware of you and your aim is to increase sales, look for click rates and conversions/sales metrics.

Apricot

5. Awareness phase content should introduce and hero your business

Dennis Yu, BlitzMetrics

The marketing funnel is a sacred artifact to content marketers and we’re always trying to cram people into it. But what is it? It’s a process the consumer embarks on when investing in your business. It’s broken into three phases.

  • Awareness: The consumer learns about your business.
  • Consideration: The consumer considers you and weighs you up next to your competitors.
  • Conversion: The consumer buys what you’re selling. Cha-ching!

Each phase occupies a unique mindset for the consumer and has different content/advertising requirements. During the awareness phase, you’re meeting your customers for the first time, so be polite, say ‘hi’, and keep it short (under one minute for video, ideally).

Your ad should introduce you and tell your story. Why did you start your business, what lead you to this point, what problems are you trying to solve? It sounds counterintuitive, but feel free to talk about yourself. You’re the star of the awareness phase. Your story should ultimately lead to the core belief of your business. The ‘why’ that drives you.

BlitzMetrics

6. Promise solutions during the consideration phase

Louise McDonell, Facebook marketing expert

Once you’ve passed the awareness phase, what flavor of content should you be creating during the consideration phase? Awareness was all about introducing your business, consideration is about inviting the consumer back in and sympathizing with their frustrations. By this point, you should know your audience well. What are the questions they have? What are the biggest problems they face?

Offer content that cuts quickly to the core of these frustrations to show you understand them. It sounds trite, but it feels good to have your frustrations validated, no matter who you are or where you’re looking.

When a bit of trust has been established, gently offer an easy CTA, such as signing up for newsletters, eBooks, or a webinar. Make sure they can do this without leaving Facebook.

louisemcdonnell.com

7. Be direct during the conversion phase

Rena, Social media scientist at Biteable

When you’re down at the pointy end of the marketing funnel, things get a bit more direct. The gloves come off and your ads start to use active verbs. This is where you can ask your audience to sign up, buy, trial — all the things you wouldn’t dream of asking during the awareness or consideration phase.

You can also feel confident in paying a bit more for conversion ads because your audience are warmed up — they’ve been through the awareness and consideration phases so they’re more likely to convert.

Word to the wise — when setting up your ad campaign, make sure you choose the right objective. As we’ve said previously, the Facebook algorithm (needy little thing) wants to help and will be better able to if it knows what you’re trying to do. It’ll serve your ads to users at the appropriate stage of the funnel if it can, bringing your cost per acquisition right down.

8. Don’t neglect your customers once they’re your customers

Karyn Parkinson, Facebook ecom specialist

We can sometimes get so focused on acquiring shiny new customers we forget about the ones we already have. Remember to save some of your marketing spend for retaining loyal customers. Beyond the marketing funnel is still great territory for generating brand loyalty and return custom with an audience who’ve already indicated they’re into you. Loyalty schemes, birthday discounts, and tailored recommendations can all remind your existing customers why they liked you in the first place.

karynwithay.com

9. Use your Facebook pixel to keep your contacts updated

Neil Schaffer, Social media consultant, author & educator

Facebook pixel is the equivalent of a Swiss army knife for marketers. It’s the MVP of marketing tools and if you haven’t already installed it, tab out of this article and do it now. All installed? Good.

Facebook pixels, in fact all pixels, are a very clever way of acquiring data about who is interacting with your marketing material and how. But there are some little-known benefits of using a pixel, such as keeping your contact list up to date.

If you mine contact information off-site, those contacts need to be manually updated and your list may fall into disrepair as contacts update their email addresses. But if you do it through Facebook, their information will be automatically updated. Neat, huh? One of the many wonders of the pixel.

nealschaffer.com

10. Breakdown reporting in Ads Manager will make reporting a breeze

Johnathan Dane, founder at klientboost.com and meetkite.com

When you run a marketing campaign, you will (hopefully) come out the other end with a truckload of data. So much data, in fact, that it can sometimes be stupefying. Breakdown reporting is a little-known feature in Facebook Ads Manager than can chunk your data out into meaningful categories. And like KitKats, data is better chunky.

You can access this option under the Reports tab. It’s especially handy for global campaigns to help contextualize the wins and losses. Can you pin it down to device? Demographics? Platform? If you can identify that, say, you’re overpaying for Instagram by targeting iOS, you can cut the deadweight from your campaign balloon and soar into the atmosphere.

klientboost.com / meetkite.com

11. Your Facebook pixel works for Instagram too

Shane Barker, digital strategist

Once you set up your Facebook pixel, you can leverage it on Instagram (part of Facebook’s third-party network) to find look-alike audiences. You can use Facebook’s powerful Ads Manager to leapfrog onto Instagram to find the extended audience of your dreams. Target your ad to your right column newsfeed on Facebook and it’ll be sent out to Facebook’s third-party network.

shanebarker.com

12. Stories are the next big thing in the ad space

Mireille Ryan, CEO at Social Media Marketing Institute

Over the last few years, stories have muscled their way to the top of the social media pecking order because they tick all the boxes algorithms are interested in: they’re organic, personal, and engaging. Facebook Stories are likely to follow in the footsteps of Instagram, becoming a staple of any digital diet.

In future, we’ll start to see brands creating high-volume, low-key (unpolished, to camera, heavily-GIFed, and animated) content to post to Stories. In fact, there’s already a Stories option in Ads Manager. Start experimenting with story ads now before everyone catches on.

Social Media Marketing Institute