How to Build a Facebook Ad From Scratch

When beginning their digital advertising journey, a lot of small business owners get overwhelmed and have no clue where to start. With a limited budget, many stress over picking the wrong social platform and creating an ad that performs poor ends up being a waste of money.

On October 19, 2018, I spoke at the 7th Annual Women’s Business Expo about my favorite social media platform and why small businesses should start their digital advertising journey there first (download the presentation | workbook here), but which platform you ask? Facebook!

(Please Note: As you scroll through the page, if you see a highlighted sentence or two, feel free to click on them to share knowledge with your Twitter network.)

Facebook has well over 1.6 billion users. Meaning, you can reach almost any group of people who you want. In fact, you can probably only list a handful of friends who don’t have a Facebook profile.

If your target market is a human, you can reach them on Facebook.

Oddly enough, there’s a common misconception that Facebook isn’t as successful for B2B companies, but I disagree. In fact, you can apply the same theory above to B2B. Can you name a business that’s not on Facebook?

The misconception comes into play when talking about “decision makers.” Some people assume that if you want to reach the C-Suite Executives, you have to be on #LinkedIn. However, odds are, if they are on LinkedIn, they are probably on Facebook too. And, like most people, they probably check their Facebook account more often than their LinkedIn account.

One of the most compelling reasons as to why you you should incorporate Facebook advertising into your marketing strategy over any other social media platform is due to Facebook’s extensive knowledge of its users.

#Facebook has more interest based data than any other platform in the world, which is why Facebook advertising is SO valuable to marketers.

I know. It’s scary. Facebook tracks everything. And even if you don’t interact with Facebook content, Facebook also purchases data from other companies to know even MORE about you. In short, Facebook is able to collect a ton of data on its users and it’s all accessible to marketers… you just have to know how to use it.

Facebook isn’t just for people, it’s for businesses too. If your business doesn’t have a business Facebook page, it should! And yes there’s a difference between a personal and professional business page. One of the main reasons to have a business Facebook page is to have the ability to advertise. If you don’t have a business Facebook page, you can’t advertise on Facebook.

Why Should I Use Facebook Ads?

Speaking of advertising on Facebook, hopefully, all of you know the importance of digital advertising and have an allocated budget and strategy. *If I’m not right, I don’t want to know. Don’t tell me. Please.*

Here are a few reasons why Facebook Ads could be a game changer for your business:

  1. Reach: Organic reach has been cut IN HALF since 2013 due to Facebook’s algorithm changes. It’s more important now than ever for brands to set aside an actual advertising budget and incorporate paid ads into the mix to ensure their content gets in front of the right audience.
  2. Brand Awareness: With all the digital noise, marketers use “The Rule of Seven.” This rule basically implies that a user has to hear or see your brand seven times to remember it. Even if you don’t produce a 12% conversion rate, your brand is still being seen by the audience you are targeting… and we all know how important brand recall is.
  3. Network Expansion: Let’s face it… the digital space is very crowded. And because of that, posting organically and praying for results generally doesn’t work. By incorporating Facebook advertising into the marketing mix though, you can reach people outside of your current followers, which enables you to invite the engaged users and build onto your total followers.
  4. A More Targeted Audience: When you first launch your Facebook page, it’s common for your close friends and family to follow your page. With Facebook ads, you can bypass engagement from your Mom and instead focus on engagement from your potential buyers based upon the targeting parameters set. 

Who doesn’t love quality engaged followers? Amirite?

How to Build a Facebook Ad

To start the Facebook ad creation process, you need to click on the dropdown arrow in the top right corner of your Facebook page, then, click on the “Create Ads” option.

After you make it to the Ad Creation page, you’ll need to set your ad objective. Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of my ad?” Facebook will optimize your campaign based upon the objective you select in the very first stage of the ad development process. So, this step is extremely important.

There are a ton of options to choose from (you can find a full breakdown of campaign objectives here). But, depending on where your users are in your sales flywheel, that’s going to determine which campaign objective you use. I’m going to cover my top two favorites and the ones that seem to performing best.

Brand Awareness – The Awareness Stage

Let’s first talk about the Awareness Stage. This is generally the first touch point where new prospects are reached to build your brand. Although there are two options for an awareness campaign objective (brand awareness and reach), I’ve found the most success with Brand Awareness.

Essentially, this objective focuses on reaching people who are likely to be interested in your ads. This is achieved by optimizing your campaign to target those who are most likely to engaging with your ads — thereby maximizing your brand lift. If your goal is to primarily increase the awareness and recall of your brand then this is a good objective to use.

Traffic – The Consideration Stage

The traffic objective focuses on driving people to your website. This is done by optimizing your ad to be shown to people most likely to click the link that leads back to your website.

Used with most standard Facebook ad formats, you’ll provide a link back to your website along with choosing from a number of call to action buttons. If your primary goal is to direct people to any part of your website — including products, event information, lead forms or any other landing page — then this goal is a pretty safe bet.

Should I Boost a Post or Create an Ad?

A lot of people get confused by the difference of a boosted post and a custom ad. 

Facebook generally limits the number of stories that appear in a user’s news feed. So even if a fan likes your page, he or she might not see all of your posted content. Boosting a post makes it much more likely that fans will see the post in their news feeds. And unlike regular posts, boosted posts could also appear in the news feeds of their friends with similar interests.

If your goal is engagement, boosting will probably be the better choice. I use boosting for things such as blog content and events. Although boosted posts have limited options which make it easier to manage for beginners, with limited options comes limited targeting and customization of your ad’s placement, bids, and creative.

Boost a Post When…

    • You’re focusing on ONE piece of content.
    • Your desired outcome is more engagement focused.
    • You want to build your audience.
  • You really don’t want to deal with the complexity of creating an ad.

When you create an ad, you have a lot more options. Generally, those who create an ad have a specific goal in mind or are building a full-fledged multi-part social campaign. Some of those custom options include ad display place, custom audience creation, bid amounts, scheduling, etc.

Create an Ad When…

    • You have a specific goal in mind (lead generation, sales, website visits, etc.).
    • You want specific ad placement.
    • You want more creative control.
  • You want to manually bid to make sure you reach your desired audience.

Along with more options to customize your ad’s audience targeting, by creating your own ad rather than boosting a post, you have more flexibility with the ad creative as well. As a designer and strategist, I really appreciate the creative features of a custom ad.

At the end of the day, 99% of the time, a Facebook Ad will be more effective than a Boosted Post… even if you aren’t familiar with the system yet.

“Hands-On” Activity

Because this blog post is written in conjunction with a presentation for the expo, the next part of this post is a quick hands on activity that will require the downloading of a workbook. You can download it here.

To move through the activity, I’m going to use a local business as my example. Here’s the person: Chiropractic Works located in Athens, GA is looking to build their client list by running a three-part ad campaign targeting potential patients who have interest in natural healing, who are health conscious, and who exercise. The first part of the campaign would be an awareness ad (which is what we’re going to create in this post) to just get their name out there. The next part of this campaign could be a consideration ad focusing on traffic to their website. And the last ad of this ad series would be a conversion ad, which would give away a free adjustment or free consultation hopefully getting those who have interacted with the previous two posts to come into the office and become new patients. So, let’s get started.

Ad Budget

For this particular ad, we’re going to create a brand awareness ad to start with and run it for 7 days. I’m going to set the ad budget for $25 and run it for 7 days. The follow up ads would run two weeks after the prior ad has completed. So why $25

A rule of thumb: Small businesses earning less than $5 million in annual revenue should spend about 5-15% of that revenue on #marketing. That budget should include both brand development (website, blogs, social media, etc.) and direct promotion (advertising, sponsorships, etc.) marketing. When it’s all said and done, of the 35-45% of your marketing budget that is allocated to digital marketing, 15-25% of that should be invested into social media. You would then take that 15-25% of the budget and divide it amongst the predicted number of social media campaigns you plan to have throughout the year. And if you want an average number, my average campaign spend is $25-$50 for a local community ad.

As mentioned, for today’s purpose, we’re going to build a custom brand awareness ad. Which looks like this in the ad manager.

After you select your object and a few other options, the option to set your budget will look like this.

Ad Targeting

With Facebook ads, you can already target users based on their country, state and city. But recently, Facebook added a new way to target people via a specific address, which allows businesses to target users who are nearby. This is great for flash sales.

When you are narrowing down your location targeting, you what to think about the customer and realistically how far they will drive for your services. Depending on the type of business you have, you may want to target people who live within 15 miles of Athens. Or, if your business is a business where people who may live further than 15 miles outside of Athens, but they work in Athens, you can narrow down their working location in the behaviors/interest section and target people who work within the radius set rather than live in the radius.

Ad Audience Age & Gender

Thanks to Facebook’s Insight Tool, we can easily identify the gender and age of both followers reached and who have engaged with posts. So, in this example, I would say my target audience is people between the ages of 25 and 44. I’m not going to include the 45-54 age group because they are just a small portion of my follower base and I want to make sure my ads reach the core of my engaged audience.

When building the ad, I’m going to target all genders between the ages of 26 and 44 based upon age insights.

Ad Interest Targeting

The idea is to target those who are really into your subject, not just the average fans. We need to find the people who eat, breath, and dream about it. Those who know things that aren’t common knowledge by the average fan.

I call this the “But No One Else Would” trick. The idea is to look for the people who knows what no one else would about the topic.

If you look at the chart to the right, it’s broken down into three types of fans… 1) those who know who Tiger Woods is (basically everyone), 2) those who know who Phil Mickelson is (a lot of people), and lastly, 3) the true golf enthusiast who know who Bubba Watson is.

CLICK HERE for a few of the categories you can use to reach your audience by looking at their interests, activities, the pages they’ve liked, and closely related topics. If you combine multiple interests, it greatly increases your chances of targeting your ideal customer. 

Since our persona is a Chiropractic business whose target audience is health conscious people who prefer more natural approaches, exercise and eat healthier, Here are a few of my ideas for interests to narrow down who the ad is delivered to.

And remember, when you start targeting people based upon interests, adding interests increases your audience size and excluding interests narrows it. You can use the “narrow” feature though to add two identifiers to your target audience. You can use Facebook’s built-in Audience Size tool to determine if your audience is too broad or too specific. You want to aim to keep your audience in the green area.

Ad Connection

One of the great things about social media advertising, Facebook more specifically, is that you have the opportunity to reach very specific groups of people through connections.

With Facebook, you can target your fans, exclude your fans, and target friends of your fans. This comes in handy in a few scenarios. If you are selling something or want to build subscribers to your email database, you target your fans. If you want to expand your reach and get in front of new people, you exclude your fans. If you are sharing content or an accomplishment, you will want to target everyone and neither include nor exclude connections.

Ad Delivery Speed

Delivery type basically determines how quick you want Facebook to exhaust your budget. Generally, Facebook paces the delivery speed against the bid in order to achieve the best results.

Without pacing, your ads will be shown as quickly as possible when your ad campaign launches. This chart shows the three different speeds at which you can set your Facebook Ad’s delivery. The grey line represents spending your budget aggressively with face pacing. The blue line represents spending your budget optimally. And the red line represents spending your budget very conservatively.

More often than not, allowing Facebook to optimally delivery your ads and distribute them evenly throughout the course of your campaign will provide better results. However, if you are having a flash sale, promoting a live event, or are pushing a time-sensitive campaign, selecting the “Accelerated” Ad Delivery option might be worthwhile.

Ad Creative

And now, my favorite part… the ad creative. Your Facebook ad creative and copywriting are among the top ad elements that decide whether your ad campaign succeeds. Depending on the ad creative you use, there can be a drastic difference between your ad’s cost per click and cost per acquisition. In fact, Images are responsible for 75%-90% of ad performance. So, the more effort you put into the image, the better your ad will perform.

When designing a great ad, there are a few different things you have to consider: 1) where your ad will be displayed so your images will size appropriately, 2) a catchy headline that will grab your audience’s attention, 3) the copy of the ad that will make them want to click, and 4) what type of call to action are you going to use.

Your ad image is probably the most important aspect of the ad creative phase. Here are a few best practices when designing an ad. And if you’re not a designer, don’t sweat it, on my website (where you can download this entire presentation and the workbook), I’ll give you a few quick resources you can use to develop a professional looking ad.

Ad Design Best Practices:

    • Be bold. Use color. This helps your ads quickly grab attention.
    • Make sure your value proposition is highly visible in your ad.
    • Ensure your image contrasts with the newsfeed (a.k.a. not white).
  • Design using the correct ad size (1200 x 628 pixels), so that your ad looks professional across multiple platforms.

Your ad copy is the second most important part of your Facebook ads, right after the ad image. The ad copy should first catch an ad viewer’s interest and then convince them to take action or make a purchase.

Ad Copy Best Practices:

    • Directly addressing their pain points of your target audience.
    • Add “social proofs” or statistics.
    • Use Call-to-Actions.
    • Address logical and emotional concerns.
    • Showcase credibility.
    • Short, sweet, and to the point.
    • Create urgency.
  • Tell a story.

So now, it’s time to develop the ad. Although there are several different options, 9 times out of 10, I opt for either the single video or single image. For today’s purpose though, I’m going with the Single Image example. Facebook gives you the option to select up to 6 different images for your campaign. I’ve found that 6 is just way too many. I tend to stick with 2 or 3. Rarely do I use just 1 image as it’s always best to test the waters a little bit to see which image performs best… but you don’t have to use multiple images.

When making an ad image selection, it can be tempting to use a single stock photography image for convenience, but as a personal rule of thumb… never use a solo stock photography image… especially ones from Facebook’s stock photography library. Image the thousands of ads these images have already been used for. If possible, always use original images for your ad. Furthermore, when you are considering including text on your image, it cannot be more than 20%.

You can use Facebook’s text image tool to see if your image text covers more than five boxes on the Facebook grid.

Here are two ads that I’ve developed for my professional Facebook page. These are both boosted posts because the goal was to increase engagement and build my audience. But, it contains many of the elements we’ve discuss. 1) social proof, 2) eye catching image, 3) engaging copy, 4) bold colors, 5) contrasts with the timeline, and 5) limited text to 20% of the image.

When developing an ad for our persona, this is what I came up with and you will see that the ad contains a lot of the same elements in the boosted posts I just showed you… except… more opportunity to customize.

If you look at the final ad developed for Chiropractic Works, you will notice three things:

  1. It’s attention grabbing with an emotional connection and social proof. It also creates urgency and encourages an action.
  2. There ad includes an eye catching image that is different from most images on Facebook and contains a limited amount of text.
  3. The URL is easy to read and easy to remember.

Analyze Results

The last phase of the advertising process is to analyze your results. By using the sheet I’ve provided in the workbook (page 8), you can easily plug in numbers from your campaign, which you can find in your ads manager, and then view the full ad conversion rate. According to WordStream, 9% across all industries is average .

Pro Tip

Alas, our Facebook Wizardry journey has come to an end, but I will leave you with one last nugget of information.

We all know that more likes equals more trust which equals more purchases and conversions, right? Here is a quick pro tip to help you build your followers quickly.

Likes are great and all, but if they aren’t quality likes, does it really matter? Yes, it looks great for trust, but when it comes to actual conversions (which is where the money is at), you will want quality likes. In addition to running “page likes” campaigns and what not, you can also acquire new likes by inviting people who’ve engaged with your posts to like your page. This is where the pro tip comes in… any post you boost, you will have the prime opportunity to invite qualified and targeted candidates to like your page. CLICK HERE to learn how.


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  • https://www.adgo.io/blog/2017/6/21/a-guide-to-facebook-ad-campaign-objectives
  • https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2017/08/30/facebook-ads-account-structure
  • https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2015/08/05/effective-facebook-ads-for-lead-generation
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  • https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/new-facebook-advertising-research-for-marketers/
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  • https://revive.social/facebook-ads-vs-boosted-posts/
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  • https://www.systematixinfotech.com/how-facebook-advertising-is-helping-brands-convert-customers-consumers-stores
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  • https://adespresso.com/blog/guide-facebook-ads-interest-targeting-research-easy-advanced-methods-exposed/#part2
  • https://www.closerscafe.com/facebook-ad-targeting-options-infographic/https://neilpatel.com/blog/13-secrets-thatll-boost-your-facebook-organic-reach/

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