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Guide to Facebook Ads, part one: The basics

There’s no question Facebook is still a major player online in 2019 and its ad platform is an important tool for many marketers. As a photographer, there are a lot of reasons to use Facebook ads: Wedding photography, portrait sessions, workshops, tutorials and more. It’s a great tool to target specific groups of people and it’s well integrated with many other services.

Facebook’s ad interface can be intimidating and ad campaigns can be counterintuitive, so this is the first post in a series of articles about Facebook Ads. Over the next few weeks, I’ll go through the basics, boosting a post, the Ads Manager interface, creating a campaign and optimizing your ads.

Let’s talk strategy

Before we get into the weeds of Facebook Ads, I think it’s important for you to have a marketing strategy beyond Facebook. You need to decide why Facebook can fit in that strategy and what your goal is. If you do not have a specific goal in mind, chances are you will simply waste your money. Boosting a post here and there will not achieve much, except deplete your bank account. Here are some examples of goals you might have:

  • Increase your page’s followers
  • Increase your posts’ reach
  • Drive traffic to your website
  • Get people to sign up for your newsletter
  • Drive traffic to your products/services

Those are basic goals and you can do much more by targeting specific audiences and behaviors, like people who follow your page, people who visited your website, etc. Again, start with your general marketing strategy and see where you can use Facebook to achieve your goals.

For example, I use Facebook Ads with Photography Unfolded, where I lead workshops with Angie McMonigal. Our end goal is to get people to register for our workshops, but we know it’s hard to sell expensive products directly through an ad on Facebook. Instead, we created a free eBook, that we advertise on Facebook. When people get the eBook, they also agree to sign up for our newsletter, where we provide content and advertise for our workshops.

Boosting a post

Now, let’s dive into it! First things first — you need a business page to create ads. You can’t do it with personal profiles. This might be an issue for some people, but I think that most of you probably have a Facebook page for your photography/business (and if not, you should).

The easiest way to create an ad on Facebook is to “boost a post.” That means you have an existing post and you boost it so it reaches more people. Facebook might even notify you from time to time about boosting posts. But if you want a post to reach a larger audience, just click the Boost Post button below your post.

One thing you need to understand is that you want to boost posts that are already performing well. It might sound counterintuitive, but if you boost a post that underperforms, chances are it will not perform very well as an ad either. A well-performing post already proved it was content that people want to see and interact with. Your money will be best served by boosting popular posts.

Once you’ve clicked the button, a pop-up appears. Don’t get overwhelmed; we’ll go through every setting together.

Objective

The first setting is the objective of the ad. Here you can pick between getting more engagement and more messages. In the next few articles, you’ll learn how to create custom campaigns that will have more options.

Post button

The post button is optional but can be a key part of your marketing. There are a lot of options, depending on what your end goal is. Each option will have parameters, like the URL or the address linked to the button.

Audience

The audience might be the most important part of creating an ad. It’s also Facebook Ads’ most powerful tool. You’ll have a few default options (you can see mine below) that might be suitable and if you want to target people in your area or people who like your page.

However, audiences are much more powerful and you can create your own by clicking on Create Audience. There are several parameters you can play with: Gender, age, locations and targeting. Gender and age are simple. In locations, you can target a country, a state or small areas like a city. You can target multiple locations.

Detailed targeting is where Facebook really shines (and can be creepy). You can target people through their interests, but also their demographics (education, financial, relationship status, work, etc.) and behavior (anniversary, digital activities, mobile device users, purchase behavior, travel, etc.). Facebook knows A LOT about us and it’s very useful for ad targeting. For now, you can probably work with a simple audience. I’ll dive into more details about audiences with custom campaigns.

Automatic placements

Facebook places ads in different locations (feed, instant articles, in-stream videos, right column, marketplace, stories, etc.). I suggest you keep that checked, as the algorithm is good at determining where will work best. If you become a power user, you can tinker with this setting and test what works best.

Budget and duration

This is the second most important setting: How much money will you spend and for how long will the ad run? You pick the total budget and when the ad will run until (either a duration or an end date). Then Facebook will automatically spread your budget over the period you picked.

Tracking conversions

A Facebook Pixel is a way to track people through Facebook and your website to get analytics. If you have a Facebook Pixel set up, feel free to use it. If you haven’t set it up, leave it for now. I’ll get to it in the next article.

Payment

If you haven’t yet, set up your payment via credit card and then click on Boost.

Ad verification

Once you’ve submitted your ad, Facebook will take some time to verify it and make sure it follows its rules. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours and you’ll be notified by email.

Wrapping up

Well, that was already a lot, but I have so much more to discuss around Facebook Ads. It’s a great tool and if you’re a data nerd like me, it’s fascinating. In the next article, we’ll talk about the Ads Manager in detail so you can be ready to create your first custom campaign.

Header photo by Will Francis on Unsplash.

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