A Guide to Facebook Ads
Facebook ads are purchased on an auction basis, where advertisers are charged based on either clicks or impressions. There are plenty of different ad formats offered, and in this guide we will try to give you a structured view of what opportunities you have as an advertiser on Facebook.
You can create and publish all types of ads yourself, either through Facebook’s self-service interface or through a certified ads API developer such as Qwaya - if you need a more comprehensive tool for managing your Facebook advertising. The ads are delivered all across Facebook, although only some formats are eligible to show in the Facebook News feed.
Facebook ads belong to one of two categories, Ads or Sponsored stories.
When thinking of the ad formats in this way it is easy to get an idea of what alternatives there are for advertising on Facebook. Let’s go through each category in detail.
Ads - Voice of business
For Facebook ads in this category, you as an advertiser are in full control of all creative elements of the ad. This means you control the title of the ad, the imagery and any text that goes with it.
Where on Facebook these ads are eligible to appear (their placement) depend on their origin. Sounds confusing? Don’t worry, it’s not. Ads (that is, voice of business) come in four distinct formats:
- Standard ad
- Page post ad
- Mobile app install ad
- Sponsored result
A standard ad is the traditional Facebook ad you find on the right hand side across the site on dedicated ad placements on Facebook. That means the right-hand side of the Facebook homepage, events, pages, user profiles, apps and next to photos in photo albums. Standard ads pointing to Facebook Pages are also eligible to show in the News feed on desktop and mobile devices.
Facebook standard ad as it appears on the right hand side of Facebook
Facebook page like ad as it appears in the desktop News feed
You decide where you want your ad to drive traffic. You can point the ad off Facebook – to a web shop, blog or other website, or to a destination on Facebook – a Facebook page, app or event.
Ads that point to websites can show social context (in the example above; “Sven Hamberg likes www.qwaya.com”). For this to happen, Facebook must be able to match the destination URL of your ad with a Facebook page. To make this match possible, add the URL of your website to the field “Website” in your Facebook page’s “Basic settings”. All ads pointing to Facebook entities (page, app or event) come with social context by default.
Depending on where your standard ad points to, the term used to describe it changes. For example, ads pointing to pages are called Page like ads, ads pointing to apps are App ads, ads pointing to websites are Domain ads, and so on. This is the technical term used to describe the ad, and the actual differences in appearance are very subtle.
When putting up a standard ad, you enter a title (max 25 characters) and body text (max 90 characters). Advertisers are only allowed to use static images, and they will be displayed in the dimensions of 100 pixels wide x 72 pixels tall.
Page post ads
Page post ads are page posts that are sponsored in order to increase their reach. Due to their nature, they are eligible to show on all Facebook placements. This includes the News feed on both mobile and desktop.
Page post ad, as shown in the desktop News feed
Turning a page post into a page post ad by promoting it doesn’t change the original post in terms of appearance - only in terms of distribution. This means that Facebook users interact with a page post ad the same way they would with an unsponsored page post.
For example, if your post contains a link to a website, people will go to that website when clicking the link. If your post contains a photo, it will be enlarged when clicked. The same logic applies for posts with questions, videos or offers.
When appearing in the News feed, page post ads can be liked, commented and shared - just like unsponsored page posts.
A click on the page name always takes the user to the Facebook page that published the post (Qwaya in the example). When a page post ad is showing on the right hand side of Facebook, the text in the post is truncated, showing only the first 90 characters. When showing in the News feed the full content of the post is visible.
Mobile app install ads
Mobile app install ads are only eligible to show in the News feed on mobile. Clicks on the ad takes the user directly to the Apple App Store or Google Play, depending on which mobile operating system the app is for.
Facebook Mobile App Install Ad (image courtesy of Techcrunch)
In order to create a mobile app install ad, the app must first be connected with Facebook. This does not mean that it has to integrate with Facebook from a user experience perspective, but Facebook must be aware of its existence. You can read more about how to do this in this tutorial provided by Facebook.
The creative elements of mobile app install ads (title, image, copy) can be pulled from the mobile app’s settings page on Facebook. If you want to A/B test multiple ad creatives you can set the creative elements manually.
Sponsored results are sponsored search results, and appear in the typeahead at the top of the Facebook interface. You can set your own text copy for the sponsored result, up to 70 characters long. The image will be pulled from the Facebook entity you are promoting (Page or App), and you can point the ad to any tab on your Facebook page.
Sponsored results can be targeted to show when other Facebook entities appear in the search results, including pages, places, apps, and subscribe-enabled users. People will see the ad when the targeted entity appears in their search results.
Ads only show in desktop search results, not on mobile and not on the "more results" page. Only bid type CPC and absolute version of Optimized CPM are eligible for sponsored results.
Facebook Sponsored Result (image courtesy of Technewspedia)
Sponsored stories - Voice of friend
Sponsored stories are different from ads in the sense that you as an advertiser do not create the content of the ad. They are similar to page post ads in that they are based on organic content on Facebook, but in contrast to page post ads, the content is created by Facebook users and not advertisers.
Each time someone interacts with one of your Facebook entities a story is created. The content of the story can be that someone likes your page or one of our page posts, uses your app or is going to your event - to name a few.
In order to maximize distribution of these stories among the friends of the person who generated the story, you can sponsor them - turning them into sponsored stories. Just like for page post ads, sponsoring a story does not change its content, only its distribution.
Since sponsored stories are boosted organic stories they are eligible to appear in the News feed on both desktop and mobile, as well as all other Facebook ad placements.
Page like sponsored story, as shown in the desktop News feed
Sponsored stories are usually the most interactive form of ads on Facebook. They are in essence endorsements by people’s friends, and thereby tend to receive high click-through and engagement rates.
You could say a person’s action becomes a recommendation rather than an ad. And for a lot of people, recommendations from friends are more credible compared to messages coming directly from a business.
Page post like sponsored story, as shown in the desktop News feed
A sponsored story always includes the profile picture of the person who made the action. The sponsored story also shows the names of the people in the friend network of the viewer who have liked, commented, checked in or whatever action the sponsored story is based on.
Facebook has a set of built-in actions and objects. Some of the most common actions are like, comment and share and some of the most common objects are posts, photos and links. With Open graph however, you can build an app that integrates with Facebook, giving you the opportunity to define your own actions and objects.
As users use your app, they will generate stories - and these can be sponsored just like any of the built-in story types.
Open graph sponsored story, as shown in the desktop News feed
Overview of all Facebook ad formats
Going through each individual ad type would make this a very long article, and there really is no need - as long as you have gotten your head around the main differences between ads and sponsored stories.
If you feel a bit confused, the diagram below provides an overview over all formats and can hopefully help you sort them out.
Do you want to put this in practice? Try our ads tool for free!
Facebook Marketing Strategy: Here we go through the entire process of creating, publishing and analyzing your Facebook ads. We describe how to segment the target audience in an efficient way and how to use the results and statistics to further improve the ad performance.
Create Facebook Ads – Image, Title and Ad Text: What works on Facebook? What does a good ad image look like and how do you write copy that captures your audience? In this section we go through best practice when creating a Facebook ad.
Checklist to a Successful Facebook Campaign: If you want to make sure you have everything planned before launching your Facebook campaign, use this checklist. Print it out, make notes in it and bring it to the meeting if you want to present your work. When you can tick all boxes, you are ready to start advertising.