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Your 5-step Facebook ads checklist: Don't leave Ads Manager without it!

So, you're gonna deploy some Facebook ads out into the world? Not a bad idea. Facebook ads can be an awesome way to reach customers and make things happen for your business.

They can also be a great way to flush a fistful of dollar bills down the drain if you get a little too casual about it.

That's why I've put together a quick checklist to make sure your ads are pointed in the right direction so can make the most of your campaigns!

1. Answer the question, "Why are you doing this?"

Don't get too deep and philosophical with this one. Are you trying to generate leads? Sales? Did you make a really cool ebook that you want people to download from your website? Do you want people to visit your store?

Too often, people get stuck in the habit of just clicking boost on a handful of their posts and feeling good that people liked them. If you're trying to get people to visit your store in South Austin, and those likes came from folks in Pennsylvania, then those likes -- and that ad spend -- really didn't do much for you.

Before you launch that campaign, make sure you are crystal clear on your desired result.

2. Match your "why" to the campaign that you run.

When you get into Facebook Ads Manager and click to create an ad, Facebook asks you to select your objective -- and it gives you this menu of items:

Jeez, that's a lot of shit, isn't it? If you're going to make a wrong move, this is more than likely how it's going to happen.

Some of them are clear. If you want more app installs, well damn, there's a campaign type for that.

Many are less clear. What about sales? Often times, people are unsure and go with traffic, thinking that if they drive people to their website, that will create sales. Not bad, but there's a better one: conversions.

A conversion is a confusing marketing word that just means "goal achievement." A conversion could mean a sale, it could mean a signup, it could mean a lead. Rather than writing, "sale/lead/signup/etc." marketers just call it a conversion.

This is far and away the best, most direct campaign to produce things like sales because it enables you to track which clicks end in a sale and which ones don't. In contrast, you never know which clicks result in sales with a "traffic" campaign.

More broadly, if you're looking to build your audience, you'll find that under "engagement." Again, I know, confusing. Most of the rest of them are fairly clear (if you have any questions, just ask me), but those two are often overlooked because they aren't labeled in a way that makes sense to most people.

3. Think long-term as well as short-term

Now, you might be thinking, "OK, I'm gonna go all out with conversions!" and that does make sense -- that is what you want, so why mess with the other stuff?

I'm with you in spirit, and if your budget is very limited, you could consider it. But, in most cases, I recommend thinking long-term and creating a diverse approach.

WTF does that even mean?

Fair question. Let me give you an example:

Company A sells some awesome widgets, and they have $2,000 per month to put towards Facebook ads. Their widgets have some competition, and while Company A's are higher quality, they are perceived as pretty similar. While I would want a million times more info to make firm recommendations, a Facebook ads strategy could look something like this:

  • $1,000 into conversion ads: They get a lot of organic search traffic to their website, so we are going to target people who have been to the website in the last 30 days. The ads are designed to drive people back to the site to buy. Within this $1,000, we will create a few variations, some with different targeting (maybe U.S. vs. non-U.S., different age groups) and some with different ad copy, images, and videos. We could even have a small campaign solely designed to drive people to sign up for the mailing list to get exclusive discounts and promos.

  • $400 for page likes: Here's where we focus more long-term. By getting people to like our Facebook page, they will continue to see our regular posts. While that might not induce them to buy right away, it can build trust with the brand -- and it also builds some social proof. When a customer searches for this widget, they often times will trust the brand with a bigger Facebook audience. If all those other people like it, and barely anyone likes this competitor's page, then it must mean these bigger guys are more established or better. A customer may never admit that aloud, but that subconscious thought process does happen.

  • $300 for video views: Let's say we have or we make an awesome product demo video. Everyone loves it, and it's one of the best-performing pieces of media in our conversion ads. All right, well, by pumping out a campaign designed to get people to view this video, we can really get a sense of which people love it the most more broadly across Facebook. What demographics finish the video, for example? Later on, we can target the exact people who finished that video and serve them conversion ads. This ad warms them up, and the next one creates a sale. If we came at them cold with a conversion ad, it may not have worked. They weren't ready to make that commitment. Often times, it takes multiple exposures to a brand for someone to trust it enough to even VISIT THE WEBSITE, let alone buy. Keep that in mind.

  • $300 for boosts: Here's where we do the regular ol' boosts of our best-performing organic posts. The key here is to a) use it on the posts that are already performing the best without ad spend rather than propping up the poorly performing posts and b) target specifically. Here, I like to focus on certain locations, like for example, right around retail locations. Another great method is to select the option "friends of people who like this page." That's a great way to reach just beyond your audience, and it comes in with the frame of "your friend liked Company A," which is close to an endorsement. Taken together, we can grow our audience and help people get to know your brand. They can better see what makes you better, and you can develop a relationship with your audience that makes them prefer you.

As you see, we're thinking about immediate conversions and about setting up conversions down the road by building an audience and by building trust. If you only go for the sales, you can swing and miss and have nothing in the pipeline to build on. I've found again and again that a balanced approach tends to work best.

4. *Biggest tip* Use the Facebook pixel to track conversions and website traffic

Before you do anything, it's important to set up the Facebook pixel on your website. Think of the pixel simply as a way to track what you're doing. Facebook can only see what's going on within Facebook. It's blind otherwise. With the pixel installed on your site, Facebook now can see what's happening on your website, too.

That helps you:

  • Know which clicks are resulting in sales

  • Know which Facebook users are going to your site (so you can serve them ads)

Both super important. Here's more about how to do that:

5. Check your results regularly and periodically adjust, rehaul, and vary.

Now that we've put together a comprehensive approach to our advertising, the key here is to compare it against real life. A strategy might sound awesome, but does it really work?

Are the conversion ads producing conversions? How much are you paying for a Facebook page like? Regularly check these things and look at the insights to see how much these things are costing. Are there groups within your target audience that are converting more cheaply? If so, maybe launch campaign just focused on them. Are none of the conversion ads working? Then, you might want to dial back that money and put it towards more long-term stuff and build a pipeline of potential customers.

The key here is frequency. Check it often throughout the week but hold off doing anything about it until you have a large enough sample to draw a conclusion. For example, if a hot pitching prospect comes up from the minor leagues and has one bad start, do you send him right back down? I hope not. But if it's five in a row or 10 in a row, OK, it's time for a change. Maybe he wasn't ready.

The point is that you can't base your decisions off of one start. Same goes for Facebook ads. One bad week or even a month or so for a campaign doesn't mean that the campaign is bad. Some of them take time.

Don't be afraid to stick with something that you believe is a good idea. Chances are, you're only a little off in your approach, and the right amount of tinkering will lead to some great results.

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