Facebook Ads: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Facebook is an important platform to connect and engage with your audience. Since its announcement in 2007, Facebook Ads has quickly grown to become a viable marketing option. With close to 250 million Facebook users in North America, Facebook Ads provides businesses and advertisers with the ability to specifically target your audience in order to get their message in front of the people who matter the most to their business.

How do Facebook Ads Work?

Facebook Ads are targeted ads based on a user’s location, demographics and profile. It also takes into account user behaviour and device use information. With a variety of ad options businesses can choose to promote their business page, posts, or their website.

Types of Facebook Ads

Video Ads

Video ads can appear in News Feeds and Stories, or they can appear as in-stream ads as longer videos. This kind of ad doesn’t have to be an actual video, it could be a collection of photos played in a video format.

A screenshot of a Facebook Video ad for the film "1917" with a call to action to get showtimes

This is a great way to show off products and their features with the use of text, motion, and sound. Video ads can help increase your brand awareness and retargeting efforts by displaying your products or information about your company or employees.

Photo Ads

You can create a photo ad right from your Facebook Page by publishing and boosting a post with an image. By adding an image, a call to action, and a link to your website, you’ll be able to drive people to your ecommerce shop. 

A picture of a Facebook Photo ad from Henry's Camera advertising their boxing week sale

Photo ads can be used to raise awareness of products.

If you have a product to promote, a photo ad is a great place to make it pop and stand out in feed.

Slideshow Ads

Slideshow ads are similar to Video Ads in that you can create a short video using a collection of photos played in sequence. Again, you can use Slideshow Ads to show a collection of products or a single product. You can also use a slideshow of photos to tell a story of your business or a particular product.

Carousel Ads

Carousel ads let you show up to 10 images and include a headline, link, and a call to action. They can be used to showcase certain aspects of your products or display a range of products. 

A picture of a Carousel Facebook ad from Best Buy Canada showing multiple products they sell

Carousel ads are useful if you have an ecommerce shop and you are looking to promote multiple products or a single category of products. The goal with carousel ads is to help to generate more website traffic and drive better conversion rates.

Instant Experience Ads

Instant Experience is a fullscreen experience that opens once someone click on you ad on a mobile device. These ads are mobile-optimized and designed for engagement with your audience. People can watch videos and photos, swipe through images, and explore your products.

Dynamic Product Ads

Dynamic ads help to promote your products to people who have already shown interest on your website, through your app, or throughout the internet. They look very similar to image ads and carousel ads in that you can choose the photos for products you want to advertise. This ad type is ideal for retargeting people who previously visited your site and looked at some of your products.

Related Content: 2019 Facebook Marketing Guide

How to Create a Facebook Ad

Before creating an ad with Facebook, you’ll want to create a Facebook business page. If you don’t have one, you’ll need one to create an ad. Once you have created your page, you can head to Facebook Ads Manager.

Choose Your Objective

Knowing the reason why you want to advertise is one of the most important aspects in digital marketing. Without an objective, it’s impossible to understand where your business is at in the market.

A picture of a list of objectives you can choose for your ad in Facebook Ad Manager.

Facebook offers three categories of objectives to choose: Awareness, Consideration, and Conversion. Under each category is a selection of objectives that includes everything from brand awareness to generate store traffic. If you’re a fairly new business, you might want to start by building your brand awareness. But, If you’re more established in the market you may look to build leads, engage with your audience, and drive sales.

Facebook’s objective options include:

  • Brand awareness
  • Reach
  • Traffic
  • Engagement
  • App installs
  • Video views
  • Lead generation
  • Messages
  • Conversions
  • Catalog sales
  • Store traffic

Choose Your Audience

After you select your objective, the next step is to create your target audience. As a business, you should already have a target audience in mind especially if you have previously used any form of advertising in the past. If you haven’t, Facebook Ads Manager makes it easy to narrow down a target audience. You may also need to experiment with a few targeting options before you reach an audience that works for you.

Your main audience targeting options are location, age, gender and detailed targeting. When choosing the location, take into account who you want to see your ad and where these people are located in relation to your business. If you’re a service-orientated business or own a brick-and-mortar store focused in a particular area, you may want to choose a location that best represents where your customers are. Age and gender are also connected to the type of customers you sell to or service.


Detailed targeting allows you to significantly target your ads to the people that matter the most. This includes extended demographics like education, income, career, and relationship status. Interests and behaviours are also targeting options and includes health or food and drink and mobile device usage or travelers. All targeting options Facebook offers include:

  • Languages
  • Relationship
  • Education
  • Work
  • Financial
  • Home
  • Ethnic Affinity
  • Generation
  • Parents
  • Politics (U.S. only)
  • Life Events
  • Interests
  • Behaviors
  • Connection

With any targeting choice you make, you will see your audience definition gauge change accordingly. This tool, located on the right side of the targeting options, considers all selected options to come up with a potential audience reach.

Facebook potential audience size gauge

Facebook does suggest to keep your audience broad. A large potential audience lets Facebook look for the lowest cost results. Defining a specific audience can make your campaign less effective. The best opportunity to connect with people might be outside the audience you expect.

But, this really depends on your objective. If you’re looking to drive traffic to your ecommerce website, you might want to focus on people who would be interested in your products. However, if you’re looking to build brand awareness, you may want to focus on a more general audience.

Set up Your Ad Placement

Once you have selected your target audience, you can move on to selecting where your ads will show up. Again, Facebook provides a variety of options to choose from but if you’re new to Facebook Ads, Automatic Placements is the simplest choice.

"Placements" section of Facebook Ad Manager.

Automatic Placements will help to maximize your budget and help to show your ads to more people. You can also edit your placements manually to choose where to show your ad. The more placements selected, the more opportunities you’ll have to reach your target audience.

If you choose to edit your placements, Facebook allows you to select from the following options:

  • Device: Desktop, mobile, or both
  • Platform: Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network, or Facebook Messenger
  • Placements: Facebook and Instagram Feeds, Messenger Feed, Instagram Explore
  • Stories: Facebook Stories, Instagram Stories
  • Specific mobile devices and operating systems: Android, iOS, or all

Again, with any choice you make, Facebook’s potential reach gauge will change. Unless you are experienced and comfortable with Facebook Ads, Automatic Placements will be the best choice to start with.

Choose Your Budget

Next, you decide how much you want to spend on your Facebook ad campaign. You can choose a daily or lifetime budget, add a start and end date if you want to schedule your ad for a specific date, or start right away.

You can also choose the goal you want to optimize your ad for. Depending on what you want to achieve, you can choose from landing page views, link clicks, impressions, or daily unique reach.

Create Your Ad

Now you can set up the look of your ad by choosing a format, entering the media, and text for your ad. The formats available will change depending on the objective you chose at the beginning.

A picture of how to choose the format of your ad. You can choose from Carousel, Single Image or Video, or Collection.

Once you have chosen your media and text, Facebook will provide an example of what the ad will look like when posted.

Before you finalize your ad, you need to add a conversion tracker. This can be found at the bottom of this section. You’ll want to add tracking to your ad so you can see how your ad is performing and what you can improve on. You can add Facebook Pixel to your website to track conversions, audience types, and create lookalike audiences.

Final Thoughts

Facebook Ads is an effective marketing platform to tackle your social media advertising. With the Facebook Ads Manager, you can easily customize and create your ads to reach your business objective. With such a large audience combined with detailed targeting, you can reach your the right audiences and track your campaign’s performance. But, it is important to remember that you should always test different campaigns to see which ones are effective and which ones are not.

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