Social Media

How to Create Facebook Ads, Part 1: Setup, Design, Targeting

Facebook advertising is becoming more popular. In this article — “Part 1” of a two-part series — I will describe how to set up a Facebook ad using the self-service “Facebook Ads” platform. In “Part 2,” which comes next week, I’ll explain how to maintain and monitor an ad campaign.

There are three reasons to consider Facebook advertising, in my view.

  1. It can be inexpensive compared to other forms of pay-per-click advertising, such as Google AdWords.
  2. There are many targeting options.
  3. Facebook Ads function in much the same manner as Google AdWords in that it is a bid-based system, but is much easier to set up and maintain.

Setting Up Your First Ad

To get to the Facebook’s Ads platform, log in using your Facebook profile, then go to the Facebook Ads home page. Alternatively, you can go to the bottom of any page on Facebook and find a link called “Advertising.” Click the link for the Facebook Ads home page.

Facebook Ads home page.

Facebook Ads home page.

Once you arrive at this page, click the green button in the upper-right corner that says “Create an Ad.”

Design your Facebook ad on this page.

Design your Facebook ad on this page.

Design Your Ad

When you get to the ad creation page, the initial order of business is to design the ad. The first step is to choose a destination. There are several alternatives available. You can choose an external URL, such as a product page on your website. You can link to an Event or Facebook Place page, or you can choose to link to your Facebook page, which is commonly referred to as a “Fan page.” This is the option I am going to use for the purposes of this article.

Once you choose your page as the destination, you are presented with two types of ads: “Sponsored Stories” and “Facebook Ads.”

Sponsored Stories

When a Facebook user interacts with a merchant’s Fan page — with a “Like,” for example — that activity can be captured in the form of an advertisement called a “Sponsored Story.”

There are three types of Sponsored Stories associated with Facebook Fan pages.

  1. Page Like Story. When people Like your page, their friends see a story about it.
  2. Page Post Story. When you post an update to your page, your Fans see a story about it.
  3. Page Post Like Story. This is a combination of the previous two types.
Sponsored Stories are an ad type unique to Facebook.

Sponsored Stories are an ad type unique to Facebook.

Note that Facebook often refers to content posted to the site — either in the form of ads, status updates or newsfeed items — as “stories.” If you would like more detail about Sponsored Stories, read “How Facebook Changes Impact Ecommerce Merchants, Part 3: Sponsored Stories Ad Units,” one of my previous Practical eCommerce articles.

Facebook Ads

This is a more traditional form of Facebook advertising that contains a custom message and call-to-action. These ads can also contain information about actions taken by Facebook Friends — “Likes” for example — with an instruction for the viewer to Like the ad, as well.

Facebook Ads contain a title, thumbnail image, body copy and call-to-action.

Facebook Ads contain a title, thumbnail image, body copy and call-to-action.

Destination Tab. If Facebook Ads is chosen, an option to select a destination tab on the Fan page is shown. For example, if a page owner has created a special landing page such as a welcome tab, that page can be the one selected. When the user clicks the link in the ad, he or she is taken to that tab on the Fan page.

You have the option to choose a particular fan page tab.

You have the option to choose a particular fan page tab.

Title. The title of the Facebook Page is used as the title of the ad and cannot be edited.

Body. Body copy is editable, but is limited to 135 characters.

Image. Facebook Ads provides the option to include a thumbnail image. The Facebook page profile banner is used by default, but the use of another image is available, too. The space allotted for the image is 110 pixels wide by 80 pixels high. Larger images can be used, but will be constrained to fit the above proportions. Images smaller than 110×80 could be forced by the ad platform to fit that dimension, which distort them. It is best to use an image that fills the area.

Ad Targeting

Facebook provides a wide array of targeting choices.

  • Location. This can include country, state/province and city, with an option to choose up to a radius of 50 miles around the city.
  • Demographics. This includes age and gender.
  • Interests. This is one element that really sets Facebook Ads apart from other forms of online advertising. Not that others don’t include interests, but Facebook does so to an unrivaled degree, in my opinion.

    The reason for this is that each time someone “Likes” an item, either on Facebook or an external site, that is included as an “interest” in Facebook’s database. Facebook states that some 2.5 million websites have integrated with it and that, each month, more than 250 million people engage with Facebook on external websites. That is an enormous amount of data. Therefore, targeting by interests is a good way to find exactly the audience you wish to reach with your message. Incidentally, Facebook offers two alternatives for interest-based targeting: “Broad” and “Precise.”

  • Connections on Facebook. This is another element unique to Facebook. It presents targeting choices based on the type of connection a person has to the merchant’s Facebook page. Connections can include:
    1. Anyone;
    2. Only people who are not Fans;
    3. Only people who are Fans.

Alternatively, you can choose advanced targeting, which allows you to more precisely specify users who are either connected to your page or who are not.

Finally, there is an option to only show the ad to friends of Fans of your page. That is a popular choice and virtually guarantees that the ads will carry information about the actions of Fans, such as “Paul Liked the page” along with a “Like” button so the user can take the same action.

  • Advanced Demographics. This is a little redundant in that it brings up gender again. However, it also presents relationship options: “Single,” “Engaged,” “In a relationship,” and “Married.” This option also asks for “Language.”
  • Education & Work. This section targets based on education level — “College Grad,” “In College” and “In High School” — and on type of work.

Campaigns, Pricing and Scheduling

This is the final section of the ad creation page. It is where you set up your campaign budget, schedule and pricing.

Set up your campaign name, budget and schedule.

Set up your campaign name, budget and schedule.

Campaign & Budget

Every Facebook ad has to be associated with a campaign. So the first step is to give your campaign a name. Don’t worry too much about what you will call it as you can change the name later on.

You have two options when setting your budget, either a “per day” rate or “lifetime budget.” If you choose a daily budget type, Facebook will distribute your ad budget by day. If you choose the “lifetime” budget type, it will distribute your ad budget throughout the duration of the campaign. If you choose the latter, start and end dates have to be specified.


You can choose to run the campaign continuously or specify start and end dates.


Facebook allows two payment options: “Pay for Impressions” (CPM) or “Pay for Clicks” (CPC).

My preference depends on the type of campaign I am running. If the campaign is focused on branding, for example, I might choose CPM as it tends to be less expensive, even though I am paying for the number of impressions.

If, on the other hand, I’m running a campaign focused on some type of conversion — visits to my fan page, for example — then I may choose the CPC model. Even though it can be more expensive, I am only paying when someone clicks.

Facebook will suggest a bid range, which I usually follow. Facebook guarantees that you will never pay more than the maximum bid, and the likelihood is that you will pay less. But remember, the higher your bid, the more likely it is your ad will get shown.

Once you have created your ad copy, targeted the audience, and determined your campaign budget, you are ready to place your order. Facebook also provides an option to review the ad before the order is placed.

If you have not already done so, you will be required to set up a payment source, using a credit card, PayPal or a Facebook coupon.


That is all there is to setting up a Facebook ad. Next week, I will discuss how to maintain and monitor a campaign, as well as how to create multiple ads and campaigns.

Paul Chaney
Paul Chaney
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