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Blog / Marketing tips / Facebook Ads for Beginners: A Quick Guide

Marketing tips

Facebook Ads for Beginners: Guide to Facebook Promotions

Facebook Ads for Beginners: Guide to Facebook Promotions
Una Berzina-Pudule

By Una Berzina-Pudule

10 min read

After you’ve launched your online store, your next step is getting your brand noticed. One way to do that is through Facebook advertising. Welcome to our guide to Facebook Ads for beginners!

Right now, the social media giant has over 2.9 billion active monthly users, making it the largest social media platform worldwide. No wonder 93% of marketers use Facebook Ads regularly.

Brands with large budgets can afford to experiment with ads, target audiences, and ad creatives. But if you’re on a small budget, then whatever money you put into advertising better work and bring you return on your investment!

In this blog post, I’ll share my experience using Facebook Ads for Startup Vitamins and Printful, and reveal some tried and tested tips and tactics on how to get maximum results with minimal spending.

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Before I get into Facebook Ads, there’s one important thing. 

What many business owners don’t realize, is that Facebook Ads are not the same as Boosted Posts.

We mostly use Facebook Ads at Printful and Startup Vitamins. However, there are situations in which Boosted Posts work better. So let’s start by understanding those.

Facebook Boosted Posts: why and when to use them

Boosted Posts are a type of paid advertising on Facebook and are focused on maximizing engagement on your posts. In other words, you boost your existing posts on your Facebook Business Page to get more likes, comments, and shares, rather than increasing conversions like purchases or registrations.

Boosted Posts are more beginner-friendly than Facebook Ads since they’re quick to get started with and don’t require any Facebook Pixel setup (a code you add to your website, that tracks your website’s conversions and visitors).

When you boost a post, Facebook will spend your ad budget showing your content to people most likely to press the Like button, share your post, or leave a comment.

Boosted Posts work best on 2 occasions:

  1. When you first introduce your business to a Facebook audience
  2. When you’re communicating useful information/updates to your audience

Boosting posts to introduce your business

Once you launch your Facebook Business Page, you need to grow a community of followers. With dead silence under your status updates and just a few followers on your Business Page, there’s simply not enough social proof for users to buy from you. Spark engagement around your brand by boosting your posts.

Use your first Facebook posts to introduce your audience to your business. Tell them about your products, what your business means to you, and a little bit about yourself. Then boost those posts to grow a community of like-minded people surrounding your Facebook Business Page.

Boosting important updates

The next ideal content for post boosting are important updates for your existing followers. Facebook algorithms make it difficult to get noticed organically. Meaning, without the help of paid promotions, your posts will reach just about 2% of your total Business Page followers. If you want more of your fans to see your posts, you’ve got to be ready to open your wallet. Unfair, I know!

This makes boosting your posts crucial when you’re communicating information that’s important or of high interest to your audience.

For example, if you need to talk about the upcoming holiday order deadlines, boost that post to make sure your customers are informed. Or, if you’re hosting a giveaway that your followers would like to participate in (who doesn’t love a good freebie)—by all means, boost the post!

Screenshot of Printful Facebook giveaway

Once you boost your posts, your page will start to get noticed and people will engage with it. After a while, you’ll have quite the group of followers that interact with your brand regularly.

However, Likes don’t pay the bills. That’s why you shouldn’t spend all your budget just on Boosted Posts. Leave some of your promotional spending for Facebook Ads.

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Facebook Ads for beginners: turn engagement into purchases

While Boosted Posts focus on generating engagement, Facebook Ads optimize your post for conversions like purchases or registrations. With Facebook Ads, you also get to add a call-to-action button to your post and more detailed audience targeting than with Boosted posts.

Contrary to Boosted Posts, Facebook Ads won’t appear on your Facebook Page. Save your Facebook Page feed for useful content, and leave your openly promotional messages for ads.

To make your Facebook Ads work, audience targeting is everything. You can spend thousands of dollars on a promotion, but if you’re showing your ad to people who don’t care, you won’t get any results.

There are two kinds of audiences we use for Printful and Startup Vitamins Facebook Advertising campaigns: lookalike audiences and audiences based on interests. Here’s how you can use them for your own social media marketing.

How lookalike audiences work

If you’ve been running your store for a while, you should probably have a list of your customers’ and other store visitors’ emails from checkout details or email subscriptions. If you don’t, keep reading, I’ll tell you about an alternative in a bit.

You can upload the email list on Facebook and create a lookalike audience—aka people who have similar interests and behaviors as your existing customers.

You’ll need at least 1000 emails to create a lookalike audience. The bigger the list, the higher quality audience you’ll get. Here’s what you do:

  1. Download your list of emails as an Excel or .CSV file, or simply copy the email addresses from your list
  2. Go to Audiences in your Facebook Ads Manager
  3. Click Create Audience and tick the box Customer List
  4. Upload your email list and name the audience
  5. Check which columns you want Facebook to use and click Save

As a result, you now have a lookalike audience of people similar to your customers and email subscribers.

What if you don’t have a customer email list?

You can also create lookalike audiences with the help of Facebook Pixel. To do that, you’ll first need to install the Facebook Pixel on your store so it can track your visitors and conversions. Once the Pixel is up and running, you can create audiences from your store’s visitors.

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Go to your Facebook Ads Manager, choose section Audiences
  2. Click Custom Audience > Website Traffic > Anyone who visits your website, and pick your website from the list
  3. Generate a new Lookalike Audience from the Custom Audience you just created

Now, you’ve created a lookalike audience of people who are similar to your existing store visitors.

If you want a lookalike audience that targets people who are interested in specific products, segment your visitors by product categories or pages they visit. To do so, in step 2, select People who visit specific web pages instead of Anyone who visits your website. Then add URL keywords from your specific product pages.

For example, we want to create an audience of Startup Vitamins visitors who are interested in posters. In the URL keywords field, we type in “poster”. This groups all visitors of pages that contain the word ”poster” in their URLs:

Screenshotof start up vitamins lookalike audience setup

In addition to the options above, you can also create lookalike audiences based on:

  • Your Facebook Business Page followers
  • People who’ve engaged with your posts
  • People who’ve completed a particular action on your website, like adding a product to their cart or payment information

How to create audiences based on user interest

Another way to put together an audience is by targeting people with specific interests. And I really mean specific. Look for audience interests that closely match what you’re trying to sell.

Let’s imagine you’re selling merch with cute puppies. The interest in “puppies” is not specific enough. There are about 27–30M Facebook users in the US alone, aged 18–65+, who like puppies.

screenshot of creating a interest-based target audience on Facebook Ads

Think about who your puppy lovers are and combine various interests, demographics, and behaviors to make your audience more specific: 

  • How old are they?
  • What’s their family status?
  • What do they like?
  • What books do they read?

 You get the idea. Narrow down your audience as much as you can using the fields Facebook Ads offer you, otherwise, you’ll be wasting money stabbing in the dark.

screenshot of narrowing down a target audience

In the example above, we’ve limited our target audience to 25–40-year-olds who love puppies, are interested in dog training and walking (read: serious interest in dogs), and are also dog owners (read: could potentially shop on your store). This narrows down our audience to 5–7M.

You might be wondering, isn’t 27M better than 5M? Not necessarily. You have a higher chance of selling your product to people already interested in buying it.

While you may be advertising to fewer people, you’ll have a better chance to get back your ad money’s worth.

For Printful, we like to mix things up by combining the two audiences (and you might too).

Combining lookalike and interest-based audiences

Another way to make your targeting more specific is to blend interest-based and lookalike audiences. When we create advertising campaigns for Printful, we tend to use this tactic. This way we get a larger audience that’s still specific enough to convert well.

Let me show you:

I want to advertise Printful to Shopify users interested in our services. If I select an interest ”Shopify,” Facebook finds 8.4–8.8M people in the US, aged 18–65+ who are interested in Shopify.

But who are these people? They could be anyone—business owners using Shopify, Shopify employees, or even ecommerce enthusiasts in general. So we can’t be sure all those 8.4–8.8M people are actually interested in selling print products.

Here’s what I do:

First, I select a lookalike audience based on our customers. Then, I narrow it down with the interest ”Shopify”:

example of narrowing down a shopify lookalike audience to ecommerce owners

Now our target audience for the campaign is just 96.4–101.4K. We can be confident that these thousands of people will actually be interested in selling t-shirts and other products because they’re similar to our existing customers and are interested in Shopify.

What makes a good Facebook Ads audience

I don’t think anybody can fully answer this, but here’s what works for us.

If we target people who are already familiar with our brand (our Facebook followers or existing customers), interest audiences can vary from ten to a hundred thousand people. Meanwhile, for lookalike audiences, the optimal audience size for us is around 1M in the USA.

Whatever’s the size of your audience, you don’t want it to be too specific or too broad. If it’s too specific, your reach will be very low; if it’s too broad, you’ll reach a lot of people indifferent to your product. Try to define your audiences so that they’re somewhere in the middle.

Best copy and visuals for Facebook Ads

For your Ads to convert, they need attention-grabbing and convincing. This relies on how good your ad creatives are.

Ad creatives are how your Facebook Ad is displayed to your audience. That includes two elements: visuals and copy.

When you look at a Facebook Ad, you can see there’s a visual hierarchy: the bigger the element, the more important it is. The visual, being the largest one, is the most important one, then headline, then post caption, and finally the CTA button.

example of ad creative hierarchy

A captivating image commands the audience to read the copy, and a convincing copy leaves no other choice but to click the button.

Which images work best for Facebook Ads?

We’ve tested a lot of images at Printful. Here are the types of visuals we’ve found to perform the best in our ad campaigns.

1. High-quality product photos zoomed in. You want your product to be clearly visible both in News Feed ads, as well as on the right-hand side. Here you can compare how an ad looks in the News Feed and on the right-hand side:

screenshot of startup vitamins desktop ad in newsfeed
screenshot of startup vitamins ad on the right side

2. Photos of people pointing or staring at you. It feels like the person in the image is actually addressing you. Eye contact and pointing increase positive feelings towards the product and encourage shoppers to buy it.

3. Colorful images that stand out in the feed. You’ve only got 2.5 seconds to catch the attention of users scrolling their news feed on desktop, and just 1.7 seconds on mobile—that’s the amount of time people spend on one piece of content in their Facebook feeds. Here’s a quick example made with bold colors and our mockups:

Which copy works best in Facebook Ads?

You’ve made up your mind about the visuals, time to close the sale with a good copy. When it comes to text, here’s what’s worked for us.

1. Social proof. Nothing works better than showing there are people who’ve already bought your product, trust you, or recommend you to others. There are different kinds of social proof you can use in your ads, from quotes to numbers. Here’s an example of using social proof in a Printful ad:

2. Deal highlights. Create a special discount code for customers coming from Facebook Ads and highlight that discount code in your copy. For us, it works best if we mention it right in our headline.

It’s difficult to separate ad visuals from the copy since they work together to persuade people to click. Test different combinations of images and captions in one campaign and see what works and what doesn’t. We usually create at least 6 different ads for each campaign with 2–3 different image and copy variations.

Final thoughts

About 10 million businesses worldwide use Facebook to market their brand. The competition is tough, so it’s easy to waste tons of money when you’re just starting out and aren’t sure what you should be doing.

Even though the stakes are high, there’s good news, too. On Facebook, the winner isn’t the one with the biggest budget, but the one with the smartest approach (work smarter, not harder, right?)

Make every cent you spend on ads count by selecting a clear-cut audience. Don’t be discouraged if that means targeting audiences with a “smaller” amount of people. A smaller audience is going to direct you to the people who are actually interested in your products and brand.

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Customer with received custom jacket
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Create and sell custom products online
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Now, before you get to more advanced advertising tactics, put your new knowledge of Facebook targeting options into practice and create a new campaign. If you get any questions on the way, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments below!


By Una Berzina-Pudule on Nov 9, 2021

Una Berzina-Pudule

Content Marketing Specialist

Una’s a Senior SEO Content Writer with a knack for SEO-friendly copywriting and building stunning landing pages. In her spare time, she's an avid reader and keeps close tabs on all things social media and mental health.

Una’s a Senior SEO Content Writer with a knack for SEO-friendly copywriting and building stunning landing pages. In her spare time, she's an avid reader and keeps close tabs on all things social media and mental health.