Apr 25, 2016 / by Jim Dougherty

Often you’ll read that Facebook is a “pay-to-play” platform for businesses. There may be 1.5 billion active users on the Facebook platform, but with Facebook Page reach in the single digits (at best) it is generally thought that it is necessary to allocate dollars to communicate on Facebook.

This realization can sometimes be problematic for communication professionals and marketers who are overwhelmed by constantly morphing ad choices. At Facebook’s recent F8 Developer Conference, Product Marketing Manager Kristen Jones gave a presentation detailing advertising best practices on Facebook (and Instagram, which uses the same resources). I thought it was a fairly comprehensive look at what ad products are available to businesses and how Facebook envisions their ad products used in different times within a “sales funnel.”

What I want to do in this post is to share some of the insights from Jones’ presentation and to go further in depth with some of the advertising products mentioned to give you a sense of what they are and what they can do for you.

What I appreciate about Facebook’s outlook on advertising is that their insight is helpful regardless of the size of your business. Small businesses probably aren’t going to use dynamic catalog ads, but they may be able to implement Facebook Pixels to track conversions. Oftentimes best practices use disproportionately large businesses as case studies, but these recommendations are both scalable and thoughtful.

The sales and marketing funnel (As Facebook sees it)

As you can see from the image above, Facebook sees their ad product fitting into a four-tiered sales funnel, including awareness, demand gen, acquisition and transaction. The idea of the Facebook sales funnel is to use different Facebook ad products within the most appropriate customer acquisition function.

As an example of an ad product focused on awareness, Jones demonstrated an ad generated with the Canvas product. Canvas is a mobile-optimized ad product comprised of using a combination of videos, still images and call-to-action buttons that takes over the entirety of the device.

As an example of an ad product focused on demand gen, Jones recommended carousel ads which use three to five images within the same ad unit to direct people to specific locations on your website.

Sharing two examples of ad products focused on acquisition, Jones discussed implementing Facebook Pixels (an analog product to Google Tag Manager). The javascript “pixel” gives you visibility of certain events on your website that can trigger remarketing or sales attribution. She also describes Facebook’s Lead Ad product, which allows customers who signal intent to share their contact information with you through Facebook.

As an example of ad products focused on transaction/conversion, Jones touches on two products:

  • Website conversion ads (These use the Facebook Pixel on your site to track customer action after seeing your ad)
  • Dynamic product ads (Ads that allow businesses to promote their entire product catalog on Facebook. Ideally for eCommerce and retailers with high web traffic and large inventory)

Without going into a lot of detail about the products themselves, Jones says that the key to these is pinpoint targeting through the Custom Audience feature which combines information that you have about your customers (specifically email addresses) with Facebook’s targeting options. That may be a good transition point to take a look at the targeting options that Facebook offers….

Targeting options with Facebook

Facebook has six categories that they bucket targeting options into:

  • Demographics – basic demographic options such as age, gender and language
  • Location – oftentimes linked with basic demographics
  • Interests – what Pages and apps people use on Facebook
  • Behaviors – purchase behaviors or intent, device usage and more
  • Lookalike Audiences – Facebook-generated targets of people whose targeting profile closely matches the target of your customers
  • Custom Audiences – as discussed in the last section, these are lists generated when you upload email addresses and/or phone numbers to Facebook to meld the information that Facebook has with your own and to be able to retarget these users through Facebook.

With Facebook’s unprecedented reach and user interaction, hopefully you can see why they perceive targeting to be an area of strength relative to other advertising platforms. But what are the other things that Facebook sees as key to advertising success on the platform?

Facebook’s 3 keys to success with their ad product

In her presentation, Jones lists three keys to successfully advertising within the Facebook ecosystem:

  1. Value – tie your business goals to your advertising objectives for each campaign (in the example of the sales funnel, she recommends to align each campaign and its metrics on one aspect of the funnel rather than trying to do everything in one campaign)
  2. Precision – aligning your targeting and creative
  3. People – measure based upon people rather than cookies

A lot of the value recommendation I covered in the section on the sales and marketing funnel. The idea that Facebook wants to communicate is that businesses are less successful when they have unrealistic expectations of what their ad units are doing and don’t have proper measurement in place to track the progress towards their objectives.

The precision recommendation has everything to do with creative. Jones points out that Facebook’s relevance score focuses on how your intended audience interacts with your content. The right targeting is great, but without engaging creative driving your campaign it may be less successful regardless of your targeting.

The people recommendation is a bit self-interested but relevant nonetheless. Facebook wants you to use their unified pixel for campaign measurement, and they use the example in the image above where most people access the internet from multiple devices everyday. Where cookies might interpret every access of the Facebook ecosystem as a unique person, the Facebook Pixel attributes all of the activity back to one account.

What I appreciate about these recommendations is that they address universal pain points: why am I not getting the return on Facebook ads that I expect and how could I construct them better?

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The Facebook Ad Ecosystem

Finally, this slide came up and I thought it would be useful to describe and link to each of the different advertising options as Facebook categorizes them:

Of course this is all at a high level, but it’s helpful to understand if you’re too small to use the marketing API or big enough that a tool like the Power Editor might be useful.


Understanding of the Facebook advertising products is helpful no matter what you specialize in. When it comes to audience size and attention (and the resulting targeting options) Facebook is unparalleled. Communication professionals and marketers need to understand how they can communicate and measure performance within Facebook’s ecosystem if they’re going to use it.

Of course Facebook’s recommendations about how to use their ad products aren’t all-encompassing, but they’re a good place to start or to evaluate your current campaigns.

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Images via Pixabay: 1

Tags : social media

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About Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty is a featured contributor to the Cision Blog and his own blog, leaderswest. His areas of interest include statistics, technology, and content marketing. When not writing, he is likely reading, running, playing guitar or being a dad. PRSA member. Find him on Twitter @jimdougherty.