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Pros and Cons of Social Ad Formats: Where you should invest a limited ad budget on Facebook

This is a guest post by Jana Fung, Marketing Manager of

As new digital ad formats surface in the industry, advertisers with limited budgets must optimize their budget by investing in the right campaigns for their market.  Social ads alone already have a handful of ad formats that can be tested out, but can they be optimized? How much budget should you invest in Facebook vs. Twitter ads? Which Facebook ad format would work best for your business? Maybe a sponsored story, a pay-per-click (PPC) ad, or a sponsored search result.  Another possibility is running an ad through the Facebook Ad Exchange.

With so many options to choose from, this blog post will focus on which social ad formats are best used for limited ad budgets.  All ad campaigns, including social, must have a specific goal in mind: branding or performance. For branding campaigns, these typically do not directly impact return on investment (ROI), and the main goal of the ad is to be seen, rather than acquire converting traffic.  On the other hand, performance campaigns are measured and optimized to directly acquire leads or customers.  So, because we’re working with limited budgets, this blog post will primarily be geared towards performance advertisers.

Here are just a few pros and cons that should be considered when investing in social ad formats:

Facebook PPC


  • Pro: You can choose to pay per click, and clicks are fairly inexpensive compared to traditional ad formats. Moreover, the targeting on Facebook can be very granular with location-based, age, gender, interest and title-based targeting, guaranteeing only relevant users seeing your ad.
  • Con: Facebook users lack the intent to purchase at that moment, making it more challenging to engage users with a small image/text ad that is on the side where users rarely look.
  • Recommendation: Test these ads out with very tight and specific targeting. Relevant ad creative will help entice clicks. Don’t forget to rotate the image as well, as Facebook will stop showing your ads if you’re not receiving enough clicks.

Facebook Sponsored Page/Story

  • Pro: Sponsored pages or stories show the targeted user’s friends who have also liked the page or post, exploiting the power of social influence.
  • Con: These campaigns are solely for Facebook properties, like your Facebook brand page or recent Facebook posts.  You are not able to drive traffic to another site from these ads.
  • Recommendation: This ad format is highly recommended for branding campaigns as it will attract more fans and likes, resulting in more mentions in your fans’ timelines.  For performance advertisers, if you heavily use your Facebook page to promote non-Facebook web properties, you can try a sponsored story, as it won’t be that pricey. But, keep in mind you are more likely to get Facebook likes than converting clicks to your link.

 Facebook Sponsored Results (Search Ads)

Click to enlarge!

  • Pro: Your Facebook app or page that you’re promoting will show up in the search results. You can even target your competitors’ keyword as shown in the example here with &
  • Con: Facebook has never been known as a sophisticated search engine and they are only indexing Facebook content.  So, are Facebook users actually using the Facebook search feature to find products or solutions to their searches?
  • Recommendation: This ad format would best be used to get more users on your Facebook Apps, but will not necessarily result in customer acquisition and ROI.  But because Facebook isn’t a sophisticated search engine for web content outside of Facebook, my recommendation would be to save your ad budget and refrain from Facebook Sponsored Results.

Facebook Ad Exchange


  • Pro: FBX is a real-time bidding ad exchange in which advertisers drop tracking cookies on users’ browsers as they surf the web. This means you can retarget ads to your visitors who did not convert on Facebook properties. That’s pretty awesome, since Facebook is the second most visited site on the web according to Alexa.
  • Con: Unlike banner ads that can differ in size and location, Facebook ad formats are pretty limited in terms of where you can place your ad on the page and how large you can make the image and text.  Facebook ads are typically on the right hand side of the interface, but do not have the same prominence compared to a user’s timeline in the middle or notifications on the left hand side.
  • Recommendation: Retargeting has proven to be a very profitable way of re-engaging and converting visitors who previously dropped off in the funnel. The FBX now allows advertisers to re-target their visitors on Facebook, making this certainly worth a shot to test how well it can perform.

Have you tried any of these ad formats with your ad budget? What were your experiences with them and how did you optimize the campaigns?  Tell us about that in the comments section below.

Stay tuned for part two which will cover Twitter ad options!

About the Author

Jana Fung, guest author of this post, is the Marketing Manager of MixRank. She has managed successful marketing programs for over 6 years. She is optimistic about the growth of online advertising and has a passion for helping online marketers with their campaigns. If you’re a MixRank fan or just want to say hi, she’s interested in connecting with you! Follow her on Twitter @jana_fung

About MixRank is a spy tool for online ads. With MixRank you can see exactly where your competitors are buying traffic and which ad copy is performing best for them across over 100,000 sites. You can use MixRank to watch your competitors spend money testing different ads and traffic sources, see which ones worked best, and use that data to build and improve your own campaign.

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