Facebook advertising confusion

350: What Kind of Facebook Advertising Should You Use?

The biggest confusion I encounter when teaching people how to advertise on Facebook is the difference between an ad, a promoted post, and a boosted post. Part of that confusion comes from Facebook using similar buttons and terms to describe all of them. Don’t be fooled, though. These are very different tools with different purposes for savvy advertisers to use.

Origination

One of the biggest differences between the three is where the posts are built. Ads can be created only within Ads Manager (or Business Manager). Posts can be created only on your business page’s timeline. Ads do not show on your timeline at all, which often leads my clients to ask, “Did you build the ad already?” Both ads and posts can be scheduled for a specific release time.

Organic Distribution

Ads show organically only to the Admins and Editors of your page. Posts show organically only to 2-10% of the people who have hit the like button on your page.

Paid Distribution

Both ads and promoted posts are distributed through Ads Manager (or Business Manager). The confusing part is that the first step for both is to click the green button that says, “Create Ad.” Boosted posts are distributed from the “Boost” button under the post on your Facebook page. Boosted posts do not have all of the targeting and optimization options available to ads and promoted posts.

Content Formats

Ads can distribute with a photo, photo carousel, slideshow, or video. Ads can also leverage the Facebook canvas tool or the adaptive single-image tool. Boosted and promoted posts can be single images, a photo album, a video, or a link. On the photo albums, you can determine which top images get shown in the collage preview.

Buttons & Links

On an ad, the illustration (photos, slideshows, and videos) are all clickable to your website. So is the headline and link description. The viewer doesn’t see the URL, and the advertiser doesn’t need to include the URL in the text of the ad. In boosted and promoted posts, clicking on a photo advances the viewer to the next photo—not the advertiser’s link. URLs must be pasted into the text portion of your post and/or your photo captions. Posts do not have clickable buttons, either.

Facebook design comparison insert

Default Optimization

Facebook knows our tendencies as consumers, whether we’re likely to click on links or try to stay in the newsfeed. So, it allows advertisers to choose how advertising is targeted (“optimized”). The default setting for ads is link clicks. For promoted and boosted posts, the default setting is for engagements: likes, comments, and shares. Both ads and promoted posts can also be optimized either for impressions (showing to the same people as many times as possible) or unique reach (showing to as many people as possible). Boosted posts offer no options for optimization and are inherently aimed at engagements that keep the viewer on Facebook.

Distribution Platforms

Ads can be distributed to Facebook’s newsfeed, right column, Instant Articles, In-Stream Videos, or Canvas. They can also be pushed out to Instagram and the Audience Network (selection of editorial websites that show Facebook ads). Promoted posts can publish only to Facebook’s newsfeed & right column and to Instagram. Boosted posts can publish only to Facebook’s newsfeed and to Instagram.

Primary Measurement

Facebook’s default reporting tends to focus on total audience size and a single column of content results. For ads, the results are clicks to your website. For posts, results are measured in terms of combined engagements—likes, comments, and shares. Cost per engagements generally run much lower than cost per click. To compare apples to apples, make sure your reports for both ads and posts show the cost per click. Within Ads Manager (or Business Manager), you can customize which analytical data you want to see in your reports and in what order. Below is a recent sample showing the standard columns I use for my personal and client reports.

Anonymized Facebook report

Click to enlarge

Strategy

Ads prove a high stakes game of risk/reward. Single-photo and video ads have one first impression that must get someone to click to your website. Carousel and slideshow ads give you slightly more content to attract a buyer or client. Promoted and boosted posts offer the option of the photo gallery, which allows consumers to meander through your content before deciding to leave Facebook for your website. You can and should have different copy in the captions for each photo; and you should have a link pasted in the description, too.

Because of their content and distribution models, each kind of Facebook advertising has a different use. Ads align best with the pursuit of the most motivated consumers. Promoted posts appeal to consumers whose interest can be developed. Boosted posts are best suited for community awareness; that community can be either interest-based (fans of your Facebook page) or geography-based (people in a specific location).

Know that results will wildly vary. For the most efficient and effective Facebook advertising, you have to experiment with different Facebook tools and then measure their effectiveness.

Facebook comparison chart full size

Click to enlarge

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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