The 1 thing that will make you fail at Facebook advertising

Advertising on Facebook can be a silver bullet for your creative business, but if you're doing this, you'll find failure and frustration.

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Anyone who's got a Facebook page will have seen that shouty little 'Boost post' button plenty of times. Here's what you should remember about it:

  • Facebook wants to make money from you
  • People are always willing to pay to be lazy
  • The Boost button is the combination of the first two points.

It kind of makes sense, though, right? You've created a great post to promote your business, maybe pointing to some great content on your website. You post it to Facebook and get told that post could reach 7,000 new people for just £4! The trouble is that there are simply so many people on Facebook that we just can't bend our minds around it. There are 2.45 billion people using it. And your £4 isn't going to show your post to 2.45 billion people. It's going to show it to a tiny random sample. So, of course, we need to narrow down the audience, and this is where boosting posts falls down.

Control of your audience

Boosting allows you to set the gender, age and location of your audience, as well as choosing some interests to narrow down that massive list into something more manageable. But while it's quick to set up, it loses out on being able to comprehensively target your audience, set where your adverts appear and, what I think is the most useful advertising tool Facebook offers, being able to create lookalike audiences.

This is where you take a specific bunch of FB users (best to be your mailing list, though can be people who like your Facebook page too) and matches their characteristics and behaviours to all users to build you an audience of people just like them. You see the power — you can create an audience just like the people you already know love your brand.

So what do I do instead?

The answer is to use Facebook's Ads Manager, which now includes pretty much all the functionality of the old but insanely powerful Power Editor. This gives you so much more control and tracking of your ads it's hard to know where to start, but my favourite features include:

  • Extreme fine tuning of your audiences for specific ads. You can advertise to people in a specific town, or who like a specific film or have a particular hobby or job. Just imagine how relevant you can make your advert if you advertise just to café owners in York who love watching Friends.
  • Video view audiences. Exactly as simple as it sounds, but extremely powerful. Build an audience out of people who've watched a video you've posted. As watching a whole video requires some sort of effort on behalf of viewers (what a low bar we've set for humanity...) then you already know those people have a genuine interest in what you're saying before you start paying to advertise to them.
  • Lookalike audiences. As I mentioned above, this is a fantastic way to grow your existing audience. It's also really quick — just upload your lists and let Facebook find people with similar interests and behaviours.
  • Easy split testing. I go on about testing your marketing A LOT. It's honestly the only way to get consistent results. Ads Manager makes it simple for me to do my weekly ABC split test: I put up 3 ad variations, run them for a week, drop the worst performing one and create a new variation more like the successful ones. Rinse and repeat.

There's so much power in the Ads Manager that it can be hard to know how to get to grips with it. I'll be putting together a Facebook Advertising for Creators course this Spring (hopefully with a catchier title than that), but I'll also be back with more bite-size hints and examples in future articles.