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How To Avoid Wasting Money On Facebook Ads

By Danny Starr on Sep 20, 2016 10:02:56 AM

Facebook advertising is one the most effective forms of online advertising you can spend money on.  The combination of the audience targeting data, ad formats and conversion tracking make Facebook ads one of best ways to create awareness, increase revenue and generate leads online.  There are people out there who spend 100% of their advertising budget on Facebook and that's because it works.


The problem is that Facebook is really good at getting you to spend money on their platform in the form of ads or sponsored posts.  They place a huge button next to something you post and say "click this and more people will see your stuff!!!".  Or they will say "this post performed better than 95% of your other posts so give us money and more people will see it!".   In some cases, they will even show you a basic ad they have created for you and ask you to simply click a button and start the campaign. 

In most cases, if you do any of these options you are just wasting your money because these "easy" options don't take online advertising best practices into account and you should take some time to think strategically before you spend. 

Maximize Organic Reach First

It's no secret that Facebook wants you to buy ads on its platform.  That's how they make money (and lots of it). In order to make you feel like you should spend money on Facebook, the stuff you post organically (you don't pay for it) gets seen by less people.  

  • Because organic reach (or the number of people who naturally see what you post) is down around 10 or 15 percent, it could be that only 10 to 15% of the people who like your page see your post.  
  • As a result, we say to ourselves "Well, then I must pay to have more than 10 to 15 percent of my people see my content!".

While it's true that you must see Facebook as a "pay to play" platform, the reality is that most companies, non-profits and brands that I see aren't taking the time to understand how Facebook's newsfeed alrogithm works and use that understanding to maximize their organic reach.  

It can be complicated because there are always changes happening but I'm going to boil it down to a few simple takeaways:

  1. Don't always talk about yourself and share your own content. 
  2. Encourage and ask people to interact with your content (like, comment and share).
  3. Try different things and look at Insights (FB's analytics platform) to see how much reach your experiments are getting


Use The Facebook Pixel

Facebook will let you install a small bit of code (aka the Facebook Pixel) on your website that lets Facebook see who and what people do on your website.  You can do lots of funky things with this code but at a basic level you can use it to do two main things:

  1. Target ads on Facebook to people who visited your website.
  2. Use to create a conversion goal so that you can track the effectiveness of your ads.

Installing the pixel isn't super complicated.  I would recommend that you consider targeting ads on Facebook to people who visited your website or certain pages on your website.

  • Let's say you are a retailer with four different product categories, you could create an ad for one of the categories and target people who visited pages in that category. 

If your goal is to have people contact you by phone or by email, considering making a visit to your contact us page a conversion goal and optimize your ads based on that goal. It's not perfect but it's better than tracking no goals at all. 


Use Online Advertising Best Practices

The single biggest reason clicking "boost this post" on Facebook is problematic for marketers is that doing so often negates some of the basic principles of online advertising. 

However, I still see ads on Facebook all the time that ignore these basic principles:

  1. Who am I targeting?  What charactestics do they have?
  2. How does my ad look in the context of my relationship with that audience?
  3. What do I want them to do when they see my ad?
  4. When is the best time to reach my audience?
  5. Where am I sending them and what does that page actually look like?
  6. How does this look on mobile devices?

Just this morning, I saw an ad show up on Facebook feed that asked me to click on it so that I could see new real estate listings. 

  • I clicked on the ad and it took me to the homepage of the website instead of the new listings page
  • Worse, the site wasn't optimized to look good on my mobile phone. 

Whatever money was spent on that advertisement was probably completely wasted. 

Facebook's advertising options are really effective and they are improving every day with new ad formats and options for you to get your message in front of the right people at the right time.  I encourage you to try them out for yourself today. 


If you have any questions or would like some help getting started with digital advertising, get in touch.

Contact Us Today!


Topics: Facebook Advertising, Facebook Ads

Danny Starr

Danny Starr

Danny Starr the Director of Marketing Strategy at Cyan. He has been working in marketing since 2001. He spends his free time with his wife Kirsten, their two sons, and their dog Murray.