Facebook Ads – Digital Marketing 101

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Niche Digital Marketing 101

Part of the 101 series, an introduction to various topics for enrollment marketers.

What are Facebook Ads?

A Facebook ad is paid or promoted digital content that appears in specific placements on Facebook’s social media network. Such placements can be shown on the News Feed, in the right-hand column of the feed, on Facebook stories, and more. Ads that are created for Facebook can also easily be shown on Instagram, as it’s owned and operated by Facebook. Beyond ad placements on these social media networks, Facebook also offers the Facebook Audience Network (FAN). The FAN consists of off-Facebook ad placements that appear in mobile apps, articles, and videos. If utilizing the FAN, you can achieve greater scale because these ads reach both Facebook and non-Facebook users. Like Display ads, Facebook ads are a great way to place your brand and message in front of potential customers without them having to find you first. See this article if you’re also interested in learning about Display ads.

Not only are Facebook ads great awareness plays, but they can also be used to engage with high intent customers who might already be aware of your school. For example, you might upload a list of users who’ve inquired about your school and shown they’re highly engaged, but they haven’t applied yet. To encourage them to complete the application, you can serve them ads in placements they’re most likely to engage and convert. Facebook News Feed on a desktop would be preferable to any FAN placement, because people are less likely to fill out an application on their phone. If you just want to do an awareness play and stay top of mind, running your ads on the FAN may be preferable. While you wouldn’t get the same level of engagement, you could achieve greater scale and reach people in new contexts.

Getting Started

Facebook ads can be managed from various platforms, including directly from a Business Page and Facebook Ads Manager. The ability to create ads directly from a Business Page makes Facebook ads easily and quickly accessible to even inexperienced advertisers. In as little as five steps, Facebook guides new advertisers through the process of creating an ad from the Business Page. You can even leverage organic content and quickly ‘promote’ it to be a sponsored post. As a trade-off for accessibility, some functions and controls are limited on the Business Page. If you’re looking for more control and visibility on how your ads are performing, you can utilize Facebook Ads Manager.

Ads Manager provides additional features, tools, and functions that allow you to create, manage, and view ad results all in one place. Here you can deploy and test various levers, such as creative, to optimize your advertising to whatever objective you may have. As using Ads Manager is more complex and effective for optimizing Facebook ads, the rest of this post will focus on creating ads on this platform.

Before diving into the steps to create a Facebook Ad, let’s discuss a brief overview of how campaigns are structured. The following terms are organized from the broadest to the most granular level of campaign structures:

  • Campaigns – The broadest and most abstract of the levels. It’s where you set your advertising objective and campaign budget optimizations.
  • Ad Sets – These live within Campaigns. It’s where you set your targeting strategy and where you choose your ad placements. Here you can establish a budget and a schedule for your ads to run.
  • Ads – These live within Ad Sets. It’s where you set your copy, creative, landing pages, Calls to Action (CTAs), and everything that a user would see when served the ads. It’s also where you choose the tracking capabilities for that particular ad, which we’ll discuss later.

Steps to Set Up Facebook Ads

The Campaign Level

The most important step for creating Facebook ads is identifying the business objective that your advertising is supporting. At the most abstract level, there are generally three buckets advertising objectives fall in: awareness, consideration, and conversion. For awareness campaigns, you are trying to reach as many people as possible who could be potential customers. It’s relatively cheap to run these, but it’s expected that the traffic quality will be poor. Consideration campaigns aim to get potential customers to think about your school as a viable option. This audience will generally be smaller than those who are targeted in awareness campaigns, but they’ll be more engaged as they seek out information and learn about your school. For conversion campaigns, you want to target high quality audiences who are considering your school and are likely to convert to applicants and enrolled students. While typically the most expensive option, these campaigns build deeper trust and eventually lead to valuable conversions that contribute to your bottom line.

Identifying your business objective first is essential, as it will impact all other aspects of your campaign. For example, if your objective is to build brand awareness, you’d utilize different targeting, creative, and landing pages than what you’d use to advertise to people who already know about your school. You also need to start with a clear business objective, because Ads Manager will prompt you to select a campaign objective as the first step in the process.

If you have multiple business objectives that you’d like to support with Facebook ads, you can always run multiple campaigns. The best practice at this level is to name and organize these campaigns according to your advertising objectives and specific products or services.

The Ad Set Level

After determining campaign settings, you’d move on to the Ad Set level. This is where you’d establish your targeting strategy and audience, such as choosing specific demographic and geographic locations to target. Facebook allows you to target based on:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Interests
  • And many more variables…

Facebook also offers more sophisticated audience targeting, such as Custom and Lookalike Audiences. A Custom Audience allows you to target people on Facebook who are already included in your contact database. Conceptually, these are the same as Remarketing lists where you create your audience by uploading a list of your prospects, inquiries, and/or applicants. Who you include in this audience depends on your advertising objective. If you’d like to learn more about Remarketing lists, see this post here. Lookalike Audiences are built by finding people on Facebook who share common characteristics of people in a specified Custom Audience. The biggest benefit of using these audiences is that they tend to be much more engaged and likely to convert than broadly targeted audiences. That’s not to say broad audiences are bad – there are certain objectives, like awareness plays, where you’d want to use them. You’ll want to consider your advertising objective when choosing your targeting strategy, or else you could end up throwing good money after bad, unresponsive audiences.

As part of your targeting strategy, you’ll also need to choose where on Facebook’s network you want your ads shown. These are called Placements, and they can appear in ad slots on Facebook’s News Feed, Marketplace, Stories, the FAN, and more. Below are just a couple examples of Facebook’s many ad placements. While there are many options, your choice should be based on where your target audience is most likely to be and based on your specific ad objectives. You can always report on your campaigns by placement and adjust your choices if necessary.

Mobile Instagram Feed Placement:

Desktop Facebook Feed Placement:

Under Ad Sets, you also choose your budget, distribution schedule, optimization settings, and pricing choice. You can either set a daily budget or a lifetime budget. A daily budget will pace your spend per day, while a lifetime budget will pace your spend between the start and end dates you schedule. For optimizations, you can choose to optimize for link clicks, impressions, wide audience reach, or conversions. Your choice of optimization should be considerately paired with your choice of pricing. Facebook will either charge you on a Cost per Click (CPC) basis or on a Cost per Impression (CPM) basis. Your choice should be determined based on your overall advertising objective.

The Ad Level

Finally moving on to the most granular part of a campaign set up: the Ad level. Ads live within the Ad Set level, and you can have multiple ads be part of the same Ad Set. The Ad level is where you can get creative with imagery and copy; you can manipulate the ad characteristics that Facebook users will ultimately see. There are infinite variations of copy and creatives you can utilize here, but you should try to create ads that will support your ad objective. Here are just a few of the options that you can (strategically) play around with:

  • Ad Format – Choose from a single image, a single video, a carousel of images/videos, or a collection of items for a mobile experience.
  • Headline – Use this to grab the user’s attention.
  • Primary Text – Try to include helpful or enticing information and a CTA here.
  • Website URL – The landing page on your site that you’re directing traffic to. Think about the user’s intentions when they click on an ad, and based on that, send them to the most relevant page on your site.
  • CTA Button – A button that appears on your ad, directing users to take a specific action.

Facebook also provides specific guidelines for imagery and video. For example, text cannot take up more than 20% of your image. Also depending on what ad format you choose, there are various recommended ratios, resolutions, text limitations, other ad specs that are important to be aware of.

While building out your ads, Facebook provides an Ad Preview so you can see what your ad will look like. Be cognizant of cut off text, the image cropping, and other qualities that might detract from the ad. While looking at these previews, consider the user experience and if that experience supports the advertising objective you’ve defined. Of course, to truly know if your ads are supporting your objectives, you’ll want to be tracking performance.

Tracking Performance

In Ads Manager, you’re able to track basic engagement metrics, like reach, impressions, and clicks. However, if you want to see a more comprehensive picture of the user experience and track the business impact your ads are having, you’ll want to install the Facebook Pixel and utilize tracking URLs. A Pixel will allow you to see visitors’ interactions on your site, such as pages they’ve viewed and any actions they took. This will give you insight into the quality of your ad traffic and how engaged your target audience is. Tracking URLs can provide insight on metrics like customer acquisition and revenue attribution, which is helpful for determining the ROI of a campaign. If your Facebook ads aren’t meeting your business objectives, you can always A/B test and change the campaign’s settings to optimize performance. There is a plethora of ‘winning combinations’ for variables and levers to deploy – it just takes some time and learning to figure out what works best for your business.

Facebook Ads with Niche

Partnering with Niche will allow you to serve ads to those who have signaled interest in your school. We’re able to reach users who have recently searched for colleges/K12 schools and are interested in a college/school like yours. People who have visited your profile, your competitors’ profiles, and relevant searches on Niche are included in a Custom Audience that is used to efficiently and effectively target users on Facebook. If you’re interested in learning more, you can request a demo of our products.


Annalise Becer

Annalise Becer is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Niche. She creates, monitors, and optimizes digital campaigns on behalf of Niche's K12 and College clients.

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