Facebook has the small business sector firmly in its sights as a growth area for the platform. The primary way that this is done is through growing advertising revenue. While Facebook wants your dollar, they are increasingly making their advertising offerings of significant value to business in enabling tightly targeted advertising to your main markets. This factsheet covers some of key things you need to know about Facebook advertising. For information on the costs of Facebook advertising, check out the dedicated factsheet here.

Video case study

Facebook Lead Ads

Facebook Leads Ads are in a nutshell an automated form filler, allowing leads to be generated quickly and painlessly by users. You create an ad for your business using the power editor in Facebook that has a call to action: something like subscribe, access a free report, sign up for notifications. When the prospective customer clicks on that ad, Facebook accesses information already provided by the user in their Facebook profile. Instead of sending traffic to a landing page where people manually fill out a form and press submit, when they click on the ad, their information (name & email) is pre-populated. Any missing additional information can be manually inputted and they hit submit. Your lead is captured, all within the Facebook platform. To optimise conversions from your ad and still capture meaningful information, you can make auto fill work even harder for you by asking for some additional tailored information that is not included in the automatically filled-in parts.

This information should help you understand more about these potential customers and their preferences, for example, a tourism business may ask for type of visit (family holiday, business trip, romantic getaway) while a digital marketer and coach may want to ask for the type of delivery preferred i.e. online or seminar. Facebook leads ads are more effective if you capture your conversions directly into your customer relationship management (CRM) software. Facebook Lead Ads articulate with most of the big CRM systems and if they don’t work with yours you can download a .CSV file from Facebook and import into your current system.

The new Facebook Ads work well for non-immediate action activities - things like newsletter sign ups, webinar registrations and 'more information coming soon' type lead generation where clients are prepared to wait. For things like eBooks, white-papers, or other types of downloadable content customers usually are not willing to wait and are looking for an immediate pay off for giving up their contact information which is better done through a mechanism like a landing page on your website. Facebook has a detailed ‘How To’ section for their Facebook Ads with a step by step guide to creating an ad using Ads Manager or Power Editor which you can find by clicking here.

Custom audiences


Custom audiences are an extremely effective way for marketers to target their Facebook Ads. Using custom audiences, you can target your Facebook Ads with a list of email addresses, phone numbers, website visitors, fan page members and Facebook user IDs. The opportunities for precisely targeting a niche of qualified users are basically endless. The power of this tool is not just in the direct contact with your existing email list or user base of converted fans that have already engaged with your brand. It is in the capacity to create lookalike audiences that mimic the characteristics of your existing customers, quickly opening up a vast user pool of prospects for you to convert.

There are a number of ways to build custom audience lists, here are your options:

Standard custom audience

The basic way is to upload a list of emails, phone numbers, or Facebook User IDs you want to target and Facebook will match them with it’s users. If you use MailChimp you can automate this, for every other CRM, you will need to upload manually or use a third party plug in. This is a simple step that turns your email list into powerful customer seeking tools. The minimum number of users you need on your database to get started is 20, and the upper level is unlimited but only 10 000 can be added at a time. To get your list ready to upload it needs to be a .CSV list in excel with a single data column and no heading – this is very specific and it won’t work otherwise.

Website custom audiences

If you don’t already have a comprehensive email list no problem. Assuming you have a website that has a steady flow of traffic, this can be the lead generator instead. The way to do this is via your Facebook Business account through the creation of a Facebook Pixel. This pixel is unique to you, and once inserted on your website on the relevant pages you’ll be able to target your Facebook Advertising for all users that have visited a specific page or pages. If this marketing technique sounds familiar, it’s because it's basically retargeting on Facebook with a new name and a cheaper and simpler method of reaching new customers. The pixel recognises users and automatically adds them to your custom audience, making them ready to be re-targeted with advertising.

Creating a Facebook Pixel

1. Click Create a Pixel

2. Enter a name for your pixel. There's only one pixel per ad account, so choose a name that represents your business.

3. Make sure you have checked the box to accept the terms.

4. Click 'create pixel'. If already have one, you won't see the create pixel button.

5. Your Facebook pixel tracks multiple events depending on the page. You’ll want to add the pixel to all pages you want to track, there are plenty of plugins that automatically do this for you.

Once you have installed the pixel you can create your website custom audience. In Facebook Ads Manager, click on the “audience” button in the menu, and then click the “create audience” button at the top-right of the page. A popup will ask you what kind of audience you want to create.

1. Select “custom audience from your website”

2. Facebook will ask you to agree to the terms and conditions for website custom audiences and provide a link to get your tracking pixel.

3. You can choose to add every user to your custom audience who has visited any page of your website or those who qualify according to specific rules which are created by you around activities and actions.

The last action for you to take to get set up is selecting the window of time you want to select customers from. This means that your audience will only include people who match the specified rules during the last however many specified days. Facebook’s suggested value is 30 up to the maximum value of 180 days.

App activity custom audiences

If your customers reach you via activity on an app no problem - you can create audiences based on what actions people take when they use your app - either on desktop or on mobile. These audiences can be people who recently opened your app, completed a purchase, or were active on your game or platform.

Lookalike audience

Now you’ve got your custom audience sorted, you can ask Facebook to create a broader lookalike audience to target your ads towards users that share characteristics with your known customers. Facebook will look for common patterns and characteristics such as age, gender, or interests - and generate a much bigger list of lookalike users. This is where the serious heavy lifting happens in building your audience, and is significantly less scatter gun that using existing Facebook metrics alone to define your audience.

Facebook Canvas

And finally, what has been described as Instant Ads is Facebook’s Canvas service, a fully immersive advertising experience built for bringing brands and products to life on mobile. Canvas was built to bring content to life in a fast-loading and seamless experience on Android and iOS. Leveraging the same technology used to display photos and videos quickly in the Facebook app, Canvas loads quickly, as much as 10 times faster than the standard mobile web. Loading speed drives both Instant Ads and Canvas in a further indication of how mobile devices are completely shaping the way that new technology is being developed.

Canvas may still look like a typical Facebook post, but once you click it you are directed to a full-screen ad, which is both interesting and effective in the difference visually from the usual Facebook side bar advertising or sponsored ads. The early results indicate that Canvas ads lead to an increased view time, as users that are more willing to engage with a brand. Canvas ads offer an interactive full-screen environment that favours engagement, as it keeps the user away from disruptions. This is ideal for brands that want to increase awareness and clicks to their sites.

Canvas can be accessed on your Facebook page through the publishing tools button. Check out the official Facebook Canvas page for some detailed tutorials that will walk you through the set up process, and make sure you have access to all the images and text you need to put your Canvas together.

Canvas is really suitable for any promotional objective that benefits from strong narrative storytelling, rich visuals, interaction with users and a dedicated space for an uninterrupted passage to tell your brand story. Videos, carousels of images and text can all be incorporated, ensuring that you can give users a complete immersive experience, rather than just an ad with a call to action.

It’s not always easy to be heard on Facebook, as the rising number of users also leads to an increased “noise” that brands need to overcome. However, the creative flexibility of Facebook marketing offers many opportunities to reach any business goal, whether it is the promotion of a brand, the increase of engagement, the leads to a site, or the narration of a brand’s story. These are a few of the new family of 'Facebook Features', all of which are refining Facebook as a space for a rich and deep engagement with your fans.