The Complete Guide to Facebook & Instagram Ads

Last Updated March 8, 2019

Why Paid Social?

Facebook and Instagram are the powerhouses of modern day social media. The best way to harness their power? Advertising. Facebook Ads and Instagram Ads are becoming increasingly important for publishers to grow their audiences, build social engagement and boost onsite revenue.

Due to recent algorithm changes, Facebook has become a pay-to-play platform – for most brands, organic reach is no longer enough.

Another important reason to pay attention to paid social? Social media is now surpassing SEO in referrals. In of June 2015, Facebook officially surpassed Google as a top referring channel to publishers’ websites. That means that social media marketing is just as powerful or even more powerful as a tactic for driving traffic as SEO.

Key takeaways from this blog post:

  • An overview of the Facebook ads interface: Boost Post, Ads Manager and Power Editor
  • Specific strategies for gaining followers, driving traffic, growing your email list and retargeting
  • An overview of the growing importance of using Instagram Ads in conjunction with Facebook Ads
  • Budgeting tactics to maximize even the smallest budget


guide to facebook and instagram ads

The 3 Tiers of Facebook Management

Facebook provides three different tools for ad management for beginners, intermediate users and expert users.

Boost Post (Beginner)

The simplest way to start advertising on Facebook is by boosting the posts on your page feed. While boosting posts might seem like a quick fix to low organic reach on Facebook, this approach is the least effective promotion strategy as you’re unable to target a specific audience or gather robust analytics about the performance of your “ad”.

Furthermore, when using boost post to promote content, there is no ability to create multiple ad variants for testing different messages, images or calls to action, a key to advertising success on any platform .

Ad Manager (Intermediate)

Ads Manager allows you to set up, track and optimize all of your campaigns in one easy interface . Unlike Boost Post, Ads Manager gives you the freedom to run multiple campaigns with a variety of ad sets and ad creatives.

Additionally, Ads Manager includes tools for targeting new audiences and creating tracking pixels for your website (we will get into this in more detail later). You can access Ads Manager from the main Facebook menu by selecting Manage Ads. You’ll need to associate each Ads Manager account with either a Facebook profile or a business page.

Power Editor (Expert)

Power Editor is best suited for advanced marketers and advertisers who want to build and manage multiple campaigns in bulk, often across a number of accounts. With Power Editor, you essentially create your campaigns in a contained test environment, meaning you can create large campaigns over a number of days and then “upload” the campaigns into the Facebook platform when they are ready to go live. Power Editor is accessed from the Ads Manager portal and can be used at any time.

For the sake of this post, we will stick to campaign management in Ads Manager since Power Editor is a more advanced tool.

Facebook Ad Guidelines

Text Limit

Your ad can have 90 characters or fewer in the text. Any more, and the text will be cut off.

Link Title Text Limit

Similarly, your link has a text limit. Keep your link title to 25 characters or fewer.

Text on Image Limit

Your ads can only have 20 % text overlaying the image – otherwise, Facebook will deny them.

Image Size 

The size of your image depends on your campaign goal. See this size guide for specific sizes.

Facebook Toolsguide to facebook and instagram ads


The Facebook pixel allows you to place a single pixel, or a short piece of code, in the header portion of your website code. The pixel “sees” everyone who visits your website, remembers who they are, and catalogs the actions they took on your site. With this data from the Facebook pixel, you can:

  • Track specific conversions on your site like key page views, form submissions or purchases
  • Build targeted audiences based on demographics and website actions
  • Get rich insights about how people use your website
  • Learn about and retarget your visitors

How to create a pixel:

Step 1: In Ads Manager, go to “Tools” and click on “Facebook Pixel” which is located in the upper left corner.

Step 2: Click “Create a Pixel” and give your new pixel a name. Be sure to name your pixel something relevant, i.e. your Facebook page’s name.

Step 3: After you name your pixel, click “Create”. Next you will receive your pixel ID.

Step 4: Once you receive your pixel ID, you or your developer can install the pixel in the tag of your website. Once installed it will immediately begin tracking your website visitors.


Once your pixel has been set up successfully, you can begin creating custom audiences to target. Audience targeting allows you to connect with the people who matter most.A custom audience is a group of people that you already “know.” One way to create a custom audience is by utilizing the Facebook pixel to find readers who have visited your site or certain parts of your site. You can also create custom audiences by uploading lists of emails, such as those who subscribe to your newsletter or those who have filled out a form on your website.

To create a custom audience click on “create audience” on the left side of your Ads Manager account (located in the “Tools” tab). There are three types of custom audiences:

Customer list audience. This is a list of emails, phone numbers, Facebook user IDs or mobile IDs you will need to upload. Facebook will automatically match this contact information with Facebook users.

Website traffic audience. This is a list of people who have visited your website or have viewed specific web pages.

App Activity. A list of people who have engaged with your app or game.

Lookalike Audiences 

Lookalike Audiences are audiences that are created by Facebook algorithms that find users who resemble those in your custom audiences .

Using your custom audiences, you can also use the Audiences tool to create lookalike audiences. Facebook find trends in demographics, interests and behaviors from your custom audiences and then auto -selects other Facebook users who “look like” your custom audience members based on those trends.

This is a great way to expand the reach of your campaign and expose your content to new users who are likely to be interested in your brand or website.


guide to facebook and instagram ads

Audience Insights

Audience Insights allows you to receive insights on three main audiences:

  • Everyone on Facebook
  • People connected to your Page
  • Your Custom Audiences

You can learn almost anything about an audience, including specific details like income level, favorite TV shows, specific behaviors, credit card usage and more. If you’re running a specific campaign, Audience Insights can help you target the people who will find your campaign relevant.

Remember when we talked about how boosting posts can be a waste of money? Here’s one reason why: Ads Manager campaigns give you access to Audience Insights for all of your ads, while boosting posts does not.

Note: Audience Insights is different from Page Insights because it looks at trends about your current or potential customers across Facebook. Page Insights solely looks at the interactions with your Page (i.e., likes, comments and shares).


Once you are familiar with the Facebook advertising interface and the powerful tools available to you, you might feel like you are ready to roll. But by far the most important part of successful paid campaigns on social media are the objectives that power each campaign strategy.

Let’s look at a few common Facebook advertising objectives and how to approach them.

Objective: Increase Brand Awareness 

If your goal is to get more followers and engagement, you’ll want to select the Engagement or Get More Page Likes objective when setting up your ad.

Here are some tips on increasing your overall brand awareness through Facebook Ads:

  • Choose an image with a strong focal point.
  • Use carousel images when possible.
  • Be easily identifiable. Include your brand link, and other identifying brand images.
  • Be sure to be personable and maintain your identity. How well does the ad fit with what your audience already knows about you?
  • Include an informational reward. Does your ad include information that your audience would find useful?
  • A call to action. Finally, make sure the reader knows how to take the next step, i.e. clicking a link, downloading an ebook, etc.

Objective: Push Traffic to Your Website 

If you want to drive more traffic to your website, understanding your audience is key.

A/B Test. The best way to see how your audience responds is to test multiple ads against each other. Try using the same copy and different images, or vice versa. It’s very important to treat each test as a scientific experiment: make sure that there is only one variable for each test, else you don’t really know what factors are contributing to success. A good rule of thumb is, after 1000 impressions, you can start running with the best performing ad. This is a great strategy and takes the guesswork out of attracting your target audience.

Objective: Grow Your Email List 

Email is arguably the most effective way to increase the amount of return visitors to your site. Facebook advertising is a great tool for building your email or subscriber list.

Here’s what you will need:

  • A “website conversions” Facebook campaign objective
  • A form of some sort that captures email address and any other fields you’d like to gather
  • Gated content – Readers need a reason to fill out the form, which is where downloadable content comes in, i.e. ebooks, webinar recordings, onepagers. You can also simply prompt readers to subscribe or “gate” content like videos or infographics – meaning they have to complete the form before they can see the content.
  • A Facebook tracking pixel
  • A thank you page on which you put the tracking pixel, in order to track who has converted. This will tell Ads Manager which of the people who clicked on your ad actually went all the way through to fill out your form. It also makes retargeting based on lists of those who have converted possible in the future.

Objective: Reach & Retarget New Users 

By using Facebook retargeting ads, you get another chance to turn that visitor into a subscriber and a customer.

Plus, because you already attracted them once to your site, you know what they are interested in and can more easily create ads that speak to their needs.

This creates more engagement, more likes, higher conversion rates, and more sales.

By using your Facebook pixel that you installed on your website – you can now create a custom website audience to advertise to on Facebook, allowing you to reach those visitors that didn’t convert the first time.

Setting up Instagram Ads

When setting up your Facebook campaign in Ads Manager, running Instagram ads is as simple as checking a box in the ad setup. As long as your ads meet the Instagram formatting rules, you are ready to rock! Instagram is an excellent platform for rich media, and allows you to put up photo ads, video ads and carousel ads.

If you’re planning on running concurrent Facebook and Instagram ads, click the button, “Only include photos that will work with Instagram ads.”

Users can focus on the following objectives:

  • Clicks to Website
  • Website Conversions
  • Mobile App Installs & Mobile App Engagement
  • Video Views
  • Reach and Frequency
  • Page Post Engagement
  • Mass Awareness


guide to facebook and instagram ads

Instagram Ad Guidelines 

Like Facebook, Instagram has limitations on the text and images that appear in your ad.

Recommended Image Size 

The recommended image size is 1080×1080 pixels. At minimum, square images should measure 600×600 pixels, while landscape images should measure 600×315 pixels.

Caption Limit 

Instagram recommends your caption be 125 characters or fewer. However, it may be up to 2,200 characters.

Text on Image Limit 

Like Facebook, Instagram images must contain 20% text or less. As Instagram is such an image-centric platform, we recommending omitting text completely from your ad.

Setting a Budget 

Paid social media budgets vary from $ 5 to $ 5 ,000 and beyond – the sky’s the limit. The first thing to consider when setting your paid social media budget is the lifetime value of your target customer. This will help you determine a benchmark for your ideal cost -per -conversion. Lifetime value varies greatly from brand -to -brand and publisher -to -publisher.

Determining User Value

Not all Facebook fans are valued equally. Luxury brands such as BMW are willing to spend more money to convert their customers, as the potential ROI is much greater.

Likewise, different conversion objectives have different values. For example, if your objective is to get your reader’s emails, you might be willing to pay more for that particular conversion as you will have a direct pipeline to connect with those readers.

While it’s difficult to determine lifetime value, a good rule of thumb is to pay around $1 for light acquisitions (i.e. getting a Facebook like) and $3 for heavy acquisitions (email subscription, event sign-up, product purchase).

Using this rule of thumb, if you only have $50 to spend for your first month of advertising, you’re not going to want to do an email objective campaign because you’re going to get less for your money. You might set your goal, to get 50 page likes at $1/conversion as a benchmark.

If your ads don’t end up hitting the $1 for light acquisitions and $3 for heavy acquisition benchmark – don’t sweat it. Continue to AB test and optimize your ads, and with each campaign you’ll be able to lower your cost per acquisition.

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