The Complete Facebook Advertising Guide for Beginners

It almost goes without saying that nearly the entire planet is on Facebook. As of 2016, there are 1.65 billion monthly active users. BILLION WITH A ‘B.’ In Australia alone, there are 15 million of us on Facebook. So how do you tap into this incredible resource and start talking to the right audience for your business?

Facebook advertising is all about picking the right people out of that crowd and putting your ad in front of them – people who are more likely to be interested in your ad enough to click on it and engage with your page, business, brand, whatever you’re trying to promote. This guide will take you through the basics of Facebook advertising – how to make an ad, how to implement good targeting and much more – so you can take full advantage of this platform for your business.

Facebook Advertising


The Simplified Basics of Targeting: Why You See What You See 

Pretend for a moment (or maybe you won’t have to) that you are a thirty-something man interested in hiking, mountain biking and other outdoorsy pursuits. You’re scrolling through Facebook when all of the sudden you come across this:

Facebook Sponsored Post Example

You’re intrigued (come on, who wouldn’t be: it’s the chance at a free holiday!) but you’re a bit confused: you’ve got no idea who or what ‘’ is, and you’ve never so much as Googled the word ‘Greece.’

So why are you seeing it?

Find out by clicking the arrow at the top right and selecting ‘Why am I seeing this?’   

Why you see Facebook adverts

What may come up is something like: ‘One reason you're seeing this ad is that wants to reach men ages 25 to 35 who live or were recently in Australia.’

Although this particular ad would probably do well because it’s advertising something pretty universally ‘cool’, only using a generic indicator like age, gender or location isn’t always the greatest strategy. This is because they give little insight into what that person’s real interests are: the fact that you’re a 34-year-old Aussie tells us nothing about your feelings on a Greek holiday.

An example of more specific targeting on this post would be: ‘One reason you’re seeing this ad is that wants to reach men ages 25 to 35 in Australia who have visited their website or used their app.’ Because you’re putting your ad in front of eyes who already know you or your brand, that leads to a better chance of that user becoming a customer.


Specific Targeting Techniques to Try

Facebook Ad targeting

Here are a few ideas for more tailored targeting techniques (say that ten times fast) to get you in front of the right people.


Targeting based on competitor fans

This strategy allows you to get your ad in front of users who’ve expressed in or liked pages similar to your competitor.

  • Type in the URL of your competitor site into the ‘Detailed Targeting’ section of your Audience.
  • For example, say one of your competitors is the online clothing store Boohoo. Type in ‘’ and you can see the audience number:

Facebook Ad targeting reach


  • If the URL doesn’t return any results, try playing around with other relevant brands or keywords.

Insider tip: Capitalisation DOES make a difference. For example, the keyword ‘Online shopping’ has an audience of 859,896,820, compared to ‘Online Shopping’ which only has 3,395.


Targeting based on local awareness

Facebook Local Advertising

Putting ads in front of users when they are within your business’ neighbourhood is a great way to connect with the local area, and could be a great way to promote an in-store offer or deal.

  • Choose your campaign objective
  • Select the ‘Reach people near your business’ option
  • Specify your area radius
  • Set age range and gender

Insider tip: Facebook is introducing more effective ways to measure the success of a Facebook ad in driving in-store visits and offline sales. This not only has the potential to enhance user experience, it also has the potential for businesses to really see what’s working for them in a tangible way. Check out more from this article on AdWeek.


Targeting based on email lists

There are a few useful ways you can use email lists to create custom audiences for better results. By uploading your own lists, you can target towards individuals with an existing relationship who will be more likely to engage with your content.

Creating a custom Facebook Audience

Here are 3 possible ways to use your email lists to your advantage:

1) Abandoned carts

Most people who shop online often don’t buy on the first visit. Reaching out to individuals who already familiar with your products are more likely to go through with a purchase the second time around.

  • Go into your Facebook ad manager
  • Click Tools
  • Select Audiences
  • Click ‘Custom Audience’ from the ‘Create Audience’ menu
  • Select ‘People who visit a specific webpage and not others’
  • Add the product URL

2) LinkedIn connections

LinkedIn has an invaluable audience of like-minded individuals, and it’s fairly simple to retarget them on Facebook.

  • Export your connections to a .CSV file here

Insider tip: you can even break this list up into different sections (say, by industry) to achieve more selective targeting).

  • Create a custom audience by uploading the .CSV file

Although these results might have a smaller reach than other campaigns, they’re more likely to have a better click-through rate and a lower cost per conversion.

3) Web traffic

Another great way to target relevant users is through a Website Custom Audience: by adding a Facebook Pixel into your site’s coding, you can track page views, when items are added to a shopping cart, when someone signs up to an offer or trial on your site and more (see chart below for specific codes).

  • Create your pixel first: go to your Facebook Pixel tab in your ad manager account
  • Select ‘Pixels’ under the ‘Tools’ tab
  • Add this pixel to your site with the help of a developer (or a plugin, like FB Pixel Helper for Chrome or Facebook Conversion Pixel for WordPress).

Facebook Website Custom Audiences

4) Event sign-ups

Using the email addresses of people who’ve previously attended one of your company events – like a webinar, conference, networking session, anything – is a fantastic way to promote to a custom audience.

  • Create a lookalike audience to promote future events to new people
  • Go into Audiences in your ad account
  • Click ‘Create Audience’
  • Select ‘Lookalike Audience’ and select one of your existing audiences to copy

Insider tip: your existing audience group has to have at least 100 people in order to create a lookalike.


How to Make a Facebook Ad

The great thing about Facebooks ads is they’re relatively easy to put together. Anyone with a Facebook page, a good internet connection and legit credit or debit card can create, use and benefit from Facebook advertising, especially businesses; it gives you another space to connect with previous or current customers and an effective way to seek out new ones.

  • To create your own ad, first log in to Facebook for Business.
  • Click ‘Create Advert’
  • Select your ad’s desired objective
  • Follow the steps and pick specifics from drop-down menus to build out the rest of the ad

Let’s pretend we’re building a lead generation ad for GoToMeeting.

Creating a Facebook advert


Once we’ve decided on our country, currency and time zone, we need to set our audience:

  • Click through the various categories to see the ‘Estimated Daily Reach’ of your ad (based on the demographics, interests and behaviours you’ve selected).
  • Set the duration of your ad
  • Determine where you want your ad shown (on mobile, desktop or both)
  • Allocate how much money you want to put behind it
  • Choose the details we want to collect from potential customers: email addresses, names, postcodes, etc.
  • Ask up to 3 custom questions like ‘Have you used GoToMeeting before?’ or ‘Have you attended a GoToMeeting webinar?’ to gain further insights into your audience to use in future campaigns.
  • Add a link to your privacy policy and any other relevant disclaimers
  • Enter the site URL
  • Add a context card to clarify any details – use this space to give them all the benefits they could receive by following your call to action. (Learn more about context cards here.)
  • Add a Call to Action button: ‘Apply Now’, ‘Download’, ‘Get Quote’, ‘Learn More’, ‘Sign Up’ or ‘Subscribe’
  • Make sure your creative fits Facebook’s image requirements

Facebook Ad imagery


Boosted Post vs. Facebook Ad: What’s the Difference?!

‘Boosted posts’ can be a valuable means of advertising on Facebook, but what does it mean exactly, and how are they different from ads?

In the very simplest terms…

A boosted post is Facebook advertising at its most basic.

  • Pick an existing post on your business’ page
  • Put a designated amount of money behind it to increase reach and impressions

Facebook Boosted Post Mobile ExampleHere’s an example of how a boosted post would look if you were scrolling through your Newsfeed on your mobile:

Facebook ads are more advanced than boosted posts: they let you get more specific with different kind of ads, campaign goals and target audiences. You also have the option of adding a Call to Action button and – unlike a boosted post – Facebook ads aren’t housed on your business’ page.

So which one’s best for you and your advertising needs?

There really is no ‘right’ answer: it all depends on what you’re trying to do! If you just want to get in front of as many eyeballs as possible, try a boosted post. If you want people to do something specific (i.e. like your page, sign up to something, etc.), try a Facebook ad.


Interpreting Your Results: How Well Did You Do?

Once your ad campaign is over, it’s time to see how you did! This is especially important to learn what worked and what didn’t when creating new ads in the future, as things like messaging, image-to-text ratio and colour scheme could all affect your ad’s success.

  • Go into your ad manager account
  • Select either ‘This Account’, ‘All Campaigns’, ‘All Ad Sets’ and ‘All Ads’ to see graphical data on Performance, Demographics or Placement.

You should also consider A/B split testing, or running two similar versions of an ad at the same time, to pinpoint potential problems and avoid losing extra money.

  • Hover over your ad name in your ad manager account until the little pencil icon pops up
  • Click the icon, and select ‘Create Similar Ad’
  • Go in and customise


Facebook Ad split testing


Facebook Advert split testing


Here’s an example of how you can A/B test: we’ve kept the call to action the same on these two ads, but as you can see, they’ve got different messaging and imagery 

When measuring the success of a particular ad, the following can help you contextualise your ad within your campaign, and help you refine your objectives for your future campaigns.

The number of times your post is displayed, regardless of if someone clicked on it or not.

Although these numbers can be pretty impressive, they’re not super informative as they don’t give any indication of sentiment around the ad.)

The number of people who saw your post

Likes, comments and shares received on a post

Engagement rate: 
The total engagement (the added number of likes, comments and shares received on a post), divided by the total reach (or impressions, depending on how you want to calculate it out), multiplied by 100.

For a more complete glossary of ad terms, check out Facebook’s help section here.


Further Reading



These articles and guides are definitely worth a read.

‘By the Numbers: Facebook in Australia’ – a great post by Gavin Heaton with stats, facts and more

Moz’s ‘10 Things I’ve Learned While Learning Facebook Ads’ – super useful tips and tricks

Using the Pixel – Facebook’s guide to getting started with pixels

Think Tank Social’s ‘What Does That Even Mean? Understanding Facebook Metrics – Part 1’s about reach vs. impressions; Part 2’s about viewed content, page engagements and page stories (both are worth a read)

PPC Hero’s ‘Target Competitors On Facebook Using Interest Based Audiences’

Facebook for Business’ guide on reaching audiences

Facebook for Business’ guide on using text in ad images

Facebook for Business’ guide to getting started on ad manager  

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