4 Mistakes to Avoid When Running Facebook Ads

Though many of my clients and colleagues have had great success with Facebook ads, I haven’t done much with them for promoting my own business. Facebook made several changes in 2013 which made it much harder for brands to reach their fans without paid promotions. While I had a Streamline Facebook page, I wanted to see how the changes shook out before devoting more resources – money OR my time – to it. Instead, I successfully concentrated my social media efforts on Twitter and LinkedIn. My Facebook page stayed reasonably active, but I didn’t make a concerted effort to grow my audience or market my services there.

Sampling the World of Facebook Ads

My FB page

As I put together a plan for promoting my new free download, the Internet Marketing Resource Guide,  my business coach Kim Doyal suggested I consider running a Facebook ad campaign. I quickly put together an ad and ran it for a couple of days as a test, with mediocre results. I paused the campaign and decided to get some more feedback before trying again. Luckily you can test ads on Facebook very cheaply (I initially spent about $10) and pause your campaign at any time.

I made the mistakes so you don’t have to!

In our next session, Kim went through my original ad campaign with me in great detail and helped me redesign it. Even though I once successfully targeted Fortune 500 direct marketing campaigns to millions of people, it turned out I had made several common newbie mistakes in my ad campaign!

Before and After

The results of my ad makeover? I went from a .7% Click-Through Rate (CTR) to 1.4% (1% is a respectable CTR for most campaigns) and in 4 days generated over 60 new opt-ins. As a side benefit, the campaign also generated several new Likes for my page.

What Made the Difference?

1. Use the Power Editor, not the Ads Manager

Facebook ads manager graphic

The tempting Facebook Ads link on your Newsfeed page

For some mysterious reason, Facebook has two similar but different interfaces for setting up ads.  On your homepage, you’ll see a left column link for the Facebook Ads Manager. You can set up an ad from here, but the cool kids in the know use the Power Editor. Here you’ll get more detailed options for your campaign. It even allows you more characters for your ad headline!

You can access the Power Editor from the Ads Manager page. Hint – adding to the “cool kids only” vibe, you must use Chrome as your browser when working with the Power Editor.

Facebook Power Editor link

Power Editor link on the Ads Manager page

2. Run your ads only in the News Feed, not the sidebar

You have the option to run ads via the desktop newsfeed, the right sidebar, mobile, or all three. I haven’t tested mobile ads yet, but I initially chose to advertise both in the News Feed and in the sidebar.

This weakened my results for two reasons:

  1. It wasn’t clear from the instructions and ad preview that I needed to included a second image specifically sized for the sidebar, so my graphic was cut off in the smaller sidebar ads. I cancelled the sidebar ad as soon I as I saw the misshapen graphic, but at that point I had already paid for some of those impressions.
  2. I found out later that sidebar ads tend to perform poorly compared to ads running directly in the news feed. This is because they are smaller, easier to tune out, and… they look like ads. News Feed ads are clearly marked as Sponsored Posts, but otherwise they look just like other news feed posts from your friends and Pages you follow, so they are more likely to catch the reader’s attention.

To make sure your ads run in the News Feed, select “News Feed (Desktop Only) in the Placement options. (If you would like to test News Feed performance on mobile feeds, I suggest you create a separate ad for that so that you can track whether one performs better than the other.)

Choose your ad placement

Choose your ad placement

3. Use Photos Rather than Graphics

I initially used the cover of my download for a graphic. While like any proud author I think the guide’s cover is gorgeous, graphics just don’t capture the eye the way photos do on Facebook. Kim introduced me to a very cool tool called PlaceIt which I will definitely be adding to the next version of the Resource Guide. It allows you to grab graphics from your desktop or any web page and add them to photos to illustrate your app or digital product.

Facebook ad image comparison


4. Be Careful When Choosing Ad Objectives

When you place an ad, Facebook asks you to choose your ad objective – Page Likes, clicks to your website, and so on. If you want to track user behavior on a web page outside of Facebook, you receive a tracking code for an invisible pixel to install on your page.

graphic Facebook ad objectives

Dropdown for selecting Facebook Ad Objectives

Choosing the right objective is key. Not only does it help you track your ad’s results, but it also affects the cost of your ad. For instance, you’ll pay more for website conversions (such as someone buying a product from your web page) vs clicks to your web page, but making a sale may be worth the extra cost to you.

However, I’m not sure how reliable the tracking pixel is. I initially selected the “website conversion” metric, choosing to pay more for actual opt-ins. After day one of my campaign, Facebook showed several conversions that did not appear in my email list.

For my revised campaign I chose to track and pay for clicks to the web page, with better results.

What’s Your Experience?

Have you tried Facebook ads? How have they done for you? Let me know in the comments!

Here’s what my final ad looked like.

facebook ad image



  1. Thanks for the mention Erin!
    I’m glad the tweaks brought better results! We probably should have tested a different picture with the same copy this week (just thought of that now, you know the old saying about ‘testing’).