Facebook Ads 101

Published by Charlotte Davies


Facebook (with the inclusion of Instagram) is the undisputed king of social ads. Although several other channels that are trying to offer alternatives to DTC marketers, no other platform can yet match the detailed targeting, reporting, and scale that Facebook can. Naturally, since it’s such a powerful tool, the internet is littered with thousands of options to learn about Facebook’s ad manager. But if you’re new to the world of social ads, you can often get lost spending hours and hours learning about nitty-gritty Facebook tactics without yet having a solid grasp of the fundamentals. Before you get lost in the sauce, let’s bring it back to the basics.

The Facebook Pixel

Facebook is the king of data. Your “Pixel” is a snippet of code that you inject into your website that informs Facebook what type of traffic is coming to your site, and what type of actions they’re taking: viewing products, adding products to cart, or purchasing products. Over time, your pixel trains the algorithm to have the best possible understanding of which type of traffic will ultimately convert into a sale (or whatever your ultimate conversion objective is). 


Aside from its massive scale, Facebook’s trump card is its unmatched audience targeting abilities, but the first step to successful targeting actually occurs before you even open your Ad Manager. You need to spend time to deeply understand your ideal customer profile, whether it’s through customer surveys, researching competing brands in the space, or just being an ideal customer yourself. Once you know who your buyers are, where they’re congregating, and why your product will be valuable to them, you’re ready to create your Facebook Audiences. Inside your Business Manager, you’ll be able to create three different types of audiences:

Saved audiences

A saved audience is essentially an ideal customer profile that you build yourself. You can narrow down your audience with three different criteria: interests (i.e. My ideal customer likes “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu”), demographics (i.e. my ideal customer is a 30-40-year-old man who lives in the USA), and behaviour (i.e. likely to engage with political content). 

Lookalike audiences

As you collect more and more information in your pixel, you’ll eventually have enough data to build a lookalike audience. As the name suggests, a lookalike audience is you telling the Facebook algorithm to go out on its own and target all users who look somewhat similar to people who have taken a particular action on your site. 

Custom audiences

Custom audiences allow you to target customers who have interacted with your business in very specific ways – like those who have visited your website in the past or have interacted with your social profiles. Among other use cases, this can be a great way to retarget cold traffic. 

As you think about your audience strategy, it’s important to remember that Facebook’s targeting granularity is a double-edged sword: even though you can dive incredibly deep on who you’re targeting, you want to give the algorithm some flexibility on testing the market and coming to its own conclusion. Instead of narrowing down your audience to “Male Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athletes from the ages of 30-40 who have a university education and recently purchased a home” (because you can do that on Facebook!) – keep your targeting relatively broad in the early days and let your pixel do a bit of learning on its own. 


There are three levels of structure within Facebook ads: “Campaigns”, “Ad Sets”, and “Ad”. If you think of Facebook like a computer, you can think of the “Campaign” level as the folder that includes all other information about a particular ad strategy. You’ll give Facebook a few high-level directions at this level:


We’d recommend you build yourself a basic naming convention to follow for all your campaigns, just to quickly keep track of different strategies. For example, you could name TOF_BJJ_UK_Men – which translates to “Top Of Funnel” (it’s a cold saved audience you’re targeting), “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu” (this is the interest), “UK” (demographics), and “Men” (demographics). This way you can understand which strategies are performing effectively, and which are ready to shut down.


Facebook is incredibly effective at finding users who will satisfy the objective of your campaign, but sometimes these users will only satisfy that single objective. Many brands have fallen into this trap: They’ll set the campaign objective to “traffic” when in reality they want people to buy products. Then Facebook ends up doing a fantastic job of sending a lot of cheap traffic… but none of these users have a history of actually purchasing products, and so they don’t end up getting any sales. We’d advise you to take some time to research and experiment with different Campaign Objectives you can play with – but Conversions is a good place to start for an ecommerce business.


The campaign level is where you’ll tell Facebook how much you’re comfortable spending on a daily basis, and then the new “Campaign Budget Optimization” will intelligently optimize that spend across different ad sets and ads within the campaign.  

Ad sets

Ad sets are where you specify “how” and “to whom” your campaigns will be delivered to. 

Conversion event

At the campaign level, if you tasked Facebook with a “conversion” traffic objective, here’s where you’ll specify what type of conversion you actually want. For ecommerce, “Purchase” is a safe selection.


You’ll be able to indicate which audience – of the ones you built early – you’ll want to target here.


Facebook has a whole host of different avenues to display ads to users: new feed on desktop, the video feed on mobile, between stories on Instagram, etc. Here you’ll be able to specify which placements you want your ad to display on (hint: in the early days select “Automatic” and let Facebook optimise the delivery of your ads until you figure out which placements are working the best). 


After you’ve finished all the operational tinkering at the Campaign and Ad Set level – you’ve finally reached the part of your strategy that the end-user actually sees. Here you’ll be able to choose your type of ad (single image, multiple image “carousel”, or a video), upload your creative (the image/video itself), and add in the text that shoppers will see on their news feeds. 

Facebook ads are a lifelong learning experience for any DTC marketer – but you can’t start implementing advanced techniques until you’ve built your strategies on strong fundamentals. 

Ecommerce paid social media experts

If you need further help to manage your Facebook Ads account, Velstar can help. Our team of paid social media experts have a proven track record when it comes to delivering results by leveraging the power of Facebook Ads effectively. Get in touch!

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