For small business owners, advertising can seem like an uphill climb.
First, people won’t just hear about your business by accident—you make that happen.
Then, you have to present your products or services in a way that triggers purchases. That sounds easier than it is.
Finally, you’ll need to figure out how to retain customers and prompt future purchases—another tough task.
All those steps can be achieved through advertising, but, when faced with creating three ad campaigns with three very different goals, you may feel a little bit overwhelmed. That’s where Facebook advertising can help.
Whether your objective is to build awareness, drive sales, or increase customer loyalty, an ad that’s engaging and carefully tailored to your audience will have the desired effect. While that statement is true of all advertising, it’s doubly true when it comes to Facebook advertising.
Facebook ads can be created in a wide range of formats, sizes, and styles, for a huge array of available placements, reaching countless platforms. That flexibility is exactly what’s needed to address all the numerous advertising objectives that you’ll have while growing your business.
This article will describe the ad formats that Facebook supports, explain their purpose and usage, and list Facebook’s current requirements and recommendations for implementing each type of ad.
Before jumping into Facebook ad formats, let’s take a brief look at a powerful tool that can help you manage your ads— Facebook Business Manager.
Take Control Using Facebook Business Manager
You don’t have to use Facebook Business Manager to handle your ads, but it sure helps. You can control all your ad accounts and Pages through one interface and specify who can work on them.
Having a separate ad account for different parts of your business can help you refine your advertising strategy, and it won’t necessarily complicate your ad management activities. With Business Manager, you get a centralized view of all the audiences, images, and other marketing assets that you use to create ads and Page posts.
You can also use Business Manager to generate valuable ad performance reports that let you know how well each ad is meeting its objective. You get access to this performance data for all your ads, across different accounts.
If you have someone assisting you and need to grant them access, you can do so in a safe and secure way, giving role-based permissions for specific ad accounts and Pages.
Facebook strongly encourages users to take advantage of Business Manager, but it’s not a requirement. That being said, they recently restricted the use of Custom Audience Email lists to Business Manager. If the thinking that led to that decision continues, we can expect more ad management capabilities to be moved into Business Manager in the future.
Make the Most of All Available Ad Formats
The variety of ad formats and the flexibility with which they can be implemented, are two reasons Facebook is such a powerful advertising platform. This section will describe the supported ad formats, explain their purpose, and, where applicable, pass on Facebook’s format-specific requirements and recommendations.
A picture is worth a thousand words. That old saying takes on new relevance in the world of online advertising, where every inch of space matters.
A photo ad on Facebook is a great way to let people know your company exists and showcase your products or services. Paired with a small amount of compelling copy, your photo ad can help drive traffic to your site.
Try to keep the text to a minimum—too much will take the focus away from your image and can even result in fewer people seeing your ad. If you can show your product in use, or capture a shot of your service being performed, the ad will be more compelling.
Facebook recommends that you use the highest resolution images available, unless you include a link, in which case, the suggested resolution is at least 1,080 x 1,080px. Here are more requirements you should be aware of:
- File type—Use jpg or png. (If you plan to use an animated gif, it should be uploaded as a video ad.)
- Image size and ratio— Minimum image width is 600px; minimum height is 600px. The acceptable ratio range is 9:16 to 16:9, but if you’re including a link, it’s 1.91:1 to 1:1. (The aspect ratio tolerance is 3%.)
- Text—The effective limit is 125 characters. More text is allowed, but it may be truncated.
- Headline—In photo ads that include a link, the headline text limit is 25 characters. Exceeding that limit may cause the text to be truncated.
- Link description—More than 30 characters may be truncated.
- Text percentage—If your images consist of more than 20% text, the ad’s delivery may be reduced.
On mobile devices, nothing catches the eye like video, and let’s face it, that’s where people’s eyes are most of the time—pointed directly at their mobile device.
Facebook has done considerable research into how people consume video, and they designed their video ad platform to support a variety of effective strategies.
Nailing the right video length is a balancing act. Make it short, but not so short that you can’t share the message you want. The general idea is to use a video that captures attention quickly and presents a clear message.
You should use the highest resolution video you can get, but ensure there’s no letter or pillar boxing—that means no ugly black bars!
Here’s a list of other requirements for Facebook video ads:
- File type—Facebook supports most video file types.
- Video ratio—The approved range is 9:16 to 16:9. (Aspect ratio tolerance is 3%.) Note that a vertical video, which means anything with an aspect ratio taller than 2:3, may be masked to 2:3.
- File size—There’s a hard limit of 4GB.
- Length min and max—Your video must be at least 1 second, and no more than 240 minutes long.
- Captions and sound—Both are optional but should be used when possible.
- Text—The limit is 125 characters; you can use more, but the text may be truncated.
- Headline—Video ads that include a link should have a headline that is 25 characters or less. Text exceeding that limit may be truncated.
- Link description—More than 30 characters may be truncated.
- Thumbnail text percentage—If your thumbnail image has more than 20% text, the ad’s delivery may be reduced.
A collection ad is meant to draw customers in, visually prompting them to learn about your business, browse your products and services, and then make a purchase. That’s done by displaying a cover image or video, plus four smaller images laid out in a grid. After clicking on a collection ad, the next thing a prospect will see is your Instant Experience ad. There’s a whole section on those later.
Here are a few details about collection ads that you should know:
- Cover image or video—This is automatically chosen. It will be the first media asset from your full-screen canvas.
- Text—Anything over 90 characters may be truncated.
- Headline—Use 25 characters or less. Text exceeding that limit may be truncated.
Carousel ads let you showcase as many as ten individually-linked images or videos in one ad.
That gives you the ultimate flexibility to show a range of products, or you can use the space to get specific, drilling down into product or service details.
You get to decide if the cards are displayed in an automatically optimized sequence, or in the order you specify. That can help if you want to use the carousel to relate a story about your brand.
Below are details that you’ll need when creating a carousel ad:
- Number of cards—You must use at least 2 cards, and no more than 10 cards.
- File type—For images, use jpg or png. All supported video file formats can be used in carousel ads.
- File size—Video files must be no larger than 4GB. The maximum image file size is 30MB.
- Length—Video can be no more than 240 minutes long.
- Image resolution—It’s advised that you use at least 1080 x 1080px.
- Recommended ratio—Use 1:1. (Aspect ratio tolerance is 3%.
- Text—More than 125 characters may be truncated.
- Headline—Use 40 characters or less. Text exceeding that limit may be truncated.
- Link description—More than 20 characters may be truncated.
- Text percentage—If your images have more than 20% text, the ad’s delivery may be reduced.
A Facebook slideshow ad is like a video ad, except it’s a series of images and quick clips that you put together as a way to showcase your products or services. All the elements of motion and sound that you get from a video ad are still present, but a slideshow ad is easier to create than a video ad.
You can use your own images or select from stock images, and you can edit video clips to add text, effects, and music.
Slideshow ads load faster than video, so they’re great if you’re reaching out to an audience with slower connections. According to Facebook, delivering a slideshow ad uses 5X less data than delivering a video ad.
Note that all of the requirements and recommendations for image ads and video ads also apply to slideshow ads.
Facebook Stories ads have only existed since late 2018. They provide a slick platform for promoting your business. Story ads don’t feel like ads. They take the form of a full-screen presentation that creates an immersive experience for users and prompts them to take action.
Facebook Stories ads show up in the Stories feed on Facebook. An image will display for up to six seconds, and a video can be as long as 15 seconds. When a user’s interest is sufficiently stoked, they can simply swipe up on a call to action and be sent to the landing page of your choice.
Stories were originally popular on Instagram and quickly became known as a major element of how people find and share content. According to Facebook, “an Ipsos survey of stories use commissioned by Facebook IQ found that 68% of people say they use stories on at least three apps regularly, and 63% plan to use stories more in the future.”
Advertisers in all areas of business have adopted the format as an effective way to create engaging ads that result in increased sales. Facebook Stories ads support all the marketing objectives you may have, including brand awareness, conversion, traffic, lead generation, and more. Plus, they fit in with Facebook’s targeting and measurement facilities, so you can optimize their effectiveness, and then see proof that they’re working as intended.
The goal of almost any ad is to get people to take action. Stories ads are great at prompting the action you want. Facebook points out that a majority of people surveyed “said they’re making more online purchases as a result of seeing stories.” Additionally, “38% of people said that, after seeing a product or service in a story, they talked to someone about it, and 34% said they went to a store to look for it.”
Facebook predicts that the amount of sharing via stories will exceed sharing in feeds in 2019. It’s an ad format that can’t be ignored, and we recommend learning all you can about it. Check out this article about why Facebook Stories ads will be the next big thing.
An Instant Experience ad is an immersive, full-screen, multimedia showcase for your products and services. Prospects can watch videos, flip through photo collections, fill out a form, and more.
Instant Experience ads seamlessly integrate almost all the Facebook ad formats, including images, videos, carousels, slideshows, and collections.
With all the combined formats that make up an Instant Experience ad, the requirements and recommendations are numerous and somewhat complicated. We’ll summarize them below, but if you plan to create an Instant Experience ad, we recommend that you review all the specifications laid out by Facebook.
- Images—In Instant Experience ads, images take up the whole width of the screen by default. You can use as many as 20 images, and they can be sized with a fit-to-width or fit-to-height format.
- Videos—All the videos in your Instant Experience ad will play automatically, on a loop, with no sound. You can configure them to display full width or fit- to- screen. You can include as many videos as you like, but, all together, the duration can’t be more than two minutes.
- Tilt-to-Pan—With this feature implemented, your wide image or video starts out centered and a user can tilt the phone to see the hidden parts on either side. You need to select the fit-to-height option for your images, and they can be as wide as 5x the screen width.
- Text—In an Instant Experience ad, text appears on a background color defined by your theme. There can be multiple text blocks, each up to 500 words.
- Buttons—At least one button is required in an Instant Experience ad, with numerous design options available. Text on the buttons can be up to 30 characters and must fit on a single line. Every Instant Experience ad will also display a back button and a swipe arrow for scrolling.
Lead Generation Ads
Lead generation ads make it easier to collect information from your prospects. An image, video, or carousel draws them in, and then a lead form is presented once the users click the ad.
When the form appears, it will already be filled in with the user’s Facebook contact information. That’s important on mobile devices—if it’s not incredibly easy to fill out and submit, people will readily abandon a form. Facebook lead ads are designed to solve that problem.
You can refine your target audience by customizing the form to request the exact information you need. Then, it’s easy to pull that information into your CRM and use it to improve your advertising and sales strategies.
Whether you’re soliciting requests for a quote or demo, working to increase your newsletter subscriptions, or trying to get people signed up for an event, lead ads are a great way to do it.
People can’t resist a bargain. A sure way to get their attention is to present them with a discount or any kind of money-saving offer. For a potential buyer who’s on the fence, an attractive offer can be the thing that finally convinces them to pull the trigger on a purchase.
Offer ads, which can take the form of an image, video, or carousel, are a fantastic way for you to increase sales by giving discounts and promotions to any segment of your customer base you chose to target. They’re highly customizable, and you can set up automated reminders that help ensure those who claim your offer redeem it before it expires.
When people claim an in-store offer, you’ll give them a barcode or QR code that they can show the cashier at checkout. An online offer takes people directly to your website and gives them a discount code to use when they’re finished shopping.
Page posts, when they are liked, shared, or commented on, can be marketing gold for your small business. That’s what post engagement ads are all about.
When you create a post that’s designed to encourage action (liking, sharing, or commenting), more people will perform one of those actions. Every time they do, your Page post will be added to the user’s feed, and all their friends and family will see it.
That makes post engagement ads a great way to increase your customer base, deliver updates and stories about your business, engage a new or existing audience, and grow brand awareness.
What if you held a sales event and nobody came? Too many small businesses owners have found out what that’s like. All the promotional materials get boxed up, and it’s back to the drawing board to figure out what went wrong.
With an event response ad on Facebook, you can fill up the attendee list for your event faster than you ever thought possible. You can use an image or a video to zero in on the exact audience you want, factoring in traits like age, gender, interests, and location.
Plus, as soon as they use the ad to join your event, an entry is added to their Facebook calendar automatically, which helps cut down on no-shows.
Make people aware of your event and give them a very simple way to sign-up. If you do those two things, you’re much more likely to have a great turnout.
Facebook event response ads are a fantastic way to let people know about your event. They provide a fast an easy way for people to opt in, and they give you real-time data about how many people have responded.
Facebook users love Messenger, and it’s a great place to connect with users who may have already touched base with your business at some point.
They work just like other kinds of Facebook ads—they’re automatically delivered to the placement that will achieve the greatest results for the lowest amount of money.
Messenger ads will show up in users’ Messenger app, and when a user taps one, they’ll be directed to your home page, a specific landing page, your app, or any destination you configure when creating the ad.
One form these ads take is the click-to-Messenger ad. They send people straight into a Messenger conversation with your company.
Another variation of Messenger ads is the sponsored message, which lets you fine-tune the target audience by marketing to the people who have already engaged with your business in Messenger.
Going with a sponsored message means you’ll need to be ready to respond immediately to anyone who reaches out as a result of the ad. That level of targeted messaging creates an expectation that you will respond quickly.
Be Aware of Facebook Ads Terms
Facebook Ads terms have changed over time, so it’s a good idea to stay up-to-date on the latest rules. For example, currently, if you have an ad that promotes alcohol, there’s a long list of countries where that ad won’t be displayed. If you want to advertise a dating service, you’ll need permission from Facebook. Online pharmacy owners should be aware that promoting the sale of prescription pharmaceuticals is against the rules.
Facebook takes a strong stand to ensure that ads don’t violate their Community Standards; promote illegal products, services, or activities; or encourage discrimination against people based on personal attributes. All it takes is using certain words in a post—Facebook will likely review the content to ensure it does not violate their rules.
Calling out personal attributes is a common reason for an ad being denied. While it’s important to carefully identify your audience, and being very specific is a good way to do that, you have to be careful about the language you use in your ads.
Facebook’s vigilance in enforcing standards extends beyond their domain. They will follow your ad links to ensure that traffic is not being driven to sites with policy violations.
Most businesses end up complying with all of Facebooks’ rules without even knowing it, but if you’re ever unsure whether your ad content is platform-approved, surf out to the Facebook’s Ads terms page and find out.
Track Ad Performance with Facebook Pixel
There’s a two-step process that stops some small businesses dead in their tracks: measuring the effectiveness of their ad campaign, and then taking steps to optimize it.
The Facebook pixel can help you do both of those things, and, it makes it easier to build your audiences. It’s a small piece of code you can include on your site that will track all kinds of valuable metrics regarding visitor behavior.
Every time a user takes an action on your site, the Facebook pixel logs it. It builds a report that you can use to retarget those customers. The detailed information is broken down in a way that helps you analyze the performance of your cross-device ads, and it highlights ads that could perform better.
Facebook recently made a change in the pixel so it supports standard event codes. It’s an enhancement that can make your analysis more precise. Facebook has organized the standard event codes based on industry type to make it even easier to select the best ones to use for your site.
Stop displaying ads to people who almost never respond to your call to action. It’s possible to replace that audience with one that’s much more responsive, and the Facebook pixel is a tool that can make that happen.
Leverage the Flexibility of Facebook Advertising
As you saw in our breakdown of Facebook ad formats, the flexibility you have in choosing the type, size, and features of your ad content is off the charts. There are dozens of ways to reach out to customers and prospects, showcase your products and services, and drive sales through creative advertising techniques.
Innovative new placements like Stories and Messenger ensure that your ads maximize customer engagement and are shown in the right place, at the right time, to the right audience.
If you have a clear idea of your advertising objectives and a detailed understanding of your audiences, you can leverage the flexibility of Facebook ads to plan and implement an ad campaign that will meet your business goals.
Are you actively using Facebook ads to promote your business?