A Simple Beginner's Guide to Facebook and Instagram Advertising Strategy

Acquiring customers is the lifeblood of any ecommerce business. With a vast network of literally billions of users and rich data to target those users based on their interests, Facebook and Instagram are two core platforms for any advertising strategy. 

A Simple Beginner's Guide to Facebook and Instagram Advertising Strategy

Acquiring customers is the lifeblood of any ecommerce business. With a vast network of literally billions of users and rich data to target those users based on their interests, Facebook and Instagram are two core platforms for any advertising strategy. While it certainly can seem intimidating to try to figure out what the best way to advertise to potential customers might be, the reality is that a social advertising strategy is not rocket science and ecommerce merchants can build a valuable acquisition channel by following a few core principles.

Below is a starter guide on Facebook and Instagram advertising that outlines best practices for creating three different ad campaigns. This should serve as a resource for beginners to understand what content tends to work best, how to format content and general copywriting recommendations.

After reading this guide, a merchant should be equipped to create a series of key advertising campaigns at key points in the user journey or customer acquisition funnel. More advanced tactics like ongoing optimization of budgets, optimization events, the logic behind changes based on performance, A/B testing campaigns and mitigating tracking issues with the recent iOS 14 changes will be addressed in future guides.

This guide is written with new Shopify store owners in mind, but the concepts are applicable for any business on any ecommerce platform.

The Advertising Funnel 

Facebook Business Manager gives you the ability to target users at various points in their journey--their experience with a brand from introduction to purchase.  It is important to have a presence throughout a user's journey, so that a brand can serve advertising that is tailored to that user, making them more likely to purchase. 

For example, users that have never heard of a brand before are likely to respond to a piece of content differently than users that have bought from the brand previously and just recently abandoned a checkout. To establish easily digestible "journey points," divide them into three categories:

  • Top Funnel: Users that have not heard of the brand, or maybe they've heard of the brand, but they have had limited interaction. This is where the majority of your advertising spend will occur.
  • Mid Funnel: Users that have heard of the brand before and engaged on Facebook or Instagram recently, but are not in an active purchase process (i.e. recently been to the website, added a product to cart, etc.).
  • Bottom Funnel: Users that have expressed interest in a particular product(s) and just need a "nudge" to complete a purchase. 

The types of ads that a brand may serve will differ across each of these points in the funnel. For merchants just starting out with advertising, to "get your feet wet," start with a bottom-funnel campaign like retargeting, as this area will likely convert users first and at a lower cost and then move on to other areas. 

Ad #1: Bottom Funnel

First is an example of a bottom funnel campaign. This is an example of Add to Cart Retargeting, which is set to serve to shoppers who have recently added a product to cart, but not purchased in the last seven days. This isn't a "set it and forget it" type of ad (none are), but this type of campaign can be impactful year-round, whether its during the holidays or an otherwise "inactive" time in a yearly sales calendar.

Expedition Roasters Coffee Company

The example shown is from Expedition Roasters and it serves dynamically updated product content. This means the products visible to a shopper are based on their activity and the general sales activity on the website. The most relevant products to that user serve first.

A product feed can be synced with Facebook Business Manager in a few ways. The first way, and likely easiest way for a merchant just starting out, is to use Shopify's Facebook Sales Channel. Alternatively, an app like Flexify can also be used. 

The goal here is to incentivize a user to return to the website to complete a purchase, whether that means just presenting information or offering a discount is also advisable here.

If a company is first starting out with advertising, the budget can start small with this type of campaign. Even as low as $5-10/day is okay.

Ad #2: Mid Funnel

Next is a mid funnel campaign. Whether it's a single image, carousel of products, video about the brand, etc. This ad is meant to be served to users that have recently engaged.

Below is an example from Art of Play. This ad served to users that have Engaged with their Instagram or Facebook pages in the previous 15 days. In other words, users that have watched a video, or interacted with a post or ad in some way recently are meant to see it. 

Art of Play

Campaigns like this are meant to reach users that have expressed some level of interest in a business. Perhaps they have heard of the brand before, perhaps they have not. Or, maybe they have purchased in the past, but not in a while. Use this ad as an opportunity to bring users to the website after first being "hooked" in by a top funnel campaign (more on that next). 

Try starting with one campaign with three ads that serves to users that have engaged with the business on either Facebook or Instagram in the last two weeks. The budget can be more open-ended here. It should be higher than a retargeting campaign. If there you were at a $10/day budget, try $20/day here. 

Ad #3: Top Funnel

Top funnel campaigns will bring in the highest volume of traffic. This is about finding new potential customers, which can be done in a variety of ways.

Use interest-based targeting to target users that have expressed interest in competitors, related services or other interests. Utilize Lookalike Audiences. Depending on the history of sales and other metrics on a site, with these Facebook will determine who users are that are most alike those that have performed previous actions such as purchases, initiated checkouts, added a product to cart, visited a website, etc. 

For companies with more modest budgets, consider running ads that are optimized for engagement, link clicks or landing page views at this step, as opposed to more "down funnel" actions like add to cart, initiate checkout or purchase. A starting budget on a campaign should be somewhere in the $20-30/day range. 

The example below shows ads from a prospecting campaign for Levain Bakery, showcasing their ooey, gooey cookies.

Levain Bakery

Common Question

I'm running advertising, but users are not purchasing. Why?

The truth to this one is there are, of course, many potential reasons why an ad may not be working.

  • Is the ad relevant to the audience being targeted? Consider a targeting change.
  • Could the content of the ad be improved? Use a different image or video. 
  • Are you using the best optimization event? Not all ads, especially when first starting out, should be optimized for purchases. In order for ads to run properly through their Learning Phase (where Facebook's algorithm is assessing the best audience to serve an ad do, during which time costs can be inefficient) 50 of a particular optimization event need to happen over a 7 day period for that ad set to move to Active. If 50 purchases aren't coming from that particular ad set each week, consider modifying the optimization event to Add to Cart or View Content. 
  • Is the ad not the problem? Consider where users are landing when clicking through an ad. If the website is not in the best place it could possibly be, consider an adjustment. While it could be the case, this doesn't necessarily mean that a site would require an intensive project to update it. Consider general best practices like:
    • Does the first page a user lands on make it clear what the company sells?
    • Are product images high resolution?
    • Does the main menu / navigation focus on shopping-specific links as opposed to primarily info pages?
    • Is the website optimized for mobile?
    • Do the colors on the page contrast well?
    • Are there any spelling errors on the site?
    • If you as a business owner were visiting your site, would you buy something?

Now what?

These high-level concepts only scratch the surface regarding the capabilities of the Facebook Advertising platform, as well as the types of strategies to employ to get the most out of every dollar that is spent in advertising. But, at their core, every ad that gets placed on social media can fall in line to one of these three key buckets and these should be starting points for any new business trying to drive new traffic and sales.

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