The Smart Marketer Guide To Facebook's 15 Ad Types

by Dennis Yu on Jan 21, 2014

Facebook AdsFacebook once had 29 different ad units.

Then they trimmed it to just 15 ad units on September 10, 2013.

Here’s your guide on which ones to use in what situation, accompanying Facebook’s own explanations.

If you’re content to just use Facebook’s boost button, this guide is not for you.

But if you are ready to start getting serious about leveraging Facebook ads for your business, sit back and take some notes.

This post runs long, going into a lot of detail. Go ahead and bookmark it now so you can come back to it for reference.

Ready?

Some Simple Ground Rules

Unless you do Facebook advertising as a profession, don’t worry about the exact image sizes and text length. Just post all images as big as you can and with a 2:1 aspect ratio, for example, 1200 x 600 (length x width).

And keep your posts short, under 10 words, just like you were writing copy for a billboard on the freeway.

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You’ll be spending most of your ad budget paying to make sure that your posts are showing up in the newsfeed. Thus, you’re amplifying the reach of organic content, as opposed to creating content specifically for ads.

If you try to run sponsored stories but don’t have a sufficient base, organic reach, and organic engagement, there’s nothing to amplify.

So for both of these types of content (what you say and what fans do) to work effectively, you have to employ a 3 campaign funnel strategy.

All the ad types that follow fit into this framework.

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Most people get confused here.

While we are technically paying to send messages, they should not look like “ads”, self-promotional and non-social. Think of it like paying to enhance your

organic reach.

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Page Post Ad

The page post ad is the workhorse of your campaign. We use this technique on all new ad accounts.

In particular, the page post photo ad is usually most effective at both engagement and conversion on a website, since now you can have photo clicks to to your site, as opposed to the gallery.

Page Like Ad

The second most common ad is the page like ad, where “Justin Lafferty likes [page_name]“. If you want to see a bunch of ads available to you, go to the adboard at facebook.com/ads/adboard.

Within it, you can click on “sponsored stories” to see examples of primarily page like ads. These ads convert better (fan to click ratio), because users can become a fan right from the ad unit without going to the page.

Having actions be possible within the ad unit is called an “in-line action”, and will be key to Facebook monetizing in 2014 and beyond.

Expect the ability to purchase specific items from an ad in an Amazon “one click” like way. We got a briefing at
Facebook headquarters on this back in late November.

Offers

Offer ads are for local businesses that have storefronts, where customers can physically redeem the offer. The online-only offer went away, but some on-line only businesses have jiggered this to still work for them.

App Ads

If you have an app you’ve built, you can run an app ad, but for 98% of us, we’re not in the business of selling games or driving mobile app installs.

Event Ads

Event ads are tough unless you have a strong email list and marketing power behind the event. Because you’re driving traffic for a singular event, once the event is over, you’re done. There is no on-going component, like you’d have for a page.

Domain Ads

Domain ads are powerful if you have enough traffic on your website such that people are sharing those links in their newsfeed. Probably not effective for small businesses, but it is a strong version of sponsored stories for major e-commerce and media players.

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Sponsored Stories

A sponsored story is paying to ensure newsfeed coverage when a friend does something. You can choose what that something is, liking your page, checking in (my favorite for retailers), commenting on a post, and so forth.

Note that this is content that would have been eligible to show up in the newsfeed, but likely would not have without your paying for it. The newsfeed is so competitive that without a paid strategy in 2014, you’ll not likely get enough reach (exposure).

Alternatively, there are a class of actions called “consumptions” that are clicks that do not generate stories.
For example, photo views, link clicks, navigational clicks, and the notorious grab-bag called “other clicks”.

A story is an action that could potentially show to that user’s friends.

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Bridging The Like Confusion Gap

People are most likely to get confused between a page like story and a page post like story.

The former is when people become a fan of your page, while the latter is when they like an particular post. Certainly, someone could be a fan of your page and also click “like” on one of your posts.

The confusion is around what clicking “like” means, as people aren’t sure if they’re liking the page or the post. Advertisers and end users are equally confused. That’s why we say “become a fan” when we’re talking about liking a page.

You’ll want to run your page like stories as part of your audience growth campaign and your page post like stories in your engagement campaign. Keep them separate, else you will be comparing apples and oranges.

Unless you are hard-core or a programmer, you can ignore the app shared, domain, and open graph stories.

Placements

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There are 3 places that your ads can show, called placements.

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Right Hand Side

The right column is often called RHS (Right Hand Side).

These are the 7 tiny ads that have low CTR (click through rate), but also cost less per impressions, proportionately. Generally, this placement is less effective at driving engagement within Facebook, but sometimes can outperform the newsfeed placements on website conversion campaigns.

Mobile & Desktop

The two newsfeed placements are mobile and desktop. Don’t run mobile placements unless you have a mobile-responsive site. In other words, if you squeeze your site down to a couple hundred pixels across in your web browser (to simulate looking at it on a phone), does it render okay?

Expect mobile to cost you $10-20 per thousand impressions (called CPM), while the desktop newsfeed is just under half that. One is not necessarily better than the other. Just know that the average CPC (cost per click) is often similar between all three placements.

In other words, the price you pay per click will be nearly the same, since the price per impression is balanced out by the click-through rate. Until a year ago, we had an arbitrage advantage by bidding on the mobile newsfeed placements, since the increase in price (double) was far less than the increase in CTR (5 times), leading to a cost per click of less than half.

If the above sounds like gibberish to you, just know that you should be bidding optimized CPM in nearly all cases. In other words, let Facebook do the work for you here.

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Not all ads can run in all placements.

But for the majority of folks reading this article, who aren’t using specialized ad units, it won’t matter.

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If you goal is reach, go for the RHS, since you can run the frequencies (views of an ad) much higher. We’ve seen some CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) brands run as high as 50. Not recommended, since you’ll burn out after 5-10, if not sooner.

If you want to show the highest engagement rate, run the mobile newsfeed, since the engagement rates can sometimes hit 30-40%. We’ve seen this with social brands in social verticals, but 5-6% is more common.

If you’re looking to drive more profitable traffic and leads, then placements won’t matter so much to you, you’ll just have to test what combinations work best for you.

Who really cares that much about the CTR or CPC so long as you’re doing it profitably, right?

But if you’re an agency, sometimes your client cares more about a particular metrics, like a lower CPM, more impressions, or a higher engagement rate.

In that case, use placements to be able to fluff the numbers and meet your objectives.

Page Post Text Ad

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A page post ad that is just text does generate lower CPMs. This leads some people to mistakenly conclude that a page post text ad is a “better deal”. However, remember that a photo post takes up 3-4 times more real estate in the newsfeed.

So consider if trading your 5 dimes for 10 nickels is really such a bargain. Facebook has the size and effectiveness already priced in. Your opportunity for arbitrage is through smarter targeting and copy, not through bid optimization or placement tricks.

Page Post Photo Ad

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The page post photo ad is our favorite.

Did you know that you can include multiple photos in the post?

We recommend sticking with one.

While you can have up to 500 characters for the text in the desktop placement, just keep it under 90 characters so you can run the ad across multiple placements or just replicating to isolate placement performance.

Page Post Video Ad

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We used to prefer posting YouTube videos in our posts, since they were big and generated high engagement. Now that Facebook favors native video and has auto-play (no sound), you’ll have to experiment to find what works best for you.

Your cost per click should still be a lot less than YouTube TrueView in-stream ad units.

Page Post Link Ad

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The page post link ad looks very much like a page post photo ad, except all clicks go to your website.

Instead of creating multiple offers, just duplicate this ad unit and try out many different photos and audience combos.

As a dark (unpublished post), clicks on images or the text area drive people to your website. So if you found that your earlier page post ads were driving a lot of photo views under optimized CPM, try this again.

You might try optimizing to a conversion event if you want the person to fill out a form or checkout in your cart. And if you have multiple stages in the funnel, try testing against the offsite pixel that is just before the actual checkout confirmation, since it gives Facebook more data to play with to find who will convert.

Offer Ad

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You’ll get a lot of folks “claiming” your offer, which then drives sharing. But watch for breakage, or when people don’t actually redeem. Two years ago, our claim rate was only a few percent, largely because of the novelty factor.

Make sure your targeting is specific, else you risk negative ad feedback, especially with newsfeed placements.

If you’re really pro, segment your offers by custom audiences, so you have loyalty offers for existing customers and new customer offers for people not in your list (use your custom audience as an exclusion).

Event Ad

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If you’re using event management software or marketing automation, you might try testing the event ad vs a page post link ad to see what drives registrations more effectively.

Page Like Ad

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Back when getting lots of cheap fans was all the rage, we used this technique to fluff the numbers. For Carl’s Jr, we would merely say “Click LIKE if you like bacon”, which gave us an insane CTR and then a click-to-fan conversion rate north of 75%. But these were fans who were clicking like on the content (an in-line like), not actually engaging with the brand.

If you want fans, you might try the page post ad with the optimization set to driving more fans, plus running the page like sponsored story. When you have great content, the engagement ads will drive some fan growth, too. The advantage is that fans who engage with your content are higher quality than in-line likes.

The page like ad does allow you to convey a brand message, while a sponsored story does not. And if you’re clever, the CPF (Cost Per Fan) of the page like can beat the page like sponsored story, while still delivering decent quality fans that are on-message.

Mobile App Install Ad

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We see mobile app installs at 30-40 cents per install regularly for consumer-focused brands in the US. B2B works surprisingly well, too, far cheaper than Linkedin or twitter card traffic.

We used to set up a ton of micro-targets, but now find that Facebook’s optimized cPM is so smart that you can target larger audiences and have their algorithm do the work of targeting and bidding for you.

App Ad

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App ads are RHS only. So you have just 90 characters before they truncate. Sometimes truncation isn’t bad, since the reader can be curious what is next. But in one of our ads for “BlitzMetrics Analytics”, it cut off the last four letters of the second word, so be careful!

If you have an app, you’ll have to advertise to get traffic, since viral loops aren’t effective alone anymore. Expect consumer games to be 25-30 cents per install in the US if you’re doing well.

Domain Ad

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We don’t recommend domain ads, except to test versus the page post link ads. Not to be confused with domain sponsored stories are effective.

Even though Facebook decided in mid-December 2013 not to follow through with the new newsfeed layout, we still believe the RHS is not as strong and that consumers still think that the newsfeed is organic, with the RHS being just ads.

Page Like Sponsored Story

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The page like sponsored story automatically restricts connection targeting to friends-of-fans. So you can multiply combinations off this.

Make sure that if you have a fan acquisition campaign, you have an engagement campaign to nurture these new fans. The former campaign should feed the latter, as described here. Otherwise, your new fans die. And your engagement campaigns don’t feed your conversion campaigns.

Facebook gives you a newsfeed boost to new fans of your page.

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The RHS version of the page like sponsored story, much smaller.

Page Post Like Sponsored Story

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Page Post Comment Sponsored Story

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Page Post Share Sponsored Story

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Likes, shares, and comments carry different weights in the newsfeed algorithm. We’ve seen that shares are worth the most, generating approximately 13 times as many social impressions as likes.

However, why choose just one, go for them all. Our research shows that females, younger audiences, and Hispanics are more likely to click like, for example. With action spec, you can focus on one type of social engagement, but I like to think that we should allow people to choose by their own preferences and demographics.

Here are the rest of the sponsored story types.

If you have built an app, integrated open graph with your site, or are a major brand, they might apply to you.

In general, I’ll say that premium ads are the million dollar ticket for big brands that enjoy “TV-like” exposure, big ad units and takeovers. If you’re a performance advertiser, the cost per impression, cost per click, and cost per conversion of premium units won’t be as strong as the others we’ve mentioned here.

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Post Author

Dennis Yu is the Chief Architect / CTO of Portage.co. He is an internationally recognized lecturer in Facebook marketing, having been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Fox News, and CBS...

  • Franco Puetz

    Great overview Dennis, thanks for sharing!

  • jorge

    Great guide Dennis but I’ve read that all Sponsored Stories are being shut down by Facebook sometime in the next few months. Maybe it would be worth to add a note indicating this. But again, this is pretty useful.

  • Jacob Sapochnick

    Great article Dennis, learned a lot.

  • Marie Di Benedetto

    That’s correct, they’ll disappear in April but I think you can’t book them anymore already.

  • http://socialvani.com/ Chitraparna Sinha

    Simply superb Dennis :) I didn’t even know Facebook had “15″ type of ads.

  • Hillary

    What is the difference between posts set up to bid on page promotion and posts set up to target clicks? Do some go to only your fans and some to external users?

  • Ozan

    Hello. That helped too much. Thank you Dennis. Yet, i have a question. How can i create an ad with both page and post like. As you see attached (begen=like)