Back in the good ol’ days, any person who “liked” your company’s Facebook page would see every piece of content you posted.

Now, with Facebook’s news feed algorithm, only a small fraction of your community will ever see the things you post. According to Facebook, the algorithm is in place to surface more high-quality content and to make sure the most relevant content ends up in the news feeds of the people who will like, share, and comment on it the most.

But we also know that Facebook is looking for ways to monetize its billion-person platform. And so, if your content is being shown to less people, you’re more inclined to pay for opportunities to raise your brand awareness. Enter: Facebook Ads.

If you’ve ever considered advertising on Facebook, here’s what you need to know about how it works, who it reaches, and where the ads are seen.

How it Works

Facebook Ads work like a blind auction. You decide how much you want to spend, and Facebook decides where and when to show your ads based on your bid price, the other brands out there competing for the same audience, how well Facebook thinks the ad will do, and how well your past ads have performed.

But you do get a little say: Before running an ad, you get to decide if you want to pay based on clicks per cost (CPC) or clicks per mille (CPM). Clicks per cost means you’re paying every time someone clicks on your ad; clicks per mille (1,000 in Latin) means you’re paying for every 1,000 people who see your ad.

Because you’re only paying for the number of people who click on your ads, the CPC route is the less risky option (especially for advertising newbies). With CPM, you could bid the exact same amount as you did for CPC, but because you’re paying for eyeballs and not click-throughs, you could end up with less people actually clicking on the ad. The upside? If your ad is awesome and people love it, you could have way more. For a thorough breakdown of the benefits of CPC versus CPM, check out this article by AllFacebook.com.

When to Use It

If you’re interested in creating your first Facebook ad, it probably goes without saying that you want to increase awareness of your brand. But beyond that, what do you specifically want to get out of the ad campaign? The more clear you are on your end result, the more Facebook will be able to help you reach it by designing, placing, and promoting the ad in a way that’s consistent with what you want to get out of the campaign. Here are the eight objectives Facebook Ads supports:

  • Page Post Engagement: Increase likes, comments, and shares of your posts.
  • Page Likes: Increase the number of likes on your company’s page.
  • Clicks to Website: Increase the amount of people visiting your website from Facebook.
  • Website Conversions: Increase the number of people taking a specific action on your website (like buying a cookbook or signing up for a coaching service).
  • App Installs: Increase the number of people downloading your app.
  • App Engagement: Increase the activity on your app.
  • Event Responses: Increase the number of people attending your event.
  • Offer Claims: Increase the number of people taking advantage of a promotional offer for your business or product.


Who it Reaches

Over the years, Facebook has honed its ability to target specific audiences through its ad platform by collecting data on the pages we like, the interests we list, and our purchase behavior.

And that’s great for you: When creating your Facebook Ad, you can target your audience not only based on their general demographics—like age, location and gender—but by what they’re interested in—like dancing or cooking. When your ad goes live, these are the people who will see it.

Now, Facebook decides if your ad is displayed on the desktop or mobile version of the site and whether it pops up in the news feed or right-hand sidebar of the users you want to target—but all this is based on your bid price, what you want to get out of the ad, and where Facebook thinks your audience will most engage with it.

Overall, the way Facebook allows you to drill down into your target audience is awesome (hey, they’re not collecting all that data for nothing). Building your ad with a specific end result in mind—like more likes on your company’s page—is also a great feature that can make sure all that cash is actually getting you the results you want. And to help make sense of it all, Facebook has a really comprehensive management and tracking tool called “Ads Manager,” which allows you to see the cost, delivery, and results of your ad in real time.

The cons? To begin, there’s still debate over whether Facebook ads are actually effective. And unless you know advertising lingo (this girl did not), the system can be confusing—which, while you’re figuring it out, can cost you both brain cells and extra cash.

Photo of Facebook courtesy of JaysonPhotography / Shutterstock.com