29 Sep '21


A beginner’s guide to Facebook & Instagram ads

You've decided that advertising on Facebook and Instagram makes sense for your business or project. It's a great way of reaching new people and you can actually make sure your existing audience hears from you regularly, and is up to speed with what you're doing.

Promoting on Facebook & Instagram the right way, however, can be a bit daunting. This article will guide you through the process of setting up a great ad.

FYI: This article is a summary guide for setting up Facebook & Instagram ads. We’ll publish a longer article for each section below that will go into more detail about that particular step.

On an ongoing basis, you’ll need to think beyond a single ad approach - running multiple ads to move people along your customer journey: from discovering you to taking an action like signing up to a mailing list, or buying something.

But, for now, let's get you started with these 7 essential steps!

1. Set your goal

Before you jump in, it’s important to first think about why you’re advertising and what you’re aiming to achieve. By setting yourself a few goals, you'll have a yardstick against which you can measure some sort of success (informal / rough goals are fine at the start).

You can’t do everything at once, especially if you’re just starting out and/or you have a smaller budget. So, prioritise. What’s most important for you?

If you’re looking to get mailing list signups from Facebook Ads, you could set a goal of 50 sign-ups in the first month. Or if it’s simply ‘get more followers on Instagram’, you could look at a similar numerical goal or even a % growth for the month.

Other goals might include:

  • Get more sales from Facebook Ads
  • Increase traffic to my website
  • Generate new leads
  • Increase reach on Instagram
  • Boost engagement

2. Ads manager or boosting posts?

You might be aware there are a couple of options when it comes to running ads. You can promote a post on Instagram (or boost a Facebook post) or use Facebook Ads Manager.

Promoting a post is easier, but you have much less control and power at your fingertips and your results might not be as strong. So we recommend investing some time upfront to learn how to use Ads Manager.

Once you’re in Ads Manager... don’t despair! You can navigate between campaigns, ad sets and ads using the tabs and other tools using the left-hand menu. It will get easier as you get more familiar with the interface.

To get started, click the green “+ Create” button.

3. Choose your objective

When you create a Facebook Ad, you’ll go to a page where you choose the campaign objective. There are a few options to choose from.

Facebook groups these objectives into 3 categories:


These objectives are used to reach people and build awareness of what you’re doing. These people most likely won’t have heard of you before (“cold audiences”).

Brand Awareness and Reach campaigns are generally a cheap way of reaching lots of people. What they won’t do as well is generate engagement (which is needed for retargeting - see below) or get more conversions (like sign-ups or purchases).


These objectives are used to get people to ‘consider’ what you’re doing: engage with your ads, visit a website or submit information. You can:

  • Send people to a destination (website, app or a Facebook event)
  • Get people to engage with your ads (likes, comments etc)
  • Get installs of your app
  • Get video views (of your ads)
  • Get leads for your business (forms, calls or chats to gather information)
  • Run messages campaigns (engage with people on Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram Direct)

We find engagement and video view campaigns particularly useful because they are a great way of growing an audience that you can retarget (reach again) - and these campaigns are more effective at doing this than Awareness objectives.

Once you have created an audience of people who have engaged with you or viewed a video, you can retarget them to continue the conversation, nurture the relationship and drive deeper engagement like follows, website visits and purchases.


Conversion objectives are geared towards encouraging interested people to purchase, use your product or service or sign-up to a mailing list.

  • Increase conversions on your website (things like purchases, sign-ups, page views)
  • Promote a product or catalogue (on Facebook/Instagram)
  • Store traffic (reach people most likely to visit your physical stores)

After you’ve chosen your objective, you can then name your campaign. Choose something clear that also includes the campaign objective - when you have a few going, vague names can cause confusion!

4. Set a budget

You can set a daily or lifetime budget. A daily budget is the average that you’ll spend each day and lifetime budget is the maximum that you’ll spend during the lifetime of your campaign.

We recommend starting with a daily budget and getting into a routine of checking in on your ads - this means it is easier to tweak your budget in response to the results. It may be easier to scale up your daily budget to monthly (multiply by 30!) to check

We’re working on a fuller article about what results you can expect for a given budget but - spoiler alert - even a daily budget of £5-10 ($7-15) can make a big impact.

We recommend you set your budget at the campaign level - this is called “campaign budget optimisation”. Setting your budget at the campaign level means Facebook can automatically allocate your budget across multiple ad sets, spending more on the audiences that work best. It’s a really easy way of testing different audiences ('A/B testing' audiences).

You can also spend spending limits on the ad set level, if you want to ensure that some of your ad sets are allocated a minimum amount of budget.

5. Choose your target audience

For more detail, see our article about setting up lookalikes and custom audiences.

Setting up your target audience is critical for great Facebook & Instagram ad performance, and is done at the ad set level.

Use lookalikes and custom audiences for discovering new people (lookalikes) and retargeting audiences (custom audiences). You can customize your audience based on the following demographics / filters:

  • Location – target people in certain countries, cities, towns, states… you can even enter zip codes (postcodes) and set a radius for targeting.
  • Age, gender, languages spoken.
  • Interests – target people based on their interests, activity and the Pages they like. You may be a bit restricted here as Facebook only lets you target interests that lots of people engage with (targeting people who like a smaller brand, or a niche musician, might not be possible).
  • Behaviors – reach people based on purchase behaviour or intent, device usage and more.
  • Demographics – education, employment, household and lifestyle details.
  • Connections – you can include or exclude people who are connected to certain pages, apps, or events.

One word of advice: don’t try to be too clever in beating Facebook at its own game. Interest targeting can be great - especially when you’re starting to build your audience from scratch - but sometimes a lookalike can be much more effective at reaching the right sorts of people.

If the inputs to the lookalike are the right sorts of people (a customer list, people who have visited your website) then Facebook’s own targeting will often outperform your own.

6. Choose placements

Your ad placements determine where your ads are shown across Facebook, Instagram and other parts of the Facebook ad network. This could include Facebook and Instagram Feeds, Instagram Stories, Instagram Reels, Whatsapp stories and Instagram Explore.

The recommended setting is automatic placements, which means Facebook will select placements for you for best optimisation / the lowest cost. This can be a good option to start with.

However, there may be good reason to select ‘manual placements’ if you want to be a bit more restrictive about where your ads can be shown. For example, it may not make sense for people to view your products or work on Apps and Sites (external websites) or in Messenger inbox. For most campaign objectives, Facebook and Instagram feed placements work well, and although they’re typically the most competitive and expensive, they’re the most native and often tend to drive more conversions.

7. Create your ads

You’ve done most of the setup by this point - great job!

Now you have another choice: should you make a fresh ad or use an existing post?

Our advice: creating content takes time and effort, so avoid adding to your workload an start out by using your existing (‘organic’) Facebook & Instagram posts for ads.

Begin with the posts most popular with your existing following - they have already been ‘road tested’ with an audience and are likely to work well. As an added bonus… our data suggests natural feeling, organic content tends to outperform bespoke content made for ads anyway!

If you want to create a new ad rather than use an existing post (sometimes called a ‘dark ad'), you can select from a number of formats:

  • Single image or video
  • Carousel - scrollable images or videos
  • Collection - a group of items that opens up into a full-screen experience

You can usually see recommended image or video ‘specs’ (like required image size or video length) in Ads Manager, but there is also a handy Facebook guide on ad specs available.

Once you’ve added the content to your ad, you’ll be able to tailor the content to the placements. Make sure the ad looks great in the placements you have chosen - for example, do a sense check that it looks great for feed placements as well as stories / reels.

If you’re sending people to your website (e.g. with a traffic or conversion campaign), make sure the relevant link is set on the ad. You will also need to set the ‘call to action’, which is simply the text in the button that people click which says things like ‘Learn More’ or ‘Shop Now’.

You’ll want to test out multiple posts / ads to see which perform the best (‘A/B’ testing)... but that’s outside the scope of this article! Check out our other blog articles for more information on how to do this.

... and go!

Once you hit 'Publish' your ad will be submitted. Nice one!

Your ad will then go into 'review' by Facebook before it starts running, to check it complies with their policies on things like content and non-discrimination. You’ll get a confirmation email from Facebook once the ad starts running.

Can Feed help?

So that’s your guide to getting started with Facebook & Instagram ads. It might sound like a lot of work, especially for setting up a single ad!

We built Feed to help by automating, well, pretty much everything above. Feed is a set-and-forget platform that makes running great ads incredibly simple for creative entrepreneurs and people running small businesses.

All you have to do is connect Feed to Facebook & Instagram, set a goal and a budget... and Feed will do the rest.

If you want to chat with the Feed team about any or all of this, come say hi on Discord!

Or you can sign up to Feed right now and look around!

Join our Discord

Join our newsletter