20 Sep '21


Facebook & Instagram ads on a small budget

The good news: people with small budgets can advertise on Facebook & Instagram with great results! Unlike traditional formats such as TV or billboard advertising, digital advertising is much more accessible for small businesses.

Done well, Facebook & Instagram ads can help you discover new audiences, reach a higher proportion of your existing audience, nurture relationships with your customers and ultimately grow things like sales and sign-ups.

The question is - how?

There are a few key rules to follow when you’re working with a smaller budget - these 6 essential steps will help get you started.

1. Stay focused

You can’t do everything at once, especially with a smaller budget. So, prioritise. What’s most important for you?

If you’re just starting out, it makes sense to focus on reaching new people and building your audience. To do this, you can run video view or engagement campaigns. Don’t worry if new audiences aren’t following or visiting your website right away - through retargeting you can continue the conversation and drive higher value actions later on.

In that way you can start the process of moving people along the journey from discovering you, nurturing and building the relationship and to purchase or sign-up to a mailing list.

If you’re more established and looking to grow sales from your existing audience, then you should focus on campaigns optimised for some sort of conversion (e.g. a purchase event or a sign-up). We wrote in more detail about this here.

2. Use existing posts

Make the most of what you’ve already got and boost existing posts (or use that content when you set up ads). You don’t need to spend time or money creating new content, and often we see more natural-feeling, regular posts outperforming bespoke content made for ads.

Starting out with some of your most popular posts is a good idea. These posts have already been road tested with your current following, and if they get a good response with those people it’s likely they will be great for paid advertising too.

3. A/B test… but start small

On Facebook & Instagram you need to spend a minimum of $1/day per audience you’re running ads to. If you’re using Ads Manager, this means $1/day minimum per adset.

So if you’re working with a budget of $5-10/day, this means that you can reach up to 5-10 audiences at once. You can run multiple ads to each of those audiences. That said, even with a budget of $20/day you might want to max out at just a few audiences to begin with (e.g. 4 audiences at $5/day), so you can keep on top of things!

Initially, the most obvious thing to test out is which content (i.e. posts) work best. With a small budget, start by running a couple of posts at a time to each audience. Be careful about testing more posts than this at once as you might not spend enough budget on each post for a fair test.

You can also test the text (copy) in your ads. How do your ads perform with a more succinct message (1-2 sentences) versus a longer description? You can’t test everything at once though, so if in doubt keep it short but sweet.

4. Define success

How do you know if spending $5 per conversion (e.g. spend $5 on ads to get 1 purchase) is good, or $50? It depends on a couple of things: what’s normal for your industry, and what makes sense with your business model?

If your products cost $400, then $50 per conversion could be a great result! If they cost $5, not so much as you’re spending $50 to generate $5 of sales.

When you’re running ads that are more about reaching new people and/or building and nurturing your audience, you can look at industry benchmarks to see how you’re doing. For example, check out the chart below from Wordstream:

You can also set targets for yourself based on past performance - for example, I reached 10,000 people last month and got 20 mailing list sign-ups. This month, I want to reach 12,000 and get 30 sign-ups. This is a little harder to do right at the beginning because you don’t have any historical data to go on, but you can generally start setting loose goals fairly early on.

5. Lean into what works

Your A/B testing should start to give you some insight into which ads are working best for the various audiences you are running ads to.

Prioritise the posts that are working best for you. Allocate more budget to the audiences that are responding best. If something is working, don’t be shy to double down!

6. Lather, rinse, repeat

Get into a regular cycle of running ads, checking in on how they’re doing, figuring out what is working and then hitting refresh and going through the cycle again.

When you have a small budget, feeling like you're throwing money away can be especially painful. Try and minimise this by learning from the testing you’re doing. If you figure out a certain type of post is responding well, put more money behind those sorts of posts in the next cycle. Hit pause on posts that don’t do as well, and start testing out a new post against the one that has done well.

Sticking to a routine - even a fairly basic one - is a great way of making sure you're putting your budget to work in the best way possible.

Can Feed help?

Hopefully this is reassuring - you can run great Facebook and Instagram ads with a small budget.

However, it still takes time and effort. We built Feed for individuals and small teams that don’t have a lot of time and resources to dedicate to marketing. We wanted to empower these people to run effective Facebook & Instagram ads under their own steam without needing a marketing person on board.

Feed’s automated ads are specifically designed for smaller budgets, testing out your posts and leaning into the content that works, moving your audience along the journey from discovery to purchase. All you have to do is connect Feed to Facebook & Instagram, set a budget and we’ll do the rest!

Learn more about Feed and get started here.

Join our newsletter