The Difference Between Facebook Ads & Boosted Posts

The Difference Between Facebook Ads & Boosted Posts

It’s no secret that Facebook is a good place to look for your target audience. You’re likely to find them when you consider that 69% of adults in America have an account, with 70% of them checking their account daily.

Companies are smart to focus a portion of their marketing on Facebook. The problem is, many of them don’t do it correctly, failing to capitalize on the platform’s vast potential by limiting their efforts to the free features. The free features of Facebook have limited reach and aren’t likely to generate many new leads or sales… if any.

If you aren’t willing to pay for enhanced Facebook features, posting is a hobby, not a legitimate marketing and sales strategy.

The first step to Facebook marketing success is pulling out your credit card. Paid features combined with a sound strategy set the stage. The offer and content grab the attention. And finally, the call to action gets leads into the sales funnel.

Facebook offers two forms of paid promotion: Facebook ads and boosted posts. On the surface, Facebook ads and boosted posts are similar. With both, you pay to put your content in front of a broader audience in the hope of getting increased engagement. However, there are differences that you must understand if you want to accomplish your goals and get the best ROI.

In this article, we’ll compare and contrast Facebook ads and boosted posts. We’ll break down the advantages and disadvantages of each and [SPOILER ALERT] explain why it’s a better move to utilize Facebook ads.

Let’s start with the simpler of the two…

Boosted Posts: The Positives

When you boost a post, you’re paying Facebook to promote an existing post of your choice from the timeline of your company page. Rather than hoping your post “goes viral” organically, you’re paying to make it happen. Although, you’ll have to adjust your definition of viral based on the amount of money you’re willing to spend.

A boosted post is good for building brand awareness and providing social proof. If your goal is to simply get your message seen and accumulate page likes, comments and shares, a boosted post can suffice.

Here are some examples of situations when a boosted post can be beneficial:

  • You have an event coming up and want to spread the word to help increase attendance
  • You are announcing a new product or service offering and want as many people as possible to know about it and generate buzz
  • You created a great piece of content and want to put it in front of a large audience.

Another benefit of a Facebook boosted post is the simplicity of it. All you need to do is select the post you want to boost, choose your objective, add a call to action button (if desired), select a target audience, enter the total budget and determine the duration of the boost. The entire process can be completed in a minute or two.

Facebook Boosted Post Setup

Once completed, your boosted post will begin to appear in the timelines of your target audience. It will look like a normal post with the exception of “Sponsored” being displayed beneath your page name and the inclusion of the button you chose (if applicable).

Facebook Boosted Post Complete

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “That doesn’t seem too bad. I can market the company on Facebook with just a few clicks, and I can do it all on my own.”

While this is true, you should be aware of some of the downsides of boosted posts.

Boosted Posts: The Negatives

In some ways, the simplicity of Facebook boosted posts is also one of their downsides. When you use a boosted post, you are leaving many of Facebook’s powerful advertising tools untouched.

  • Objectives – Boosted posts only give you the opportunity to accumulate website clicks or engagement. Facebook ads offer many more objectives that will be discussed in more detail later in this article.
  • Placements – Boosted posts will be displayed only on Facebook desktop and mobile newsfeeds, and you have the option to include Instagram feeds as well. Again, Facebook ads offer several more choices.
  • Creative – Boosted posts allow you to add a button, but other than that, there’s little else that makes it different from a standard timeline post. Facebook ads allow you to get much more creative.

What we consider the biggest negative of the boosted posts feature is its limited ability to target audiences. You have four options:

  • Let Facebook’s algorithm explore audiences for you
  • Determine your audience based on gender, age, location and interests
  • Target only people who like your page
  • Target people in your local area (within 50 miles of your location)

None of these options let you get very specific with your audience. They’re all relatively broad and don’t take into consideration things like the digital behavior of the people who have interacted with your website previously. Those are the types of people you should prefer to reach because they’ve shown more interest in your company than someone who just happens to live near your company or has liked your page because they’ve heard of you.

Marketing is more effective when you target only the people who are the most similar to your best customers. Trying to appeal to anyone and everyone is a waste of money.

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Facebook Ads: The Positives

A Facebook ad is content you create from scratch in Facebook’s Ads Manager and pay to display it throughout Facebook’s network. The vast number of options available with Facebooks ads are what sets them apart from boosted posts.

  • Objectives – Facebook ads let you build your campaign based on 11 very specific marketing objectives broken down into three categories: Awareness, Consideration & Conversion.
Facebook Ad Objectives
  • Placements – Facebook ads can be set to appear in many places throughout Facebook and its properties. They include Facebook desktop and mobile newsfeeds, Instagram feeds, Instant Articles, Messenger and more. You can customize your placement based on preference, or you can select “Automatic Placements” to have Facebook’s algorithm control where your ad appears based on where it is likely to perform best.
  • Creative – With Facebook ads, you can choose from three formatting options: Carousel, Single Image or Video & Collection. A single image or video is most similar to a typical Facebook timeline post, whereas the other two options are unique and will stand out from a standard post.
Facebook Ad Formats

Here is an example of a Facebook Carousel ad:

Facebook Carousel Ad

The great advantage of using Facebook ads rather than boosted posts is the audience-targeting abilities. Facebook ads allow you to get very specific with the people you put your ad in front of by creating a custom audience.

The power of custom audiences is unlocked when you implement the Facebook Pixel on your website. To learn more about Facebook Pixel and how to install it, click here.

Once your Pixels are set up, they will track specified events that happen on your website such views of specific pages, registration completions, purchases, etc. Collecting these digital behaviors allows you to, with great precision, pair your Facebook ads with ideal targets. There’s no better way to put relevant ads in front of ideal prospects or customers. It’s an essential tool for moving people through your sales funnel.

Here’s an example of how it would work:

  • Step 1 – You promote a helpful, non-salesy piece of content for cold leads with a Facebook ad targeted to an audience you build based on the personas of your ideal customer.
  • Step 2 – Once those cold leads click on your ad and visit your Pixeled web page, you’ll build a warm lead custom audience. You can then create a warm lead Facebook ad for that audience that offers a relevant free resource that requires only minimum commitment (like a form submission).
  • Step 3 – Those who respond to your warm lead offer will move into a hot lead custom audience. From there, you can build a third Facebook ad for those people showcasing a relevant product or service. The goal is to get them to commit to a purchase.

Another option you have with Facebook ads is to create a lookalike audience. A lookalike audience is one Facebook builds for you by finding more people to target who share commonalities with your existing custom audience.

One other benefit of using Facebook ads instead of boosted posts is your ability to split test elements to ensure you get the most out of your ad spend. A process that we’ve found to be successful for our clients is to first split test different audiences to discover which one provides the most response. After that, we split test the creative to find which version gets more engagement. Taking this approach provides proof that you are marketing to the right audience with the right ad and enables you to continually improve your marketing.

Facebook Ads: The Negatives

The numerous customization options available for Facebook ads does mean that setting them up isn’t as simple as boosting a post. It will take more time and involve more planning if you want your ad campaigns to be successful.

Creating a Facebook Ad is a multi-step process. Here is a look at the steps involved:

Facebook Ad Menu

In addition, you must also consider the steps involved to generate the appropriate Facebook Pixel codes and implement them on your website.

Depending on your skillset and the tools you have available, you may or may not be able to manage the entire Facebook ad process yourself. It may be necessary for you to seek assistance from others within your organization or even an outside entity like a marketing agency, which could be viewed as a negative as well. However, it’s obviously more important to do things correctly as opposed to doing things independently but with mistakes.

Closing Thoughts

While you may be able to accomplish some small goals with boosted posts, we strongly encourage you to consider Facebook ads. They align better with the buyer’s journey and have a much better chance of helping you achieve your ultimate marketing goal: conversion.

If you are worried about being able to create and manage Facebook ads by yourself, don’t hesitate to contact an agency like Adventure. Teaming up with an outside entity has its advantages, even over hiring in-house.

Have additional questions about Facebook ads or want to learn even more? Call us at 815.431.1000 or submit this form to contact us.


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