While the glory days of seeing sky-high ROAS from Facebook and Instagram ads are gone, this doesn’t mean you should abandon this paid advertising platform. Newer brands especially should pay attention to Facebook and Instagram.
Contrary to what the gurus might tell you, there are still plenty of opportunities to get in front of potential customers using Facebook and Instagram ads.
In this post, we’ll cover:
There are five primary types of paid Facebook ads:
The ad format you choose depends on your marketing objectives. Here’s a bit about each ad format so you can determine which will work best for your goals.
Pro Tip: No matter what ad format you go with, be sure to reference the Facebook Ads Guide to make sure you follow all necessary criteria so your ad will be approved.
Image ads are the most basic ad type available for Facebook. They consist of a single image and can utilize different aspect ratios or placements. Image ads are a simple ad format, but they’re also versatile. This ad format is good for any stage of the customer journey, brand awareness, or showcasing products from your e-commerce store.
Keep in mind that a simple image ad may not be the best choice if you need to demonstrate a complex concept, multiple products, or demonstration of your product in use.
The video ad format allows you to share a single video with your audience. Typically resulting in high audience engagement, videos are ideal for being creative, sharing products in use, more complex concepts, multiple products, or instructional content.
The only drawback to creating a video ad is that they take more time to produce than other ad formats. This is true even if you take a low-budget approach and shoot the video from your smartphone. If you have a simple concept, it’s often better to stick with a lower-effort image ad format.
Carousel ads allow you to showcase up to 10 images or videos at a time. Each asset can have its own link.
This type of ad format is great for showcasing multiple products in your store or sharing multiple benefits of a single product.
Full-screen ads are mobile-only ad formats that users can interact with on their phones. These ads load much faster than a standard mobile web app. Previously referred to as Canvas ads, these customizable ads let your audience swipe through carousels, zoom in or out of images, and tilt the screen in different directions. Instant Experience ads can be great for creating a memorable experience with your brand.
Note that if you don’t have a knowledgeable Facebook ads team or aren’t tech-savvy yourself, you will want to stick with a simpler ad format.
Collection ads are a mobile-only ad format. They let you showcase 5 images or videos at a time. Use the first image or video to feature a specific product or even educate your audience with a demonstration.
Pairing Collection ads with an Instant Experience ad format allows you to create an intuitive shopping experience where users can purchase without leaving the app. This type of ad format is perfect for e-commerce brands that want to showcase a full line or collection of related products.
There are six key ad format types that you can utilize through Instagram:
Much like Facebook ads, the Instagram ad format you choose will depend on your individual business goals. Remember, Instagram is a visual social platform, so your paid ads will need to be compelling and stand out.
Instagram Image ads feature a single photo that shows up as a post in the user’s feed. You can add text overlay, but Instagram encourages minimal use of text for best results. Like Facebook Image ads, Instagram Image ads are among the most basic of the platform’s ad formats. Don’t mistake them for underpowered though, as they can have a large impact.
Image ads are best for concepts that can be conveyed in a single image. An example is a clothing retailer sharing a picture of an influencer wearing one of their classic shirts. Single images can be compelling so use them at any stage of the customer journey.
In-feed video ads can be up to 60-seconds long. Shorter is better for these types of ads, so try to get your message across as quickly as possible. Consider leading with a visual hook to stop the user from scrolling. When your video shows up in the feed, you’ll be competing with plenty of paid and organic content for your audience’s attention.
Videos are an excellent way to show a more complex concept, demonstrations, instructional content, or ideas for using your products. Remember, you’ll need to shoot high-quality videos to capture viewers.
Like Facebook Carousels, Instagram Carousel ads can be used to show multiple pictures or videos at once. With Carousels, users can swipe through a maximum of 10 assets in a single post.
Use Carousel ads to tell a multi-part, visual story or a series of related products. Carousels are an excellent option for e-commerce companies to showcase a collection or lineup of their products.
Instagram Stories allow retailers to get creative and include calls to action (CTAs) within their ads. These full-screen images or video ads give the users an immersive experience that feels organic. With stories, you can incorporate features like GIFs, stickers, filters, and text to increase engagement. Link stickers are available for CTAs to drive traffic to your website and landing pages.
Instagram Stories are great for any e-commerce brand that’s looking to get creative and encourage its audience to engage with its account. Whether you’re using Stories to launch a new product or generate awareness, you can find a use for paid Instagram Stories at any point of your campaign.
This ad format is fullscreen, vertical, and can be up to 30 seconds long. Reels are short and entertaining clips that are integrated into your audience’s natural viewing of Reels content. Be sure to utilize audio and engaging visuals. People go to Reels for trends and to interact with the social platform’s community.
Reels are ideal for showcasing your product or brand in a fresh, fun way. It’s an especially good fit if you have a trendy or seasonal product. Remember to use product tags to make it easier for your potential customers to view your products right from the app.
Shopping ads are one of the newest additions to Instagram’s paid ad options. To use them, you’ll need to set up an Instagram Shopping catalog. This allows users to browse and purchase products from you without leaving the Instagram app.
This ad format is highly convenient for shoppers. It’s ideal for any e-commerce brand to list their products this way for a quick purchase, but it’s especially helpful for brands in the low to middle price point range that could fall into the impulse purchase category.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram. Even the same company may find that one of their products does well in image format and another does better through Reels. It all depends on your product, brand, platform, assets, ad creative assets like videos and images, and audience.
That said, the best ads will be the ones that you can dedicate the appropriate resources to. For example, if you don’t have the time or skill to create a video, then focus on still images instead.
There are so many factors that go into creating an ad that the best thing you can do is test the different formats to see what works best for your business.
BarkBox is a subscription-based e-commerce brand that includes a variety of dog products in its monthly bundles.
This image ad is an example of how a striking image with just the right amount of supporting copy can stop the audience’s scrolling. The image is unique and instantly draws your attention. Using a tennis ball to model the Princess and the Pea fable, the ad demonstrates how comfortable the dog beds are. The fact that the bed is free with purchase is a nice bonus.
Imperfect Foods is a subscription-based grocery service. The company repurposes produce and packaged goods that would otherwise go to waste because of minor blemishes. Imperfect Foods heavily relies on its paid ads to tell the story of its company mission.
The reason this Instagram image ad does so well is because of how well it aligns with the playful brand personality. The image makes you stop scrolling, and the offer is intriguing. Once the ad has grabbed your attention, the post copy talks about the company’s mission and shows the impressive amount of food waste that customers have helped the company eliminate.
Converse is a casual shoe brand that contains a lot of nostalgia and brand loyalty from its followers. People have long been customizing their “Chucks” by decking them out with markers, and the brand has taken notice by leaning into the customization aspect.
This particular carousel ad does well because it’s just in time for wedding season. It lets the couple use a brand they love as a part of their special day, stands out from the crowd, and creates a lasting memento. This ad also shows different product angles, which helps with conversions.
SUGAR Cosmetics is an up-and-coming e-commerce brand in the competitive beauty space. Part of what makes them so successful is how they’ve demonstrated their product in use.
In this video ad, the brand shares a user generated content (UGC) style tutorial clip using a few of their featured products. The ad is relatable by showing a real person (tagged in the caption) and demonstrates exactly how the user can replicate the look at home.
Rooted is an e-commerce brand that ships plants everywhere in the country from their nursery in Florida. The brand shares educational content about their products to help match the customer with the perfect house plant for them. The packaging, product shots, and visuals are all beautifully curated, but it’s the copy that helps this brand stand apart.
In this video ad, the copy in the asset and caption addresses one of the biggest hurdles to ordering plants online. The audience is worried about how the plant will handle shipping. Not only does Rooted guarantee the plant will arrive healthy on your doorstep, but they show some of the hardiest varieties they have available.
Chewy is a well-known pet brand that has recently been pushing an awareness campaign for its pharmacy. The goal is to get customers that already rely on Chewy for their over-the-counter pet supplies to purchase their prescriptions through them, too.
This video ad cleverly addresses multiple concerns and pain points. The service promises users that they’ll have one less thing to worry about, indicating that prescriptions are easy to order through the platform and they’ll be delivered right to your door.
Retailer and e-commerce brand Sephora utilizes paid ads to showcase its many products. They rely heavily on influencer marketing / UGC-style videos and images to show their products in real-life situations, like this static image ad.
This ad is a classic before and after picture. The side-by-side view shows results from using the product that speaks louder than words. The content feels authentic and shows potential customers how they can use the key product features to repair their hair.
Death Wish Coffee Company is a unique coffee brand with a loud personality. They use bold and creative assets to tell their story through paid ads.
In this image ad, they take a unique, scroll-stopping approach to sharing customer testimonials. They could have easily just put a quote up with their brand colors, but instead, they created a humorous illustration that plays along with the copy in the review.
Joybird is an e-commerce brand that sells modern furniture. Marketing furniture can be a challenge because you’re not just asking customers to purchase a large, expensive item that will be the centerpiece of a room. You’re asking them to do it without seeing the product in action.
The success of this Instant Experience ad comes from the creative way the brand worked around this challenge and eliminated a barrier to entry. By creating an interactive experience through AR, users can use their cameras to experience the product without ever touching or seeing it firsthand.
Outsourcing your Facebook ad strategy and management to an agency can be a smart move, especially if you don’t have the talent or time to devote to managing it in-house.
You can even hire a niche e-commerce paid social ad agency.
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This page last updated on March 7, 2023 by Jessica Malnik
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