How We Learned To Love Promoted Posts

Facebook advertising has been a hot topic for a while in the social media world. On one hand, there’s an opportunity for advertisers to show targeted content to the people who it is most relevant to, on the other hand, people are on social media platforms to be social not to be sold.

We’ve tried out just about every ad unit available on Facebook over the years, tracking performance metrics across all of them. Unsurprisingly the ad units that have proven the most successful are the ones that are the most interesting. Wherever ads appear, they are the most successful when they attempt to improve the viewers experience. Ads that push a hard sell and don’t adapt themselves the their viewers and context tend to be overly expensive and not work particularly well.

The Facebook ads that work best, are those based on the content that people would “like,” interact with and share anyways – the advertising element simply amplifies that effect and enables the best content to reach the right people at the right times.

Of all of the ad units that we’ve experimented with, the promoted post has far and away produced the best results. We’ve run promoted post campaigns for clients that have generated hundreds or more clicks at 5%-10% or even higher click through rates. Figures up to twenty times what we’d usually see with Facebook’s more traditional sidebar ads. We believe that this is largely due to the fact that the content is displayed is a visual way, and the targeting allows us to get it in front of just the right people. Promoted posts combine the best of traditional advertising’s creative focus with modern targeting and optimization. They can both help lift brand awareness and drive conversions, but it takes some savvy to use them correctly.

Visual Is The New Verbal

Promoted Posts are first and foremost a visual medium. You get a 403px by 403px image and there can be text in no more than 20% of its area. From our experiences Facebook’s ad approval teams are hyper-vigilant about the amount of text used in posts, so if you have a message put it in you post text. Image text should be confined to your branding and a headline or a single concise CTA. Try to do more with in-image text and you’re likely to run afoul FB’s policies or be forced to use text so small its illegible.


This post from Indochino (Who happen to be very cool and our neighbours, though we’re not affiliated) would be a great one for promotion. It does everything a promoted post should do well. We’ll break it down below:

It uses an image to tell a story and grab the viewers attention – Picking an image designed to appeal to your target audience will help you cut through the clutter and if done will can actually the viewers Facebook experience richer.

It uses in-image text subtly – They could even have a gone a little bigger with the text here but made a clear creative choice to keep the text small for contrast and to draw in the viewer and we think it works. For them. For most others text a little bigger wouldn’t hurt.

It uses post copy well – The copy is well crafted and they’ve included a link which drives to their online store where you can buy a suit.

Come To The Dark Side

Facebook has softly launched a feature we’ll call “Dark Posts” where by if you’re using Facebook’s Power Editor or some of the higher end Facebook based ads-management platforms, that allows advertisers to create posts for promotion that are still seen by Facebook users as sponsored posts but don’t appear on the brand’s page. There’s some really interesting and powerful things you can do here that don’t get taken advantage of enough.

Test your organic content before posting – Create a quick and dirty A/B test by creating two Dark Posts varying an the image or post copy and promote them to a small segment of your fan-base using “Fan’s only” targeting to get a sense of what will resonate best before posting. If you’ve got enough fans, the increased engagement or better CPAs you can generate from your organic page posts could well be worth the cost of pre-promotion.

Target different segments with customized creative and/or offers – A huge part of Facebook’s appeal for advertisers is its incredibly targeting depth. Since we can slice and dice audiences, why not customize the images, post copy or offers we present them? Below you can see an example of how we used the same copy with different images intended to appeal to very different target segments to generate entries for an online photo contest.


The Art Of Optimization


A/B or multivariate test your ads for conversion – You can manually create ad variants targeting the same segment with varied creative/copy/offers to see what works best to sell the product or service to the segment you’re targeting.

Get Facebook to optimize for your defined conversion action – If you’re conversion action is a key page view, like a post-purchase thank you page, Facebook’s algorithms can now optimize ad-serving to audiences that will have lower costs-per-acquisition. We’ve seen great success with this over time once we’ve optimized the posts creative and copy.

Facebook promoted posts can be a very powerful weapon in an online advertiser’s arsenal. Hopefully this post will help you to understand both how you can use them and the responsibility that we all have to produce campaigns that enhance, rather than detract from the user’s experience on the Facebook platform. When the content is already great, and advertising is used to show the great content to targeted people who are likely to benefit from it, then promoted posts can actually create a Facebook ecosystem that makes money for the platform, helps to benefit businesses and delivers a great user experience all at the same time.

Any questions or thoughts you’re always free to get at us in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you.