Facebook Ads are a great way to increase your audience on the social network and drive more engagement to your Facebook Page. There are many options offered to you through Facebook’s Marketplace, but getting started can be a challenge.

The first thing you should do is determine which sales channel you fall into: Direct, Inside, or Online. Most businesses fall into the Online (or self-serve) channel. Direct and Inside channels are reserved for the largest global brands and companies spending hundreds of thousands of advertising dollars per year.

Facebook educates members about advertising, but it does a poor job of explaining all of the options available for businesses. Because you don’t have direct support from Facebook, it’s important that you choose an option that best fits your marketing goal. To make sure that you’re not confused by any of the information you find through the self-serve tool, the following breakdown should help make things clear.

1. External Website (Standard) Ads

External Website, or Standard Ads, are Facebook’s traditional ad option. These ads are usually found along the right-hand side of the page and are designed to drive traffic offsite. The specs for this type of ad has actually decreased in size, going from 110×80 pixels and a 135 character limit to 99×72 pixels and 90 characters.

2. Facebook Object (Like) Ads

Facebook Object, or Like Ads, are similar to Standard Ads, but are designed to drive traffic to a Facebook Page, App, or Event. These have the same specs as Standard Ads, except that titles will be the name of the Page, App, or Event you’re advertising.

3. Page Post Ads

Page Post Ads are primarily used to promote Pages and drive engagement. With these ads, you can take something you’ve added to your Facebook Page — whether it be a photo, link, video, event, question, or text update — and turn that content into an ad.

Non-fans who see the ad will have an opportunity to Like your Page directly from the ad. Existing fans will see a Sponsored Story that displays their friends who have already connected with your Page. Global brands, or Managed Accounts, that select this ad option will notice that fans can interact by Liking or commenting directly within the Sponsored Story.

Page Post Ads are found in the right-hand column and come with a 120 character limit. If the text from the original post runs over, the ad will be truncated and the full text will open upon clicking.

4. Sponsored Stories

Sponsored Stories are the most interactive and organic of all the ad types. Because they highlight actions taken by fans on your Page, they’re also the most complex option. First, let’s take a look at the different types of actions you can turn into a Sponsored Story:

  • Page Likes: Displays when a friend Likes your Page, and includes a thumbnail of your Page’s profile picture and a Like button.
  • Page Post Likes: Displays when a friend Likes a specific post from your Page, and includes that post.
  • Page Post Comments: Displays when a friend leaves a comment on a specific post, and includes the comment as well as a link to that post.
  • App Used/Game Played: Displays when a friend uses an app or plays a game, and includes a thumbnail of the app/game as well as an option to play.
  • App Shared: Displays when a friend shares a story about your app — for example, adding a pin to Pinterest. It includes a thumbnail of the app as well as a description of the action.
  • Check-Ins: Displays when a friend checks in at a location, and includes a thumbnail of his or her profile picture as well as the comment made upon check in.
  • Domain: Displays when a friend Likes an item outside of Facebook, and includes a thumbnail of the Liked item and link to offsite destination.
  • Question Answered: Displays when a friend has answered a question in a poll, and includes the results of the poll.
  • Event Joined: Displays when a friend RSVPs to an event, and includes the thumbnail and link to the event.

Unlike other ad types, you have a bit more control over where your Sponsored Stories are placed. For example, you can target mobile-only, desktop only, or just News Feeds. While other ad types limit you to one-way communication, Sponsored Stories are more conversational and encourage participation.

5. Promoted Posts

In the event that you’d like to bypass the somewhat complicated self-serve interface, you can easily create ads through the Promoted Button. Promoted Posts allow you promote anything you can create through the sharing tool: status updates, photos, videos, Offers, and questions. These are ideal for mobile impressions since the ads appear in News Feeds and not the right-hand column. You can even purchase Promoted Posts directly from the Pages Manager app. However, this is only available to Pages with more than 400 Likes.

6. Facebook Offers

Although not technically an advertising option, Facebook Offers allow local businesses to send discounts and promotions directly to customers, who can then print out the deal or redeem a code online. Offers are free to create, but have limited reach. If you’d like your Offer to run in News Feeds you will have to purchase a Page Post ad or choose to promote your Offer by using the Promote button.

Unless claimed or promoted, only your fans will see your Offer. Once an Offer has been claimed, that activity as well as Offer details will appear in that person’s News Feed for friends to see.

Creating a Facebook ad or Sponsored Story isn’t very hard. First, choose the Page you want to promote. Second, select “Create an ad” from the drop-down menu on that Page next to the Like button (or visit the Ad Creator). Here you’ll be able to customize your ad as well as see a preview.

When writing your ad text, make sure to clearly explain what you’re advertising — the details of your product or service and special offers. We recommend that you use calls to action in your ad text and an eye-catching image that will look good when viewed in a small thumbnail size. Facebook offers several targeting options.

To simplify the process, it’s recommend that you create an outline of your ideal customer, including details such as location, age, gender, and interests. We recommend that you test multiple version of ads so you can determine what type your target audience responds best to. You can learn more about ad campaigns and performance at Facebook for Business.

[Image credit: Allison Bucchere]