Advertising on Facebook has really matured in the last two years and it’s now becoming a mainstream channel, some would say getting a bit crowded. New features are being rolled out all the time, from different ‘objectives’ such as lead generation and video views (alongside ‘clicks to website’, website conversions’ etc) to technical innovations like dynamic product ads where an ad template is populated using a product feed combined with data on the pages viewed by the visitor.

Let’s assume you’re getting started – you have a Facebook ad account with a payment method set up and you want to know what to do next.

1. Use the right tools

Namely Business Manager, Power Editor and Pixel Helper – all available from Facebook. When you open an ad account you’ll view it by default in Ads Manager on the regular Facebook domain but anyone serious about Facebook ads should switch to Business Manager on the subdomain If, like me, you run several accounts as an agency this is a must but it’s advisable for anyone, mainly because all of the nice new features tend to be introduced to Business Manager first.

Power Editor is a browser plug-in for Chrome which lets you download all the data from your live accounts, make any changes and upload the results – a bit like Google Adwords Editor.

Here’s hoping you’re a fan of Chrome as the Pixel Helper also works only in this browser – using this will show you any errors in the set-up of your Facebook tracking pixel and also let you check whether your competitors have the pixel installed (and working).

2. Get pixelled up

As with all online marketing you need to know exactly what you’re getting for your money, which is one reason to install the Facebook Custom Audience Pixel. Facebook uses a single pixel to track visitors (for remarketing, excluding and other purposes, more below) and to track conversions such as an app download or purchase. Go to your Tools > Pixels area and create your pixel then grab the code and pop it into Notepad – this is your basic tracking pixel. There’s an element of DIY to the next part – if you want to track different events on certain pages as ‘conversions’ you need to add an extra line of code to the main pixel to do that – a full list of standard events is there in your account or you can create a custom one if necessary.

3. Use audiences

Audiences are a very useful way of building up or uploading a group of people for targeting and excluding in your Facebook ad campaigns. There are three main kinds of audience – Custom Audience, Website Custom Audience and Lookalike. A Custom Audience is normally a list of your customers’ email addresses uploaded to the ad account – any of those with a Facebook account will appear in the audience (usually around 50-60% depending on your demographic). You can now target this audience (recommend-a-friend, etc) or exclude from campaigns. You can also create a Lookalike of these people which in theory will give you a new group of people to target with similar tastes and interests. 

A Website Custom Audience uses the Facebook pixel to collect in one place all the people who visit your site and are on Facebook, or if you prefer people who have visited a certain page or performed a certain action. These people can now be retargeted, excluded from ads and so on.

4. Create custom reports

The Facebook interface doesn’t really have a reports area like it used to, rather the main ‘Manage Ads’ page is one big report that you need to get to know and customise for your own campaigns. There are several presets in the Columns dropdown such as Delivery, Engagement etc but the way to get the most from it is to go to ‘Customise Columns’, choose the metrics you want to see, lose the ones you don’t want to clutter up the screen and save your custom report. Put them in the right order too to save having to scroll across a screen full of data.

There’s a lot of data in there so don’t stop at impressions, clicks and purchases; delve into Age, Gender, Placement and Device to see where your results are really coming from – or where you’re spending money and getting nothing back.

5. Test, test, test

When you first start Facebook ads you’re unlikely to go straight into profit as there are so many things to test, starting with who to target and with what kind of ad creative. Even when you reach that point where it’s generating profitable sales or registrations you should always be testing new variables in a controlled way. For example in the ad creative you can choose a call-to-action button (Buy Now, Learn More and others) or leave more space and make your display URL a call-to-action (Facebook lets you put anything you like there) – just one thing to test to see if it affects click-through rate.    


For a great start make sure you set up all of the features available to you – chiefly pixels and audiences – as soon as possible. Take time to dig through the different data sets available in the reporting to see what could help your particular campaigns. Finally start to take note of the ads served to you on Facebook – are they well targeted? Can you see in the UTM tags on the landing page how you’ve been targeted, say lookalike or male aged 30-40? 

You’ll never look at your news feed in the same way again.