a facebook boosted post is a form of promoted content that lets you reach the massive audiences across the platform’s mobile and desktop news feed. in other words, it’s way to stand out from all of the vacation updates, viral videos and status updates common on facebook.

while it is a type of paid media, a boosted post is not the same as an ad, at least in facebook’s conception. understanding the difference between these categories is fundamental to optimizing your facebook marketing strategy.

boosted posts vs ads on facebook

while every boosted post is an ad, not every ad is a boosted post. they have a lot in common, most notably the fact that the specific pieces of content that fit into them often look similar on the surface, despite important differences below the surface.

both boosted posts and some types of facebook ads are designed to look virtually identical to normal, non-ad news feed content. they feature the name of who/what is posting it, along with some text, an image(s) and the familiar options to like, comment on and share it.

the only cosmetic differences between them and normal posts are the absence of a posting time and date and the presence of the disclaimer “sponsored” (and possibly “edited” if it’s been modified).

as an example, this marketo post is typical of the boosted post ad format, created by pressing the “boost post” button in the business manager console of a facebook business page:


via social media examiner

meanwhile, a facebook ad made inside ads manager could look very similar to a boosted post and likewise show up in the news feed, with the same purpose of seeming as organic as possible.

this example from software vendor red hat is typical of an in-feed ad:

as you can see, it has the same “sponsored” text as a boosted post, but a lot more is going on underneath the hood.

first, there’s the call-to-action button (“sign up”) that leads to a form.

second, (and less obvious), the ad itself is more precisely targeted than the boosted post, pulling information from multiple data sources, including browser activity. the upshot: this ad is likely to find its audience more successfully than that boosted post.

boosted posts and other ads on facebook differ in how they’re created, what audiences they can target and reach, and the precise slots they fit into within a social media marketing campaign. depending on your budget and what part of the funnel you’re focusing on, you may prefer one to the other, or use them in tandem as part of a holistic strategy.

boosted posts: everything you need to know

a boosted post is a timeline post that someone has paid to promote to a wider audience. accordingly, the content creator/promoter will reach more facebook users than they could if they had just let the post generate traffic organically.

it can be virtually anything: text, a video, a photo, a question. you don’t have to meet stringent formatting or content-related requirements to run a boosted post campaign.

facebook itself will often nudge users to boost posts in business manager, by showing analytics on a successful post and encouraging a boost to “get more likes, comments, and shares” for it, such as this photograph of bucolic new england:

via alpine web media

a boosted post is a relatively inexpensive way to raise brand awareness and fuel lead generation.

you can budget as little as $1 a day, allowing you to shift spending as needed and avoid the more significant investment of tailoring an ad campaign through tools like ads manager or power editor (more on those later).

bosting is also a valuable tactic given the context of declining organic reach on the platform. for many facebook pages, as little as 2% of followers will see a normal, non-boosted post, according to estimates from hubspot.

facebook regularly revises its news feed algorithms, often to prioritize content from an account holder’s friends and family instead of from brands.

for a post to be boosted, it must already exist on a timeline. boosting is only available to business pages. setting one up isn’t too difficult and is likely a beneficial move if you are looking to gain traction on social media. as of 2018, more than 80 million smbs had a facebook business page up and running.

to recap, facebook boosted posts:

  • can be anything that already exists on your account’s time line, including text, photo and video posts.
  • have flexible budgets and durations, requiring very little money to get started.
  • are useful for overcoming the decline in organic reach on facebook.

boosted posts best practices

if you decided to boost a post, keep these 5 best practices in mind:

1. consider capping a post’s duration at a week

boosted posts see diminishing returns after a week, so it’s prudent to curtail your spending as soon as you see engagement start to trail off.

2. use facebook insights to identify good boost candidates

facebook insights lets you see how many users are engaging with each particular post. that helps you target your boost spending and give a lift to content that’s already doing well.

3. don’t boost someone else’s content

most of the time, your boosted posts should be your own original branded content, since you’re trying to raise awareness and perhaps even drive some traffic to your site. save the links to someone else’s site for your regular timeline posts, or for a platform like twitter or linkedin.

4. target a granular audience

there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for boosted post success, but setting specific parameters is usually more conducive to getting high-quality likes and better click-through rates than simply putting the post in front of a large, generic audience.

5. mix up your approach

finding the best combination of ad formatting, duration and audience requires some trial and error. experiment with your boosted posts and then compare metrics on how they performed.

you can track the progress and success of your boosted posts right within business manager.

it’s important to note that opinions on the overall efficacy of boosted posts vary widely. some influencers see boosting as a reliable, cost-effective route for gaining high return on investment from a marketing campaign, while others see it as too limited – in terms of its targeting options and the clickthrough rates it can drive – to be worth the trouble.

let’s break down the pros and cons of boosting. you be the judge:

pros

  • easy to create: just click the “boost post” button, set parameters for your budget, campaign duration and audience and you’re ready to go. it’s a simple process compared to using ads manager, as you can turn almost anything already on your timeline into a promoted asset.
  • prominent, engaging ad placements: more people will see your timeline post than if you hadn’t boosted it. it gets slotted into their mobile or desktop news feeds alongside other posts surfaced by facebook’s algorithm, increasing engagement. you can also put the boosted post on instagram.
  • performance analytics: you can see how many people you’re reaching, along with clicks, likes (for the page and the post in question) and comments. this information is useful for shaping future campaigns.

cons

  • limited targeting: you can target people who liked the page, or those individuals plus their friends, or an audience for which you’ve selected parameters like age and location. however, you can’t target behaviors or go into the same level of detail as with ad manager-produced ads.
  • no control over ad placements: facebook automatically decides where to place your boosted post. often, this means it appears mostly on mobile news feed, simply because it’s much less expensive than desktop news feed. whether you’re actually generating sufficient leads isn’t factored in – and chances are, you will struggle since mobile conversion rates are generally lower than on desktop.
  • not enough clicks: boosted posts are optimized for engagement, meaning likes, shares and comments. none of that necessarily translates into a high clickthrough rate to your website or any offer. in other words, post boosting doesn’t usually work well for bottom-of-the-funnel activities.

facebook ads: the major types and how to use and track them

we noted earlier that not all ads on facebook were boosted posts.

there’s a cornucopia of options for brands and marketers to choose from beyond just promoting content that’s already on their timelines.

the considerable variety across the non-boosted post ad types provides greater flexibility than the boosted post format itself, which has limited range. accordingly, you can target all portions of the marketing funnel, not just the top.

facebook officially classifies “ads” as inventory created through ads manager, its proprietary platform for producing and placing advertising across facebook, messenger and instagram.

compared to the tools for producing boosted posts, ads manager is more sophisticated.

you can choose from many more parameters for marketing objectives (for example, choosing website clicks over engagement), target audiences based on more granular characteristics and maintain creative control through the selection of carousel ads and call-to-action buttons.


via facebook

ads manager can be paired with the bulk ad-creation utility, power editor, a popular platform among large advertisers. either way, it can be used to create a wide variety of ad types.

news feed ads

these ads show up in the news feed, just like our red hat example from earlier.

the big benefit is that they look like normal facebook content, which can help with establishing trust.

the main drawback is that since they’re in the busy news feed, they can easily get passed over.


via social media examiner

when creating news feed ads, it’s a good idea to use facebook’s grid tool to determine what percentage of an ad image is text; anything above 20% can jeopardize ad delivery. you have 125 characters to work with in the text.

for images, facebook recommends using the highest resolution image possible, in jpg or png format. the aspect ratio should be between 9:16 and 16:9, although a link will crop it to 1.91:1. link posts need images of at least 1,080×1,080 pixels, and have headlines and description limited to 25 and 30 characters, respectively.

specs differ for video content that appears in the feed, although the same aspect ratio range and resolution recommendations apply. maximum video file size is 4gb. minimum length is 1 minute (max 240 minutes).

right-hand column ads

when you open facebook on a desktop, you’ll normally see ads to the right of the news feed. the “sponsored” disclaimer is there, but otherwise these ads look very different from news feed posts.

these ads have historically had the highest cost per like (click) of common facebook ad types. as with news feed ads, it’s recommended to keep text content less than 20% of the post’s length to avoid failed delivery.

lead ads

designed for mobile devices, these ads – as their name suggests – are built for lead generation.

they bundle a full native form prepopulated with information already shared with facebook. common use cases include registering for events, signing up for email newsletters and downloading ebooks.


via wordstream

the same specs for news feed ads apply here. lead ads include call-to-action buttons and may be embedded within carousels/slideshows, videos or still images. they can be run on both facebook and instagram. facebook’s official guidance recommends:

  • employing custom audience targeting for higher-quality leads; 40% of lead ad impressions served on facebook use custom audience targeting to find audiences such as “men over 30 who are into cycling in the philadelphia area.”
  • being careful not to target the same audience with concurrent lead ad campaigns.
  • tracking progress within ads manager and using the results to try out different approaches.

carousel ads

the facebook carousel ad format allows you to include up to 10 images, videos, links or other pieces of content within a single ad unit that’s segmented into cards.


via buffer

it’s an ideal format for product tours, how-to guides, multi-product promotions and article series, and it works with both desktop and mobile ad placements.

a/b test the images or videos you use and the order in which they appear.

make sure that each card links to a landing page that can help with conversions.

messenger ads

facebook messenger is a social platform unto itself.

every month, more than 2 billion messages are sent between its users and businesses, underscoring how important it has become as an engagement channel for organizations.


via falcon.io

there are three main types of messenger ads:

  1. messenger ads that appear on the home screen of the messenger app, between conversations.
  2. click-to-messenger ads that show up in the facebook or instagram feeds and allow users to send a message in messenger to engage.
  3. sponsored messages that appear within a conversation, like a normal chat except with clickable/tappable content like a link to a company’s site.

a messenger-focused ad strategy can deliver good roi, thanks to rising usage of messaging apps in general and growing acceptance of chatbots.

many consumers already see chatbots – i.e. automated, conversational programs enhanced with artificial intelligence – as good ways to get quick answers to problems and overcome issues such as hard-to-navigate websites.

all of the messenger ad types can help capitalize on the growing amounts of time and attention these users channel into messenger.

instagram ads

since facebook owns instagram, it’s worth mentioning that there are numerous synergies between the platforms, including the option to cross-post the same ad inventory on both social networks.

in addition to cross-posting certain kinds of facebook ads, instagram includes its own options for ads within stories and for video and photo ads that can be easily engaged with, such as the image above with its “learn more” prompt.

over 4 billion instagram posts are liked every day, creating a fertile environment for visually appealing and engaging ads (the “boosted post” category does not really exist on instagram as of mid-2019).

working with influencers is also a good idea when exploring how to optimize your organization’s instagram spend.

boost a post? create some ads? why not both!

between boosting your facebook posts for increased reach and creating ads with the extensive customization options within ads manager, you can hit every part of your marketing funnel.

for instance, a boosted post might raise brand awareness about your company’s values, prompting someone to do research around the web and then see one of your ads on facebook. engaging with that ad might then convert their interest into a webinar signup, email newsletter subscription or an actual purchase.

when it comes to making the most of your facebook presence, don’t limit yourself out of the gate. try a wide range of options, whether for the duration of your boosted post campaigns or for the design of your facebook carousel ads. through careful testing and iteration, you can capture the high-quality leads that fuel and sustain your brand.

alex cox is a senior writer at brafton. originally from kentucky, he now lives in chicago with his husband marvin and an orange cat named athena. when he's not writing for brafton or creative projects, he enjoys painting, going for walks, and collecting vintage nintendo games and controllers.