An Overview of Facebook Ads

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Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

At this point in my writing career, I’ve written and published one book. Woo hoo! That’s the hard part, right?

Um, no. Because of my business background, I felt pretty solid on the tracking of income and expenses, but the marketing part? Ugh. Actually going out there and telling people I’ve written a book? ACK!

My plan was to get a couple of books out there before I tackled the “M” world, which is NOT the way the self-publishing folks tell you to do it. The mantra there is to start building your newsletter and grow your readership before you finish the book, so you have an audience ready to go when you do publish.

Of course, I didn’t do it the prescribed way. Why follow the tried and true method when I can go my own way? (Insert eye roll here.) The honest truth is I wanted to make sure I could actually write (and publish) a book before I started telling people about it.

But now I’ve decided to explore marketing via ads on Facebook. (I’m playing with Amazon ads as well.)

Resources

The first thing you need is a good resource for learning about ads. I’ve attended a few online webinars over the last couple of years that touched on why you run ads, but didn’t get down into the nitty gritty of how to do them.

Then I found it. The webinar that turned on the light switch and made it all click.

First, an introduction to Inkers Con: I’ve attended two full Inkers Con Author Conferences, one online and one in person, and I love this conference. It’s great for self-published authors who are trying to learn the author business. Or for established authors who are making changes or simply staying on top of new trends in the industry.

I mention Inkers Con because this year’s 2023 Mini Con is where I found Matthew J. Holmes and his “Facebook Ads with Training Wheels On” class.

On his website, he offers multiple classes for running ads—both on Facebook and Amazon—and I’m assuming the webinar I attended is an abbreviated version of one of these courses.

The Basics of Facebook Ads

Now that I’ve gotten the “here’s where I found this” intro out of the way, let’s get down to the basics of what I learned in his class.

Hierarchy

The first thing to understand is that Facebook Ads have a structure and work in a hierarchy. I didn’t know this.

There are three levels to the hierarchy:

Facebook Ads Structure hierarchy
Image by Lancy McCall

The ads you see on your Facebook feed belong to an Ad Set, which belongs to a Campaign.

The Campaign is the highest level of grouping. Here is where you set the objective of your ads. Do you want more traffic to your book link? Are you just trying to raise awareness? This is where you tell Facebook what you want from this ad campaign.

Each Campaign has one or more Ad Sets. The Ad Set is where you configure who will see the ads. All Ads under this Ad Set will go to the same target audience.

Note: You also set up the budget and schedule at the Ad Set level.

The Ad is where you configure the actual content of the Facebook Ad. This is where you select the media (image, video, etc.), the text displayed, and the link used to send the audience to your webpage, book link, etc.

How to Use the Hierarchy

Once you understand the hierarchy and how all the pieces work, you can use it to structure your ads to give you visibility to which ones are working and which ones are costing you money.

I haven’t played with them enough to recommend my own hierarchy, but Matt’s example in the webinar made sense to me. Here’s the structure he uses for easy analytics:

Campaigns designates the Country/Book combo. So if I’m advertising one book to both US and a UK audiences, I need two different campaigns, one for the US and one for the UK.

Ad Sets target different audiences. So in my USA campaign for the book Left Turn, I could set up one Ad Set targeting people who read Nora Roberts and shop for books on Amazon. Another Ad Set might target people who read Cathryn Bybee and shop on Amazon. Because I sell wide, I might have another Ad Set that targets these authors, but buy books on Kobo.

The primary rule for Ad Sets is that each Ad Set has different target criteria.

Ads are the different content you’re putting in front of the Facebook audience. Each Ad that you set up under one Ad Set will be slightly different. You only want to change one thing from each ad to the next so you can monitor precisely which ads work and which don’t.

Facebook has a feature that lets you duplicate one Ad, then modify it. This lets you easily create multiple ads, then go back and change one thing, like the image. Or maybe you want to use the same image, but a different description.

An example of this is using the same image for two Ads, but a short blurb on the first and the full book description on the second.

The main idea for Ads is that all Ads under an Ad Set will look very similar, but have one content element that is unique. This allows you to see what content combinations attract more clicks and, ultimately, conversions to sales.

Once you identify the Ads that aren’t attracting interest, you can turn them off. By culling the low-performing Ads and keeping the ones that are working, you can really make your money work for you.

Naming Conventions

You’re going to have to analyze the data from the Ads to know which ones are working and which ones aren’t. One way to make this easier is to use a proper naming convention for each level of the Facebook Ad structure. Naming conventions help you to recognize at a glance which components are working for you and which need to be tweaked (or turned off).

Here are the suggested naming conventions from Matt:

  • Campaigns: Country | Book Title (e.g., “USA | Left Turn”)
  • Ad Sets: Country | targeting criteria (e.g., “USA | Nora Roberts + Amazon”)
  • Ads: Ad# | targeting criteria (e.g., “Ad1 | Nora Roberts + Amazon”)

After going through his class, I’ve decided I need more information in my Ad names than just a number, so going forward, my naming convention will show Ad# | targeting criteria + unique attribute.

For any new Ads, my Ad names will give me more information straight from my dashboard:

  • “Ad1 | Catherine Bybee + Amazon + img only”
  • “Ad2 | Catherine Bybee + Amazon + img w title”

With this change, I don’t have to remember which image or what text I used for that ad—it’s right in the Ad name. And I could shorten it even further using abbreviations and acronyms.

You should definitely customize your naming convention to fit your author business. For example, if you only sell in the US, then you don’t need the country as part of the name. Or if you’re exclusive to Kindle Unlimited, then you don’t need to specify “Amazon” in your name, as all your ads will probably target Amazon Kindle.

Make it your own and make it simple!

Setting Up the Ad

Facebook

You set up Facebook Ads in the Ad Manager and the process goes something like this:

1) Set up the Facebook Campaign with the objective of “Traffic”

2) Set up an Ad Set to convert to a “Website”

  • In the Ad Set, configure the following pieces:
    • Budget and Schedule
    • Audience & Location
    • Age & Gender
    • Detailed Targeting (authors, genres, interests)
    • Placements (Per Matt, use Manual Placements with ONLY Facebook Feeds selected. Uncheck everything else.)

Note: All ads set up within a single Ad Set will have the same budget, schedule, audience, targeting criteria, etc. because you set those attributes at the Ad Set level.

3) Set up an Ad and link it to your Facebook Page.

  • In the Ad, you set up:
    • Media (image, video, etc.)
    • Primary text (text ABOVE the image)
    • Headline (bold line of text below the image)
    • Description (optional text below the headline; may not show on mobile)
    • Call to Action button
    • Destination (the link you send people to)

Amazon Tracking Link

Now you could stop there by putting in the link to your book as the Destination and calling it done. Many authors do exactly that. But Matt takes it one step further and uses Amazon’s new Attribution Tags feature (in beta at the time of this article) to create additional metrics for the ad.

Here’s an overview of how it works:

4) Log into your KDP account and go to the Amazon Ads console. (KDP Bookshelf > Marketing > Amazon Ads > Amazon.com > Ads Console). Then click on Management and Reporting > Amazon Attribution.

  • Create a Campaign (correlates to one Facebook Ad Set)
  • Select all the books in the series and all formats (ebook, paperback, etc.).
  • Create an Ad Group (correlates to one Facebook Ad)
  • Name: Similar to your FB Ad
  • Publisher: Facebook
  • Channel: Social
  • Click-through URL:
    • This should be the clean link to your book (nothing after the ASIN number in the URL).
    • For a series, it should be the first book in the series.
  • Add a New Ad Group for each Facebook Ad in the Ad Set.

After creating these Ad Groups, you can find them under Amazon Attribution > Attribution tags.

screenshot of Amazon Attribution Tags list
Screenshot by Lancy McCall

This link in the Attribution tags column is the one you copy and paste into the Destination field (above) in the Facebook Ad.

Note: This means you must have both screens/accounts open and working together at the same time, because you can’t finish the Facebook Ad until you have the Amazon Attribution tag created. And you want to name them the same for easy tracking.

Once you’ve double-checked everything, including previewing the ad and checking the URL, click Publish to submit the ad to Facebook for review.

Why use both Facebook and Amazon like this?

You may think that’s a lot of work or wonder why you should do it this way.

Facebook Ad metrics can show you how many people saw your ad and how many clicked it. But it cannot tell you how many people actually bought your book AFTER clicking your ad.

That’s where the Amazon link comes in. Amazon metrics pick up where Facebook leaves off. When you look at the Dashboard for your Ad Groups on Amazon Ads, you can now see how many of those clicks actually converted into sales.

screenshot of Amazon Ad Groups dashboard
Screenshot by Lancy McCall

In the screenshot above, I can see that three (3) sales came directly from the first ad in the list (under the Purchases column).

With all that insight, it should be easy to see which ones are working and which ones aren’t. Once you identify the Ads aren’t working, turn them off in Facebook (Meta) Ad Manager.

5) Analyze the Ads’ performance.

I know I’ve mentioned it many times already, but you must analyze the performance of your ads and turn off those that aren’t serving you well.

Matt recommended letting the ads run for a minimum of one week to collect the data needed to properly evaluate what’s occurring. You need to decide what your budget will allow. My experience has been that Facebook will use up every bit of the budget you give it.

Once an ad has “proven” itself, he’ll move it into a separate Ad Set where he experiments with slowly raising the budget for advertising. (I don’t know the steps for doing that, but it sounds logical to me.)

Other Ads Resources

Okay, I hope that walk through wasn’t too vague to do you any good.

Note: I didn’t want to post the step-by-step because Matt Holmes does an excellent job of explaining everything and is probably a better source. I’m definitely recommending him as a resource for Facebook Ads. He has a free 7 Days to Author Ads Success class posted on his site, so if you like the overview above, you might check out his class for more details. I’m not an affiliate, just a fan.)

Another great resource is David Gaughran. He has a series of YouTube videos that cover Facebook Ads. His philosophy is like Matt Holmes, but he goes into more detail on how to create the ad images. David’s Facebook Ads Tutorial does a deep dive into the ad set up.

It’s worth checking out both resources because I found they each gave different tips and tricks. One important one from David: Always set an End Date to your ad, because you never know when something might happen where you aren’t able to log on and turn things off. The End Date acts as a safety net and you can always extend it if things are going well.

Wrap Up

To wrap it up, the key takeaways for doing Facebook Ads are:

  1. Structure them in a logical hierarchy to serve your needs, whether that’s budgetary, analytical, etc.
  2. Only change ONE thing for each Ad in an Ad Set to properly evaluate each ad’s performance.
  3. Use both Facebook and Amazon metrics to thoroughly analyze the success of the Ad.
  4. Turn off poorly performing Ads and leave those that are working turned on. (Note: Whatever you set up as your daily budget, Facebook will spend, so it’s super important to monitor them.)
  5. Ads are not a “one and done” endeavor. You want to watch them because things (aka the market, the platform, etc.) can change unexpectedly.

That’s my overview of Facebook Ads. I hope this helps shed light on the process for those who haven’t ventured into this area yet.

Do you have any favorite resource recommendations on Facebook ads? Please share in the comments.


Happy Marketing!

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