Facebook Ads and Promoted Posts: Know the Difference

Sophia Pollock
By Sophia Pollock

It’s no secret that Facebook may be the most important platform for marketers. More than two billion people use the social media behemoth. Two billion. The site’ usage stats are eye-popping as well – more than one billion users log on daily, and 1.5 billion use Facebook on their mobile devices. Facebook is growing rapidly too – five new profiles are created on Facebook every second.

The average time spent on the site is 20 minutes per session – which is plenty of time to view and engage with a business post. As far as demographics, the coveted 25-34 years old market accounts for nearly 30 percent of all users.

Related: Who Can You Target With Facebook Ads?

The list of stats goes on, so it goes without saying that every business needs a presence on Facebook. But a mere presence is not enough. Facebook offers various paid services to boost your brand, like promoted posts and Facebook ads.

Facebook, however, can be a bit cagey about its data and even more obtuse about how its marketing vehicles work, confusing many businesses who don’t have a dedicated online marketing team. Every business, however, should educate itself on the basics of Facebook advertising and paid medium so that they can capitalize on the opportunities the site provides. Ads and promoted posts are a great place to start.

What Are Promoted Posts?

Promoted posts are the most basic form of Facebook “advertising.” It works by elevating a free post you already have in your feed to expand its audience, driving more likes and shares. Most people have hundreds and even thousands of “friends” on Facebook, so they don’t see every post your business shares. What appears in each user’s news feed is based on a secret algorithm based on their preferences, likes and interactions. If a user is already engaging with your business’ posts, they will see most or all of them in their newsfeed, giving you a free advertising opportunity.

More often than not, though, business posts are few and far between in an individual user’s feed. Facebook is rightfully wary of turning the platform into a giant advertising machine – which would likely drive users away. Promoted posts can help you reach an audience you normally would not. In fact, users see only about 1 percent of business posts. This is where promoted posts can help. For a fee, you can ensure that your post reaches more people – even thousands of people.

How Do Promoted Posts Work?

Promoted, or “boosted” posts are simple to execute, and designed to fit any budget. First, you simply select the “boost” button on the upper right hand corner of the post, and Facebook will automatically create an ad from your post. Next, you’ll have the opportunity to choose the audience you want to see the post. You’ll be able to specify the people you show your boosted post to.

Then, refine their locations, ages, genders and interests. If you simply want to push the post to people who like your page and their friends, only those people will see the post. You’ll need at least 50 people who already like your page to choose this option, but it is the less expensive option.

Related: Boosted Posts vs. Facebook Ads – What’s the Difference?

The price you’ll pay depends on various factors, but you’ll have the opportunity to choose your own budget. Facebook’s interface will give you an estimate of how many people your post will reach depending on how much you want to spend. You’ll also be able to choose the duration of your post, ranging from 1-7 days. If you’re budget conscious and simply looking to increase your engagement with potential customers, promoted posts are a great option. In many cases, your reach can double from a single promoted post.

What Are Facebook Ads?

For those looking to reach a much wider audience, Facebook ads are your best bet.  The process is a bit more complicated than a simple promoted post, but Facebook ads offer extra reach, more exposure, and a lot more in the way of targeting options. You can create ads to target everything from geographic area, age, sex, education level and device type. You can cater your ads to those who have similar interests to your brand. And depending on how much you’re willing to spend, you can reach a very large amount of people on what is the largest social media network in the world. Facebook ads also give you more design options, as opposed to the simple format of promoted posts.

How Do Facebook Ads Work?

With Facebook ads, you begin by selecting your audience. You can choose ranges in age, location and many other factors. Next, you can decide where your adw will go – you can choose Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network and Messenger. You can also choose to run the same ad on these platforms simultaneously. Your ad will automatically format to fit any platform – and any device.

The next step – and the most crucial decision – is to set your budget. You can start with a very small investment, so you’ll know exactly how much it costs. You can raise your budget at any time, and will probably want to once you see results. When you enter your budget, you will also choose the duration of your ads. If you set you ad to run for 2 weeks, you’ll enter the daily budget that you want to spend each day. The Facebook ad platform runs on a “bid” system that uses an algorithm to place your ad. This process may seem confusing, but Facebook does the work for you.

Finally, you’ll pick a format. You can choose a photo, a carousel of multiple photos, a video, a slideshow or a custom “canvas.” Once you’ve chosen your format, you purchase your ad and send it out into the Facebook world! Make sure to monitor your ad using Facebook’s ads manager, so you can determine what is working and what is not, and adjust your strategy based on that information.


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As a Paid Social Project Manager, Sophia works directly with clients to grow their social presence and increase ROI. She is passionate about helping brands tell their story in an engaging and authentic way. Outside of the office she loves spending time outdoors and exploring everything Southern California has to offer.