The Differences between Boosted Posts and Facebook Ad Campaigns

One question I get asked almost every time I deliver a social media training session is, “what’s the difference between a Facebook ad campaign and a boosted post?” It’s a fair question, in a lot of ways they’re pretty similar. But here are some of the key advantages of an ad campaign over a boosted post:

  • Audience Targeting Options
  • Creative Testing
  • More Variety of Objectives
  • More Control over Budget
  • Better Reporting

Boosting posts is like a “mini” ad campaign. It’s faster, it’s easier, but you can do less. Like a go-kart compared to a car. For the right purpose, they’re great… but sometimes you need more.

Quick Summary of Boosting Posts on Facebook

First tip with boosting posts – it’s best to ensure that any post you boost is performing strongly organically first, ideally for around 6-24 hours. This sends signals to Facebook’s algorithm that it’s a strong post, and you’re likely to be rewarded with lower costs and better results.

When you click Boost Post it will give you a few limited options for what you want to achieve. For example, if it’s a video, you can choose between driving Video Views or attracting Messages. You will be able to add a button to the post to encourage users to take action. The button options you are given will be more limited than in Ads Manager.

You need to choose who you want to reach, how much you want to spend, and how long you want the post to run for. You can also choose whether you want the post to run on Facebook, Instagram or Messenger (or all three). The audience network is not an option for boosted posts. It also wouldn’t appear in Stories.

The advantages of boosting posts is that the post often looks more natural in a newsfeed rather than like an ad. It’s quicker and easier, and you can spend less.

The disadvantages are that you can’t optimise or compare different creatives, and your creative formats and targeting options are more limited. You also don’t get as strong reporting afterwards.


Why Facebook Ad Campaigns are Better

As mentioned at the start, there are five key advantages of a Facebook ad campaign over a boosted post:

  • Audience Targeting Options
  • Creative Testing
  • More Variety of Objectives
  • More Control over Budget
  • Better Reporting

Let’s go through them briefly…

Audience Targeting Options

Facebook is an incredibly powerful tool for targeting the right audiences. For example, in an ad campaign, I could target women turning 50 in the next week, who have visited my website recently, who like dogs, who watched at least 50% of recent video I shared, who weren’t university educated and who aren’t a fan of my page. You can add layers and layers of targeting including basics like age, sex, location, interests, but also whether they are current fans, similar to your current fans, have interacted with your website, have interacted with your content, who have purchased from you recently – the world is your oyster. Boosted posts scrape the surface of this functionality. They have the basics of audience targeting, but nowhere near this level of depth. Ask yourself who are you trying to reach, do you need this level of depth? If you don’t, then there’s nothing wrong with the basics of a boosted post.

Creative Testing

Within Facebook Ads you can run “true” AB tests, as well as the standard option of running multiple creatives at the same time to see which performs best. This can mean different versions of the same ad, but different call to action buttons, or different images, or different texts, or video vs. image (for example). Or it can mean testing completely different creative messages and styles. There are two ways of trying different creatives:

1. True AB tests: Your audience is divided into two equal halves and each half will only see one ad in order to measure accurately which ad is better.

2. Self-optimising creative variants: Facebook runs all your ads, it’s possible that the same people will see all your variants, and it will start showing your best ad to more people, and potentially stop serving your weaker ad altogether.

Currently, none of this is possible with a boosted post.


More Variety of Objectives

When you advertise on Facebook, you always choose an advertising objective. This might be sales, website traffic, to reach as many people as possible, to attract page likes, or to drive engagement with your content (as a few examples). Facebook will optimise towards your objective, meaning that within the potential pool of people you want to target, it will try to only show your ad to those people more likely to fit with your objectives. Boosted posts have a more much limited range of objectives, making it more difficult to achieve your goals cost effectively.


More control over budget

With a boosted post, you generally set the amount you are willing to spend in total, and how many days you wish to run it for, and that’s that. With a full ad campaign, you can limit how much you’re likely to pay for a click, purchase or like. You can allow your budget to flow freely between different audiences depending on what’s performing best. You can schedule your budget to spend more at specific times of day. In general, you can be a lot more creative with how your budget is invested. Again, this might be relevant to your goals, or it might not be.


Better Reporting

At the end of your spend, you’ll want to know – did I achieve what I wanted to? Facebook Ads Manager lets you cut and slice and pivot your data in so many ways to see understand how it performed and why. You can set daily reports to run and send to others in your organisation. You can compare engagement rates between different creatives, see whether men or women were more likely to buy, or whether younger people cost more to reach. You can see how your ad performed on Facebook vs. Instagram, or on desktops vs. mobiles. For higher spending campaigns, this sort of information is essential to improve on performance with each campaign.

So that’s it in a nutshell! Any key functional differences between the two that we’ve missed, let us know! Or if you want to hand with paid advertising on Facebook – get in touch.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: