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.

        We get it – if you’re working in marketing at a non-profit you’re probably wearing a million different hats. You can’t possibly be an expert in everything, and you often don’t have time to learn. This post is for you – the time-poor, the many-hat wearing marketing unicorns who choose to follow the path of non-profit marketing for the greater good.


1. Confusion Between Narrow/Expand audience

When you’re setting up an audience in Facebook ads, you can choose from so many different options to reach your perfect audience. However, I’ve seen a few campaigns where all the ideas about audience targeting are dumped into the one box. This means that anyone who meets just one of these criteria would be reached by your campaigns. Use the Narrow Audience option underneath to define more criteria – a person will have to meet at least one thing in the first box, and something else in the second box in order to be targeted. Think of it as anything within a box means “or” and adding a second or third separate boxes means “and”.

2. Not addressing the comments on ads

Non profit ads can received a LOT of comments, especially if you’re using particularly poignant imagery. If you go to your page, and then Notifications, anyone who comments on an ad will be listed here, along with people who comment on your organic posts. If the ad is stirring up a lot of conversation (lucky you), you can filter by “most recent” at the top to make sure you’re responding to each comment as they come in. Everything should be replied to, even anything negative or difficult, or people could be put off making that valuable donation.

3. Excluding / including Fans

This depends entirely on the objective of your campaign. If you’re trying to acquire new people to your charity, remember to Exclude Fans (right at the bottom of your ad set creation window). However, if you have an urgent campaign where warm audiences would be most receptive, you may wish to run a small campaign exclusively targeted at fans specifically. Just remember, an existing fan is likely to respond very differently to a cold audience, so focus on the objective of your campaign, and don’t waste budget on the wrong audience.

4. Use of images only

The Facebook algorithm much prefers carousel ads (where you click to scroll across multiple images) and video ads to single image ads. And they’re so easy to create nowadays. You can create a Slideshow ad to function as a video simply by choosing up to 10 images and allowing Facebook to fade in and out of each image. You’ll reach more people for less budget, and potentially even see higher click through rates with these ad types.

5. Looooooooooooooong ad captions

It’s tempting to tell your whole story in a Facebook ad, but it’s just not the place. Think of it like a billboard above a motorway – you only have a second or two of focus to grab attention, so make your point quickly and succinctly. Facebook recommends 90 characters, and while you can go on for longer, you don’t want your main point to disappear below the dreaded “Read More” tag.

Any other common errors you’d add to this list?

Or let us know if you need a hand with your non-profit marketing.

Yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg announced that posts from business pages (including charities) would begin to see less visibility in the Facebook newsfeed, favouring content from friends and family instead, particularly content that is more likely to stimulate conversation. So what does this mean for small businesses and charities, many of whom are only just getting to grips with the potential of social media, and don’t have much budget? Read More