Facebook Friday: The Basics of Facebook Ad Units for Building Brand Communities

If you want your brand to be successful on Facebook, you will probably have to buy advertising at some point. Why? Because Facebook’s algorithm, called EdgeRank, filters out everything but the most compelling posts from users’ news feeds. EdgeRank scoring is proprietary but sources put the number of posts that actually get through to users’ news feeds at anywhere from 2%-10%, with most estimates on the low end. This means your brand’s posts are rarely seen by the vast majority of fans.

This has led to some controversy in the marketplace, with people in the business community claiming Facebook is “forcing” them to buy ads. The truth of the matter is that many posts, whether generated by individuals or brands, can sometimes be less than engaging. Facebook has to find a way to filter posts, otherwise a user’s news feed would become an unmanageable stream of un-tailored information, and the site itself wouldn’t be as much fun for users.


Even the most clever copywriter’s posts can get lost in the clutter on Facebook and that’s where sponsored stories come in. “Sponsored story” is a generic term for any sponsored post. It could be an event, a specific post in a brand’s news feed, or an ad targeting friends of existing fans that says, “your friend likes this brand.”

All Facebook ads can be micro-targeted to specific groups of users. This creates a great opportunity for brands to create and promote different posts that appeal to specific market segments.

The following paragraphs describe the two basic ad units available to anyone with a business page on Facebook.

Branding Ads

This is your basic “Like” Campaign familiar to most small businesses and is intended to build a brand’s fan base. It appears on the right hand side of the screen and invites people to “Like” your brand.

Direct Ads

This is an ad that will appear in the right hand side of the screen and links to a brand’s page on Facebook or another brand website. Direct ads are useful as part of a bigger campaign or simply to direct users to something like an e-commerce site.

Many small businesses don’t realize that there are additional advertising options beyond the basics listed above, for a price. With a Facebook fan base of at least 400 people and a minimum $1500.00 monthly advertising spend, the ad units available to brands becomes a lot more interesting. Just like the standard ad units available to small businesses, these additional types of ads can be targeted in any number of different ways.

Polling Ads

As the name suggests, this ad poses a multiple choice question and is a good way to get more participation with your audience while collecting potentially useful data at the same time.

Video Ads

Brands can sponsor videos that have been posted to their Facebook page. The video will appear in Facebook users’ news feed. This is a great way to push video content out to people beyond the brand’s existing fan base.

Event Ads

Events created by brands already show up in users’ Upcoming Events, but with event ads, brands can promote the event beyond their existing fan base.

Special Offer

This is an easy way for brands to share promotional offers like coupons. When a user clicks on a special offer, Facebook sends a coupon code directly to the e-mail address associated with that user’s account.

Mobile Ads

Many of the ad units listed above can appear in Facebook’s mobile app, but mobile ads that appear strictly in the news feed of a user’s mobile Facebook application are also available. Because mobile access of the site has increased dramatically, mobile ads are particularly compelling for retailers dependent on foot traffic in a specific area.

Getting noticed on Facebook, or anywhere in social media, is the name of the game. Facebook ad units are an inexpensive and scalable way for brands to make the most of the social network by more effectively reaching their target audience. These are just the basics of Facebook advertising options, that should provide small businesses with a better understanding of the right ad units that can help support the brand’s social media strategy.

Photo credit: Libby Levi