Is it just us, or have Facebook’s means for targeting users become a little hard to keep straight?

Luckily, you don’t need a great and powerful wizard to help you find the answers to this one. In this post, we’ll lay out the differences between each of these advertising tools, along with the pros and cons of each. Because the goals and messages of individual companies can vary widely, the opinions about the most effective tools are often contradictory. The best thing to do is look at the summaries below with your business and mind and ask yourself what “success” would mean to you. Clicks? Social Reach? Conversions? It’s different for everyone depending on the goal of the campaign.

1. Display Ads: Facebook Display Ads have gotten a lot of attention lately due to sharp rise in popularity that has taken their numbers soaring above advertising powerhouse Google.  This infographic shows Facebook with a projected display ad revenue of $19.4 billion for 2012, compared to Google’s $12.5 billion. These are the ads that show up along the right hand side of your profile or newsfeed and feature a headline, image, text and option to share.

Pros: Visually appealing, allow for very specific targeting, provide great tracking insights

Cons: Many viewers have no prior exposure to the brand, they’re not given any additional reason to click your ad or like your page. Can be relatively expensive.


2. Sponsored Stories: The effectiveness of this type of ad relies on the value people place on endorsements from our friends. These ads allow companies to decide which kind of activity they’d like to promote, and then make sure that activity shows up among ads along the right side of the page. Advertisers can promote your friends’ check-ins, likes, events, charitable support, etc. One nice thing about these ads is that they contain information that would already have shown up in the newsfeeds of your fan’s friends. Explained in this video from Facebook, Sponsored Stories increased ad recall and likeliness to recommend to a friend.

Pros: Provide users with a reason to interact with your brand. Only show up for people who have some connection to your brand through a friend. Very good social reach results.

Cons: Less messaging flexibility than display ads. Appear alongside the advertisements of other brands, which means your message might be tuned out.


3. Promoted Posts: Perhaps the most obvious difference between this and the other two options is the placement. Promoted Posts are displayed right there in users’ newsfeeds along with their friends’ activity, as opposed to the right side advertising space. Why promote a post? SEOmoz explains that, due to Facebook’s complicated EdgeRank system, only about 16% of your fans actually have your post show up in their newsfeeds. Promoted Posts increase your post’s visibility greatly – depending on how much you’d like to spend, of course. More fans see your post, more of them share it with their friends, and so on.

Pros: Placement in the newsfeed lends credibility and increases visibility, targets users who have already liked your brand but have not engaged in awhile – can save you money by avoiding ‘preaching to the choir’ as other tools can not. Also, their placement in the newsfeed means that they show up on the Facebook mobile app, whereas right-side content like ads and sponsored stories will not.

Cons: Because this form of advertising only targets users who already like your brand, it relies on their sharing your post in order to reach any new leads who are not already engaged with you.


One of the advantages that all of Facebook’s advertising and promotions share is relative affordability. Thanks to their targeting and budgeting tools, it’s possible for brands to test different approaches and either decide on one way that works best for them, or even try a mix of all three.

Have you tried any of the options above? What have you found to be the most effective?

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