Facebook Ads – Beyond the Boost


For many business owners, boosting a post on Facebook is their only experience with online ads. Boosting a post is very convenient, but so is getting dinner from a drive-thru instead of making a healthy meal at home.

So it goes with time spent making a “real” Facebook ad. As we’ll show in the following article, targeted ads produce better results, and cost 50 – 80% less.

Boosting a Post Vs. Creating a Facebook ad

Boosting a post means paying to have a single piece of content from your Facebook page shown to more people (also known as reach). Boosting is okay for awareness campaigns like letting people know about your underwater clean-up, free DSD weekend, or other public event. But for something you’re trying to sell (a dive computer, open water class, etc) boosting is a not the best option.

Boosting offers minimal targeting, no conversion tracking, and no ad testing (among other things). Not to mention: a single Facebook post probably isn’t going to sell someone on a multi-hundred dollar dive computer or scuba class. For that, you want people to call or visit your website.

Using the Many Features of Facebook Ads Triples Sales
There are many many ways to use Facebook ads and it’s hard to know where to start. Below is a short list of ideas with real-life examples.

Our case study features Pocket Weights, a company that sells dive weights online and via brick-and-mortar retailers. Like many small businesses, Pocket Weights wanted to reach a lot of new customers but only had a small budget ($2-$3 per day). This doesn’t go very far when you’re trying to reach all the scuba divers in the U.S. To get the most clicks for the money, we used refined targeting, tested multiple ads and other Facebook features to triple their sales.

Multiple Ad Testing
One useful feature of Facebook ads is the ability to try different images and text. It’s fun, a bit like running a mini-experiment.

The ads below targeted Facebook users who were interested in scuba diving and SCUBAPRO (they had to like both). Can you guess which of the ads below received 50% more clicks than the others? Or which one received only one click in three weeks?


The large, close-up shot of the BC pocket  received more than 100 clicks, while the ad on the far right, received only one click in the same time period. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

Interestingly, when we used the same images targeting Aqua Lung fans, the most-clicked ad was entirely different. Aqua Lung fans liked the smaller ad with the blue “Free Shipping” stripe. It  received seven times more clicks than the next most popular ad.

Refine Your Audience and Pay 50% – 80% Less
As described above, we ran the same group of ads to people interested in scuba diving and a manufacturer. The use had to express interest in both in order to be shown the ad.

Facebook determines how much to charge based on an auction system. Numerous companies with large budgets want to show ads to scuba divers – the demand is high. A fair number of companies also want to show ads to people who like Aqua Lung, SCUBAPRO, and other manufacturers. Presumably there is little demand for the audience who likes both scuba diving and a manufacturer. Low demand equals a lower cost.

When you Boost a post, you can only target one Interest group. You may also be targeting the same group of people over and over. Choosing a smaller piece of the pie (refined interest) means better targeting and lower cost.

Cost comparison: single interest vs. refined interest

  • Interested in scuba: 87 cents per click
    $9.69 per thousand  (reach)

  • Interesed in manufacturer: 32 – 43 cents per click
    $7.40 – $8.16 per thousand (reach)

  • Scuba + manufacturer: 15 cents per click
    $6.07 per thousand (reach)


Refining the target audience for your ads is especially good when selling dive travel. Let’s say you’re trying to fill spots on a Galapagos trip. Target your ads to people who are interested in both scuba diving and The Galapagos. Not just people who are interested scuba diving OR The Galapagos. You can also refine by behavior: an interest in scuba and a frequent international traveler.

Other ways to target your Facebook ads:

– Target people who already like your page, or friends of people who like your page. When your ad appears to someone who doesn’t follow your page, they see the smiling faces of everyone they know who are already your fans.  

If you’re running an ad to fill open water classes, why not leverage the social karma you’ve already built?



– Have you ever thought of uploading your email contact list to Facebook? Target your newsletter subscribers with a special offer, or invite them to an event. Not every email will be a match, but it’s free to upload a list. In regards to privacy, Facebook says, “your information will be encrypted to protect customer relationships and you’ll be set to reach more people on Facebook.”

– Facebook can also create a “Lookalike audience” based on your email subscriber list, or the demographics of people who Like your page. This is a good option if you’re running ads to attract new Open Water sign ups as the people in the Lookalike audience won’t necessarily be divers. They will, however, be similar in age, income and geographic location to current customers.

Other Facebook ad options:

Carousel ads – these ads use multiple, square images and often perform better than single-image ads. They’re a good choice for promoting dive trips. How can you sum up Cozumel, The Philippines, or Raja Ampat in just one image? Carousel ads are also good for promoting multiple products.

Split testing (also known as A/B testing) allows you to show Group A one version of an ad and Group B a different version. With Pocket Weights, we used split testing prior to launching a Black Friday special.

We wanted to know whether the 20% discount offered in years past was successful simply because it was a discount. Would  a lower discount like 10% entice just as many people to buy? The split test was important because we didn’t want some customers to buy at 10% off then later see the 20% discount and get upset.

In the end, the 10% offer received zero response in our test. We ultimately rolled out the  20% off holiday promotion to all our contacts.

Capture email addressesFacebook Lead Ads help grow your database by inviting potential customers to share their contact details in exchange for information. For example, an IDC Center might promote a PDF guide to “How to Become a Scuba Instructor in Six Months.” Interested Facebook users click the ad and fill out a form to request the guide. Facebook conveniently pre-populates much of the form and sends it to the IDC Center.

After receiving the new customer’s name, email, location (the form is highly customizable) The IDC Center sends the prospect their guide. The store can then follow up using MailChimp, Constant Contact, phone, Facebook messenger, etc.

In the case of Pocket Weights, we created a Guide to Scuba Weighting eBook. Anyone who completed the Lead Ads form was automatically added to a our MailChimp contacts and sent a special promo code to buy Pocket Weights in addition to the eBook.

Below are the results of a 30-day ad spend on Facebook in 1st Quarter 2017. Though the eBook results were low (only three people filled out a form) the conversions were good – not to mention the low cost per click.

Though convenient, choosing to Boost a post on Facebook isn’t a healthy use of your advertising budget. Utilizing just one of the many Facebook Ad features can bring in better results at a lower cost. Try Facebook ads, and if you get stuck, just do a google search for the issue you’re experiencing; there’s a video tutorial for just about anything these days.


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