Social media advertising is a must if you’re looking to reach a new, targeted audience—fast.

Like it or not, organic reach is harder and harder to achieve. The days of going viral without a little boost might be gone forever.

Of course it can be scary to move from an organic social strategy to putting real money on the table. So, it’s important to understand all the options.

In this guide, we explain how to use the various types of FaceBook and Instagram ads to achieve real business results while maximizing your spend.

Types of social media ads
Advertising on social is a hyper-direct way to reach the audience you want. You can target brand new customers or returning ones. (New friends! Hooray!) It’s also a chance to do some hands-on A/B testing.

All the major social networks offer advertising options. That doesn’t mean you should use all of them.

When choosing where to place your ads, it’s also helpful to know which networks are most popular with your target audience. Where is your target group most engaged, most concentrated and most accessible?

Targeting teens? TikTok is where to find them. Mums, meanwhile, love Facebook.

Try looking at which social networks perform well organically for your brand. Where does your content naturally strike a chord with fans? This is an obvious choice for your first social ad campaigns.

Here’s a quick summary from the Pew Research Center’s most recent social media fact sheet. It shows a great snapshot of the preferred platform of different demographics.

Facebook ads
Facebook ads help you achieve one of three broad types of campaign objectives:

Awareness: Build brand awareness or increase reach.
Consideration: Send traffic to your website, increase engagement, encourage app installs or video views, generate leads, or encourage people to communicate with you on Facebook Messenger.
Conversion: Increase purchases or leads via your site or app, make cata, or drive foot traffic to offline stores.
Audience considerations: Facebook is popular across many demographics, with 2.45 billion monthly active users. Just as many teenagers use Facebook as their parents—and seniors are quickly catching up.

With detailed targeting options for this huge pool of users, Facebook is a great platform to get started with social media advertising.

With ads, you can direct users to your Facebook Page or your website. You can also direct them to a customized Instant Experience. This is a full-screen interactive or informational destination page within the Facebook mobile app.

Photo ads
Facebook’s internal data shows that a series of photo-only ads can drive more unique traffic than other types of ad formats.

In addition to a photo, Facebook photo ads include 90 characters of text plus a 25-character headline. Show and tell! These ads can also include a call-to-action button like Shop Now or Download.

You can create your photo ad in Facebook Business Manager, or simply promote a post with an image from your Facebook Page.

Pro tip: If you’ve got a tangible product, a Facebook photo ad is a great way to show it off. Show people using your product, rather than a simple photo of the product itself.

Video ads
Facebook video ad options range from short, looping video clips that autoplay in users’ feeds, to original 241-minute promoted videos for the desktop. You can also develop video ads that play within other videos (Facebook video ad Inception!), or even share 360-degree videos.

With so many options, it’s critical to have solid goals and understand who your target market is and where your video will reach them.

Pro tip: Short videos tend to have higher completion rates. However, if you’ve got a compelling message, you can go a little longer. Video can help clearly demonstrate your services—like a cool dance class—and stand-out in a mostly static news feed.

Stories ads
In this full-screen format, photos display for six seconds, and videos can last up to 15 seconds.

One hiccup: You can’t specifically select Facebook Stories ads on their own. They’re included as a possible placement when you select Automatic Placements when creating your ad for the News Feed or Instagram Stories campaigns.

Pro tip: Stories only last for 24 hours, so this is a great format for in-the-moment marketing like limited time offers. The majority of people Facebook surveyed said they wanted Stories ads to be “quick and easy to understand.” Keep things simple.

Carousel ads
No whimsical horses on this kind of carousel. A Facebook carousel ad lets you include up to 10 images or videos, each with their own link, all in one ad.

Carousel ads work well to showcase different features of a product, or to explain a step-by-step process. They’re also a great way to present multiple products or services. For example, a Gap polo or a Gap t-shirt.

Pro tip: Use the different elements in your carousel ad together to present a compelling, effective story or message. (That being said: if you need them to stay in a certain order, opt out of the automatic optimization feature.)

Slideshow ads
A slideshow is an ad that creates a video from several static images—your own or stock images that Facebook provides.

Slideshows offer the compelling motion of video, but require no video-specific resources to create. The best of both worlds! If you’re not ready to try video ads but want to move beyond static photos, slideshow ads are a great option. Plus: fun music!

Pro tip: If you don’t have professional photography on hand, stock photos can be a great option to help you express your brand’s vibe.

Collection ads
A collection ad highlights your products right in the Facebook feed. The ad includes a cover photo or video, plus four smaller product images with pricing and other details.

Think of it as your digital storefront, or an instant peek into your catalog. This format allows people to learn more about your product without leaving Facebook.

Pro tip: Collection ads work especially well for retail and travel brands.

Messenger ads
Messenger ads are simply Facebook ads placed in the Chats tab of the Messenger app. They’ll appear between conversations.

You can use them to start an automated conversation with a potential customer right there on Messenger, or link out to your website to your website or app.

Over 1.3 billion people use Messenger every month—many of whom aren’t even Facebook users. Get chatting.

Pro tip: You can use Messenger ads to restart conversations that have trailed off. Use a custom audience of people who have previously messaged your business.

Playable ads
Facebook Playables are mobile-only interactive previews of your game or apps. This offers an opportunity for users to try before they buy (or download).

These ads start with a lead-in video prompting people to play, via a “tap to try” icon. From here, users can click and instantly test-drive a full-screen demo version, without having to install anything.

It’s a great way to showcase your game, with a low barrier to entry for someone scrolling by.

Pro tip: Make sure you accurately represent the game in your lead-in video, and keep your tutorial simple: as little as two steps, ideally.

Facebook Playable mobile-only interactive game or app previews

Get all the step-by-step instructions you need to set up your Facebook ads in our Facebook advertising guide.

Instagram ads
Facebook owns Instagram. So it’s not surprising that Instagram ads support the same three broad categories of campaign objectives as Facebook ads:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Conversion

Audience considerations: Instagram is most popular with millennials. Plenty of Generation Z and Gen Xers also use the platform.

Like Facebook, you can target your ideal viewer with custom targeting options. Create lookalike audiences, define your audience’s behaviors and activities, interests, and demographics.

The specific Instagram ad types also mirror four of the Facebook ads types:

You can create each type of ad for either the main Instagram feed, for Instagram Stories. Placing ads on IG TV offers a unique ways to reach your audience, too.

Instagram Reels are a new content format for the platform, but so far, there are no paid advertising opportunities here. That being said: the novelty of Reels could make it a great opportunity to experiment with organic reach. Get in on the ground floor, and tell your grandkids you were there when it all began.

Photo and video ads
Your Instagram photo or video will look like a regular Instagram post—except that it will say Sponsored in the top right. Depending on your campaign objective, you may also be able to add a call-to-action button.

Pro tip: Make sure your photo and video ads are consistent in style with the organic posts you share on Instagram. This helps viewers recognize that the ad is from your brand.

Carousel ads
In an Instagram carousel ad, viewers swipe to scroll through different images.

Pro tip: Make sure the images you use in your carousel ad are visually similar and tied together by a common theme. It shouldn’t be jarring to swipe between the different photos in the ad.

Collection ads
Just like Facebook Collection ads, these feature a cover image or video plus several product shots. Clicking on the ad directs the user to an Instant Experience.

It’s the perfect fit for a retail brand. Show ‘em what you’ve got!

Pro tip: Instagram Collection ads don’t include a headline, but they do allow up to 90 characters of text.

Ads in Explore
Extend your ads into the Explore feed and reach an audience who is looking to for new and novel accounts to follow.

It’s a way to place yourself next to the content that’s relevant and trending—and catch the eye of the 200 million-plus users who check out the Instagram Explore tab daily. (They’re brave explorers, out looking for new adventure on the Instagram frontier, and we salute them.)

Pro tip: Your ad won’t appear in the Explore grid directly, but when a user clicks through on any photo, they’ll see your post in the scrolling news feed.

Instagram Stories ads
Instagram Stories ads can use photos or videos up to 120 seconds long. These ads display in full-screen format between people’s stories.

Pro tip: Add interactive elements to Story ads for the best performance.

Dunkin’ found in an A/B test that a Story ad with a poll sticker had a 20% lower cost per video view. Plus, 20% of people who watched the video voted in the poll. (On the very important topic of which is better: donuts or fries.)

author avatar
Eddy Andrew