Advertising on Facebook: Self-Serve Ad Units Explained & Examined

It’s true: Facebook ads just ain’t what they used to be. In case the recent changes have you scratching your head, here you’ll find a run-down of the most common self-service Facebook ads, text, and image specs, and what they are best used for.

Traditional Facebook Ad to Website


  • Headline: 25 characters
  • Body Copy: 90 characters
  • Image: 100×72 pixels
  • Destination: website

Social: Shows related activity about a connected page. Facebook matches the domain of the URL entered in the ad unit to a Page’s Website which can be found or edited under Info.


Best used for:

  • Direct response
  • Cheap(er)* traffic
  • Branding
  • PR

Ah, the traditional Facebook ad… Say what you will about the performance of these gems in the wild, they’re the only ad unit that takes users off Facebook.

Facebook Page Ad, Page Like Story, and Page Check-in Story

First, we’ll profile the Page Ad, as Facebook Advertisers must create a Page Ad to create Page Like Stories and Page Check-in Stories. (Yes, seriously.)


  • Headline: Page name
  • Body Copy: 90 characters
  • Image: 100×72 pixels
  • Destination: Facebook, can choose destination on your Facebook Page.

Social: Shows related activity about a connected page and advertisers can create “Sponsored Stories.”

Best used for:

  • Branding
  • PR
  • Page Likes
  • Page/Post Engagement
  • Contest Entries


By leaving the “Sponsored Stories” checked, Facebook will spawn not just the Page Ad, but a Page Like Story as well. The image in both the Page Like Story and Page Check-in Story are defaulted to the Page’s profile image.


The targeting for the Page Like Story will default to tight connection targeting of friends of friends.

You may also notice there is no specific Check-in Sponsored Story. Hmm. In order to create a standalone Check-in Sponsored Story advertisers must de-select the Sponsored Story about People liking your Page and leave only the Check-in Story selected.

But surely there must be a way to create only Page Like Stories? There is, it’s just a bit convoluted…

In the Sponsored Story preview of the Like Story or Check-In Story advertisers have the option to Create a Similar Sponsored Story.


By selecting this option, the Page Ad is removed from Facebook’s Create Flow.


Et Voila!

Page Post Ad and Page Post Like Story

This ad unit is the intersection between community managers (CM), marketers, and content developers. The content team needs to package posts to be optimized for Sponsored Stories (i.e., Square-ratio post image, that is recognizable even when small), followed by the CM crafting a compelling, ad-like update and link title, and finally managed by the marketing team.


  • Hyperlink Title: 55 characters, which can be edited by clicking on the link preview before posting.
  • Update Copy: 90 characters, this text is where you would Say something about this link…
  • Image: Post image, ratio: square
  • Destination: Facebook or blog post on your site. If a user clicks directly on the hyperlink in the ad they will be taken directly to the blog post on your site. Conversely, if clicked anywhere else, the user is taken to the post on Facebook.

Best used for:

  • Page/Post Engagement
  • Page Likes
  • PR
  • Branding


First, post the update, image, or link with update to the Page Wall.

Once you’ve selected the Facebook Page you’d like to advertise the post on, choose Promote Page Posts.


Select from the dropdown menu of your 20 most recent Page posts.


Take care that you don’t opt in to keep your ad “up-to-date,” unless you truly want to, as Facebook will automatically spawn new ad units for every update that is made to your Page.

Page Post Like Stories

With the Page Post Story you also have the option to create Sponsored Stories surrounding your Page Post.


Similar to the Page Ad and Page Like Story, leaving these Sponsored Stories will create a separate ad unit and be targeted to your connections by default.


Until recently, advertisers have been able to promote these Sponsored Stories to Friends of Connections, Facebook has flipped a switch and advertisers are now only able to target these ads to Friends of Fans who have engaged in the post. Needless to say, if your posts don’t typically get lots of engagement, the target, or audience reach, for this ad unit is teeny tiny.

Application Ads

  • Headline: App name
  • Body Copy: 90 characters
  • Image: App image
  • Destination: Facebook App

Best used for:

  • App downloads

App ads are very similar to Page Ads with the option to add Sponsored Stories.



As Facebook rolled out their new Create Flow, they also opted all new ads created to an auto-optimized CPM bidding model.


This can be changed easily enough, but I know of a few advertisers who had this option slip by & whoops, $2.00 CPM. Ouch. Simply select: Switch to Advanced Pricing (includes CPC), Optimize for clicks, and Manually set a value for clicks.


Though Facebook changed its Create Flow, defaulted advertisers in to creating more ads and auto bidding, there’s one thing to be sure of, it will most certainly change again. So tread lightly when changes are made and carry a big stick.

Post Image Credit: designsbykari

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