I have a confession to make. Taco Tuesday comes twice a week in our household. My husband and I have become devout regulars at a local taco shop, partly because of their killer queso, and partly because of their hyper-friendly staff. A couple of weeks ago, we visited our taco joint of choice and got into a conversation with the owner, who politely asked what I do for work. When I get this question from local business owners, I hesitate to mention our company right off the bat, as I don’t want to come off as salesy to the owners of my favorite local hot spots.

Our conversation quickly progressed into how his business has been affected by the larger Tex-Mex options in the surrounding area. He mentioned everything he was doing to get the attention of potential local customers, one of which was advertising on Facebook.

When I asked what types of ads he was running and how he was targeting them, he began talking about his posts, and how he was paying to boost them. “Huh,” I said. “So you’re boosting posts and creating advertising campaigns too…business should be booming!” **cricket chirps** …and there was the moment of disconnect. I realized that in his mind, boosting posts on Facebook is the same as advertising on Facebook. And he’s not alone in his thinking.

A Common Misconception

Do you have a Business Page on Facebook? (You should.) If you do, you likely post regularly to your news feed so your followers can keep up with your business. Once you publish a post to your feed, Facebook offers you the option to boost it for additional visibility (in exchange for a little extra cash). Since boosting requires a monetary investment, many business owners stop there and assume they’ve covered their advertising bases on Facebook.

Not so! Boosting is just one way of getting targeted, added visibility with your local Facebook audience. But Facebook also offers targeted ad campaigns as an additional, more strategic method of getting your business’s name out there and creating new leads.

The Difference between Boosted Posts and Facebook Ads

Boosted Posts Boosted Facebook posts are nothing more than typical posts you’ve previously created that are already live in your Facebook Business Page’s feed, which you pay to promote to a larger audience than you’re currently reaching.

Facebook Ads – A more advanced way to advertise on Facebook, ads target a very specific demographic of potential customers and help you attach calls to action to achieve various goals. They offer in-depth analytics and reporting on the ads you run, so you can track engagement.

(Somewhere in the Middle) Boosted Post Ads – Within Facebook’s ad console, there’s an option to create what they call a boosted post ad. Positioned somewhere in between the two prior-mentioned advertising methods, this approach gives you a choice of whether or not the post/ad-combo will appear on your business page or not. Unlike simpler boosted posts, you get the advanced targeting benefits of Facebook ads. But unlike Facebook ads, you lack the opportunity to add the ever-important call-to-action button.

The Time and Place for Each

Now that we know the difference between boosted posts and Facebook ads, let’s talk about when to use each. Each method of paying to promote your business via Facebook has its benefits.

Boosted Posts

Boosting works best when you’re trying to drive brand recognition and audience engagement such as likes, shares, comments and visits to your Facebook Business Page. To boost a post, choose one of your higher-performing, more engaging posts and click the Boost Post button in the bottom right-hand corner. Facebook will walk you through the rest.

Pro tip: Avoid boosting posts that contain content you’re sharing from an outside source. If you were to do this, you’d basically be paying to promote someone else’s brand. Stick with your own content so you remain the star.

Facebook Ads

Targeted ad campaigns work best to drive actual business results. And these days, they also offer a host of upscaled formatting options outside of the additional analytics. You can build carousel ads, slideshow ads, canvas ads, and more. There are even plenty of video ad options.

Facebook lets you create campaigns based on your advertising objectives. They provide great guidance around how to create a Facebook ad.

Here are the basics:

1. Get a Facebook Ad Manager account.
2. Choose your objective. Here are your options:

Facebook ad objective options
Image source: https://www.facebook.com/business/help/132037906870538

3. Decide who you want to see your ad based on age, location and other identifiers.
4. Pick where to place your ad, in case you want it to show up outside of Facebook or on specific devices.
5. Set a budget for your Facebook ad, choosing either daily or lifetime limits.
6. Choose a Facebook ad format that suits your objective. Though Facebook adjusts these every now and then, your current options are:

  • Photo
  • Video
  • Carousel
  • Slideshow
  • Collection

7. Start your campaign!

Boosted Post Ads

These are the trickiest of the bunch, as they blend the benefits and the drawbacks from the previous ad types. The best time to use these is if you typically use your Facebook page as an educational, engagement platform. Using a boosted post ad, you can keep your more targeted promotional messaging from appearing on your Business Page.

Don’t Get Stuck

No matter how you approach Facebook advertising for your local business, don’t get stuck repeating the same things over and over. Continuously measure what you’re doing using the ad insights Facebook provides. When you find something that works, keep doing it. When you find that something has disappointing results, adjust.

Editors Note: This post is frequently updated for accuracy. Updated 10/13/19.