Facebook Ads vs Promoted Posts: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Facebook Ads vs Promoted Posts: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Guest post by Kapil Jekishan from Latestcrunchs

Targeting your audience on Facebook is not only painful, but confusing – especially if you want to go down the ‘organic’ path.

Hey, I can’t blame them, as any business with interested parties and dollar driven investors want return on their profits. So whilst I don’t agree, I can understand why Facebook has made it difficult for business owners to connect with their followers unless you show them the money.

Understandably, several individuals are unhappy with this new paid approach, including Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, who was extremely vocal when presented with a price tag of $3,500 in order to promote a message from the Dallas Mavericks Facebook Page to their followers.

But with over 1 billion users, Facebook’s juggernaut position (which is essentially a monopoly) allows them to impose these monetary protocols, so for now, we’re stuck with playing by their rules.

So there are two key methods of advertising your business on Facebook: the standard Facebook ads and the more recent introduction of Promoted Posts. So let’s observe the two options and determine which will suit your business.

Facebook Advertising

This is easily the number one method Facebook relies on to generate the bulk of its revenue. They allow you to place paid ads which are then displayed to your targeted audiences.

When you establish an advert, you can narrow down your audience by using demographic factors such as age, sex, location etc. But that’s not all, you can even go down to specific interests such as whether you want them to like ‘cooking’ ‘gardening’ which Facebook then uses to estimate the size of your target audience.  The number of individuals to whom the ad is actually served depends on your budget and there is no guarantee that anyone will click on your ads.

Facebook Ads

Like Google, Facebook allows you to set a budget so you don’t blow a couple of hundred or thousand within the first few days. Your budget can be as low or high as you want and Facebook also commits to helping you achieve your advertising goals by displaying your ads to the most relevant audience.

So let’s summarise the Pros and Cons of advertising:

Facebook Ads pros and cons

As you can tell, the advantages clearly outweigh the disadvantages, however, you should still be mindful of a couple of factors. Given the cost effectiveness of establishing Facebook ads, the platform is infiltrated with a number of ads and as a result – some come across as spam. Secondly, ads are a distraction and some of the savvy web users have discovered a few methods to block these ads.

Despite these minor issues so to speak, Facebook ads are definitely an effective medium for advertising especially since the cost per click is significantly lower than what you would pay with Google Adwords, plus it’s a great way to generate ‘likes for your business.

What if you already have enough likes? Well, let’s turn our attention to Promoted Posts then…

Promoted Posts

Think of Promoted Posts as something which is in between a standard post and an advertisement. The concept is straight forward, you select the post you want to promote, and just click on the ‘promote’ button next to the ‘comment’ and ‘share’ buttons. Prior to September 2012, Facebook users had this free method of posting a story or message and this would be visible across all followers.  Naturally, many businesses are upset that if you want your message to be soon by your followers, you have to pay for it.

Facebook Promoted Posts

Unlike Ads, there is only a lifetime budget but this can be as little as $5, however, a lower budget means less people are likely to see it. Once you promote a post, the post will be labelled as a sponsored post and your audience will be limited to people who like your page and their friends. You have the option of including or excluding the friends.

Facebook is redesigning its news feeds to give more visibility to Promoted Posts and thus make them more popular with advertisers. The new design allows for larger news feeds with larger pictures and more text. Unlike Facebook ads which can be easily missed, the promoted posts will occupy up to a third of the news feed making them very visible. Take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of Promoted Posts:

Facebook Promoted Posts pros and cons

As you can see the advantages overshadow the disadvantages making this a good method for getting your message out there. The lone caveat I will add is that you require a following / likes to see any real benefit from this method.

Comparison between Facebook ads and Promoted Posts

So now that we’ve analysed the two methods of advertising, which one is better for your business? Well, that will depend on the situation. So here is the overall summary between the two:

Comparing Facebook Ads and Promoted Posts

Although both options have their advantages and work equally well, it all comes down to the environment and what you’re trying to do. If you have minimal likes, start off with Facebook ads to develop likes and get targeted followers. Once you’ve got a fan base going, start to use your Promoted Posts to show off your events, promotional offers, news and given you have targeted followers, these readers will be inclined to read the post and even share it across their network.

So, what’s your favourite method of advertising on Facebook – Ads or Promoted Posts? Have you tried either of these methods? I’m keen to hear your success stories or feedback on how one method works better than the other.

  • I’m wondering if you have spent some time looking at the profiles of the people who have liked your pages after clicking on ads. It seems that recently the people who have been “liking” my page through ads are what I’d call “serial” likers. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to why they have liked my page based on the ads considering the 5,000 other pages they have liked. I’ve gone in and tweaked the demographics. I have to wonder if there is something fishy going on. Any thoughts?

  • Hi Jen, thanks for sharing your experience. There are too many variables in a campaign to be able to find the problem but, I think you’re doing the right thing by looking at the people you are attracting, hopefully you’ll find a common denominator by trying different criteria.

    I really don’t run ad campaigns for my page. I’d love to see what Kapil can add to this.

  • Thanks Francisco. It will be interesting to see if he has any insights.

  • Kapil Jekishan

    Hi Jen – this is definitely an interesting observation you’ve made and one I’ve personally encountered also. I have since tailored my ads and seem to have genuine individuals liking my content (comments have also increased). I did hear last month Facebook confirming that ” there were no viruses or hacker attacks that would falsely prompt profiles to like certain business pages. However, there were a few instances of mobile users accidentally liking a button while swiping through Facebook on their phone” Not much to read into, right? Like Francisco, I agree that best practice involves checking your audience to see if you are receiving targeted likes. Jen, on average, how many ‘serial’ likers do you feel have liked your page?

  • Pre-September of last year, I didn’t seem to have any problems with this. Granted, I was running ads for a different page. But, in the last couple of months of trying ads again for a new page, I’d say just about all of the likes seem to be “serial” ones. So, I stopped, tweaked on several occasions and it was still happening. I’ve since stopped again. One of the criteria was only college graduates. I’m having a hard time believing that most of these people who “liked” the page fit into that demographic. Not sure what to make of it. I may try narrowing down further and see what happens as an experiment. I’ll let you know.

  • Either way, it still helps on a facebook page. =) Anyway, A new online revolution has finally come, The YourPollz, An innovative website that allows individuals and businesses to create polls and invite others to participate. Have a look at http://www.yourpollz.com/ for you to instantly start creating and sending out polls.

  • Kapil Jekishan

    Thanks Jen, and that’s surprising if all ‘likers’ fall into this category. Keep an eye on this and let me know what sort of results come off the back of the narrower approach. How about the geographical location – are you targeting the US and if so, are these individuals from the US or outside?

  • Wonderful Presentation..

  • All within the U.S., college grads and then used targeting criteria such as small business, entrepreneurs, etc. I’ll try again at some point and let you know.

  • I’ll pass on both, having tried them both and found both of them wanting. The sponsored posts are likely to be consumed – not shared – and possibly clicked on more since more eyeballs see it.

    You’re probably better off having some manage your page well, providing offers or relevant content.

  • Kapil Jekishan

    Thanks for sharing your experience Chris. I’d have to agree that it really can be a hit or miss strategy depending on your business but it’s still worth trying as the results can go either way.

  • Have to say I too was a little sceptical when I ran an ad campaign last week for a local businesses. We managed to get 75 likes in 5 days. The location of the new likes were spot on with the demographics we were after, circa 100km from the business. However not one comment, further like or share of a post came from any of the new 75 likes. All the activity was from organic likes that came from great content prior to the adverts. Do you think Facebook has a bank of dormant accounts that they use to satisfy your campaigns and cheat you out of your budget?

    It would be interesting to run a promoted post campaign and see if the activity on these posts just originates from the organic fans. If so I think we would have our answer!

  • Such a shameful plug. Go away.

  • Hey Jonny, thanks for sharing your experience. I feel that running campaigns to increase likes will never work the same as getting them organically. I expect you will get better engagement result when you run promoted posts.

  • Hey Kapil,
    Great side by side comparison here and I think your conclusion is correct. Ads to start and promoted posts once you have a network of sufficient size. Thanks for the observations and for participating on BizSugar.com

  • Kapil Jekishan

    Thanks Jonny and Francisco for adding your point re promoted posts. Jonny I’d have to say the bulk of my interaction on Facebook pages have come off the back of promoted posts as opposed to ads but we need ads to get ‘people onto our books’ so to speak. It does take time before the promoted post fans start to engage by liking newer posts or even commenting / sharing.

  • Kapil Jekishan

    Thanks Heather and as mentioned in my comment to Jonny, it helps to go down the ads path if you have no followers. Speak soon 🙂

  • This is a really nice comparison of those ads. I have to say
    I like Promoted Posts better, but then again, this is just my personal opinion
    and I understand that each type of ad has a specific use for specific needs. If
    you need to reach broader audience, then Promoted Posts are not that useful.
    But thanks for sharing this nice comparison with us, @google-bf6239a735cfaa52c531012be2d61020:disqus.

  • Kapil Jekishan

    Thanks for your comments Michal. Happy to hear you have identified your preference from the two. Completely agree with your reasoning also. Cheers!

  • Dahna Borg

    Hi Kapil,

    Thanks for the comparison, I’ve got clients that are currently trialling different Facebook marketing methods – I’ll definitely have to pass this one on!

  • Kapil Jekishan

    No worries Dahna. Hopefully your clients get a good understanding of the two before deciding which approach to take. Have a great weekend!

  • helenconnor

    Great side by side comparison – thanks for bringing it down to basics

  • Ellen Meister

    The problem with both of these advertising options is the cost. For many of us, the ROI is nonexistent. In fact, there’s simply no way TO REACH OUR OWN FOLLOWERS without winding up in the red.

    To add insult to injury, many of us spent advertising dollars to build our following, assuming we would then be able to reach those followers for free. Facebook’s subsequent tampering with the distribution algorithm as part of a squeeze for more advertising dollars is unethical in the extreme.

    Ellen Meister
    Administrator of http://www.facebook.com/DorothyParkerQuotes

  • Peter J Renko


  • Lisa Gundlach

    Jen, I have had the same experience…despite tweaking my targeting. One correlation (loose not empirical) I have seen is, that despite my fan base growing, I have not seen a similar jump in referral traffic from FB… which is why I am here reading this article. I am going to play around with promoted posts. See question below.

  • Lisa Gundlach

    Very helpful article. I know this a broad question but I am wondering if there is a best practice in terms of how OFTEN to promote a post? Our fan base is currently around 6,000 and I post @ 3 times a day. Does one promoted post a week make sense… what are other companies doing?

  • I actually wrote a blog article because I tested out a $50 promoted post where it promised me an estimated 9,100-17,000 reach but only delivered 4600 (which was what I should have paid $20 for). I personally like Promoted Posts over Facebook Ads but I’m skeptical of the higher cost reach estimates so I stick with $20 or less. Those seem to stay consistent in what they estimate vs. what they deliver. In case you’re interested, here’s a link to my article: http://bslashc.com/2013/05/01/are-you-being-cheated-by-facebook-promoted-posts.aspx

  • I’ve had the same problem. The activity really only comes from the organic likes. It seems the past few campaigns I’ve done no matter the tweaking have only given me clicks from what I call “serial likers.” They have provided no value added and when I look at their profiles the amount of fan pages they have liked is in the thousands.

  • Same issues as me. I’m keeping a page there but am holding off spending any money on FB for the moment.

  • ozio media

    The biggest advantage that promoted posts have
    over ads is the content that can be included. A Facebook ad provides only a
    limited number of characters per advertisement while a promoted post can be
    very long and include images, video or other media. Even if you have only a few
    fans for your page, multiplying your reach by the number of friends that your
    fans have can still give posts a good reach and they appear in the newsfeed
    where other users are most likely to engage with them. Even for building a following
    promoted posts look to be the superior marketing method of the two.

  • Greg Tilford

    Great article. We have been consider using promoted posts and this confirmed it for me since we have a relatively small following, but that is the primary audience we want to target. Today, because of the post visibility algorithms, almost none of our “Likes” see our posts.

    When a post is promoted and it is subsequently “Shared” do the likes and comments follow the shared post, or are they lost like a regular post?

    Thanks, Greg

  • Scott


    There’s an easy way to not get held hostage by FB’s Edgerank. It’s cutting edge and has a 100% deliverability rate to your followers. Let me know if You Want to Learn More.

    Best wishes,

    Scott Krech

  • Lexi

    There is a simple way around a promoted post and that is what I did as an music artist. Create a facebook account that is for your FAN BASE only and advertise it on your other social media! .It has worked out amazing. My fans can find me easily. It cost me nothing and I get to post on there PLUS all their “friends” find me on there to add as well. It is a win win situation on no budget.

  • Trish van Tussenbroek

    I work in the space of running advertising for brands and what I have found is that people in general haven’t looked into what they want to achieve vs the ad types that they should use. Page posts or promoted posts are not the best ads to get more fans. People try the ad that they think will work and then get frustrated when it doesn’t get the result. I highly recommend working with someone who offers a consultative approach to help you achieve the results. It’s the same as any DIY, not everyone has the ability.

  • Aperture Alternative

    ‘Does facebook use “bot accounts” to falsify activity of your content in fan pages’
    I hated having to type it in and I didn’t want to be sceptical but there are some situations in my business page where I do feel some of the ‘likers’ arn’t quite legit.

    I’ve made an elaborate campaign, with many denominators approaching potential audiences of up to 60million?? However, to test the water I limit my budget to £1.
    I regularly post images of my photo shoots and for the last 3 months have received numerous likes on them from numerous parts of the world and it seems unlikely to me they’ve genuinely seen of been interested in my work.
    Curiosity leads to checking out their profiles and some information provided is very limited which raises concerns if the account is legit, and bottom line how and why have they come across my content to ‘like’ it.

    To be honest I don’t entirely mind. The page itself has grown massively in a short amount of time based on paying ads for ‘likes’ , ‘sponsored stories’ and ‘promoted posts’. What’s annoying me is that out of the ‘2,400’ likes on the page who of those are legit? Gained from the ads? Bot accounts? And with every ad that goes out, how many of that number actually see my work?

  • Nguyễn Đức Lực

    Great side by side comparison – thanks for bringing it down to basics

  • Dan Ewah

    Hi @lisagundlach:disqus, you can promote a post everyday if you can afford; if there’s value in your post, your fans will love it. But be sure to include a link to your blog in the post, so that some of your fans can make their way to your blog and subscribe to your email list.

  • Karen

    I spent $50 promoting a post for our business. It tells me it was seen by nearly 12,000 people but we have no new likes- this seems very strange, and as there is not one to talk to at facebook, am I just supposed to take their word for it that 12,000 saw the post?! It actually says 11 new likes but they are not reflected on the site- my number of likes has not changed at all.

  • rich

    I promoted a post for $15 because it said the estimated reach was 5,000 people. But now, it looks as though my post is only reaching the 170 that like my page? What a rip-off. They make it sound like it will target people that share similar interests … now I discover its only people familiar with your page already. What’s the point?

  • jamie mcc

    Perhaps because this is an older article but in reading up on Promoted Posts I found that they can be promoted to people outside of your fan base. “When you promote a post from your Page, you can choose to show it in the News Feeds of more of the People who like your Page and their friends or to People you choose through targeting.”
    This info is from Facebooks faq’s. Perhaps they have added the option to add “targeting” to a promoted post since this article was written.

  • Mohammad Saad

    I’ve developed a first version of my personal script, based on the same idea. Feel free to contribute!

  • christy kunjumon

    Extremely useful post, Facebook recently launched new ad sizes for images. The images are going to be bigger. I found an infogrpahic which is very handy & useful. This shows all the new Facebook ad image sizes and specification

    Hope this helps many.

  • Harpreet

    I shared a picture , then a message on my facebook page. They are automatically showing on my fans’ walls. Why is everyone here saying that the posts will be shared only if we pay. ??

  • Harpreet

    I shared a picture , then a message on my facebook page. They are automatically showing on my fans’ walls. Why is everyone here saying that the posts will be shared only if we make payment??

  • solonzo123

    i want to know how to target page like and give me low cpc http://www.gosippme.com

  • L J Murphy

    My new likes generated by my facebook ads seem like serial likers too.
    . It’s frustrating.

  • Charnelhouse

    One of the main ‘cons’ of Facebook ads is lack of focused targeting. You can target people who like dogs, and people who shop at PetSmart, but not people who do both. It works on OR instead of AND. AND would allow us to create highly focused audiences. Their addition of ‘partner categories’ in the Power Editor makes things better in some niches, but the new categories are far from comprehensive.

  • baz

    Hi Scott,
    Sounds interesting…does this still apply? If so I would like to learn more.

  • Luca

    Hi, a little late reply. but facebook charges you for the engagement. The price of $50 only decides how many people will see your promoted post. However, it may happen that your $50 might have ended when you reached an audience of 4600. That is, lets say if you pay $1 for per engagement (likes, comment, followers etc), you reach your 50th user at 4600 number and your ad stopped promoting your post. Hence the reach of 4600 instead of 9000. For more details you can follow me at twitter.com/luca_mauricio

  • Kathryn Kozody

    As this comment was posted a year ago, you may have already seen this but unfortunately paying for likes on FB is not only useless but detrimental. The majority of likes come from click farms and plummets your organic engagement – heres more on this and the video from the creator of Veritasium, Derek Muller, that proves it: http://www.stormdivision.com/page/53/Why-You-Shouldnt-Spend-Money-to-Promote-Your-Page-on-Facebook.html?blog_mode=true.

    As for boosting posts, I was initially quite excited by the huge reach garnered on a small budget, however began questioning legitimacy when I would get 6,000+ reach, and no more likes on the post, page and a bit more “post clicks” than an organic post that reached only 200…I don’t like there is no transparency or way to prove if 6,000 people are actually seeing it – you’d think statistically you should naturally get more engagement, especially if it’s allegedly targeted and being seen by the right demographic.

  • Kathryn Kozody

    Hi Jen,

    As I mentioned above, you aren’t alone in your suspicions and the creator of Veristasium, Derek Muller actually tested it – you can find more info and his video on it here: http://www.stormdivision.com/page/53/Why-You-Shouldnt-Spend-Money-to-Promote-Your-Page-on-Facebook.html?blog_mode=true

  • Awesome tips Kapil. ThankU!

  • Prateek

    Great article Kapil, I was actually searching for some insights on facebook ads and this post has given me much more.
    Download latest apps here: http://www.downloadapponpc.com

  • JP

    If page likes are what you are seeking, you should go for an advertisement and not a promotion. Because while setting a campaign you can choose whether you want to increase your page likes, or just get ad clicks and so on…

  • Shinichi

    It has worked out amazing. My fans can find me easily gia vang giay nam thoi trang FiFa Online 3 game dua xe thoi trang nu tu vi xem boi mon ngon am thuc It cost me nothing and I get to post on there PLUS all their “friends” find me on there to add as well….

  • Unlike Facebook ads which can be easily missed, the promoted posts will occupy up to a third of the news feed making them very visible.

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  • C4talyst

    Because organic reach to page followers has dropped from around 25% to 5%.

  • I think we can’t avoid paying for reaching our existing follower base. Facebook needs to make more money and there is a limited space in users’ News Feed. What we can do is to pay some money and craft a perfect post by paying attention to the following:
    – Audience targeting
    – Providing valuable content our audience likes
    – Figuring out the perfect time to promote a post
    – Creating clickable headline
    – Writing pst description that increases engagement
    – Using high-quality images that attract attention and still relevant

    These are the elements of a framework I put together in the last few weeks. I also added some tips on how to nail each and eventually create much better Facebook posts: http://blog.momentum.ai/6-things-to-think-about-when-posting-facebook-sponsored-posts

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