7 reasons your Facebook ads aren’t working

by | Jun 14, 2019 | Facebook Ads: Optimising & Scaling | 0 comments

Has a lack of success with Facebook/Instagram ads led you to believe Facebook ads aren’t right for your business?

Facebook currently has 2.38 billion monthly active users and Instagram has over 1 billion. As an independent retailer, your customers will be among them.

Therefore if your Facebook Ads aren’t working, it unlikely to be because they aren’t right for your business.

Here I walk you through 7 reasons your Facebook Ads aren’t working to help you get to the root of the problem and start to build successful campaigns for your business.

1. You’ve chosen the wrong campaign objective

When creating a Facebook ad you have three groups of objective to choose from – awareness, consideration and conversion.

Choosing the right objective is important because it means Facebook will show your ad to the subset of people within your target audience that are most likely to take that action. For example, if you want people to…

  • read your latest blog post, you’d choose Traffic.
  • interact with your post or like your page, you’d choose Engagement.
  • drive sales, you’d choose Conversions.

Choosing the wrong objective will not only mean that your ad will be shown to the wrong subset of people, but it will also impact the cost of your ads.

If your Facebook Ads aren’t working, revisit which objective you are using and ask yourself if it is the best one for the action you want your audience to take.

2. Your targeting is off

The options Facebook offers allows you to be laser-focused with your targeting – which is what can make them so effective over other advertising avenues. But get the targeting wrong, and you’ll end up showing your ads to the wrong people.

There are three types of audiences you can create on Facebook:

Custom Audiences.

These will be your warmest audiences and include your past purchasers, website visitors, Facebook/Instagram engagers and email list. These audiences are most often used to get social proof (likes, comments, shares) on an ad, or for retargeting in the middle or at the bottom of a funnel.

Lookalike Audiences.

Lookalike audiences are cold audiences, most often used at the top of a funnel. They are based on your warm custom (‘seed’) audiences. Therefore, if your warm seed audiences are of high quality, they are very effective. If on the other hand, your seed audiences are low quality (eg if they contain friends and family or bought followers vs ideal customers; or they don’t contain enough people for Facebook to build an accurate picture from) your lookalike audiences will contain the wrong people and you’ll have less success with these audiences.

Interest-based Audiences.

Interest-based audiences are those you create based on demographics, interests and behaviours. For interest-based audiences to be successful you need to have a detailed understanding of the demographics, interests and behaviours of your ideal customers.

When building interest-based audiences you also need to consider whether you need to narrow your audience by layering interests. Take a business selling wedding invitations as an example. In the audience on the left, narrowing is not used. Here Facebook would target people who are engaged OR match one or more of these wedding-related interests. In the audience on the right, narrowing has been used. Here Facebook would target people who are engaged AND match one or more of these wedding-related interests. The audience on the right is more likely to yield better results due to this nuance in the targeting as we know they will all be engaged and highly interested in weddings. The audience on the left may be shown to engaged people but could also be shown to others interested in weddings such as guests, family members, bridesmaids/groomsmen and others working in the wedding industry. 

Before you begin creating these audiences on Facebook, I recommend creating audience personas for your business using my FREE AUDIENCE PERSONA WORKBOOK.

Have you chosen the right targeting for your ads? 

3. You don’t have enough budget

Facebook advertising works via an auction process, whereby you are bidding against competitors (or other businesses after the same types of people) to show those people your ad. The winner of the auction is the ad with the highest total value. One of the determining factors of this value is the bid placed by an advertiser (i.e. what they are willing to pay to achieve their desired outcome).

Therefore, if you don’t have a big enough budget, you may find yourself being outbid by competitors or other businesses to get in front of your target audience. You’ll see your costs rise and your results plummet. 

This becomes more evident around peak times of the year for retailers, such as the lead up to Valentine’s Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas because there is more competition at these times. To overcome this, you’ll find that you will need bigger budgets to be able to successfully compete in the auction process.

In addition to bearing in mind the auction process you also need to consider how long your funnel needs to be to get your audience to take your desired final action. For example, if I was selling a product at a value of £20 I’d likely only need to send my people to my product sales page, and potentially retarget those who don’t buy the first time (so, a 1 or 2 stage funnel) in order to achieve a return on investment. If I was selling a product at a value of £500, I might need to add an additional stage upfront to warm the audience up before they are willing to part with their money (so here I’d need a 2-3 stage funnel). The longer the funnel needed to get your audience to take your desired action, the more budget you’ll need. You can’t expect to make 100’s of sales of a £500 product on just £2 ad spend a day.

4. Your ad creative isn’t stopping the scroll and/or your copy isn’t converting

If your objective, targeting and budget are all up to scratch but you’re still not getting the desired results, your ad creative and/or copy could be the problem.

Your customers’ Facebook/Instagram feeds are busy and they are short on time. You have to use your creative to stand out in the feed and grab their attention quickly before they scroll on past and your copy to call out your audience, draw them in, and give them a clear call to action.

Referring to your audience personas will help you develop effective ad creatives and copy.

5. You haven’t tested enough

Whenever someone says to me “Facebook/Instagram Ads don’t work for me” and I dig a little deeper I often uncover that the reason is that they haven’t tested effectively.

When I work with client’s I always explain to them that the need to set aside time and budget upfront for a testing phase. During this phase, I will test different audiences and types of creative, copy and calls to action to fine tune what works best for my client’s business. Sometimes we hit on the magic bullet first time, but other times require a little more patience to start seeing a return on investment.

So, don’t give up if you have put out one ad and not seen the success you were hoping for. It’s likely that with a little testing and fine tuning you can get Facebook/Instagram ads working effectively for your business.

6. You aren’t optimising effectively

Not knowing how to optimise ads effectively is another reason business owners find their ads failing.

You cannot set and forget ads and expect to watch the sales roll in. You need to check in on them daily, look at what the data is telling you and optimise accordingly.

On the other hand, also avoid diving in and making changes too soon. You need to five Facebook the chance to optimise your ads for you before you start manually tweaking them. I sit on my hands for three days after setting ads live. Only at the 72-hour mark will I start to go in and optimise. Also, bear in mind that it’s natural for ad results to fluctuate (e.g. on a weekend or a hot day). So, if you see a blip in your results, don’t be too hasty to make changes.

7. Your website isn’t doing its job

Finally, don’t forget to look beyond your ads if your campaigns are failing – especially if your data look good. It may be a problem with your website or customer journey that is impacting your results – such as a slow page load speed, or unexpected delivery charge at checkout that’s causing lots of abandoned carts. Take some time to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and look for potential barriers to them taking your desired action once they click on your ad.

If you need further support with your Facebook advertising I can help. Get in touch and let’s chat over a virtual cuppa!


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I’m Carly. I offer a range of services and loads of free content to help independent retailers do more with Facebook and Instagram ads. Whether you’re just getting started or trying to advance, I’ve got you covered. Learn more about me or explore the blog for practical tips and insights.

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