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A Deep Dive Into Facebook Advertising For Online Course Creators

Facebook ads aren’t new anymore, but the truth is that few people know how to get the most out of them. They are powerful for selling online courses, but there’s a right and a wrong way to use them. Learn how to create a Facebook advertising strategy like a pro and generate consistent leads and sales for your online course, featuring insights from Think Orion’s advertising experts that have collectively spent over $2.5 million USD on Facebook ads.

By the time you’re done with this article, you’ll learn:

  • How to design your Facebook campaigns, ad sets, and ads like a pro
  • To target your ads like an expert
  • How to analyze results to optimize your campaign
  • 3 Types of Facebook ads effective for small budgets
  • 4 Facebook ad mistakes online course marketers make and how you can avoid them

And all this topped off with the biggest reason you need to start your Facebook campaigns TODAY.

Sounds like something you’d like to hear? 

Let’s jump right in.

You’ve got an online course that took you hours, days, weeks, or even months to create. However, without registrants, it is nothing. That is why we always say that the promotion of your course is 80% of the work, and the content is only 20%. 

Taking your sales to the next level means spending some money, and there’s no better place to start than with Facebook ads.

Why Facebook?

1.45 billion users log onto Facebook every day.
That’s A LOT of people. But the advanced targeting systems make it a cost-effective tool and help you cut through the noise to find your ideal customer.

Here are 4 more reasons you should be using Facebook to sell your online courses

  1. Facebook is the third most popular website coming right after Google and Youtube.  Even though Google and Youtube get more visitors than Facebook, advertising on these sites is way more expensive and can have a much lower return on ad spend.
  2. 200 million people are members of Facebook groups. That means you have 200 million people that you can target based on their interests.
  3. 78% of Americans have discovered and bought a product on Facebook, and that’s about 93 million people.
  4. eCommerce rates have tripled since 2015, and three times as much money is being spent through Facebook.

4 Facebook ad mistakes online course marketers (and how you can avoid them)

Mistake #1: Launching a purchase campaign first

Facebook campaigns fall short for creators most of the time because they launch a purchase campaign first, a no-go as your first campaign. They are going to lead to failure because you lack a solid foundation to start off with, and you don’t yet know what to observe.
Starting with a traffic campaign is the way to remedy this. You get to know the ins and outs of Facebook advertising and make necessary tweaks as you go along.
Once you’re ready to take on a purchase campaign, make sure you avoid the next mistake on our list: Assuming an audience who hasn’t heard about you yet, is hungry customers for your course.

Mistake #2: Targeting a cold audience

Instead of doing any kind of retargeting, launching a purchase campaign means you are targeting cold audiences. Think about it in terms of dating. Would you want someone to propose for marriage on a first date? It’s too big for a commitment!
The same goes for your purchase campaign. Trying to sell someone who doesn’t even know who you are a course that costs $100 isn’t appropriate yet. 
Take things slowly, warm up your audience first, let them get familiar with you and your business, then retarget them with your purchase campaign.
The right timing ensures your audience trusts you enough to consider your offer. Wrong timing, on the other hand, means your ad will fade into the sea of users’ cluttered feeds.
The third mistake, a very common culprit, is an objectives-goals mismatch. 

Mistake #3: Misalignment of objectives and goals 

The tragic mismatch of objectives with goals is another mistake creators struggle with.
Whether you’re interested in driving traffic, conversions, or engagement, your objective needs to match your goal.
How to remedy this?
Set goals on a campaign basis. Think about one specific outcome you want from a specific campaign you’re launching.  
Once you’ve figured that out, choose the right objective accordingly from the Facebook ads manager. The reason why this is so important is that Facebook will optimize your ads in a way to help you achieve your goal. If it was conversions that you’re looking for, Facebook would optimize your ads to sell as many courses as possible. And, as soon as someone makes a purchase, Facebook will analyze that customer in detail and
will try to target other users similar to that person who just purchased your course.Setting a wrong objective can result in zero online course sales.
Mismatching your objective with your campaign goal can have drastic impacts on your bottom line.

Mistake #4: Lacking structure in your Facebook strategy

Instead of making your Facebook campaigns more of an inspiration than a structure, here’s what you should be doing:
1. Define the end goal. The more specific, the better.
2. Track the paths your customers took to reach that goal using Google Analytics and your email service platform.
3. Flip the path backward and implement it in your Facebook campaign.
With four big mistakes to watch out for, you’re now ready to implement your campaigns. Let’s move forward!

Facebook campaigns, ad sets, and ads

Before getting into what types of campaigns and ads to create, let’s go over some basic terminology.
Campaign: Think of it as an umbrella with multiple ad groups with the same objective living under it.
Ad set: It is a group of ads that share the same goal.
Ad: It is what will be displayed to the users you are targeting. You will likely create and test multiple variations to find the most effective one.

A single campaign can have multiple target audiences, multiple ad sets, and ads versions. The result can be tens or hundreds of possible combinations of these 3.

Pro tip: Limit your ad campaign to one objective only. Otherwise, create a new campaign for it.

How to set up Facebook Ads campaigns

Before jumping in and creating any adverts, take a minute and think about why you’re advertising and what you’re aiming to achieve. This is the first step to take before going live with ads, plus you’ll have something to measure your success against as well.
Clicking on “create a Facebook Ad” will direct you to choose the objective for your campaign. There are 15 options available for what you might want to achieve, but they typically fall within three categories of benefits:

  1. Awareness 
  2. Consideration
  3. Conversion

We recommend running traffic to three specific Facebook ad campaigns, which we’ll walk you through. 

#1 Traffic campaign (Awareness)

We call this also an audience-building campaign. Unless you already have an existing audience from social media channels, email lists, a podcast, etc., this is the first type of campaign you should start with.
It is your top-of-funnel campaign targeting cold traffic, and that will be the only time you should target cold traffic.
Why cold traffic?
Facebook’s algorithm matches the right ad to the right person at the right time to provide the best combination of positive user experience and a profitable advertiser experience. 
Limiting a traffic ad to a small audience means giving Facebook no other choice but to show your ad multiple times to the same people, resulting in a negative user experience. Instead, create a custom audience that isn’t too narrow to provide Facebook’s algorithm a larger pool to play in.
Start with one of your most popular blog posts, include an image, a little bit of text on it, and a copy that offers a teaser about the blog post. Finish it with a call-to-action (CTA) that guides users to read or learn more.
Why does this format work so well? 
Because you’re building interest in something valuable and giving it away for free. 

Pro tip: We recommend custom audiences with at least several hundred thousand users (a million is even better) and let the algorithm work its magic.

How to create custom audiences on Facebook?

There are two types of custom audiences for traffic campaigns: 

  1. Interest-based custom audience
  2. Lookalike audience

Interest-based custom audience
While you should specify the demographics of your target audience, but the most important thing they must have in common is a person or company that they follow (their interest).
Lookalike audience
It closely resembles a custom audience that you’ve already created (student list, for example). This type of targeting becomes more effective as your other custom audiences grow in size (website visitors, leads, etc.). 
With that, traffic campaigns become the linchpin behind the second type of campaign we recommend using.
Name your saved audiences
As you create multiple audiences and ad versions, we recommend establishing a naming structure for your saved audiences to help you stay organized. 

Include the following elements in your naming structure:

  • Audience Type
  • Interests
  • Countries
  • Age Range

#2 Lead magnet campaign

This is your mid-funnel campaign featuring a retargeting ad that nudges your existing audience to opt-in for a gift (lead magnet)
It can be anything of value to your audience, an ebook, template, mini-course, cheat sheet, case study, quiz, email course, or a guide.

Pro tip: Your focus must be to hook people on the results of using the lead magnet and sell them on the fact that it is high-value + free.

Can I skip creating a traffic campaign and jump straight into building a list campaign?
You’re welcome to do so, but be ready to spend more money acquiring a lead than you would if you target users who already know who you are. Retargeting campaigns can become your account’s heavy lifters, bringing you the most results at the cheapest cost per conversion.
In this campaign, you’ll be retargeting an audience who’s already familiar with your online course, and they just need a good excuse or a reason to buy the course. 
It can be a:

  • Discount code 
  • Flash sale
  • A compelling testimonial
  • Limited places announcement
  • Last chance registration offer.

Showing ads to the right audience is an important factor in Facebook advertising success. But selecting the right audience is where most people fail. 
First, you’ll need to set up your Facebook pixel on your website to automatically start tracking traffic.
Does it sound daunting to you? It’s a simple, two-minute task, we promise! Do that today, and harness the power of retargeting to its full advantage.

Your retargeting audience can be:

  • Most frequent website visitors 
  • Those who visited specific pages
  • Your page’s videos viewers on Facebook.
  • Users who engaged with any of your posts and ads.
  • Those who signed up for your newsletter or completed any conversion goal ( downloaded your free ebook, for example)

Campaign Structure

This can be very similar to your cold traffic campaign. In order to maximize your ROI and prevent your retargeting campaign from burning out, constantly change and update ads. In many cases, new retargeting campaigns perform great after launch, but it slowly dies down with time.

Cold frequency.

It is the number of times a user in your retargeting audience has seen the ad. The higher the frequency, the fewer chances of a person to take action.
To maintain its performance, rotate the ads and mix up different types of creatives. Switch various ads on and off inside the ad sets or run multiple campaigns with different creatives.
Check the frequency by clicking “Performance” in your campaign view.

What if your campaign does not spend its entire daily budget?
Change the optimization settings or increase the manual bid instead of setting an automatic one.

Advertising copywriting

These days, crafting the perfect copy means more copywriting. Longer copies have always been outperforming short ones and winning in every A/B test we carry out. 
Include information about the value and results that people will get from your lead magnet, walk them through the benefits, and weave in a story.

The visual portion

Are you the face of the business? Then go ahead and include an image of yourself. Not only that but leverage the emoji trend! 
An expert suggestion? 
Get your phone and record yourself talking a bit about the outcome of the lead magnet. This performs super well every time. 
Top it off with a final CTA that urges people to opt-in in places that drive traffic to your paid offer.

#3 Purchase campaign

It is your bottom-of-funnel campaign, where you retarget a “hot traffic,” ready to purchase your online course and generate a profit from all of your marketing and advertising efforts.

Nudging people to purchase through an ad is very effective here. These people have been through the sales funnel without purchasing your course. Trigger a retargeting ad to poke them to complete the checkout process, just like Foundr’s Magazine did. 

After launching an email marketing online course, Foundr Magazine have built an email list of prospective buyers who joined the waitlist a few weeks prior to the launch (a strategy that we highly recommend)

Once they’ve launched the course, they received an email to let them know that enrollment was now open. Those who visited the sales page and didn’t purchase it have been seeing the above retargeting ad for their course.

At this stage, the more times someone sees your ad, the more likely they will purchase. 

Once again, communicate the value of your offer, highlight any “tangible outcome” if possible, and most importantly, create a sense of urgency and leverage scarcity. These are the best ways to increase your course sales and, in some cases, increase sales by up to 332%.

Urgency is compelling a buyer to act quickly. Time limitation creates this because the buyer knows they must act before a specific time, or they will miss out on the offer.

Scarcity is when something is about to run out, like opening your course to 20 students, because once all those spots are filled, the course is no longer available to new buyers.

Split testing your Facebook ads

Even when following the best practices, that won’t guarantee that all of your ads will be successful. In fact, most digital marketers will tell you that most ads fail.

This is a fair game, and we are very serious about our A/B tests. We literally A/B test everything, we A/B test our audiences, we A/B test our copy, we A/B test our visuals.

And a golden rule for us is to test one variant at a time. Otherwise, you will miss the variable that has caused a change in the results. 

Results are definitely not overnight, but little tweaks and optimizations over time will become a significant game changer for your sales.

What determines the success of an ad? 

Not the copy, not the creative, nor how attractive it is. But the one that accomplishes its objective at a less or equal cost to what you are willing to spend to achieve that objective.

For example, if you’re willing to spend $15 to acquire a lead so you can stay profitable, and one of your ads is bringing in leads for $18 each, then that ad is a failure.

Tracking your Facebook ads 

This couldn’t be said any better:
“What gets measured gets improved.” -Robin Sharma.

There are several metrics worth tracking. But unless you’re an expert, they can be misleading. To simplify things, remember that the most important metric to track is ROI (Return on Investment).
If you run a campaign and its ROI is acceptable, don’t freak out and turn it off if you see the CPC or CPL costs are increasing. A low CPC or CPL doesn’t always mean that it’s a profitable ad. 

Other metrics worth tracking:

  • Impressions: how many times your ad was seen
  • Reach: how many people have seen your ad 
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): the % people who saw your ad and clicked on it
  • Cost-Per-Click (CPC): the amount you pay for every click on your ad
  • Cost-Per-Lead (CPL): the amount you pay for every lead you acquire
  • Cost-Per-Acquisition (CPA): the amount you pay to acquire a customer
  • Return On Investment (ROI): the revenue generated divided by the total ad spend

Never judge an ad performance by looking at any single metric in isolation; instead, look at the whole picture (ROI) of your advertising efforts.

Working with smaller budgets

No matter what niche you’re in and how tiny your budget is, you can still advertise on Facebook. The minimum required ad budget is just $1/day.

You’re probably asking something like: “Is it even possible to get any kind of meaningful result for a few dollars per week?”

Yes, by using 3 quick and smart retargeting strategies that you can implement yourself. 

1. Remind your audience when discounts are expiring

If you have a discount or an offer that expires soon, create an ad to tell people that your offer is expiring, link it to the sales page, and make sure to enter the expiry date and time in the ‘End Date’ field. This ensures your ads stop running after the offer has expired.

2. Facebook messenger ads for sales page visitors 

Have you ever noticed the live chat box in the corner of a website’s sales page?

That’s a great way to communicate with potential customers who are considering buying your course, and many times, a quick chat with you is all they need to help them make the decision to buy. But since the sales page chat boxes are only available when a potential customer is on the sales page. Once he leaves, you lose the chance to answer their questions and make the sale.
Setting Facebook Messenger as your ad’s new destination instantly directs people to start a Messenger conversation with your Fb page. 

This way, you can answer their questions right there on Facebook messenger, offering a great experience for your customers and an easy, low-cost solution for you to set up.
When using this method, make sure to enable Messages for your Facebook page for these ads to work. You can do that via the settings on the ‘General’ tab. Also, have someone monitoring your page messages so you can reply ASAP. The faster you respond, the higher chance you make a sale.

3.Testimonial Ads

Customer testimonials can increase your sales by 34%.
Once you’ve got a few great testimonials, you definitely add them to your sales page and checkout. But don’t stop here. Why not turn them into Facebook ads? It’s super easy and gets big  results!

Testimonial ads are most effective and deliver the highest ROI when shown to people who have already shown interest in your course, like visiting your sales page.
Since the targeting here is relatively very small and specific, you want to make sure your testimonial ads get in front of the maximum number of users possible. You can do this by choosing ‘Daily Unique Reach’ in the ‘Optimization and Delivery’ settings.
If you want to show your ad to people more than once per day, then just duplicate the ad set. 

What type of testimonials do you have?
For text-based testimonials, which is the most common, you can either do a regular image ad like this example from Brian Dean:

Or you can use a carousel ad to show multiple testimonials in a single ad.

These can work well, but you’re limited to a text length on each testimonial, making it a bit difficult. Video testimonials will be just like the above example but with a video instead of an image. But make sure to always add captions so people can still watch them with the sound off. 

You’ve now got Think Orion’s proven tips to conquer Facebook ad campaigns and reel in more sales for your online course. Our final tip is to start implementing today. There’s no longer a good reason to wait because Facebook ads are constantly changing and developing. Running your ads as soon as possible can help you beat your competitors. 

Think Orion’s support is only a chat away if you need help with anything online-course-advertising related. We’re online marketing gurus who know exactly how to find the users you are looking for and turn them into longtime subscribers who generate monthly recurring revenue.

What can we do for your online course business? Click here!

Manno Notermans

Manno is a wanderer of the world looking to make an impact and change the world for the better. He has over 10 years of experience working in various marketing positions. Manno’s main focus the past few years has been accelerating the growth of businesses, increasing revenue, and profit with out-of-box creative ideas and implementations.