This is Why Your Facebook Ads Didn’t Work


You tried to run Facebook ads for a couple of weeks last year and they didn’t work. You got traffic but no new clients. Maybe you didn’t even get any traffic.

why facebook ads didn't work

You kind of can’t ignore Facebook. 

Despite the problematic press of the last few months, Facebook is still adding users and gobbling up ad dollars. What’s more, Facebook is now close on Google’s heels for search activity.

So, depending on who you're talking to out there, Facebook is probably a necessity for you. But, a lot of people are finding it seems nearly impossible to get people’s attention on Facebook for free.

And organic reach, that thing where you post stuff for Facebook for free and people just find it, is kind of not a thing anymore. Not for businesses and brands. You have to pay the beast to get it to help you.

But. You tried paying Facebook for ads and have nothing to show for it. What went wrong? Before I tell you...

First, Here’s a Story of Facebook Ads Gone Right

This is the story of how one small charter school used Facebook ads to reach more than 15k people and exceed their enrollment goals...with an ad budget of less than $350.


Step One: They hired an expert.

By posting stuff to their Facebook page, and even boosting some of those posts, the school had gotten one or two families families to find them. But that wasn’t enough.

They knew they needed help if they were going to get more. So they hired the right marketing consultant.


Step Two: We did the work before the work.

We didn't just start making ads. We did our homework first.

We got clear about who we were talking to -- where these families were, who they were, what they cared about most, and why they’d care about this school.

We got as detailed as possible -- the towns, the demographic details, the things about the school that stand out to the families there.

And we looked at a few other schools in the community, to know how to stand out.


Step Three: We launched the right campaign.

With all the details in place, we made a Facebook ad campaign that got out in front of the right people and said the right things to get their attention.  

We ran ads for just four weeks, with a total advertising budget of less than $400 {plus the consulting fee}.

Because our audience targeting was spot on, we knew what kinds of messages and images worked best, and that budget was enough. Enough to attract a record number of families. {Get the whole story here.}


So What Went Wrong For Your Facebook Ads?

You're probably already seeing how your story's different than that one up above. But lemme lay it out for you. You probably struggled with one of these things. Or maybe all of them.


1. You didn’t know who you were advertising to.

Facebook’s options for pinpointing your audience can seem endless.

Even while they make adjustments to try and protect people’s privacy a bit more, or not bring down democracy as we know it, they know a lot about a lot of people. But I digress.

Options are great. Too many options can be overwhelming. Seemingly endless options...well that’s just a recipe for endless ways to get it wrong.

Should you focus on men or women? Does it matter? Certain cities or a radius? Certain household incomes or net worths? What about life events? Pages they like?

People often think they know exactly who they’re talking to. Like the therapist I worked with who started out focused on all college students in the U.S., and ended up focusing on women of color in the U.S. who are first-generation college students.

Getting specific enough about your dream client to make it useful for tools like Facebook ads takes a whole new level of detailing thinking.

You could start with these 45 questions to help you create useful buyer personas, or you could just pull in an expert to get it done for you.


2. You didn’t know what to say

This goes hand-in-hand with knowing who you’re advertising to. It’s about more than where they are, how much they earn, or what they do for a living.

You’ve got to understand how they relate to the world, the stories they tell themselves, what they worry about most. You’ve got to understand them as people first. And as your customers second.

You meet them where they are. You find where what they care about overlaps with what you have to offer. That’s what to say in your ads.


3. You didn’t set up the Facebook Pixel, or you didn’t set it up right.

This is another one of those reasons why Facebook ads are really complicated to people who don’t do them all the time.

For a lot of people, anything involving code, even if it’s just copying and pasting, is just plain scary. What if you break something in your website? What if you do it wrong?

Honestly, the worst that could happen isn’t all that bad. No one’s life depends on your Facebook Pixel firing right. But. If you don’t set it up right, or don’t set it up at all,

PS: If you’re not sure if your website has a Facebook Pixel, you can use this handy little tool to check.


4. You spent too much, too soon.

Whether you’re doing your ads yourself or working with an expert, you’re going to have to test things to figure out what works.

You can do all the right work before the work. You can have a beautifully-defined dream client, you can know exactly what you should say and what your ads should look like. But it’s all theory until you actually launch those ads.

You can learn something by spending as little as $5 per day on Facebook ads. But if you start out spending $100+ per day, you’re probably just going to get frustrated that you're not getting your money's worth, and ditch it before you learned anything useful.


5. You used the wrong kinds of ads.

Maybe you didn’t get what you wanted out of your ads because the kind of ads you used could never give you what you wanted in the first place. Did you decide at the outset why you were advertising?

There's a whole bunch of types of ads. You can optimize for traffic, meaning you want to get as many people as possible to click your ads and visit your website. You can optimize for views, meaning you want to get as many people as possible to see your ads. You can use lead generation ads, meaning you want people to be able to fill out a form right inside your ad and never even need to leave the Facebook interface.

Which one’s right for you? Why?


6. Facebook Ads Are Complicated. And Always Changing.

At the same time that paying to play on Facebook is becoming more and more of a necessity, Facebook advertising is becoming increasingly complicated. And this means there’s a lot of outdated advice out there.

If marketing isn’t your job, you do not have the time or brain space to keep up with what Zuckerberg’s going to do next. How’s Business Manager changing today? What are those new Lead Gen ads? What do you mean the Relevance Score algorithm has changed and you won’t tell us exactly how but it’s going to affect who sees our ads, if anyone?

The experts even have trouble keeping up. Sometimes, it seems like, as soon as people put out tutorials, they’re out of date. Just yesterday, a client sent me a course that included a 20-minute section showing him how to use Facebook’s Power Editor. The Power Editor that no longer exists. Because, according to the Facebook itself, Power Editor and Ads Manager have been combined into one interface. I see stuff like this often and it makes me nuts. There’s a lot of bad advice out there.



If you've tried facebook advertising and failed, you don't have to give up.

It seems like it should be simple. If even your grandma's on Facebook, how could advertising on Facebook possibly be hard? 

It might not be hard, but it is complex.

It takes the right preparation up front to get really clear about who we’re talking to, and who else is talking to them, is always better than just jumping in and trying stuff.

It takes understanding the ever-changing and seemingly endless options for defining your audience, picking the right type of ad, setting the right budget, and testing the right things.

Yes, you could skip ahead, just make some ads and test and test until you've figured it out. But that'll taken way more time and money than you want to invest, or is even worth it.

Bottom line: There's most likely a way to make Facebook advertising work for you. If you do the right work.