These 4 Mistakes Are Why You’re Losing Money on Facebook Ads

Facebook ads have been a part of the LKR lead gen strategy for a while now, even before the Organic Reach Massacre of 2013. There’s a reason we put money into this kind of promotion: it lets us reach more small business owners quickly and for relatively little money. In short, Facebook ads can be a very valuable tool for your business.

Unfortunately it’s extremely easy to get lost or tripped up in Facebook’s less-than-perfect ad interface. You have a LOT of options and no clear distinction between what’s really best for your business versus what’s best for Facebook’s own bottom line.

There are four giant mistakes people make when promoting their business or offerings with Facebook ads. Are you guilty of any of these?

Mistake #1: Using the Boost Post button

It’s entirely possible that you’ve used this button without understanding exactly what it does! It’s supposed to be simple: you put a little money behind your post and it reaches more of your fans (the way your updates used to do organically – oh, the good ol’ days!). But the drop in organic reach has made lots of page owners, well, desperate about the reach of their updates. I know people who have sunk hundreds of dollars into boosting every update they post because of how concerned they are with metrics like the number of “likes” a post gets. So you invest some money and you get more likes on your inspirational quote post.

But what’s the point of that? Who exactly is liking those status updates? Are people actually clicking over to your website? Is there even a link for people to click in the posts you’re boosting?

Boosting a post for the sake of more likes or shares alone is a waste of your money. I’m not against using ads to reach your fans, but only when it’s done strategically. A call-to-action to sign up for your newest webinar? Definitely worth putting money into. A hilarious video of toddlers tasting lemons? Let’s face it – the likes or shares you might get from boosting that post does absolutely zilch for your business.

LKR Facebook post

Don’t do it. Resist the urge to use the Boost Post button, even when you have something that’s really worth promoting. There are other and better ways to set up Facebook ads that really work.

And that brings me to the second giant mistake:

Mistake #2: Targeting all the wrong people

This is the second major problem with using the Boost Post button – most people don’t realize that unless you specify otherwise, Facebook is going to take your money and show your updates to whichever of your fans it chooses. You may want people in the U.S. and Canada to sign up for your webinar, yet Facebook chooses to expand your reach exclusively to people in Eastern Europe. (How did you get fans in Eastern Europe? That’s a whole different and controversial topic, but chances are you have lots of fans that fall outside of your target market.)

See what I mean? Just another reason to stay away from that Boost Post button entirely.

But here’s why targeting the wrong audience gets its own stand at the Facebook Ads Mistake Fair: it’s entirely possible to never touch the Boost Post button and still be throwing away money with poorly targeted ads.

Every ad you create (by boosting a post, or using the ad interface or the Power Editor) has a target audience. Identifying the right people to promote your biz to is probably the most important element of putting together an effective Facebook ad. My biggest recommendation for choosing well is this: leave most people out of the targeting party.

You want to get as specific as you can about your ideal customer and then don’t even think about targeting anyone else. Your advertising budget isn’t infinite! So don’t target a broad group “just in case” they might be interested in what you have to offer.

If the vast majority of your clients or customers are women, don’t include men in your target audience! Don’t target people in their 20s if 70% of your revenue comes from the 35-55 age bracket. And for the love of Pete, be very strategic about what you include under “Interests.”

Want to reach small business owners with your ads? Don’t include Mashable under Interests. Do lots of small business owners read Mashable? Sure! But so do zillions of other people who don’t fall anywhere near your target audience. But if your ad gets shown to all those people and they just don’t click through to your site, Facebook will lower your ad’s exposure and actually charge you more for the clicks it does get. And that’s the number one reason to leave people out of your targeting party.

In order to keep the Interests laser focused, make a list of businesses like yours or that have the exact same target audience as yours. (Not kinda similar – exact.) Then add the tools or training resources that only your ideal customer would use. Once you’ve got that list, start entering those businesses and tools under Interests and see which ones Facebook has in its Interests database.

Mistake #3: Not tracking what works

“Ugh, tracking stuff? That’s the bane of my existence! I’m just gonna skip this paragraph.”


Facebook conversion tracking is actually way easier to deal with than you think. And once you’ve got it set up, the juicy data you get to see with a click of a button is straight-up mesmerizing.

Here are some results from an ad campaign we ran for a recent webinar:

Facebook ad insights

(Ignore the letters-and-numbers combinations: that’s how we keep track of which images and text combinations we’ve already tried in our ads.)

Because we had conversion tracking set up, we could see not only which ads were driving the most conversions (in this case “conversions” means sign-ups for the webinar) but also exactly how much each one of those conversions was costing us.

This kind of data lets you be truly nimble when it comes to your Facebook ads. Instead of waiting to see what our results were (and possibly wasting money on ads that weren’t performing very well), we could act fast and turn off the lower performing ads.

Remember when I said Facebook’s conversion tracking is actually quite simple to put into place? It’s absolutely worth the ten minutes it’ll take you to get set up – click here for straightforward instructions.

So now that you’ve stopped boosting your posts, you’ve got both your targeting and conversion tracking under control, there’s one huge blunder you could still be making:

Mistake #4: Promoting the wrong thing

Just ignore that creeping feeling that Facebook is trying to swindle you out of your ad dollars – the truth is that Facebook ads really are a thing of beauty. They let you reach people who are truly interested in your business (or businesses like yours) and turn them into leads and customers, all for relatively little money.

But that is not to say that Facebook ads will make you a millionaire. They could help you get there, if used correctly, but you’re not going to be able to put your $500 product up for sale in the News Feeds of perfect strangers and expect to see conversions. Even a $20 product is extremely hard to sell to people who have never engaged with your business.

So don’t let that be your biggest mistake. Don’t rule out Facebook ads because you’ve thrown away money trying to sell something “cold” (meaning not to your fans or subscriber list) with no success.

Instead, start by using Facebook ads for lead generation. It’s a great idea to target your fans plus the friends of your fans when you’re ramping up to a webinar, a challenge, or a launch. Make sure you’ve got a great nurture email sequence in place for these new leads. Really show them who you are and what you have to offer, and hook them with great content (and your sparkling personality!).

Then when the time is right (like during a big exciting launch), pitch to your entire list with both email and Facebook ads. There is a way to successfully run ads for your products on Facebook – you just have to find the right time and the perfect audience.

Hit me up with your questions!

In case you haven’t noticed, Facebook ads are com-pli-cated! You’re bound to have questions as you go, so bookmark this post and post your Qs in the comments below. Remember: tons of people probably have the exact same questions as you do, so don’t be shy – get some answers for everybody!

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About Laura Roeder

Laura Roeder is a social media marketing expert who gives businesses of all sizes the tools they need to make their mark on the web. She is the creator of the social media scheduling software Edgar, as well as social media marketing web courses like Creating Fame and Social Brilliant.


  1. Solid post.

    It’s a shame that there has been such a ‘scare’ to many business owners around Facebook Ads. With the targeting and low cost it really is an incredible option for them to get their feet wet.

    We recently ran a piece on boost posts as well, hoping to deter people.

  2. What do you think about promoting a FB post where I share my link to subscribe to my newsletter?

    • Kristina | Team LKR says:

      Hey Anouk,
      A few tips for you — First off, I recommend following our advice about not boosting individual posts to your timeline. Facebook ads can be great for lead-generation and list-building, but remember, you absolutely need to have a hook to pull people in — maybe that’s offering a freebie PDF guide (or something similar) upon opt-in and confirmation, maybe it’s simply amazing, enticing copy. Either way, as is mentioned in the post, make sure you’re targeting specific audiences who may be interested in your products/services and not just running ads willy-nilly, as that would be a surefire way to waste your advertising dollars.

  3. Thanks Laura. So if a business already have lots of fraud fans from a long time ago, how do you break through the Facebook penalty? How do you reach and gain new fans without Facebook promotion?

  4. Great breakdown of Facebook advertising. After the “Organic Reach Massacre of 2013” (love that haha) there are a ton of people trying to ads for the first time and not really knowing how to approach it.

    Will definitely share this!

  5. Storm Cestavani says:

    Thank you so much for posting this Laura. It is greatly appreciated. I have learned so much from this.

  6. Hi Laura,

    Thanks for the article. We are a retail store, not a service provider, so lead generation isn’t what we do. Do you have suggestions for us to use Facebook advertising?


  7. Tried fb ads and was not impressed. I had a professional help me, promoted valuable content like a webinar to find $10k on the call (got emails but none showed up), a short video with 1 tweak to find an 20 hours per month to grow biz (barely converted), and a free session to find $20k in an hour. I can see how a better follow up sequence would help with the webinar. Also, really good tip on the cost going up if people don’t click.