Facebook Boosted Posts Versus Ads: What's Better for E-Commerce?

Facebook Ads Versus Boosted Posts for E-Commerce Businesses

If you’re a Facebook page admin, you’ve no doubt seen the prompt asking if you want to “boost” a post so that it can reach a wider audience. For many business owners, boosting a post is their first foray into using Facebook ads. But is boosting a post a good idea? Should e-commerce businesses ever pay to boost a post, or is it always better to just run an ad?

What is a boosted post?

To start with, let's define what we're talking about when we say, "boosted post." A Facebook boosted post is the paid promotion of a post that originally appears on your page as organic content. When you post to your Facebook page, only a certain percentage of your page fans will actually see the content. Boosting a post simply means you can pay to increase your post’s visibility among your own followers and/or a wider audience.

Facebook prompts page admins to boost posts from within the Facebook page interface, meaning you don’t need to start with ads manager to create a boosted post. This makes boosting posts relatively easy — which can be dangerous!

What is the difference between a boosted post and an ad?

While Facebook ads allow you to format content in a number of different ways and include a host of different calls to action, boosted posts can only be used to promote a page post that already exists. This means they’re really only useful for increasing the engagement (likes, shares, comments) on a specific post.

If your goal is to get your Facebook page post in front of a bigger audience, a boosted post might be the way to go. A boosted post is not the best way, however, to promote content on your website, such as sale items, where your goal is to entice people to click through and make a purchase. Think of it this way: boost a post to increase engagement within Facebook, but if you want people to take action on your website, you might want to create a Facebook ad instead.

When to use boosted posts instead of ads

Because boosted posts are so easy to use and you're prompted by Facebook to simply "boost" something without having to really think about it, many business owners use them without assigning important metrics or checking their performance against expectations. Boosted posts aren't always the best way to achieve your Facebook ad goals.

So when might you want to use a boosted post instead of creating a Facebook ad?

Facebook recently launched the ability for advertisers to create Custom Audiences based on page engagement, meaning you can target ads to anyone who has engaged with content on your Facebook page (including posts). If you find that you’ve posted something that’s seeing some decent organic engagement, it might make sense to pay to boost that post to try to get even more engagement, thereby increasing the pool of people in your Page Engagement Custom Audience.

For example, Andrea Newberry, founder of the clothing company Leche Libre, recently did a TEDx talk and posted a link to the video on her Leche Libre Facebook page. As you might expect, the TEDx post saw a decent rate of engagement (a little higher than her typical posts). This is a great example of content that you’d pay to boost. A link to a TEDx isn’t selling anything, and yet it’s getting new audiences familiar with you as a brand and you as a thought leader. Now you can use those audiences again (using Page Engagement Custom Audiences) to advertise to.

As a rule of thumb, boost posts that:

  1. Already have good organic engagement (plenty of likes, comments, and shares already)
  2. Aren’t directly selling anything, but are providing information/validation about your brand

When to use ads, not boosted posts

Boosted posts are limited in two important ways: targeting and calls to action. With boosted posts you cannot target based on behavior and your only available conversion goal is to engage with the post content. In other words, you’re limited on who you can advertise to and what they can do with your post. 

It's also good to note that Facebook ads, unlike posts that you boost, do not have to appear on your Facebook page. Therefore you can create a “dark” post or ad that your page fans never see, and promote that to a specific group of people.

If you want to create an ad that promotes and sells your products, you’re better off setting up a Facebook Ads Manager account and running a Facebook ad versus using the boosted post feature.

Use Boosted Posts Carefully as Part of Your Overall Strategy

While boosted posts have an important function, it’s best to use them when you:

  1. Want to save time by boosting right from your page
  2. Only care about increasing post engagement
  3. Aren’t trying to sell a product or increase conversions on your website

While boosted posts are a great way to get your feet wet in Facebook advertising, there are many options available to Facebook advertisers that are more effective in achieving particular marketing goals.