The Complete Guide to Creating Great-Looking Facebook Ads
Facebook advertising might seem easy at first. Just draft an engaging post, target a relevant audience, throw some money behind it, and get new leads, right?
Not quite. As many of you are likely aware, Facebook is a challenging space for advertisers. Not only are you competing against many other businesses for attention, but you’re also competing against people’s friends and families. Why would someone engage with your ad when they see that their childhood friend just posted her wedding photographs?
This is why your Facebook ad image has to be visually enticing. If it’s not, your chances of getting clicks and conversions on Facebook become slim to none.
Facebook is a visual platform, which is part of why it’s seen so much success. In order to compete, you not only need outstanding media to share, but you also need to make sure that media is the right size and format to fit your ad.
“High-quality visual content can have a major impact on your conversion funnel,” says Nate Birt, a content marketer at visually. “From studying brain scans to tracking eye movements, researchers have discovered that visual content is simply processed differently than text. Visuals communicate more information, more effectively.”
The brain actually processes visual content 60,000 times faster then text! So what makes an engaging image for a Facebook ad? How can your ad standout from the pack of cute babies, brides, and puppies on your prospects’ Facebook feed? We’ll cover all this and much more in this guide.
Facebook Ad Types & Image Size Requirements
Facebook has five main ad formats that all have different technical requirements in terms of the size and aspect ratios that are optimal for posting. These five include:
- Single image ads
- Single video ads
- Carousel ads
- Slideshow ads
- Canvas ads
#1: Single image ads
These are the most common and basic Facebook ad type. While they are basic, they’re also effective, because they’re easy for the Facebook browser to digest. This ad type is also very versatile since it can be used with every Facebook objective (which is the goal you set for the ad) aside from “Video Views.”
Here are the specs for a single image ad:
Image size: 1,200 X 628 pixels
Link description: 30 characters
#2: Single Video Ads
Single video ads are just as they sound, a single video in the space where the image typically is. This a lovely ad format considering the fact that 45% of people watch more than an hour of Facebook videos a week! (I’d be embarrassed to learn how many hours of Tasty video recipes I watch on Facebook each week.)
A few things to keep in mind with Facebook videos is that the majority are watched without sound, so utilizing captions is strongly recommended. Also, a video ad cannot exceed 60 minutes in length.
If you’re interested in going the video ad format route take a look at the specs below:
Video format: .mov or .mp4 are preferable
Resolution: at least 720p
Thumbnail image size: 1,200 x 675 pixels (*the aspect ratio of the thumbnail should match that of the video)
Link description: 30 characters
#3: Carousel Ads
Carousel ads allow the advertiser to create a carousel of images or videos that are easily moved by a set of arrows, as shown in the image below. This ad format is especially useful for e-commerce businesses looking to display multiple products in a single advertisement promoting their store or online shop. Of course, many other industries can reap benefits from having the ability to engage their viewers with additional media by using this ad format.
Advertisers are able to display up to 10 images or videos within one Facebook ad that can all link to different pages. Compared to the single ad format advertisers now have the chance of selling an additional 9 products by using a carousel. Pretty neat!
This ad format works with every objective aside from promoting your page, boosting a post, reaching people close by, raising attendance at your event, and getting video views. These also work well on mobile devices.
Image size/Thumbnail image size: 1,080 x 1,080 pixels
Image ratio/Video aspect ration: 1:1 (square)
Link description: 20 characters
*All other video specs (format, resolution, size, etc.) are the same as the single video ad format above.
#4: Slideshow Ads
Does everyone have a relative that spends their entire Sunday creating slideshows to display at the family reunion, right? Well, this ad format is pretty much the same thing! So tell your Aunt Barb she can start paying to get more eyes on your family trip to Italy. Ok, that might not be the ideal use case, but these ads give off that nostalgic slideshow feeling, which is why they’re another great option among the ad formats. Slideshow ads work with every objective aside from product catalogue promotion.
Check out the specs for these babies below:
Image size: 1,280 x 720 pixels
Image ratio: 16:9, 1:1, or 2:3
Link description: 30 characters
#5: Canvas Ads
Last, but definitely not least, we have Facebook’s newest ad format, canvas ads. Canvas ads appear as normal image ads on the surface, but once the ad is tapped, the viewer is brought into an immersive, full-screen interactive experience where they can engage with your content. While these ads may feel intrusive, like an unwarranted commercial, the viewer is able to navigate away when they desire, and this ad format allows for a much higher degree of creativity.
This ad format is currently only available via mobile device for the following six objectives: boosting your post, increasing brand awareness, increasing your reach, sending people to a destination on or off Facebook, gaining video views, and increasing conversions on your website.
These ads can be a bit more complex to set up, as they can involve several multimedia components including an ad unit, photos, tilt-to-pan images, video, carousels, a text block, buttons, and header.
6 Best Practices for Facebook Ad Images
Now that you’ve decided on what ad formats will work best with your Facebook ad campaign, it’s time to get hunting for the right images.
What makes a “good” Facebook image? This question can be challenging to answer, especially if your brain leans more towards the logical side and less towards the visually creative side. Luckily, these 6 ad image best practices will ensure you’re headed in the right direction when it comes to ad creation:
#1: Include Humans, Preferably Happy Ones
Humans are attracted to other humans. This is plain old human nature! Yet all too often we stumble upon these miserably boring ads with nothing but text, images of office supplies, or boring graphics that aren’t engaging or easy to identify with.
Including images of people in your Facebook ads is one of the easiest ways to make a real, human connection with your audience. And it’s preferable if these people are happy!
The ad below is the perfect example. Not only is this woman happy and smiling, but she’s making healthy juice, which ties into the context of the article being promoted.
#2: Use a Contextually Relevant Image
Speaking of context, this is something that is extremely critical when hunting down the right ad image. For instance, would a nutritional website promote their brand with an image of a cheeseburger and fries? Probably not. This is the same thing as using some random person or picture of a dog to promote your new software feature. It just isn’t contextually relevant and therefore your message will get lost in translation.
Here’s an example below that is doing a poor job at providing a contextually relevant image in their ad. The ad below appears to be promoting a B2B marketing strategies guide, but their ad image is of four random people (whose backs are to the camera) going for a hike. While the image isn’t awful, it has no tie to what the post is promoting. They tried to make the connection with the words “stronger and more adaptable,” but the image still feels out of context.
On the other hand, the help desk platform Zendesk demonstrates a strong example of providing a contextually relevant image. They appear to be promoting their live chat feature, and the image they used is of an old-school form of communication that likely takes many back to their nostalgic childhood days. Not only is this image contextually relevant, but it also is likely to spark emotions.
#3: Add a Pop of Color
If your ad is all greys, whites, and tans, it’ll be easy to skip over. However, if your ad contains all the colours of the rainbow it could be sensory overload for your audience.
A good balance of whites and lighter greys, with a touch of a more lively colour, is the perfect way to strike a harmonious balance. Try and use a clean, light, crisp background and then incorporate a brighter shade of red, orange, blue, pink, green, or purple. Take the example from the clothing company below. The pop of red in these side by side images instantly catches the eye against the crisp white background.
#4: Simplicity Is Key
Speaking of sensory overload, a big no-no when it comes to your Facebook ad image is having too many things going on in the image itself. This will lead to the main message getting lost and is just not visually engaging for the viewer.
Rather, err on the side of simplicity so prospects can focus in on the main message of the post. The ad below from Outdoor Voices does an excellent job at this. Rather than showing several models in a city landscape, hopping around in their leggings, there’s one model on a crisp white background, nicely displaying the leggings.
#5: Channel Your Inner Comedian
People often come to Facebook to be entertained. Whether they’re enjoying some downtime after work or just killing time in-between meetings, Facebook users are usually not looking to take in a bland sales pitch. Rather their state of mind is to be entertained.
What better way to entertain someone than to make them laugh? Humour is by far my favourite way for advertisers to engage with their audience – if you can pull it off, it’s fun and actually makes people pay attention.
Fitness.com did a great job at this – sharing the obsession many of us have with guacamole on National Guacamole Day (yes, this is a real day!).
HubSpot also does a wonderful job at this, often sharing videos with some office humour. If you haven’t seen the hilarious 7-year old Ava Ryan pretending to be a working adult, you are seriously missing out.
#6: Make Your Ad Copy Direct and Actionable
Even if your Facebook ad image is absolutely stunning and following all of these best practices, it will not matter one bit if the copy surrounding your image is lacking in direction.
While images often speak louder then words, the words are equally important when it comes to advertising on Facebook. After all isn’t your goal to get people to do something? Whether that be visiting your website, filling out a form, or simply engaging with your brand, make sure your ad copy is actionable and direct, with a specific or CTA.
HootSuite provides a strong example of a Facebook ad that does so many things right:
- A clear value prop for the offer (“make your resume stand out”)
- A strong CTA (“get offer”)
- A discount code so people feel like they’re getting something special
Where to Find Images for Your Facebook Ads
Now that you’ve nailed down some image best practices, where in the world are these idyllic images going to come from? Here are 4 options:
#1: Leverage Your In-House Designer
There’s nothing better than an original piece of media for your ads. So if you are lucky enough to have an in-house designer, make use of their services! This is one of the many reasons they were hired after all. Set up a meeting to convey your own vision for the ad, and then let your designer work their magic. This will also ensure that your Facebook ads align with your other branding.
For many years at WordStream we did not have an in-house designer, and therefore creating unique media for ads wasn’t typically an option. This was until we hired the talented Kate Lindsay, and now we’re able to share beautiful Facebook ads like the one below!
#2: Use Photographs from Your Website
This one couldn’t be simpler! You likely already have some beautiful, and more importantly, relevant images on multiple pages across your website as well as on your landing pages. You can use those same images in your ads, ensuring tight message match between your ads and your landing pages.
#3: Hire a Photographer to Create a Photo Library
It might sound ridiculous, but it works! Pick a day to invite a professional photographer to the office, and have them take a ridiculous amount of creative photographs to capture the people behind your business.
Having previously worked at the video-hosting company Wistia, I saw how useful this tactic was for us. Once a year Wistia has a talented photographer come in and take photos of people around the office. Then these photographs are stored in a shared online library where people can use them for internal presentations, events, emails, and yes, Facebook ads (like the one below). This is an excellent way to share the culture and human side of your business.
#4: Stock Images
If all else fails, use stock images. While this might not seem like the ideal solution, as long as you don’t select the laughing lady eating a salad against a white background you should be fine!
Seriously though, there are many tools to hunt down unique and captivating stock images (including free ones!) that will make highly engaging Facebook ads.