Creating Effective Facebook Ads for Lead Gen: The Complete Guide


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If you’re like a vast number of marketers out there, you could be under the impression that advertising on Facebook (or any other type of social media) is limited to branding and customer engagement.

If you’re living in this matrix, it’s time for a wakeup call.

Facebook for lead gen Matrix red pill choice

Let’s take a step back and look at the situation a little differently. What if I told you…

You have access to hundreds of millions of users, their locations, interests, behaviors, countless other targeting capabilities, not to mention the ability to reach them at any given hour of the day, for a whole lot less than any other available advertising medium of equal scale.

It’s a marketer’s dream, and telling someone 25 years ago that this user information was so readily accessible would be similar to showing Jurassic World to a filmmaker in the 1930s trying to mold a T-Rex out of clay.

Facebook for lead gen The Office Andy surprised

If you know how to use it properly, Facebook can be one of the most powerful advertising platforms for driving your business forward. Ignoring the lead generation capabilities of these ever-maturing platforms is like refusing to use Marshawn Lynch on the one-yard line.

In this post, I’ll outline the steps necessary for using Facebook for lead generation, and show you how to effectively and affordably reach your target market. I also suggest you read my similar post on using Twitter ads for lead gen if you haven’t already.

Facebook for lead gen free Brady football gif


Effective Facebook Ads for Lead Generation: Account Structure

Facebook’s core ad structure is quite different to that of Twitter. You have campaigns, ad sets, and ads. To get started, click “Create Ad” in the top right-hand corner. You will be taken to the campaign layer of the creation process.


Campaigns are the “outer shell” so to speak. The campaign of your ad dictates the ad’s objective.

Facebook for lead gen campaign objectives 

For the purpose of lead generation, I would recommend the “Increase conversions on your website” option. This will ensure that leads who are completing actions on your website will be able to be tracked and you will be able to monitor the performance of your campaign accurately.

The next steps involve inserting your destination landing page URL (the one where people will be taken once they have completed the desired action) and generating a tracking pixel.

Facebook for lead gen website conversions 

When you generate your tracking pixel, be sure to specify the type of conversion being tracked and the naming convention:

Facebook for lead gen create tracking pixel 

Once the pixel is generated, email it to yourself and you can copy and paste it into your destination landing page. The can be done with an HTML block (if you’re using a service like Marketo) or it can be placed between the <head> and </head> tags.

Ad Set Targeting

The next two parts of your lead generating efforts are extremely important. First is the targeting of your ad set and second is your ad itself. These two go hand-in-hand where you want to hit the “sweet spot” with the audience that you are targeting. The language, messaging, and most importantly, the creative element, should all flow into one smoothly operating lead gen machine.

At first glance, the targeting interface looks simple enough. You have all of the demographic options available to you including languages, locations, gender, and age. It’s the layering and how you can mold audiences from this basic information that makes Facebook ads so special.

If your target market is rather broad you can add specific interest and behaviors and you will be able to construct your audience depending on how granular you’d like to get by adding several of each.

Facebook for lead gen ad targeting 

My suggestion for most businesses, however, would be to start by building out a “Custom Audience” with either existing or potential customers. Custom audiences can be built by importing a CSV/Text list into Facebook, or by placing a pixel on your website that will allow you to remarket to those who already know and might be interested in you.

To create a custom audience through a list of names, phone numbers, or email addresses. Simply go to the “audience” section of Ads Manager:

Facebook for lead gen audiences 

Once there, select the “Create Audience” button in the top left corner:

Facebook for lead gen create audience 

Select “Custom Audience”. Next you will be able to upload a list based on the type of audience or create a pixel that can be placed on your website that will create an audience out of your visitors (highly recommended).

Facebook for lead gen custom audience 

Both options can and should be used IN ADDITION to your other targeted interests and behaviors.

However, I strongly recommend you create “lookalike” audiences to expand your reach. By creating a lookalike audience, you can instantly target users who “look like” those users you uploaded into the custom audience or your website visitors. It’s like using your existing friends to set up dates with the people you want to meet, just creepier!

This is a highly successful strategy when coupled with interests and behaviors that align with your desired audience. It allows you to find similar users to the ones you’ve uploaded, while simultaneously filtering them down into the interests and characteristics most valuable to you. To start out, I suggest keeping the lookalike audience as close to the original as possible. The larger you make the size of the audience, the further you deviate from the target and the individuals become less “alike.”

Facebook for lead gen create lookalike audience 

It’s also key to remember that you can create multiple ad sets per campaign. This will allow you to test and experiment with different targeting combinations and file down the best performing audiences (you can save them for future use as well).

Effective Facebook Ads for Lead Gen: Pricing

You have the option to choose a daily budget or a specified amount over a custom period of time. When it comes to the delivery of your ads you have the option to select automatic or manual bidding:

Facebook for lead gen edit ad set

I suggest using automatic bidding, especially if you’re just starting out. It will instruct Facebook to bid for you in a way that will maximize what you can get for your Facebook ad budget.

You can also choose which times you want your ads to run. This could be advantageous if you are targeting only one specific time zone or you have the data to support that your desired audience is only active at certain times.

Ad Offers

You’ve made it to the last leg of the race and it’s important to not lose focus here. All that time and preparation comes down to how well you can execute on the News Feed. Now that you’ve got your target audience on the ropes it’s time to knock them out. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Facebook for lead gen knockout ad offers

Unfortunately, Facebook advertising isn’t the Wild West and there are rules. In fact, it’s a little bit closer to 1950s America and if you’re ad’s dress shows too much ankle, you will be shunned. Before you start creating anything, you’ll want to be familiar of all of the restrictions Facebook imposes.

Here’s what you need to know:

The Ad Image

The recommended size is 1200 X 627. This is because there are a few different ways Facebook can promote your ad and it will resize it accordingly.

Facebook will not show your ad if it has more than 20% text on it.

Facebook for lead gen ad images

To check the text density of your ad, use this handy tool. Too many words? You’ll have to get creative and trim it down.

The Ad Copy

Facebook for lead gen ad copy 

Text: 90 characters

Headline: 25 characters

Link description: 500 characters

Once you’ve jumped through these hoops, it’s a best practice to make a few variations of an ad with different copy to test against each other. Facebook will automatically favor the more successful ad and you’ll be able to optimize your ad sets accordingly.

Measuring the Effectiveness of Facebook Ads

With the website conversions campaign structure, the primary success of your ads rely on the metrics of conversions in relations to costs. You will receive a Cost per Conversion figure once your ads start yielding results, and this will allow you to see which ad set, and which individual ads, are converting for a better price and at a higher volume in relation to their peers.

Some other key performance metrics to be aware of include reach, frequency, click-through rate, and relevance score:

Reach is the amount of people that your ad is being served to. Your reach is reliant on the ad’s performance, its objective, the size and activity of your targeted audience, and subsequently how much budget you are willing to allocate. In Facebook, you pay to play.

Frequency is something that you should be monitoring as your ads mature. The frequency is the average number of times your ad has been served to each person within its respective reach. You’ll want to refresh your ads once your frequency reaches 3 to 4, as this shows that your current ad has reached exhaustion and, in theory, your CPC will begin to rise as conversions stagnate. You may notice that you are unable to spend your daily budget – this means it’s time to refresh.

Relevance Score is similar to AdWords’ Quality Score in that you get ranked from 1 to 10 and it will reflect costs. The higher your Relevance Score, the lower your costs.

Relevance Score is calculated based on the positive and negative interactions an ad is expected to receive based on different factors related to your objective (i.e. conversions). When your ads compete against each other you will find that the domino effect of engagement (clicks), click-through-rates, and conversions will have a direct impact on Relevance Score. It also goes to show how important ad copy is.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t be basing decisions on any single metric. You should be making your decisions based on the overall performance of your campaigns in relation to how much you’re spending and what your goals are. If you adhere to the advice above you will find that driving leads through Facebook can be EXTREMELY cost effective. Stay on top of your ads and let the leads flow through.

Facebook for lead gen Emperor Palpatine meme 


About the Author

Brett is the Paid Acquisition Coordinator at WordStream. When he’s not playing music and enjoying weekends, Brett manages paid social and other lead generating mediums for WordStream’s marketing team. Find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Marketing Sweet
Aug 10, 2015

Thanks for this brilliant article Brett!

We're currently in the midst of restructuring some of our social media processes, and with your advice on lead generation, we're confident that we will improve things further for both our existing and future client bases!

Brett McHale
Aug 11, 2015

Thanks for the feedback! I'm glad you find the advice helpful.

Aug 25, 2015

Thanks so much for pointing me in the right direction on Facebook Ads.

Facebook ads is one area I have struggled with overtime but now I see some glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

Will definitely try out the steps you outlined.

Thanks a bunch.

Brett McHale
Sep 15, 2015

You're very welcome! Advertising on Facebook can be overwhelming but with a little guidance and direction things become a lot clearer. I'm glad you found the article helpful, thanks for the comment!

Aug 26, 2015

Awesome article. There are so many nuances of fb ads that are so valuable. You can throw a big list into their audience insights tool, learn interests/behaviors/demos about your audience, segment them and then deliver each segment their own CX.

Man, I'm excited about Facebook ad tools thats of sure.

Brett McHale
Sep 15, 2015

Thanks! I couldn't agree more, there are so many nuances of Facebook that are undeniably valuable. The ability to market with such precision is a near priceless quality. I'm excited to see what the future holds for these tools and how they evolve over time.

Andrew Shuman
Oct 29, 2015

I normally don't make a lot of blog comments but, being a die hard Patriot fan of course I had to. Just thought it was a Great analogy using the Marshawn Lynch video (which I Love) to explain how if you are not using Facebook properly for lead gen then you're making a Huge mistake! I myself am making that mistake presently but you have helped me to see the error of my ways. Thank You for not only that but also all the other GREAT content I have found on your site!!
Andrew Shuman

Brett McHale
Nov 28, 2015

Thanks for the comment Andrew! As a die-hard Patriots fan myself I couldn't pass up the opportunity. The analogy rings true however, it's amazing how lead gen often takes the back seat in a lot of paid social strategies. Once you start seeing a direct return on investment though there really isn't any turning back.

Good luck, oh and of course...GO PATS!!

Thanks again,
Brett McHale

Emily Shoupe
Jan 16, 2016

If the goal is simply to direct people to a website, would you select "Send People to your website" as opposed to "Increase Conversions on Your Website?"

Also if that is the goal, would you select the the CPC payment option or the CPM option to reach more people?

Brett McHale
Jan 21, 2016

Hi Emily,

Great questions! So the main difference between choosing the "clicks to website" option and the "Website Conversions" option, mainly has to do with two things:

1. The people within a selected audience that Facebook determines are most likely to commit the action (click to website or conversion)
2. Where your ads show up - in terms of placement

If you wanted to produce website conversions and chose "clicks to website" as your option, Facebook would show your ads to people who have a higher tendency to "click". Combine that with the fact that they will also show your ad more heavily on placements like their app network - you will ultimately end up with more clicks than conversions.

So long story short if you want to drive clicks and traffic, choose the "website clicks" option. As far as CPM vs CPC - I personally use CPC but that doesn't mean its the superior option. My philosophy is that your success in terms of reach in a "web clicks" campaign is determined by the quality of your ads. If they are relevant enough to the audience your CPC will be very low regardless because the higher CTR, the lower your costs will be. At the end of the day you're reaching the same people.

ALWAYS align your campaigns with your goals.


Martha K
Jan 28, 2016

Thanks for the tutorial!

I am in a B2B market, ideally trying to target specific niches within broader industries. Any suggestions for targeting specific job titles/industries like in LinkedIn? I like the very specific professional targeting on LinkedIn, but I'm paying about $5 per click and I've heard Fbook is significantly cheaper.

Also trying to balance that with the statistic that about 40% of mobile clicks are accidental.

Brett McHale
Feb 01, 2016

Hey Martha,

You can absolutely target specific job titles and I 100% guarantee you the cost will be light years cheaper than on LinkedIn. When you create an ad set you have the option to explore different demographic user data. Under the demographics section of the ad set, select the drop down for "Work" and then "Job titles". This will allow you to search for the specific titles you are looking for.

A great strategy for you, considering that you are looking at job titles within specific industries, would be to target those industries using interest and behavioral targeting. THEN you can select the option to "Narrow this audience" - that's where you can add the job titles to further ensure you are reaching who you want.

Regardless of your campaign objective you will most likely be paying a fraction of a dollar per click as opposed to LinkedIn's $5.

I hope that was helpful!


Mar 07, 2016

Regarding Pixel embedding, you refer to doing this using an 'HTML block' for platforms like Marketo. (Imagine this is a workaround for platforms that don't allow for direct embed into the META).

Can you elaborate please?

Adam Ford
Apr 05, 2016

Guys, this is now out of date.

Facebok now has specifically created a new Lead Generation advert type.

It appears at the bottom of the list when you select your campaign type.

Everyone is STRONGLY advised to use this newer version for lead generation. Leads can be generated direct from the Facebook environment without the need for a prospect to click through to a landing page. It's a simpler process too, as you don't need to bother with putting a conversion pixel on your site.

Jul 27, 2016

Is Facebook lead ads the same as Facebook lead generation?

Oct 27, 2016


I am new to Facebook ads, so i need help from the professionals :)

At the moment i am busy learning about launching a tee spring campaign and using Facebook ads to make sales. Do u have guides which can teach me how to launch a successful campaign?

I begin with a brand new Facebook page 0 followers. This because i need a page to promote my tee spring campaign. So i start from 0, no custom audience yet.

What are your recommendations to read and learn how to be successful?

Hope you can help.


Elisa Gabbert
Oct 27, 2016

hi Michael, you might want to try WordStream Social Ads because it basically tells you what to do!

You could also check out the social ads section in PPC University:

Jun 02, 2017

Facebook has over 1.7 billion monthly active users. That is a huge opportunity for you to share your business and services. Whatever business you are in, it is likely that all or at least a large portion of your audience is using the network.

Nov 16, 2017

Excellent Article, you don't find value like this for free so thanks for sharing.
I wish there was more information on KPI's and what to look for in regards to numbers to qualify different ad sets.


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