Likes are for Losers: How to Drive Sales Using Facebook Ads


Too many social media “marketers” are just trolling Facebook for ego-boosting likes. But you have a business to run. You want users and sales, not just fans.

Fred Perrotta can help. He’s a Clarity favorite because of the breadth of his online advertising experience:

  • He worked at Google managing $16M+ in ad spend for clients including Rosetta Stone, Plenty of Fish, and Yext.
  • As a startup marketing consultant, he ran ad campaigns of $50k+/month for early-stage, growth-focused startups like Airbnb, Udemy, and Lyft
  • His e-commerce startup, Tortuga Backpacks, was named to Entrepreneur’s 100 Brilliant Companies list

In this featured post, Fred outlines the Facebook ad principles that he has used to drive 10,000+ signups/month for his clients. 

Hold Your Content Hostage

You’re paying for ads, not running a charity, so you can be ruthless. Give away amazing content but get an email address first.

Udemy advertised big discounts for online courses in its Facebook ads. When you clicked through to their landing page, a popup required you to register before watching the course’s trailer or reading reviews.

You won’t sell much in a Facebook user’s quick, first visit.

Instead, offer a visitor something he wants, like a coupon, an ebook, a template to create his own ebook, or an entire album, in exchange for a way to contact him in the future. Get him away from Facebook’s walled garden then use email marketing to provide value and build trust. Earn the sale.

If your ad and landing page are designed to make a sale and nothing else, your ads will fail. Find the middle ground, a low-friction conversion, so you can continue the conversation later and let your future customer get back to Facebook-ing.

A low-friction conversion is one that can be done quickly. One field. No credit card.

Deal sites like AppSumo, Groupon, and Fab have been very successful with Facebook ads because they focused on collect emails first then selling deals. Once they have your email, they can send you a new deal every day. You don’t have to buy anything on your first visit for the ad to be profitable. They will have plenty more opportunities.

Keep Your Images Simple, Clear, and Brand-Free

Images are the most important part of your ad. They should be eye-catching enough to draw a user away from the pictures, videos, and links in his newsfeed. Images should also be relevant enough to get qualified clicks, not just curiosity clicks. I’ve made this mistake before with meme-inspired images.

Images to use:

  • Faces – Smiling, attractive faces can double CTRs
  • Clear, short text – 1-2 words, less than 20% of your image (per Facebook’s rules)
  • Crazy or funny images – Watch your numbers to make sure they convert

Good examples of images in ads:


Images not to use:

  • Long shots – If you can’t make it out from five feet away, don’t use it
  • Your brand – Unless you’re legitimately well-known
  • Stock photography – Doesn’t connect with Facebook users when next to authentic, amateur photos

Bad examples of images in ads:


Most importantly, test your images constantly. Run two to three different images at all times, deleting the worst-performing variation each week and rotating in a new image based on what’s working.

Copywriting Rules Still Apply, Even if You Only Have 90 Characters

Selling in your ad copy is okay. Just make sure to offer something in return.

Imagine someone reading and clicking your ad from Facebook. You only have an instant to offer something compelling enough for him to leave Facebook, glance at your website, and give you his email. You may take this process for granted, but it’s a lot to ask of someone unfamiliar with your company.

Lyft used Facebook ads promoting a “$28/hour Part-Time Gig” to recruit new drivers.


For someone looking for a new or higher-paying gig, this benefit was very compelling. All Lyft asked of the user was to fill out a short form: name, email, and phone number. Later they followed up with the leads to get the other information they needed.

Despite Facebook’s 90 character limit on ad copy, you can still use the AIDA copywriting formula:

  • (A)ttention – Get the user’s attention with your headline
  • (I)nterest – Describe the benefit of your product or service
  • (D)esire – Provide a limited-time offer to create urgency
  • (A)ction – Give a specific call to action so people know what to do next

Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it’s crucial in copywriting too, especially online.

Be Specific to Reach People Who Will Spend Money

You’re trying to make sales, so target buyers.

Use precise interest targeting on Facebook. To better track performance, organize campaigns by “target groups.” Each target group should be a list of closely-related interests that targets 1-5M people. Keep the audience size small so that you can reach everyone in it and easily evaluate the ROI of that group.

Even Facebook’s precise interests can be as generic as “yoga” or “photography.” These interests are too broad and include casual fans who don’t spend money in that category. Target products and services that are complementary to yours. People who likes brands or products are more likely to spend money on other services or products in that niche.

This target group is bad. It includes huge, broad interests (photography) and a variety of topics within a category (photo hosting, camera brands). These topics should be in separate campaigns.

Bad Target Group

This target group is good because it’s targeted to a very specific topic (photo-editing software).

Good Target Group

Here’s Your Homework

Facebook’s ad revenue is growing, but many businesses think Facebook ads don’t work. Not true. I’ve made Facebook ads work, often better than AdWords, for a variety of clients.

The most extreme example was a mobile app where Facebook CPIs (cost per install) were less than $4 compared to AdWords CPIs of $20+. CPCs are usually lower on Facebook than on AdWords, but AdWords visitors convert better. You will need to refine your Facebook targeting to optimize your cost/signup and cost per lead.

Your assignment is to test Facebook advertising. Start small. Create a very specific target group and collect contact information in exchange for a free report, coupon, or ebook. Don’t sell anything…yet.

Build out your online advertising campaign by talking to Fred on Clarity.

Image courtesy of Murtaza Mahmud.

Subscribe to our blog and gain insights into real startup struggles.

Tags: , ,
Free Guide: Straight-up Startup Advice

Learn From The Best
Top Entrepreneurial Advice
150 Entrepreneurs Share Their Secrets

Free Guide: Straight-up Startup Advice


  • John Sulhoff

    Timely post. I just put up my first FB ad today and have been getting zero clicks. This helps, though. (I didn’t even know text could only cover 20% of the image–no wonder it kept getting deleted.) I definitely have some work to do. Thanks!

    • Fred Perrotta

      No problem, John. Feel free to give me a call on Clarity if you run into any more problems. Good luck with the campaigns.

  • Pingback: Effective use of Facebook ads | July 10, 2013

  • John

    Thanks to this, I’ll be able to cut my lost. I’ll stop running my ads now like a bull. 🙁
    thanks for the tip though.

  • Diane White

    i have done everything nothing works too many selling the same things too many pity likes lol its rediculous i have had 76 views on a single post not even 1 like or comment get real facebook sucks for sellers

    • Rondo Normal

      You could try some proper grammar

  • jame1

    Sceptics point to the MOOCs’ high drop-out rates, which in some cases exceed 90%. But Coursera and Udacity both insist that this reflects the different expectations of consumers of free products, who can browse costlessly.

  • hron023

    That’s why everybody has been so generous with their donations. This

    is the first time I’ve done any fund raising like this but it won’t be

    the last. I might look to do a sky dive next year or even grow my


  • emran.hossain00

    100% Real and non drop facebook page like provide

    up to 100,000 fans each page

    start only 5$

    skype: emran.hossain00

  • Frank Hernandez

    I get plenty of clicks but no sales. I have tried to market to specific groups made special discount offers on top of my free shipping and still no go. I am selling t shirts and I am struggling to get people to buy. Like I said I get plenty of clicks to the site. But no go.

    This is my site:

    Any pointers from anyone are very welcome and much needed. Thanks in advance.

  • Rajesh


    I’m affiliate marketer. We are running fbs ads but there none is converting into sales. I’m using CPC what are your suggestions.

    My name:


    Very informative post. I own coupon site and started promoting page in FB compaign, but PPC is high, can you give some suggestion to reduce PPC.
    site name :

  • Hope

    All of you are doing direct selling on Facebook and that does not work.if you are selling t-shirts then give out information on how to buy customized t-shirts for free in exchange for email address. When people give you their email addresses in exchange for your information then at least you know that this people are looking for information on how to buy what you have to you already know know there intention ( this is called buyers intent) over time you can strategically sell to them through auto responder or mass e-mail. You can sell the big picture if you are smarter.

  • Shrikant Saxena

    Fred I feel like I’m in love with you. Don’t panic it’s not in a creepy way. It’s very informative article for someone like me who doesn’t know much about advertising. You’ve given the very rules that drive actions in ads, and the step by step procedure to take those actions in a relative context.