Facebook Ads: Barriers to Success and Tips for Winning the Holidays

For most businesses, Q4 is the highest time of profitability, but that’s if and only if your marketing team has a solid strategy for capturing online leads.

When pumpkin latte signs dominate every coffee shop street corner, your Instagram feed becomes cluttered with apple picking poses and your office turns into a cluster of flannel wearing employees, you know that it’s time to start prepping for the holidays!

And no, I’m not referring to your Friendsgiving potluck menu, but rather your marketing campaigns that will capture your ready-to-buy audience that’s been on summer leave. For most businesses, Q4 is the highest time of profitability, but that’s if and only if your marketing team has a solid strategy for capturing online leads. One strategy that works is to incorporate Facebook ads into your overall marketing plan.

What may be surprising is that with 92 percent of social advertising occurring on Facebook, only 9 percent of digital spend is happening on the platform. Why? The largest social audience resides on Facebook, the average person spends over two hours per day on the social network, and Facebook’s user base has even surpassed the population of China!

Yet employees tasked with navigating the complex world of social advertising feel overwhelmed and frustrated when doing it on their own. This holiday season, marketers need to learn how to do it right in order to achieve profitability from Facebook ads rather than just a list of grievances.

Below are the seven most common barriers to success using Facebook ads, and tips on how to fix them before your holiday leads go into winter hibernation:

1) You’re Not Making Use of Facebook’s Targeting Options

Have you ever invited a stranger to Thanksgiving dinner? Probably not – because that person might feel displaced. This is essentially equivalent to running ads without targeting a specific audience for a specific reason. So, why waste time inviting these irrelevant people to dine when you could be inviting those who have expressed an interest in showing up?

In 2013, Facebook partnered with third-party data brokers such as Epsilon, Axciom, and Datalogic, making Facebook the best place to find the most precisely relevant audience to focus your budget on the people that best fit your business objectives. The level of targeting you can drill down to in Facebook is truly remarkable and if you’re not utilizing these features to your benefit, you’re wasting visibility and even clicks on people who will never convert.


2) You’re Not Using Custom Audiences

Know what wouldn’t be weird? If you called up your best childhood friend who also happens to be your next door neighbor and invited her to your annual Friendsgiving feast. The chances of her attending are high because she’s “in-market.”

Custom audiences on Facebook are like inviting your close friends over for dinner –you know them, their interests, and the risk factors of not attending are much smaller because they’ve already visited your site and expressed interest in your brand.

Facebook’s custom audiences allow you to upload a list of emails or place a pixel on your website to target warmer leads you’ve already interacted with. Whether it be shoppers who have previously converted and you’d like to upsell or visitors who filled out a form, but haven’t yet requested a demo.


Every single Facebook advertiser should be utilizing custom audiences as a fool-proof strategy to target actual people rather than fantasized “buyer personas.”

3) You’re Ignoring Relevance Score

Quality Score is to AdWords what Relevance Score is to Facebook. Basically, the higher your relevance score the more visibility you get for a lower cost. You absolutely cannot ignore relevance score because it’s essentially the score of how much Facebook likes you (and you want Facebook to like you!).

If relevance scores are low, don’t panic, but do adjust to up your ad engagement, which will in turn improve your score. Whether it be more specific targeting, varying ad text, new images, or stronger calls-to-action, test out variations of what you’re already doing to boost scores, pay less, and get more engagement and visibility.

4) Your Ads Suck

No one intends for their ads to suck, but sometimes it just happens, perhaps without you even realizing it. You’ll find indications of this in your metrics e.g. low relevance scores, low clickthrough rates, low conversions. So you’re not Annie Leibowitz? You haven’t mastered the art of persuasive copywriting?Your ads still should not suck and here are a few simple guidelines to ensure they don’t:

  • Make sure your images are the proper size. Facebook recommends 1200 X 627 (also only 20 percent of text is allowed).
  • Don’t use boring stock images! As in the office worker smiling while chatting on their headset. Please spare us the pain.


  • Use easy-to-understand, conversational language within your ad copy. Remember this is a social platform so take off your corporate hat and have some fun with it.
  • Include a strong call-to-action. Your ad has an end goal, right? What is it? Tell your audience what you want them to do.

5) You’re Not Tweaking Your Strategy for the Holidays

Properly strategizing and executing for your seasonal peaks can make or break your chances of outselling your competitors during the most profitable times of the year. For many marketers (especially those in retail), this includes holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but these seasonal spikes can also range for several months (perhaps October until end-of-December). This fluctuates from business to business, for instance an outdoor gardening operation in New England isn’t likely to have seasonal peaks before Christmas, but is more likely to peak during the early Spring season or around the 4th of July.

Ensure that you’re properly prepared for your businesses seasonal peaks by:

  • Upping your budget for high traffic times.
  • Expanding your audience to reach the higher mass of people in shopping-mode.
  • Tweaking your ads with holiday and seasonal promotions to spur action.
  • Creating an automated ad schedule to show your ads during the most high-profit times.

6) You’re Not Promoting Your Winners

With every marketing tactic, you’re going to have some losers. Whether it’s a low email blast response rate, poor webinar attendance, or a social ad that fell into the ad graveyard; all you can do is learn from it and move on. With that said, not nearly enough marketers are leveraging their winners. While learning from your losers, you should be adding fuel to the fire (i.e. budget) to your highest converting ads. Promote the best of the best to a new audience and steal the strategies used from high performers in your future social campaigns.

7) You’re Not Expanding Your Reach

Last, but not least, you should never limit yourself to blasting the same audiences over and over again. Not only could this lead to ad fatigue, but it’s also going to prevent you from coming close to your full potential with Facebook ads. You should be cloning your highest converting audiences to find fresh leads with Facebook’s “lookalike audiences” feature. This audience option allows you to clone an existing audience whether it be your customer audience, an audience from a page visited on your website, or those who have already converted by using your tracking pixel.



If you’re committing any of these social media advertising faux pas, now is the time to fix them before your Q4 sale predictions fall short.

Margot da Cunha (Twitter: @ChappyMargot) is a content marketing specialist at WordStream with a background in PPC, SEM, content and digital marketing. Margot is passionate about writing and is also a regular contributor to Search Engine Journal and Social Media Today