Facebook Ads for Startups: The 5 Minute Guide

So you've set up a Facebook page. Now what?

With organic reach harder to achieve than ever before for a brand new company, it's tough for a cash-strapped startup to justify spending money on social media, especially when the return isn't immediately obvious. Many startup companies dabble in the platform just because it seems to be 'the thing to do', but without a good strategy, it can be an expensive exercise in futility.

However, Facebook advertising is a great method of gaining traction for startups at any stage. If done right, it can be incredibly cost effective, quick and it also offers flexibility in how you can target your ads. Facebook's own inbuilt tools such as Power Editor and Audience Insights allow you to create and A/B test often, and provide extremely in-depth information about your audience, all without having to purchase expensive 3rd party software. Even if it doesn't become a main channel of conversions, the amount of information Facebook can yield can be extremely useful for your content marketing strategy, and can be a perfect way to validate your product.

The main challenges you're likely to face are finding and targeting your audience on Facebook. Chances are, people who are going to buy your product already have a Facebook profile. However, finding these people, targeting them efficiently and bringing them out of the woodwork to engage with your brand can be almost impossible.

We've come up with a quick guide on how you can accurately find your audience on Facebook.

Graph Search

A company who is starting from scratch will arguably face the most difficult task. A good way to start is to do some research using Facebook’s Graph Search. Graph Search lets you find other pages liked by people who have already liked a certain  page. Try typing in your Facebook search bar: Pages liked by people who like [Competitor], and Facebook should pull up a list of similar pages you can then target via Interest Lists in the adverts manager. Most of the results might be pretty obvious, but every now and then, there are surprising results.

There are a few caveats to this approach – Graph Search currently only works if your language is in English [US], so if the search query isn’t working for you, check your language options. Also, Interest Lists may not show many of your most immediate competitors, as they will only display pages that have been liked by more than 50,000 people, so you might have to go broader initially.


If you’re a brick-and-mortar store, or your startup has a geographic connection, you can target people who are close to your store address – in the locations, you can use your store’s address, and then select a radius around that address to target. This is perfect for cafes, retail stores, or any other places where walk-in traffic is really valuable. You might want to consider putting in your competitor's addresses as well, or specific locations where you may be undertaking offline advertising such as flyer drops.

Note - With location targeting, you must still narrow down your targeting through other demographics – age, gender etc. 

Custom Audience via Email List

A third method is only applicable for startups who have already built an email list. Facebook allows you to input any email list to create a custom audience you can target. Advertising to those who have already engaged with your brand is a great way to preach to the converted, and encourage interaction with these people via your social media. With a sizeable list, you'll be able to learn more about the people who have a signed up to your list - where these people are from, their other interests and who they socialise with. From here, you can step things up a notch and expand your reach even further by creating a lookalike audience, where Facebook will create an audience that it thinks is similar to your imported list. Try to keep the lookalike to 1%, especially in the beginning stages, or Facebook will start picking people out whose connections might be tenuous at best.

Something worthwhile noting - creating a lookalike audience is worth avoiding if you have less than a thousand emails, as the sample size is just too small for Facebook to make reliable suggestions. You will also need to further narrow down your lookalike audience using demographics; the audience might be similar, but you still want to weed out people who just aren’t the right fit.


There are other more...unscrupulous, but never-the-less very accurate ways to find your audience from scratch using imported lists, i.e. using grey and black hat tools to scrape the user IDs of the fans of your competitor pages and advertising to these  people.. These methods are AGAINST Facebook's Terms of Services, so engaging in these practices can very well get your advertising account banned, but for the sake of science and a complete review, it's still good to be aware of.


Here concludes our 3 methods of accurately finding and targeting your audience on Facebook. There are still a few things you need to remember when you're running and testing your ads.

·      It's all about the cost per conversions. It's really easy to get carried away when you see your Cost per Click or Cost Per Like results become low, and declare success! However, often the cost can be fairly low, but not many people are converting. Facebook can track your conversions via conversion pixels, so make sure you implement those from the very start.

·      Kings never stay kings for long. Audiences can get used up, and even the highest performing ads become less effective over time so keep an eye on your ad frequency and the trending costs.

·      A/B split test everything. Start with ad copy and ad imagery, and then progress to different audiences and placements. Facebook's Reports tool can break down the costs-per-engagement all the way down to genders, age and device, so make sure you use those to your advantage.

Did you have any successes finding your audience on Facebook? Do you have anymore tips and tricks to share? Let us know in the comments below!