If you’re not an expert Facebook advertiser yet, you’ve got a lot to learn. You’ll get to engage your customers, do a lot of fun experimenting, and learn more about how to effectively use social CPC, but it’s worth a quick reality check. Like anything else, Facebook Advertising is a tool. And, like all tools, it can be hard to use effectively at first and it takes time to master.

I am not trying to dissuade you from advertising on Facebook – every brand should give Facebook advertising a go. My goal is to give you a heads-up on pitfalls you will most likely encounter so that the worst parts don’t come as a surprise and derail your momentum and enthusiasm.

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So what are some of the issues you should expect to run into?

You’ll get confusing data

One of the best and worst things about online advertising is the depth of the analytics you get in return. This is both powerful and crippling.

It’s no different on Facebook. What should you be looking at? Reach? Engagement? Cost per click (or conversion)? There’s a lot of ways to slice your data, and figuring out how to do it up front without stalling or getting discouraged can be difficult.

So, here’s my recommendation. Start by paying attention to the bottom-line result. This means conversions or sales. This is the easiest pass/fail flag to throw out and it will give you a starting line for ad optimizations. From there, it’s all about what matters most to your business. Some businesses will get better results focusing on engagement, while others will see the best benefit from focusing on the lowest possible CPC. This is for you to map out once you’re in it!

It is difficult to get it to test things evenly and meaningfully

Some of the biggest fun you can have advertising online is with the myriad of tests you can run. Images, headlines, targeting, conversion goals – you can rabbit-hole pretty deeply when it comes to tests and optimizations.

So, get ready to be annoyed when Facebook gets real weird with your tests. Generally, Facebook will require you up your sample sizes substantially to hit a meaningful data threshold, because it does a rather poor job of evenly distribution your test options at a low volume.

The smaller your budget, the less you should test. This is good advice for online advertising in general, but Facebook in particularly loves to return lopsided impression and click counts at lower volumes, which can make decision making incredibly tough (or worse, give you false confidence).

Bottom line: Limit your tests and let them run longer.

Limited amount of tools

If you’re an old hat to the online advertising world, you’ll be used to awesome tools that make your life easier. Display networks and Google all have fantastic third-party options that make management, optimization, and analysis much easier.

Facebook doesn’t have NO tools – but it can be slim pickings. This is because of Facebook’s relatively aggressive protection of its ads API, severely limiting third-party access and cutting down the ability for vendors to build on their backbone.

Tools like AdSpresso are beginning to appear and provide a substantial amount of value and greatly increase your efficiency. AdSpresso is even free! But, it’s still a not a lot to choose from, so you’ll spend most of your time inside of Facebook’s mostly lackluster advertising interface.

I think this will change a lot over the next couple of years as Facebook relaxes this rules and more software developers begin bringing products to the market, but it’s an issue for the time being.

So, hopefully none of this scared you away. Facebook advertising can be great for branding, great for sales, and great for growth in general. Like all channels, it can also underperform and has inherent risks and limitations. The more you stay mindful of these risks, the better you’ll be able to steer clear, keep an optimistic mindset, and help discover what works for you and your business.

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Ethan Jones
Ethan is a UX designer and marketing analyst who works for Texas-based marketing firm Clearpath Previously he has worked for major record labels, startup incubators and quite a few nonprofits. He is also a terrible programmer and a big fan of weirdos who are doing unusual things with the Internet.