Molly Adair


How to make perfect ad visuals on social media

Originally written for the SocialProvidence blog

Facebook arms you with an incredible amount of information. When tailoring an advertising campaign, you can create a target audience ranging from 6 million soccer moms all the way down to 3,800 casual football fans in the Bay area who enjoy Bon Iver and drink coffee (yes, you can actually create this audience.) With so much information at your fingertips, it's easy to get caught up in creating a highly targeted audience - targeting your ads at the perfect group of people who will love your product. But often overlooked is the importance of visuals and copy that go into those ads. Without a striking visual and well-crafted caption, your ad will be lost on this target audience. Here are a few things I've learned creating visual content for our ads:

Start with the right-sized box

Then think outside of it. Facebook has strict regulations on what size ads are allowed for each type of ad campaign. For example, campaigns to drive website conversions require a thinner image than campaigns to increase engagement. Do your research before you start brainstorming ideas to best understand what type of ad you'll be designing for.

A picture is worth 80% more than words

Facebook is strict about how much text can be included in an ad visual; text can occupy no more than 20% of the area. Their enforcement is bizarre at best and your ad may be rejected mid-campaign, negatively affecting your results. Facebook enforces the 20% rule through a 5x5 grid - only 5 sections of the grid may contain text. If you are like me, you may be apt to ignore sections that only contain partial bits of text, like the tail of a "y" or the corner of an "M". Be warned: Facebook will catch these and reject your ads. Stick to this grid and be diligent about checking that no letter creeps outside the lines.


It's helpful to create your own grid while designing. Make sure all your text fits inside five areas of the grid or risk having your ad rejected. Look out for corners of letters that are just barely outside the grid.

You have .002 seconds to make an impact

(Disclaimer: This number isn't based on any facts.) But the fact is that you don't have very long to catch a Facebook user's attention. As part of the news feed, your ad will be buried amongst hundreds of other posts, all competing for the attention of the Facebook user. In order to catch your audience's attention and drive them to complete an action (i.e. like your page, engage with your content, or click on your site), your ad can't be too complicated or wordy. It's tempting to want to tie your ad into a larger campaign, but if your main reason for buying a Facebook ad campaign is to increase your brand awareness & follower-base, this temptation can get you in trouble. Instead, design with a simple message in mind. Convey what your product/service does while invoking an emotional response.

The key: testing & validation

Test. Tweak. Test again. The key to success with Facebook ads is to not be afraid to change things up. Start with a range of variables - five different visuals to be tested across three sub-audiences. If those aren't working, try something completely different. For one of our clients, we were targeting healthy moms. We thought that - logically - moms would identify with content that had pictures of laughing children and had a hunch this would be the most successful ad. Within days of running the campaign, our other ads were far outperforming the laughing children. We were shocked. What we hadn't thought about was that many moms' news feeds are cluttered with pictures of children, mostly their friends' posts or shared articles. We needed imagery that stood out. Ultimately, the most successful ads in our campaign were ones that simply explained the product in one glance, a visual I created as a side note. Testing different ads enabled us to find the most successful one and to change our focus quickly, reducing cost per like and increasing our reach.

TLDR: Good and simple visuals make the difference with Facebook ads. Make sure you follow Facebook regulations, iterate and follow the data to make them perfect. 

Molly AdairComment