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Secrets to Facebook Advertising: Where Image Is Everything

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Dan Fletcher is the former managing editor of Facebook, and has written for Bloomberg and TIME magazine.

As I've mentioned before, images are consistently the most engaging content on Facebook. No other type of post gets as many likes and shares, meaning those with images usually receive the widest distribution. This is particularly important to keep in mind when constructing an ad campaign on Facebook. You might have a great offer and crisp copy, but without a compelling image, you won't be nearly as successful.

For this post, I'm going to set aside introducing Facebook's ad types and formats and focus instead on the types of images that will perform well in a campaign. Generally, though, this advice applies to nearly any type of advertisement you'd run on Facebook, from the smaller marketplace ads that appear in a user's sidebar to the larger sponsored stories that appear directly in the news feed.

Consider the competition

Before creating a campaign, it's worth taking a step back to think about the competition you're up against. You're hoping users will notice your ad amid a perpetually updating feed of status updates, photos, videos, news stories, page updates, and music recommendations.

That's a daunting proposition, particularly considering this might be the first introduction someone has to your brand. Making a good first impression is important. Fortunately, Facebook allows you to create multiple ads as part of the same campaign, as a way of testing different variations. Before burning through your entire budget, it's worth experimenting with different image and copy combinations to learn what performs best.

Find the right image

Remember that your image has to catch the attention of users, even when they view it at a small size. (Facebook requires a minimum resolution of 154 x 154px.) Images that are horizontal generally look better in Facebook's ad sizes, so I've chosen examples here with a bias toward those.

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Man Hiking in the Forest by Maridav

Faces People tend to click on photos of other people's faces. The tighter the cropping on the face, the better; bonus points if the person's smiling. But avoid images that feel too posed — the goal should be something that feels like a really nice photo a friend might have taken.

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Man Stretching Outdoors by arek_malang

Simplicity Images with a lot of clutter won't display well, particularly at a smaller size. Choose images with one subject that dominates the frame. The goal is to be immediately comprehensible, even at a glance.

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Gourmet Hamburger by Joshua Resnick

Contrast Bright colors perform really well. Remember that most of Facebook's interface is largely blue, so images with blue tones will tend to blend in. Images with white backgrounds tend to get lost, as well. Reds, oranges, and yellows make for a nice contrast.

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Gift Box by Olha Ukhal

Humor/Quirk Images that prompt a double-take can be really powerful, provided they're not too cheesy.

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Dog With Glasses by Lobke Peers

Of course, no matter which image you choose, it's important to be authentic. Users aren't dumb — they'll know if you're trying to game the system by attaching an image unrelated to your brand or offer. It's an unnecessary risk that can damage your campaign.

It's worth noting, too, that Facebook approves all advertisements before they go live. So, as tempting as it might be to show some skin in your ads, they still have to abide by Facebook's content guidelines.

Gather inspiration

There are a few places you can go to gather more ideas for your Facebook ad campaign. The Facebook Ad Board is a good start, as it will show you a collection of advertisements targeted to you personally at the moment. (No promises as to the quality.) Facebook also maintains a site called Facebook Studio, which highlights some of the best examples of marketing on the platform, as selected by Facebook's creative team.  

For more from Dan, follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @danielfletcher, and on his blog at DanFletcher.com.

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