social media how toDo you use Facebook to promote your business?

Are you struggling to find ways to get noticed on the platform?

With each update to Facebook, it becomes increasingly harder for small businesses to make a splash in front of their intended audience.

Here are four marketing tactics you can use to get more out of your Facebook advertising.

get more out of facebook ads

Find out how you can get more out Facebook advertising.

#1: Add an Ask

Do you have a certain benchmark you want to hit? Whether you want page or post likes, there’s a simple solution. It may go against your instincts, but straight-up ask for the number of likes you want. And add an incentive to move things along.

For example, Subway asked for 40,000 likes on this post. The incentive: once they reached the milestone, they’d release a code that leads to a promotion. Only then could people enter to win “Free Subs for a Year.”

Subway gave away something of relatively small value, and got back something priceless. If you do the math, that’s a pretty good deal for Subway. They got more than 60,000 likes, more than 800 comments and more than 1,500 shares. That’s pretty much viral status for a single post, and all they had to do is provide one person with free subs.

subway post

Subway asked for 40,000 likes on this post. They got even more.

After you come up with your promo idea, remember these key elements when you create your image.

Make the image aesthetically pleasing.

For example, check out the pair of delectable, photogenic beauties Subway displayed. Look at the perfectly layered tomatoes, stacked to the brim with loads of meat (no extra charge for double) and melted cheese encased in a perfectly rounded bun. Subway displayed one beef and one chicken, showcasing two of their customers’ main preferences. All promo pics should be that enticing.

Include the offer in print within the image.

People scrolling through their Facebook news feeds aren’t always going to read the accompanying text that goes with a post. However, if you place the offer at the top of the image itself in large print, you’ll get a few eyeballs that would ordinarily miss it.

It never hurts to ask, so start asking. Create something eye-catching with a definite call to action.

#2: Go Retro

People love to show off things related to their youth: they share pics, take quizzes and participate in pretty much anything that takes them back to an earlier time. Music videos on YouTube from the 80’s and 90’s get tons of traffic and engagement. And then there’s vintage logos and products that adorn t-shirts that get everyone talking. So, if it’s feasible, give your audience something to reminisce about.

Gatorade did a timeline of how their bottle evolved over the years. The graphic, caption and hashtag speak to their target audience. The viewer is privy to seeing the different points in history where Gatorade changed their packaging. And you never know when the trivia will come in handy. (Next time someone’s belting out trivia with their friends at the bar, they can always drop the factoid that Gatorade has been in existence since 1965.)

gatorade post

Gatorade showed how their packaging evolved and was rewarded with nice engagement.

When visually sharing history of your product or brand, here are a few things to include.


If you’re showing how your product evolved, choose key points that are noticeably different. Gatorade shares the full spectrum of designs coming at you in one instant. This also has the effect of showing diversity to the consumer. Diversity is good—it gives the illusion of choice, and people like choice.

Make it consistent.

An overriding consistency factor makes the differentiation even better. Gatorade showed how their product evolved and did it all in the same flavor: lemon-lime. In this visually appealing photo, they allude to the company’s rich history with the lemon-lime coloring. Plus, the bottles are lined up and taken on an angle shot to give the impression that all of the bottles average out to nearly the same height.

Build upon an existing theme (or meme).

By ending the post with the #TransformationThursday tag, Gatorade is building upon the #ThrowbackThursday tag, and created their own hashtag in the process. They’re latching onto Thursday as a day to take Facebook users back to the past, while displaying the product at different points in time, thus showing off more of a ‘transformation’ than a ‘throwback.’

llbean post

This #ThrowbackThursdap post from L.L. Bean generated much more visibility than their average posts.

#3: Encourage Escape

When friends show their vacation pictures in the Facebook feed, there’s just one problem that hinders the viewer’s vision of escape: these glorious pictures have other people in them. If you really want to engage your fans in some fun escapism, share a relaxing picture (with no other people) they can step into. While you’re at it, throw in a catchy message. In some instances, you don’t even need to include the product.

Hollister is a beach-centric clothing line. This Facebook photo doesn’t promote the brand as much as it promotes the experience. This simple pic received tremendous engagement: more than 32,000 likes, more than 300 comments and nearly 500 shares. Did you notice? There’s no Hollister clothing in this image.

hollister post

Hollister sells beach clothing. However, they’re promoting not the clothes, but the experience.

To get the ball rolling, here are a few things you can do to employ this tactic in your Facebook marketing.

Ask open-ended questions.

Questions lead to comments, and comments are more valuable than mere likes. What is spring break all about? Well, it probably means a lot of different things to a lot of people. But most people will definitely have an opinion and/or a story to share.

Allow the image to breathe.

A basic beach scene should be simple, and this one is everyone’s dream scenario: a whole relaxing beach all to yourself. There’s the lifeguard tower, hotels and a good number of palm trees. The Hollister logo is imprinted on the vast expanse of sand. It’s not about the brand, it’s the aura. The brand’s just along for the ride.

nike golf post

Nike Golf is a master of this tactic.

Be succinct. Add simple text to your basic pic.

Good things often come in threes: “Hot Sun. Warm Sand. Spring Break.” The audience may not necessarily be experiencing these things right now, but they probably wish they were. Try to sum up your escape scenario in just a few short phrases.

Not every promotion, picture or status update needs to be about your product. Find creative associations that spark interest and engagement from your fans.

#4: Stay Current

There’s always something going on. Perhaps there’s a big sporting event coming up. Maybe a much-beloved television show is coming to its conclusion or a reality show is wrapping. It could be an awards show or holiday. Whatever it is, there’s always a way to latch onto an event, and make it about your company or brand.

At the end of an American Idol season, AT&T asked a question on the minds of viewers everywhere: “Who are you voting for?” They were rewarded with massive likes, shares and comments.

at&t post

AT&T capitalized on the buzz from American Idol in their social media.

If you’re going to try this kind of promo, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Don’t just ask, direct the conversation.

Of course you want people to share their opinion of who they think will win, and naturally they’re going to do that in the comments. But don’t let it end there. Include a link to where they can actually vote. You don’t need to direct the activity on your post—let users interact and then learn, see or do more.

Timeliness matters.

Don’t post during or even when people are getting ready to go to or watch the event. Post in the middle of the day. Let the people who are checking their Facebook feed in anticipation engage and lift the post up from there. The post should really peak an hour or two before the event, but it needs a build-up, and you don’t want to post too early.

Make it about the event, not you.

Your branding should be simple, understated and off-to-the-side, if at all. People know it’s your account that’s posting, and enough of them will remember. There’s no need to overwhelm them with a large splash of your logo. Put the focus on the event, and just play your part as facilitator of the enthusiasm.

at&t post

SouthernBite’s Halloween themed post was shared over 4K times in less than 24 hours.

There’s always something going on—whether it’s in the media, sports or a traditional or manufactured holiday. Find ways the things that are happening connect to your brand, and make them part of your social media outreach.


There are many simple, creative things you can do to get your brand noticed on Facebook. Just make sure you provide value. And, whenever you need inspiration, just check out the competition.

What do you think? Do you use Facebook ads? What works for you? What tips do you have for others? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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  • Great examples Sarah on how to improve your chances of getting noticed in the news feed.

    Do you have any information to substantiate the claim that these brands actually used Facebook Ads? Most of these are large well-known brands that typically generate this type of engagement without having to run ads.

  • I have a similar question here – I think these are great examples but how can we try to use these to get more out of Facebook ads? The only idea that came to mind so far was to create more similar and tactical content before promoting them. Supposedly, promoting such content will be better off than promoting the usual content?

  • Nice post Sarah Smith ! The challenge of keeping up with how Facebook keeps changing things is challenging for sure ! Say I looked for you on LinkedIn to connect there too. Are you on LinkedIn ?

  • @JasonHJH:disqus, I was initially wondering if this wasn’t the right title on this post since Facebook Ads was only mentioned twice – in the title and in the closing and there was very little terminology that was related to Facebook Ads.

  • Awesome comments on how to boost your facebook ads—thanks a lot–the more variety I find is good—more value and more interaction daily!

  • Hi Christian, we’re looking into this.

  • Pingback: Marketing Day: Yahoo Earnings, An Adobe-Nielsen Partnership & Snapchat's Ad Results()

  • Alicia Henderson

    We are currently testing out facebook ads. I am debating on running an ad for our upcoming course and I’m not sure if I should use the long or short marketing verbage.

  • Ishita Ganguly

    I second that. The post is not about Facebook ads, as it suggests in the title. But it’s worth a read if you want to know about successful Facebook campaigns.

  • Velislav Chorbadjiev

    Love it..I like to use posts in the form of Trivia or Quizzes to get better engagement. What tools for such games can you recommend?

  • SocMedEnthusiast

    Great article, not necessarily about Facebook Ads as title would suggest, but some really great tips for posts (which could then be great for a promoted post campaign)

    Just to point out that #2: Go Retro hashtagged #TransformationTuesday, not #TransformationThursday as stated – this does not build upon the #ThrowbackThursday hashtag, #TranformationTuesday is already an existing and very popular hashtag.

  • Sheri Kirchoff

    Good examples, but I have to agree it’s not clear that these are actually sponsored posts. It is also important to call out that there is a 20% text rule on all Ad images, some of these images would go against that rule set by Facebook.

  • I was going to ask the same thing Christian. These are great tips and great posts, but not necessarily ads..

  • Angela K

    Currently I am in an MBA program and taking a marketing class. We have a client that is not social media savy. Any pointers on how to get him to move more towards a social media platform? Or if anyone knows some statistics on how social media increases your business? Thanks.

  • Angela, you might want to check out our LinkedIn group and ask the community there

  • Angela K

    Thank you Cindy, I will try there.

  • sarahsmith82110

    The purpose of the post was actually to maximise the share ability of any given post before money was laid down.

    Since all of these brands have the marketing budget to justify boosting their posts, I think it’s safe to assume they have done ad spend on these examples.

  • sarahsmith82110

    The original title was something along the lines of ‘What to Do Before You Spend a Cent on Facebook Ads’.

  • sarahsmith82110

    Thanks for pointing that out.

    Do you know which one came first? You can only imagine that one was popular first and inspired the other.

  • sarahsmith82110

    Where else are they spending their money?

    If they are using print or radio to get the word out, it’s not easy to measure that. Whereas FB is going to provide you with analytics, so it should be pretty straightforward to explain engagement compared to traditional forms of media.

  • @sarahsmith82110:disqus, that makes sense now! Thanks for getting back about the title.

  • Angela K

    That’s the problem, right now his main way of marketing has been word of mouth. My group is trying to show him the strengths of online advertising. Especially since his company is online based. FB I really feel is a good place for him to start. Would you suggest a different social media? Good place for a beginner like our client…

  • Mina

    This post by Subway will not be accepted by Facebook as an Ad as it would be considered an image containing “more than 20% text”; we have tried this several times – they count even a very simple title as such.