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By Tatyana Levin, Staff Writer
April 11, 2014

Let's face it, advertising makes the internet go round. Advertising is one of the best and most popular ways to make money online. Advertising platforms make money when websites buy ad space, and advertisers make money when traffic is driven to their site and that traffic converts.

If done correctly, this can be a perfect set up for one of the prongs of a marketing strategy.

But there are plenty of online advertising platforms out there, so how do you choose the right one for you? One option is Facebook advertising, though there are many others like Google AdWords and AdSense and Yahoo Advertising Network.

Facebook has displayed ads pretty much since its conception and its advertising program has grown and expanded tremendously in the past ten years

With 556 million daily active users, advertisers have huge numbers to work with. Exposure can be one of the biggest factors of a successful advertising campaign, and if there is one thing that Facebook has, it's users. 

Not only does Facebook have a lot of users, it is also the most popular social media smartphone app out there and is a dominant force in mobile advertising. 

83% of smartphone users access their social networks on smartphones, and 56% of the population has a smartphone.  This means that Facebook has many people to advertise to, both on their website and on their mobile app, which might help to explain the huge success of the mobile ad market. According to eMarketer.com, in 2013 mobile ad spending grew by 105% over Google and Facebook. 

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For example, after Coca-Cola introduced a series of ads featuring its signature soda drinking polar bears in France, they found that their ROI was three times higher on Facebook ads than on television ads. 

What makes Facebook advertising notable and successful are the options for types of advertisements it provides advertisers. Unfortunately, this means that it can be difficult to sort through the options and choose what will work best for you.

To help you get a grasp of what Facebook ads have to offer, here is a guide to Facebook advertising with explanations of the different types of ads that advertisers might look into.

Ads for a website with external links - These are standard ads on the side of a Facebook page. These ads allow a link, a picture, and a little bit of copy. The purpose of this ad is to get you to click on the link that takes you to the website of the advertiser. Rather than just brand recognition, these types of ads can increase traffic to a site. 

Ads to like a page - These ads also appear on the right side bar of a Facebook page, but they have a different purpose than the ads with external links. These ads act as an invitation for someone to like your page, and hopefully they will actually go on your company page to take a look around. This works as brand exposure. You can have a little copy, an image, and a link to your Facebook page.

Sponsored stories - These types of ads are some of the more complicated ads on Facebook because rather than showing the ad to someone who has already liked your page, the ad is shown to someone who is "friends" with someone who has recently interacted with your page. For example, if you have commented on a page, a Facebook friend of yours will see an ad that says that you commented on this page and will invite your friend to like that page.

Page post ads - Say you have a company page and you've recently posted an update or uploaded a new picture. With a page post ad, this new piece of content on your page can be displayed to people who don't already "like" your page. And for those who already do like your page, they will see a sponsored story.

Promoted posts - This is a simple way to advertise on Facebook. If you have posted something new like an update, an image, a survey question, or what have you, you can promote this post by showing it to everyone who has liked your page and all of their friends, or just everyone who has liked your page.

There is also advertising for events and apps, with links to download apps. 

One of the benefits of Facebook ads is that there are many options, so if one type doesn't yield the ROI you hope or expect, another type might.

Another factor that can help determine the success of an advertisement is targeting. Releasing an ad to everyone to see what sticks may help your site get more traffic, but at what cost? Instead, it can be more effective to target your ad to a specific demographic.

Facebook ads allow you to target based on location, interests, demographic (for example men age 18-35), and off-site behavior.

And Facebook ad targeting continues to get more and more sophisticated. Just recently, Facebook improved their targeting capabilities. According to Business Insider, "previously, when an advertiser selected ‘parents' and ‘photography' as parameters for targeting users, the audience contracted to those people ‘who are parents OR interested in photography.' Now, those parameters will be defined as "parents who are interested in photography," which will provide advertisers with a more specific target audience."

These changes along with the existing capabilities allow advertisers to target their ads to the specific customers that have a very real potential of being interested in the advertised company or product. This specificity helps advertisers save money and create potentially more effective ads.

Another interesting change to targeting is the ability to advertise to those who have just changed some kind of status on their profile. For example, if someone changes their status from "in a relationship" to "engaged," it could be a good time to advertise wedding services.

The constant changes to Facebook's layout help us predict that Facebook's advertising program will continue to change and grow and improve. So what's impossible now on Facebook may one day be possible.

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