How Not to Advertise on Facebook

5 Oct 2016
Alan Martin

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I recently saw an advert in my Facebook newsfeed for an E-book that promised 34 time-tested email templates including the exact 2 email templates that were responsible for over 50% of all the author’s sales, and the 14 email templates that his company use to launch their own products and services, double their click-through rates and close sales.

Being interested in email marketing, having piqued my curiosity, I thought this might be worth having a look at, so I clicked on the link in the ad expecting to be taken to an email opt-in page where I would be asked for my email address in return for receiving the E-book.

Instead I was sent directly to a sales page that proclaimed that I could buy the E-book for just $49 for the first 30 only, and that there were only 7 copies left at that price. There was even a countdown timer on the page that informed me that the price would double when the counter reached zero.

Gosh I thought, I’d better get my credit card out right away, so I don’t miss out on this amazing deal – NOT!

Needless to say I exited out of the page in double quick time without buying anything (yes, there was an exit pop up too – offering an additional $15 dollars off if I reconsidered my decision to leave). The person behind the ad would be out of pocket, having likely paid for the ad click.

Now, I don’t like to see anyone lose money on their marketing, so I wanted to use this example to illustrate where it all went wrong.

Where did it all go wrong?

So let’s break down why this ad didn’t get me parting with my cash (and I am a sucker for buying online content by the way, so I am probably his ideal audience) and what the guy behind the ad could have done differently.

Mistake No. 1. I’d never heard of the chap featured in the ad before. He probably targeted me based on my interests, which he got right so I’ll give him one point for that, but I didn’t know who he was and only clicked on the ad because I was interested in the subject matter, so he didn’t have any credibility in my mind at that point. He certainly wasn’t one of the big names in the industry, so why should I trust him? I don’t know if his E-book was any good or not.

Solution – He should have used his ad budget to warm me up first by giving away a freebie. Maybe he could have offered an E-book made up of his Top Ten converting emails of all time. I would certainly have opted in for that, at which point he would have had me as an email subscriber, so he could contact me again about his paid products at no additional cost. I would also have had the opportunity to evaluate what the free emails were like, and if I liked them, I’d certainly have considered buying the full E-book at $49.

If he was desperate to sell his E-book straight away, it would have been better for him to aim the ads at people who were fans of his Facebook page, or that had visited his website or even bought something from him before. These would be warm leads, people who already knew who he was, whereas I was cold.

(RELATED: How To Install The Facebook Tracking Pixel)

When you are targeting warm traffic your credibility is likely to have already been established with that audience and so you don’t need to convince people of this before they will buy from you. For more on the concept of traffic temperature read ‘How To Build Trust on Social Media’.

If you ever want to see why you’ve been targeted with a certain ad in your newsfeed, just click on the little down arrow on the top right of the sponsored post and select ‘Why am I seeing this’. You can read more about taking control of your ad preferences here.


Mistake No.2. His audience is not stupid! They will likely realise that there is no scarcity with electronic products, so it looks fake to claim that there are only 7 copies of the e-book left at that price and the countdown timer comes across as just another mechanism to encourage an impulse sale. Especially as it reverts back to 699 once it reaches zero, so the whole thing screams of manipulation. I don’t know this guy from Adam remember, so I am now not inclined to trust him at all. The E-book may be amazing but at this point my trust is gone (if it was ever there in the first place).

Solution – Sometimes, particularly with higher ticket sales, you do need to employ a little bit of gentle persuasion, in the form of psychological triggers (if you’ve not read it already, you need to get hold of a copy of ‘Influence’ by Robert Cialdini – affiliate link – which explores this topic in depth) to encourage people to buy from you, but if this technique is used there needs to be genuine scarcity.

I doubt whether at $49, the author needs to add scarcity to the offer at all, but if he did it would be more transparent if there was a believable reason given for this scarcity. Maybe it is a limited time offer, which is fine, but it would be more transparent if this was done by date rather than through the use of a fake count-down timer.

Mistake No.3. Following on from the last mistake, another problem with the ad was lack of ‘congruity’. Congruity is when you have two or more things that fit together, that look like they belong together. In this case the ad and the landing page did not look like they belonged together. I had clicked on the ad because it looked like it was an ad for a freebie give-away, yet it went to a sales page which I wasn’t expecting.

Solution – There is nothing wrong with using an ad to sell a low-ticket product like an E-book (although a lot of E-books are given away free these days as lead magnets), but you need to make sure that the text, image and any call to action button that is used relates to what’s on the landing page. “Sign Up”, “Book Now” or “Shop Now” might be appropriate button options in this situation.  It could still be appropriate to use a “Learn More” button, as long as the descriptive text in the ad made it clear that this was a payable product. My best advice, when it comes to which call-to-action button to use is to split test it to see what your audience responds to.


Trust and credibility are as important with online marketing as they are with off-line marketing and without it you are going to be wasting a lot of money and potentially damaging your reputation. Make sure you consider the level of trust that your different audiences have in you, when you are planning your marketing campaigns. If you are going to use scarcity as a marketing tactic, make sure it is genuine and not designed to manipulate people!

If you want to learn the correct way to advertise on Facebook, as LeadPages affiliates we are delighted to be able to offer our blog readers free access to their Facebook Ads training course, ‘The Facebook Advertising System’. Click here to check it out!

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  • I also came across this particular ad and got sucked in. But straight away I saw that this was a ‘dodgy’ ad. However, my curiosity was peaked and I let it hang around in the background for 10 minutes to see what happens with the count down, because I arrived when it was close to the ‘finishing’ time.

    And guess what?

    It rebooted/reset itself and started again at a much higher number…. DUH!

    Surely marketers don’t think consumers are this dumb? I actually take this as an insult to my intelligence… 😉 Just kidding.

    But you are correct, this type of ad damages trust. I would never buy anything from this company, no matter how good the offer was.

    By the way, I love your new website.

    • I wish I had taken a screen grab of the actual ad (although for the sake of his anonymity I would probably not have published it on my blog – actually I did originally have the name of the E-book in the blog post but I discovered that if I Googled that his landing page would come up, so thought I’d better not be so specific). The sad thing is what he was selling could well be excellent, but when you resort to cheap tricks you lose all credibility.

  • Greatc article and all very good points.

  • This is a brilliant article and explains clearly where this advertiser went wrong. I’m sure he meant well but has gone about things entirely the wrong way. I hope he reads your blog Alan!

  • The shame here is that they company obviously created a good post to catch your attention in the first place but rather than warm you up, they turned you off completely. E-Learning is on a massive growth right now and I read an article just recently about the amount that people are now spending on E-Learning so if they had only thought this through properly they could have made good money from their initial ad spend.

    • Great point Simon, and you’ve reminded me of something I was going to add to the article (watch this space) – Mistake No.3. The guy did a great job at getting me to click on the ad (although that will have cost him money with nothing to show for it), but then the experience was not at all what I expected when I clicked through. So his ad did the trick (got me to click) but then he let me down after that.

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