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There's a reason Facebook has seen massive gains in Internet ad spending – the site's ability to target people by their interests is unparalleled. If you sell basketballs to schools, you no longer have to throw an ad on a general sports site and hope for the best. Now, you can target specific people who are interested in basketballs and who work at schools.

So you may want to dive in headfirst by dropping ads in place right away. That would be a mistake. There are some critical things you need in place that far too many businesses fail to do – and it costs them in the long run. Here's the plan we recommend for all our clients at my digital marketing agency.

Set up your ads account the right way

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Facebook makes it easy to set up an ads account – too easy, actually. The default settings sometimes don't help. Pay close attention to the currency in use. Often, Facebook defaults to U.S. currency. Besides meaning you'll have to do the conversion in your head (how much did I really spend?), once you set a currency for your ads account, you can't change it. It's also helpful to set your ads account up through Facebook's Business Manager, which will let you assign access to your team much easier.

Consider a third-party platform

While it's tempting to use Facebook's standard ad tool (or its big brother, the Power Editor), some third-party tools can help drive your cost-per-click much lower than you could get on your own. They do this mostly by making it very easy to run multiple variations of each ad – different images, headlines, body copies, and calls-to-action. We use AdEspresso, which provides a simpler way of running these multivariate tests, and pausing underperforming groups. As well, AdEspresso lets you "tag" campaigns so you can analyze performance as a group – a must for any business that wants to take its advertising seriously.

Install Facebook's WSA Pixel on your website

You'll most likely start by advertising to groups of people based on their interests. But of course your goal will most likely be to drive traffic to your website. By having a Web Site Audience (WSA) pixel on your site, you can soon enough run ads to people who have already visited your website. This audience will almost certainly provide stronger click-through rates and, thus, lower cost-per-click than interest targeting. It's important to set this pixel up on your site prior to advertising. Trust me. You'll be glad you started to collect that audience.

Mine your existing customer list

Most people don't realize that Facebook lets you target your existing customers (or prospects or any other list for which you have people's e-mail addresses or phone numbers). If you have a mailing list, export the e-mail addresses and create a "Custom Audience" on Facebook's ad platform. Facebook will create a targetable group of people with e-mails that match. For instance, if you have 1,000 people subscribed to your e-mail list, and 250 of those people use the same e-mail address to log into Facebook, you now have a group of 250 people you can target.

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Lots of web traffic? Craft specific groups

If you get a lot of web traffic each day, it's worth crafting specific audience groups. For example, using the same WSA pixel, you can create a targetable subgroup of people who have been to specific pages on your website (as opposed to just any page on your site). You can get quite creative with these groups – people who visited your products page but did not buy anything (i.e., people who did not visit the "thank you for buying!" page, or people who have been to any page on your site with the word "Donation" in the title.

By doing these five things, you'll already be well ahead of your competitors and positioned for much faster growth than would otherwise happen.

Tod Maffin is president of engageQ digital, a Vancouver– and Toronto-based digital marketing agency, specializing in online advertising, digital marketing and social engagement. His website, todmaffin.com, has many more resources.

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