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How to use Facebook ads to sell online courses

Facebook ads are powerful for selling online courses, but there’s a right -- and wrong -- way to use them. Get tips from expert Mojca Zove on doing it right.

You’ve got an online course to sell.

Everything is ready to go, and you’ve even been promoting it organically.

Your to-do list probably looks like this:

  • You sent out alerts on your social channels

  • You notified your email list

  • You reached out to prospective students individually

The writing is on the wall. If you want to take your sales to the next level, you’re going to have to spend money, and there’s no better place to start than with Facebook ads.

After all, you’ve heard so much about how Facebook ads work for online businesses , and it’s about time you get in on the action.

Except . . . how to do that isn’t as clear.

That’s where expert Mojca Zove , the mastermind behind The Science of Facebook Ads , can help.

Mojca brought her highly specialized knowledge to Podia for an exclusive webinar and shared the four biggest mistakes people make when they run Facebook ads, as well as what you can do to avoid them.

She also provided specific details on what to include in your ads and why, and topped it all off with the biggest reason you need to start your Facebook campaigns today.

Sounds like something you’d like to hear? Then grab your webinar replay over here and read on as we dive into her advice, starting with learning what not to do with a Facebook ad campaign.

The 4 Facebook ad mistakes everyone makes (and how you can avoid them)

Mistake #1: Launching a purchase campaign

According to Mojca, the most common reason Facebook campaigns fall short for creators is that the first one someone launches is a purchase campaign.

(If you’re unfamiliar, a purchase campaign is an ad campaign that features one of your paid offers, like your online course.)

The reason why purchase campaigns are a no-go as your first campaign?

In short, rookies don’t know what to look for.  

“If you don't know how Facebook ads work and if you don't have a solid foundation to start off with, starting by launching a purchase campaign first is most likely going to lead to failure because you don't know what to observe,” Mojca warns.

The way to remedy this mistake is to make your first campaign a traffic campaign, according to Mojca, so you can get to know the ins-and-outs of Facebook advertising first and keep tweaking your ads as you go along.

When you are ready to take on a purchase campaign, however, take caution that you’re not making the next mistake on our list and trying to convert an audience that isn’t ready for you yet.

Mistake #2: Targeting a cold audience

Mojca shares another big mistake people make with their Facebook ads, saying, “When people launch purchase campaigns, instead of doing any kind of retargeting, they target cold audiences.”

If you’re wondering why cold audiences and purchase campaigns don’t bode well together, think about it in terms of dating. It’s too big of a commitment for someone who doesn’t know, like, or trust you yet.

Would you want someone to ask for your hand in marriage on a first date? Unless you’re one in a bazillion, it’s highly unlikely.

The same goes for your purchase campaign.

“So you're trying to sell someone your course that costs $150,” Mojca uses as an example, “And that someone doesn't know who you are. They don't know about your business.”

Which means the request to purchase isn’t exactly appropriate yet. “It's like asking someone on the first date . . . to marry you.” Mojca explains, “You just met him. You don't exactly know who he is in detail and he’s there with a ring asking you to marry him.”

Mojca’s solution to slowing things down is, like before, dead simple. Warm up your audience first and retarget them with your purchase campaign after they’re familiar with you.

If you time it right, your audience will already trust you enough to consider your offer when they interact with your purchase campaign. Time it wrong, on the other hand, and your ad will fade into the sea of users’ cluttered social media feeds.

As for how that audience mismatch happens in the first place, our third mistake -- not ensuring your campaign objectives mesh with your business goals -- is a common culprit.

Mistake #3: Not matching your objectives with your goals

Another mistake people struggle with is the tragic misalignment of objectives and goals, Mojca reveals.

Whether you're interested in obtaining traffic, conversions, or engagement, your objective needs to match your goal.

A way to remedy this mistake is to consider your goals on a campaign-basis, rather than as part of a Facebook strategy overall. What is the one outcome you want from the specific campaign you’re launching?

Once you’ve figured that out, Mojca urges you to simply “go into Facebook Ad Manager and choose the right objective.”

The reason why this is so important has to do with audience matching (or, rather, the lack thereof).

For instance, if your goal is to use “conversions” as the objective, “Facebook will optimize your ads in a way that will sell as many courses as possible,” Mojca shares. “So as soon as someone purchases your course, Facebook will analyze that person in detail.”

From there, Facebook hunts for similar audience members to sell to. “And after analyzing that person, Facebook will try to target other people . . . similar to that person who just purchased your course,” she explains.

If you make the mistake of setting the wrong objective to your campaign, it can result in zero online course sales.

To wrap up the same example, “if you were to choose a ‘traffic objective’ for that specific campaign, you probably wouldn't sell a lot.”

Mojca speculates, “I doubt that you would sell even one spot to your course because Facebook would automatically optimize all of your ads for traffic, not conversions.”

The lesson here is:

When you don’t match your objective with your campaign goal, Facebook searches for the wrong audience, which results in an unmet goal.

OK, Mojca’s final mistake to watch out for today is a big one that can have drastic impacts on your bottom line, but it’s also an easy pitfall to avoid altogether with the right plan in place.

Mistake #4: Having no structure in your Facebook strategy

Another mistake people make when launching Facebook campaigns is they do so with “absolutely no structure to their strategy,” according to Mojca.

In her words, people who make this mistake launch a campaign that’s “a thing of inspiration, not a thing of structure.”

To make your campaign more structure than inspiration, Mojca recommends three simple steps:

#1. Define your end goal

Is your goal to generate brand awareness or sell courses? The more specific you are in defining your campaign goal, the better.

#2. Observe your customers’ paths

Go into Google Analytics and your email service platform and note the path your customers took to reach that same end goal.

For example, Mojca’s customer path contains four steps.

“Before buying my video course, they already bought my ebook,” she describes. “And before they bought my ebook, they signed up for my email course.”

“And before they signed up for my email course, in that time span, they visited my webpage and they read a blog post that I published,” Mojca continues. “After every blog post, I have a CTA signup for my email course.”

As you can see, Mojca works backward starting from the end goal and traces her customer’s steps to their first interaction with her brand.

#3. Flip the path on its head and implement it in your Facebook campaign

Create a path that works backward from the customer path you just notated and base your Facebook ad campaigns on each of those steps.

Your Facebook ad campaigns should retarget the previous step, and each campaign should correlate with a step in your funnel.

For instance, in Mojca’s four-step funnel, she retargets each step of her customer journey.

Simple as that.

Although Mojca’s customer path contains four steps, it’s not uncommon to have a three-step funnel. Just apply the same tactic to each step of your campaign.

“So you can imagine, in the three levels of your funnel, it's all retargeting the previous step,” she explains.  

It’s worth highlighting the only cold audience you should be targeting is at the top of your funnel in your traffic campaign.

She shares her words of wisdom at this stage, “The one and only thing that you need to be aware of is you have to have structure and you have to plan ahead.”

Structure and a plan -- sounds pretty straightforward.

OK, with four big mistakes on your radar, you’re now ready to implement your campaigns. Let’s move onto what to include in your Facebook ads.

What should I include in my Facebook ads?

Mojca recommends running traffic to three specific Facebook ad campaigns, which we’ll walk through while sharing Facebook ad components for each.

#1. Traffic campaign

This is your top-of-funnel campaign, which means targeting cold traffic. As mentioned earlier, this is the only time you should target cold traffic.

As for the focus of your traffic campaign ad, Mojca advises starting with one of your most popular blog posts, where you simply “include an image and a little bit of text on the image,” like in this KickoffLabs example.

Beyond the ad image, Mojca recommends including copy that offers a teaser about the blog post and finishing it with a call-to-action (CTA) that guides users to read or learn more.

“And that's all,” she reassures.

Wondering why this format works so well? “It works because you’re giving something valuable away for free and intriguing people.”

Which is, incidentally, the linchpin behind the second type of campaign Mojca recommends using.

#2. Lead magnet campaign

Your mid-funnel campaign should feature a retargeting ad which nudges your existing audience to opt in for a gift (or, as they’re known in marketing, lead magnets ).

Your lead magnet can be anything of value to your audience. Whether it’s in the form of a digital download or info product, like an ebook, template, tip sheet, or guide, Mojca’s tip is to hook people on the results of using the lead magnet and sell them on the fact it’s valuable and free.

Which, naturally, does require lengthier copy. If you’re worried about running over a certain word count for your Facebook ads, don’t. Lengthy copy, similar to what you see below from Amy Porterfield , should be your go-to strategy for writing ads.

These days, effective copywriting means more copywriting; longer copy has won in every A/B test Mojca has carried out for her clients.

“Let me tell you that long-form copy . . . outperformed the short-form one every single time,” she claims. “I’ve done this A/B test hundreds of times now and it always outperforms short copy.”

Beyond including information about the results people will get from your lead magnet, make your copy longer by starting with stating “the fact”, then walk the reader through the benefits, and finally, weave in a story.

Mojca’s formula for writing Facebook ad copy works like a charm.

As far as imagery goes, “if you’re the face of the business, include an image of yourself.” Mojca boasts that this also performs well every time. Another image-related tip is to intersperse the words with emoji, as you can see Mojca doing in her own ads below.

For those of you who are willing, Mojca’s final suggestion in this campaign category is to include a half-minute video.

It’s not as scary as it sounds. “All you need to do is just start recording on your phone and record yourself talking a little bit about the outcomes of the lead magnet,” Mojca reassures.

And finally, like in all your Facebook ads, top it off with a final CTA at the end that urges people to opt in for your lead magnet.

Mojca’s final campaign type is where your CTA drives traffic to your paid offer.

#3. Purchase campaign

This is your bottom-of-funnel campaign, where you retarget a warm audience who’s ready to purchase your online course or another info product .

“The actual principles of what copy to use, what visuals to use, they stay the same,” Mojca coaches.

Which, again, means communicate the value of your offer and use an image of yourself if you’re the face of your small business.

For example, Amy Porterfield’s ad copy highlights her $3,000 value, plus the end results you can expect from going through the course.

“So any kind of like a tangible outcome, like what they're getting after reading this course, is a great thing to communicate,” Mojca elaborates.

Other details to include in your Facebook ads are, as before, emoji and any special offer to create a sense of urgency.

Mojca also recommends that you “talk about pains and provide solutions and your CTA. Be specific with your CTA and tell your audience exactly what to do.”

That way, there’s nothing left to distract your audience from purchasing your online course.

OK, you’ve now got the key ingredients for Mojca’s three campaign types. Pretty powerful, right?

So are her final Facebook ad tips for today.

4 Facebook ad tips for small business owners

Tip #1. Take advantage of retargeting

Mojca recommends dropping a Facebook Pixel onto your webpage, which allows you to retarget your visitors.

(You can do this on your Podia wesbite as well, by the way. Don’t have one yet? Sign up for a Podia account and create your website 100% for free. )

If the process sounds daunting to you, have no fear. “It's a two-minute task,” Mojca reassures.

“I'm not a developer and I did it in two minutes, so you can do it, too. I would really warmly suggest doing that today, so you can use the power of retargeting to its full advantage.”

As you know, your top-of-funnel campaign is the only one that targets cold traffic. For these campaigns, you’ll have to learn a bit about your audience so you can target those qualities when defining your campaign audience.

To find out more about your audience, Mojca recommends combing through your Google Analytics and filling in any blanks, like:

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Where they came from

  • Interests (technology, architecture, marketing, or et cetera)

Another option for learning more about your audience is to use Audience Insights within your Facebook Ads Manager. You can add the tool onto your existing Facebook page fanbase and it’ll run the analytics for you.

Convenient, right?

All in all:

Use the power of retargeting for all of your funnel steps by implementing a Facebook pixel onto your site.

The only exception is your top-of-funnel campaign, where you target a cold audience. In this case, you can refer to Google Analytics or Facebook Audience Insights to learn more about which audience targeting parameters to use.

Tip #2. Use Lookalike Audiences

Once you have a growing audience, Mojca’s advice is to use Lookalike Audiences in your campaigns.

“The real magic happens when you use Lookalike Audiences on Facebook,” she beams.  

If you’re just starting out and have at least 100 people on your email list, “upload it to Facebook.” Mojca coaches, “create a Lookalike Audience of that email list and run that as your cold audience for the top of the funnel.”

For those of you who already have paid students, you can create your Lookalike Audience based on their information and use that audience at the top of your funnel to drive webpage visits and promote blog posts.

In other words, use your current customers at the bottom-of-the-funnel to model and target other customers in your top-of-the-funnel campaigns.

Mojca’s Lookalike Audience strategy works wonders because “Facebook creates a Lookalike Audience based on people who purchased your course, not just visited your webpage,” which means they’ll be more likely to convert at every step of your funnel.

Doesn’t get much more impactful than that.

Tip #3. Run A/B tests

Mojca is serious about her A/B tests and advises you to follow suit. “A/B test everything,” she recommends. “I A/B test my audiences. I A/B test my copy. I A/B test my visuals.”

In other words, test anything related to your campaign -- it’s all fair game.

When it comes to A/B testing, the golden rule for Mojca, as well as most of the marketing industry, is to test one variant at a time.

“Whatever you do, just remember one thing. Even though I said A/B test everything, make sure to A/B test one thing at a time."

A/B testing won’t give you overnight results, but over time, a lot of little tweaks and optimizations will become a major gamechanger for your sales.

Provided, of course, that you follow her final tip and start today.

Tip #4. Start today

Mojca’s final tip is to start implementing your Facebook ad campaigns now.

“There’s no better time to start running your Facebook ads than today because it is always changing and developing,” she claims.

Which means if you’ve been procrastinating on running your ads, there’s no longer a good reason to wait.

Get started with your Facebook ad campaigns as soon as possible so you can beat your competitors to your end goal of selling more online courses.


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Dive into Facebook ads now with Mojca’s advice

So, you now have Mojca’s proven formulas and tips for conquering ad campaigns and reeling in more online course sales for your business.

If you’d like a recap, here’s what we covered in a nutshell:

  • Learn from Mojca’s biggest Facebook ad mistakes which are launching a purchase campaign first, targeting a cold audience with a purchase campaign, not matching your objectives with your goals, and not having a plan or strategy.

  • Follow her simple and proven formulas, which include specific ad elements like emoji and lengthy copy, for your traffic campaigns, lead magnet campaigns, and purchase campaigns.

  • Because Facebook is always changing and developing, there’s no better time than today to start running your ads.

Ready to tap into Mojca’s Facebook ad campaign strategies? Great -- you got this, and remember, if you need help integrating any of these tools with your Podia website, our support team is just a few clicks away.

About the author

Cyn Meyer was a content writer for Podia, an all-in-one platform where online courses, digital downloads, and communities scale with their creators. Cyn also enjoys playing music, helping retirees live active, healthy, engaged lifestyles, and hopping into the ocean.