Everyone is on Facebook. The platform has over 2 billion active users and remains one of the top performing places for reaching any target audience imaginable. As travel agents, this is an incredible opportunity to affordably communicate with your ideal target market directly and in customized and engaging ways.
Using Facebook ads for travel agents starts with understanding your target market and how you can present your offer in an interesting, engaging and share-worthy way.
This post will provide a helpful, no nonsense guide and template for setting up and running profitable Facebook ad campaigns as a travel agent.
Among other things, a core strategy for ensuring a profitable campaign is to a.) clearly define your target market and b.) understand the user’s state of mind on Facebook.
Together, these understandings will help you to create a value-adding offer before proceeding with effective retargeting campaigns and followup communications.
So let’s dive in!
- The Facebook Strategy: Your Audience & Your Offer
- Building Your Audience
- Landing Pages & Destination URLs
- Building Your Campaign
- Testing & Retargeting
The Facebook Strategy
Your Audience & Your Offer
There’s no argument that Facebook has expansive reach. It’s a global platform with over 2 billion active users and a complete range of audience targeting demographics to choose from
Compare this to Instagram or Snapchat for example, which skew towards younger users.
What this means for small businesses and travel agents is finding and communicating directly with your ideal customer is easier than ever.
And as we spend more time online using social media and other platforms online, opportunities for building relationships is growing proportionately.
In fact, as reported by Internet Advisor (2020), the expansive growth of social media and internet use is compounded by factors such as lifestyle changes (more people working from home), online business growth (more websites each year) and growing access to the internet with each passing year.
So learning Facebook ads and digital marketing will be a high-value skill that will allow you to compete, build brand and stay relevant with your target audience.
So what makes good marketing anyway?
For starters, a successful campaign has an irresistible, problem-solving offer and fine-tuned targeting (and retargeting).
But it’s also important to understand the Facebook platform and why people are there in the first place. We need to understand the user’s state-of-mind when on Facebook.
So lets start there: The Facebook Platform & The User’s State-of-Mind
The Facebook Strategy & The User's State-Of-Mind
To advertise successfully on Facebook, we should first analyze the platform to understand why people are visiting it.
Grasping the user’s state-of-mind can help shape our campaigns to be more effective.
Let’s consider YouTube as an example. People visit YouTube for a variety of reasons, including entertainment, inspiration and education.
However, jumping back to Facebook, users are primarily there for entertainment, interesting content and to interact with friends and family.
That is, they’re not in a buyer’s state-of-mind.
So as a travel agent, you should try to appeal to Facebook users by providing something that is entertaining, interesting or easily shared.
I’ll be talking more about this topic below in Your Audience & Your Offer!
But essentially what this means is it’s more difficult to sell products and services directly to consumers using Facebook.
However, don’t let this fact worry you!
The detailed level of audience targeting and retargeting capabilities are extremely powerful and extensive. You just need the right approach and order of marketing tactics.
So to run profitable campaigns, we need to use a technique that understand the customer’s mindset, takes advantage of custom audiences and uses retargeting campaigns.
And the right technique for Facebook (and digital marketing in general) is the sales funnel approach.
A sales funnel is essentially the customer’s journey from brand introduction to warmed up prospect and eventually, to a paying customer.
Running various ad campaigns to target these different stages is critical to take full advantage of the power of Facebook ads and digital marketing.
Here’s a diagram showing a typical sales funnel:
So whenever you build out an actual campaign, you’ll need to choose an objective.
This objective will likely coincide with a specific stage that your target audience is on during the buying process.
For the purposes of this post, we’ll be targeting new, cold traffic customers (i.e., people at the top of the funnel).
Below is a list of the objectives inside Facebook. Notice how they represent a typical sales funnel.
- Awareness (Top of the Funnel)
- Brand Awareness
- Consideration (Middle of the Funnel)
- App Installs
- Video Views
- Lead Generation
- Conversion (Bottom of the Funnel)
- Catalog Sales
- Store Traffic
Of course, there may be some overlap and exceptions to perfectly matching our objectives with the audience targeting every single time, but following this format will generally help to keep things organized and your goals aligned.
Now before we start building our audience(s) and campaign, lets first talk a bit about the Facebook pixel, why it’s so important and how to install it!
Installing The Facebook Pixel
If you’re going to be running successful advertisements, retargeting your website visitors is something that you’ll definitely need to include within your digital marketing strategy.
Luckily, this part of Facebook ads is actually pretty simple – and no coding or technical experience is required!
- Go to the dashboard of your Facebook Business Manager
- After getting that all set up, from your main dashboard, click on the menu tab in the top left and choose Events Manager
- Click Set Up Pixel (if it’s your first time) or choose the pixel displayed if you already have a pixel created, then you’ll see a “Set Up” option on that following page.
- A pop-up will appear. If you have one of the websites listed under the first integration option, follow the steps there; otherwise, click on Manually add pixel code to website
- On the next page, you’ll see the code: click on it to copy it to your clipboard
If you hit Continue here, you can also choose to set up additional tracking events within your website by clicking on the “Use Facebook’s Event Setup Tool”.
Or you can just hit Cancel.
To finish the setup, simply head over to your website hosting account (WordPress, Wix, etc.) and install the code.
Each website platform will require a slightly different approach, but basically you’ll be installing the code into the head tracking section.
I recommend doing a quick Google search “how to install pixel onto (site host software you use)”.
Finally, you can double check that each page’s settings have the pixel code installed by downloading the free Chrome extension Pixel Helper.
Once downloaded, any websites that have a pixel installed on it will show as a green box with a number (indicating the number of tracking pixels installed on the site).
If you’d like a full visual guide for setting up your pixel, see this post on pixel installation and custom conversions!
Your Audience & Your Offer
By now, you’ve probably started to think about who your target audience is and what stage they’re at in your sales funnel.
In the next section we’ll be building a saved audience based on customer demographics, interests and online behaviors.
As such, it can be incredibly useful to write this information down as a way to stay organized and build multiple audiences for testing different variables against each other.
This concept (of creating multiple audiences and testing each one for performance) is one of the secrets to successful digital marketing.
If fact, I cover this concept in greater detail in the Testing & Retargeting section below.
But once you’ve identified your prime target audience (their interests, ages, location, value, fears, hopes, people they follow, places they like, etc.), you’ll need to decide what buyer stage they’re on.
For this post, we’ll be targeting new prospects who will be at the top of your sales funnel.
So we’ll need to make an offer for them (if you don’t have one already) that is enticing and value-adding.
Otherwise, why should someone care about your business or brand? We must always provide value first.
Just remember this marketing tenet: A good offer should be something that is enticing, value-adding and easily consumed.
So lets talk about some good offer strategies.
Well for starters, having a good lead magnet (something you give away for free, such as a free guide, PDF, eBook or downloadable cheat sheet) in exchange for an email or contact information is an online asset that you can continually use to generate new leads.
Actually, using a good lead magnet is a fantastic strategy for quickly converting cold traffic into warm leads!
Here is a quick breakdown of some possible travel agent offers based on your audience’s buying stage:
- Top of the Funnel Offers
- Interactive Ads Such as Quizzes, Calculators or Polls
- Lead Magents
- Ads Focused On Awareness & Establishing Trust Through Free Value, Entertainment & Engaging Content
- Middle of the Funnels Offers
- Interactive Ads Such as Quizzes, Calculators or Polls
- Lead Magnets
- Retargeting Campaigns With “Add-On” Offers to Further Entice A Purchase/Conversion
- Time-Ssensitive Offers
- Free/Discounted Phone Call/Skype Consulations
- Ads Focused on Relationship Building Through Additional Value-Adding Offers
- Bottom of the Funnel Offers
- Retargeting Campaigns
- Time-Sensitive Offers, “This Weekend Only” and “Act Now” Tactics
- Sales Ads & Conversion-Focused Ads
Since we’ll be targeting new cold traffic who are at the top of the funnel, we’ll be using a lead magnet strategy.
Recommended Read: How to Make A Facebook Quiz Using These Great Tools
Building Your Audience
Once you have your target market clearly identified, you can create this audience inside your Facebook Business Manager, in the Audiences section.
But before we do that, lets briefly go over the different types of audiences you can create.
Facebook allows you to build 3 different types of audiences:
- Saved Audiences
- Cold traffic audiences based on interest, behavior and demographic targeting
- Custom Audiences
- Audiences created from existing data, such as an email list, website visitors or people who’ve engaged with a previous ad or post of yours
- Lookalike Audiences
- Facebook will create a copy audience of like-minded people using any existing data you have (such as an email list or people who’ve purchased from you in the past)
- This can be an extremely powerful way to virtually guarantee effective targeting with a high likelihood for conversions
Each audience serves a different purpose and will require different data or input.
Although custom audiences and lookalike audiences are extremely powerful tools, we will be building a saved audience for travel agents.
I do however talk more about custom audiences in the Testing & Retargeting section below!
How To Build A Saved Audience Inside Facebook
Please note that Facebook frequently updates their dashboard, so your screen may be slightly different from the images below.
However, the process and buttons should remain the same.
Step 1: Go to the Audiences tab inside your Facebook Busiess Manager
Step 2: Click on the Create Audience button and select Saved Audience from the drop-down menu
Step 3: Put in your location, age range, gender and language targeting.
(I chose ages 25+ simply because people below this age tend to have less money).
Then start adding your Detailed Targeting.
I started with frequent traveler as behavior targeting.
I also selected the Narrow Further option and typed in Sandals Resorts as a way to further niche down our targeting to people interested in traveling but also must be interested in resort style travel packages such as Sandals Resorts.
This is great strategy to narrow down your targeting to be more specific, customized and relevant.
However, it also influences your audience size (see the next picture).
As you can see below, I am targeting people living in the Denver, Colorado region and because of the degree of specificity, my targeting went down to just 4,000 people – which is quite small!
You can see this data under Potential Audience in the upper right-hand corner.
So to fix this, scroll back to the detailed targeting section and use the Suggestions tab to see a list of similar keywords you can also include in your targeting to expand your reach.
This is also a great way to get ideas for who and how you’d like to target new prospects!
As you can see, there are a variety of different niches and ways to differentiate your targeting.
You could create a campaign focused on travelers who also like ecotourism and care about the environment or who prefer adventure travel.
You could then create another campaign for frequent travelers who also care about family travel and family-friendly packages.
So it’s a great idea to make multiple audiences to target with different ads and offers.
You’ll find that some audiences and offers tend to outperform others.
This is the true value of testing – finding what works best and then replicating and scaling it that to increase your conversions and revenue.
I cover this topic in more detail in Testing & Retargeting towards the end of this article.
Landing Pages & Destination URLs
For most campaigns, you’ll need to add a destination URL. This is the web page that your audience will be taken to if they click on your advertisement.
Usually, this destination URL is actually just a landing page, specific to that one campaign (i.e., it’s not actually part of a company’s main website).
So lets explore why this technique works so well and why it’s important to use a landing page (over a website) that is optimized for the user’s experience and conversions.
Landing pages are one-page sites with only one specific offer, message and a specific call to action for what to do next.
Since there are no additional buttons or offers on landing pages, visitors are less likely to be distracted or indecisive as to what steps to take next.
Websites on the other hand are general with a variety of links, sections and pages. And if you’re running an ad campaign, it’s crucial that you stay focused and on point with your messaging, offer and targeting.
This is why landing pages outperform websites for conversions. Websites are not designed with one specific customer segment in mind.
Websites are essentially general information pages for all customer archetypes, prospects and visitors.
With digital marketing, we must customize the landing page experience and messaging to match our target audience, the specific buyer stage they’re on and the specific offer we’re promoting.
So if you’ve been on the fence for using a landing page, I definitely recommend you implement this core element into your campaign.
This way, you’ll be more likely to make conversions, have better retargeting control (using Facebook pixel data) and be better customized to each subset of your target market.
Together, these points will strengthen your Facebook ad campaign and the overall sales funnel matrix.
To learn more about landing pages, sales funnels and retargeting, check out this post on the 7 Simple Steps Any Business Can Take to Make a Profitable Landing Page.
It’s totally beginner-friendly and if cost is a concern, I’ve included free options as well!
Building Your Campaign
Before we begin, it’s important to note that every Facebook ad campaign will have 3 levels. These include the campaign level, the ad set level and the ad level.
Each of these levels will include different components of your ad campaign, which you can edit and change at any time.
Let’s briefly check out these 3 levels before building out the campaign!
- The Campaign Level
- This is where you name your campaign and select your objective
- The Ad Set Level
- Here, you can add your audience targeting, ad placement and adjust your budget
- The Ad Level
- This is where you’ll make your actual ads and upload your creatives, text, headlines and URL links
How To Build A Facebook Ad Campaign
Also, to ensure your ads are approved, it’s a good idea to read through the Facebook Advertising Policies – just to make sure you stay compliant.
Much of it may seem like common sense, but it’s still worth a quick read-through.
Step 1: Go to the Ads Manager tab inside your Facebook Business Manager
Step 2: Click on Create to make a new ad campaign.
Step 3: Name your campaign, make sure you’re not running a Special Ad Category (only for credit, employment or housing related ads), leave the buying type as Auction and choose your Campaign Objective.
Step 4: Scroll down and set your budget and name your ad set and ad.
Remember, all campaigns have 3 levels so you’re essentially naming each level.
I usually name my ad set something related to the audience I’m testing (such as ecotourism travelers) and the ad something related to the creative I’m testing (such as video animation ad).
As for the budget, starting with around $5-10/day is fine.
You will scale this amount later after testing which ads perform best.
Campaign Budget Optimization is a recent change/update (as of January 2020) and will probably be turned on automatically.
This just means that the Facebook algorithm will automatically distribute your ad spend to the ads and audiences that are performing best.
Hit Save to Draft when you’re done.
Also, if you scroll back to the top, you’ll see an option to Switch to Guided Creation.
This is great for beginners and will walk you through the process of building a campaign.
Feel free to choose this option, you can switch back and edit in the regular Quick Creation at any time in the future.
Step 5: After hitting Save to Draft, you’ll be taken to the Campaign level editing screen.
From here, you’ll want to go through each level and edit the information to add your audience, create your ad and edit any other details such as ad placement, budget and links.
You can navigate to these different campaign levels at any time from the top or left sidebar.
Once you’re done, you’ll be hitting the Publish button to launch the campaign and go live (not yet though).
You can also exit out of this screen at anytime.
Any changes and edits you make will be automatically saved and you can open your campaign at anytime directly from the Ads Manager main page.
Also, notice (below) that you can access any specific part of your campaign (ad sets or the ads themselves) by clicking on the appropriate tab across the top
Step 6: Editing your ad set level. The first thing you’ll see is the objective you chose (here it was Traffic).
Depending on the objective you went with, you may need to add some information here.
Since it’s a traffic campaign, we would need to add the URL of our website the traffic is getting sent to.
If you notice the Dynamic Creative option, this lets you test multiple variations automatically.
I talk about this in more detail in the next section
Keep scrolling down and you’ll see Budget. Remember we already set this amount earlier.
If you want to change it, you can do so at the campaign level (the first tab at the top).
Keep scrolling down to Audiences.
Here, you can find your saved audience you built from before by selecting from the Use Saved Audience drop down menu option.
Finally, if you keep scrolling, you’ll come to Placements.
Here is where you can change where you’d like your ad to be shown (i.e., on Instagram, the Facebook marketplace, only in messenger, etc.).
There are times when editing this option can be useful (for example, making an Instagram customized ad).
However, for this ad, we’ll leave it as is, on the recommended setting.
For the purposes of this article, you can also leave Optimization & Delivery as is.
Step 7: Creating your ad. First thing you’ll need to do is select your Facebook business page you’d like to advertise from.
If you don’t have a Facebook business page, you’ll want to go and do this now. It’s quite simple and quick.
But you don’t want to be running advertisements that are linked to your personal account – not the most professional thing!
As you scroll down, you’ll come to the first part of creating your ad: choosing your Format and Media.
Go through and choose the creatives and style you’d like to go with.
Also note here that if you go with a single image, there’ll be a button that lets you turn it into a video ad!
This can be a great option if you’d like to use video but don’t yet have one prepared.
Once you’ve got you creative(s) uploaded and selected, you can scroll down and add in your Primary Text, Headline, Description, Website URL and Call to Action.
You’ll also notice that you can see a preview of your ad to the right-hand side.
Any changes you make will be reflected here and you can go through this preview section to see how your ad will look across multiple placements and devices.
Finally, once you’ve completed everything above, you can hit Publish and go live.
Do note however that it can take up to 24 hours (or more) for your ad(s) to be approved.
So just sit tight during this waiting period and (provided everything is Facebook ad compliant), you should have your campaign live soon!
$ Tip Jar
- Don’t Change Anything For At Least 3 Days After Publishing
- The algorithm needs enough time to optimize and test different subsets of your audience(s)
- After A Few Days, You Can Pause the Under-Performing Ads/Ad Sets & Scale the Better Performing Ones
- To Scale, Double the Budget On Winning Ads & Ad Sets Every 3-4 Days Until You Reach About $50
- After this, raise the budget by ~20% each time to continue scaling
Testing & Retargeting
Testing and retargeting will be the bread and butter to your digital marketing success.
Remember the sales funnel concept and how it’s highly unlikely to sell a product or service to someone who has never heard of you before (i.e., cold traffic).
This is why it is essential to first test often – so you can find the best performing audience with the highest profit potential – and to also use retargeting campaigns as soon as possible – so you can isolate only the most engaged and interested prospects.
However, if you’re running a lead generation campaign (as this post is using), you can start retargeting your prospects via email for free.
This can be highly effective, but just remember to focus on providing value in your emails – don’t go in for the hard sell too quickly!
Actually, coupling email marketing with Facebook ads is a fantastic omnichannel marketing strategy.
If you’d like to learn more about email marketing, check out this free course from HubSpot!
And despite the sometimes anxiety-inducing terminology and advanced marketing options available (if you’re new to the digital marketing world), it’s actually a pretty straightforward process to set up retargeting campaigns and do A/B split-testing on your ads and ad sets.
Let’s explore these ideas some more!
Retargeting Campaigns With Custom Audiences
Retargeting means sending a followup advertisement to a specific group of people based on some previous action (or inaction) they took on your ad, post or website.
This is a powerful marketing tactic and is often where the bulk of a company’s sales will come from.
The basic set-up to a retargeting campaign is pretty much the same as above, with the exception that your ad, offer and messaging should be changed to match the stage that the new target customer is on within their buying journey.
For example, you probably won’t send a brand introduction video to people who’ve already visited your website before.
And you definitely wouldn’t send a cart-adandonment ad to anyone except people who forgot to finish purchasing a product from their online cart.
- Cart Abandoners are people that added a product to their cart but never completed the purchase, for whatever reason
- This can actually be quite common and retargeting these people with simple followup ads to remind them to complete their purchase are campaigns that give you some of the highest ROAS (return on ad spend)
So the principle difference with a retargeting ad is the use of a custom audience.
Remember from above, a custom audience uses existing data to create a unique group of people to (re)target.
The process is pretty similar to making a saved audience (from above), but lets briefly look at how to build one!
Step 1: After navigating to the Audiences section of your Business Manager, select Custom Audience from the Create Audience drop down menu.
Step 2: Depending on where your data is coming from, select from the available Sources.
Most of the sources are pretty self-explanatory, but I mainly use
- Facebook pixel data
- Customer list
- Email subscribers
- Lead form
- People that put fill out a Facebook form in a lead generation campaign
- Facebook Page
- People who’ve engaged with your business page in some way
- People who watched a certain percentage of a previous video ad or post
Step 3: After selecting your source, simply follow the steps to create the custom audience.
Once you build this custom audience, it can take up to 24 hours (or more) to populate. Then all you’ll need to do is add this custom audience into your new retargeting campaign within the ad set level.
Recommended Read: A Foolproof Guide to Facebook Retargeting
Testing With Duplication & Dynamic Creatives
If you’ve created multiple audiences that you’d like to test – or you have different creatives and headlines you’d like to test – the easiest way to do this is to first go through and create your campaign, ad set and ad.
Then, after everything is edited and basically ready for publishing, go back to the Ads Manager home screen and choose the campaign level that includes the variable you’d like to change and test for (from the tabs across the top):
- Campaign Level
- You want to create a whole new campaign with a new objective
- Ad Set Level
- You can to change and test a different audience or ad placement
- Ad Level
- You want to change and test a different image, video, headline, text or destination link
From here, you can simply hover over the appropriate campaign, ad set or ad and select the Duplicate button.
I’ve selected the Ad Sets tab (because I want to change the audience I’m testing while keeping the campaign objective and ads(s) the same).
Select Existing Campaign and then hit Duplicate.
So duplicating different portions of your campaign is actually pretty straightforward.
However, if you want to skip this process and just test everything within one campaign, you can explore the Dynamic Creative options.
You can find this option within the ad set level towards the top. You can simply toggle on this feature (before publishing) to enable it.
Essentially, this let the Facebook algorithm go out and test different combinations of your assets to find the one(s) that performs best.
Also, if you move to the ad level of your campaign and scroll down to the text and headlines portion, you’ll see that you can Add Another Option.
This is another great way to add and test variables all within your campaign without having to duplicate different parts.
Again, the Facebook algorithm will automatically test these variations and optimize for the best combination.
Pretty cool, right!? Although you lose some control here, it’s still beginner-friendly, automated optimization at our fingertips!
I should also note that it’s quite common to see that “Fix… Errors…” item.
But it’s usually pretty self-explanatory about what needs to be fixed.
However, if you are experiencing a major issue, you can always email Facebook directly, check out Google for an issue or reach out to me directly via my Contact page.
$$ Tip Jar
For each audience, first duplicate your ads to test at least 2 ad creatives to start.
For example, test one image and one video.
Second, duplicate your ad sets and just change out the audiences.
This way, each ad set and audience you duplicate will already have the same ad testing variables duplicated from the original.
This will save you time and keep your testing variables organized.
Using Facebook ads is an amazing opportunity to get in front of your ideal target customer with a customized, personable message and offer.
There are a variety of tools, techniques and strategies to optimize your campaigns, but getting started can be done relatively cheap and with little no experience necessary.
Testing and effective targeting is essential for running successful campaigns.
And using videos and interactive ads that reveal some interesting information about the person – such as questionnaires, calculators or polls – tend to outperform traditional image-based ads.
This post has walked you through the basic set-up process for creating a Facebook ad for travel agents.
There are many advanced techniques and tools but keeping things simple while focusing on adding value and retargeting the most engaged prospects is always a winning strategy.
As always, thank you for reading today – I hope you found value in this post!
Let me know in the comments: What social media strategies are you using now (or have you tried using before)? Are they working? What wrong?