You put lots of work into your Facebook posts. Maybe you even planned out your content strategy and invested in production values. In fact, you poured media spending on it to boost your post.

But the results are unsatisfactory. A handful of likes and shares. Much less conversions. Your media spend is gone, wasted.

How did this happen?

Here’s the thing: if you want to be successful on Facebook, you need to pay attention to the factors around your campaign, not just the execution of your ad

Here are the biggest reasons why your ads are under-performing on Facebook.

1. Facebook's algorithm change

In 2018, Facebook announced that they are effectively showing less public content from brands and businesses.

Here's a snippet from their official announcement:

Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.

This means that your Facebook post or ad must garner engagement. Regardless of how much ad money you spend on your post, if it doesn’t get likes, comments, and shares, it will not have the kind of reach as others get.

2. Video is becoming a priority

Other than the basic fact that people are more attracted to videos than still photos, Facebook is evidently making itself a video platform. Just look at these features they rolled out.

Showing you ads on Facebook videos clearly means they want you to watch stuff on their platform. So if your post is not a video, it may not be prioritized by their news feed algorithm.

3. Your video needs to be up to spec

Even if you do decide to invest in videos, be sure you create them properly.

  • Its length has to be at least 3 minutes long
  • Its display resolution has to be Full HD (1920x1080 pixels)
  • Its frame-rate should ideally be 30

These markers are easily detected by their system, which means that can they easily choose to penalize you for uploading sub-par videos without human moderation. So let’s not take that risk at all.

Also, you can’t just cobble up a slideshow saved into MP4. Explicitly mentioned in their best practices:

Give viewers a true video experience, not a slideshow. Minimize still images and focus on content that takes best advantage of video's capacity for capturing movement and motion.

4. Your first three seconds are weak.

Now, let’s talk about the advertiser side of things. Staying on the video scenario, you need to make sure that the first three seconds can capture attention.

Too often do I find video ads on Facebook that starts with uninteresting titlecard introductions or footage that takes too long to get to the first point.

Notice that some of the most viral videos on Facebook show you both an arresting headline and a straight-to-action footage at the same time? Because it only takes a split second to decide not to keep scrolling.

Maybe you are a premium brand, afraid of this sort of execution. Maybe you think that rushing the introduction is incongruous with your branding or corporate guidelines.

Here’s the reality: Facebook users don’t care about your brand stylebook. They don’t care about the hours of discussions in your meeting rooms. They don’t care that your video only gets truly interesting at the 30-second mark. 

They only care about what’s in front of them.

And if they don’t like it, they skip it. End of story.

5. You are still making ads

It’s been a known fact that people do not enjoy ads.

TV viewers change the channel when the commercial break comes on, or they use TiVo back in the day. On their computers, adblock installs are on the rise. On social media, users can easily scroll past things they are not interested in. 

Historically speaking, people will ignore you if you are just plain selling something. The same applies to pretty much any social media platform. 

Because the simple truth is clear: if there is a mismatch between what you’re selling and what people want, you will lose.

Yes, ads are supposed to create demand. But you need to look at the context of where the ad is placed at. People open Facebook mostly to see what their friends are up to, and see what’s trending on the news. 

If you want to sell screwdrivers, don’t advertise on Facebook. Because people are usually not on Facebook looking to buy something. Especially not something they won’t buy until they need it. It’s all about user intent. You’re better off posting on Facebook groups for DIY enthusiasts.

What should you do instead? Short answer in the case of hardware: inspire them with videos of DIY projects.

6. Your targeting is all wrong

Knowing that there is a subset of Facebook users who would be interested in what you have to say, the next piece of the puzzle is finding out who they are.

Fortunately, Facebook’s audience tool is very powerful. You can select parameters like location, age, gender, etc.

The mistake you’re making is when you try to go too wide.

Too wide: Women in Malaysia aged 25-45

Better: Women living in Kuala Lumpur aged 25-34, who are interested in cooking.

Remember that you can actually choose interests as part of your audience selection criteria. This can increase your chances of hitting the right people. 

The other mistake you’re making is not split-testing.

In order to narrow down who are the most likely people who would engage with your posts, you need to split-test your audiences.

Simplified example:

Ad set 1 Gender: female Age: 18-24 Interests: Cooking

Ad set 2 Gender: female Age: 25-34 Interests: Cooking

Ad set 3 Gender: female Age: 18-24 Interests: (Recipe video publishers like Tasty)

Ad set 4 Gender: female Age: 25-34 Interests: (Recipe video publishers like Tasty)

This will test 2 variables: age group and interest. 

Use a portion of your ad spend to test first, then spend the rest on the best performing one. This way, your ad dollars are more informed.

You have to treat every campaign as a learning opportunity, because putting all your eggs in the basket in without real data is the fastest way to lose all your eggs

7. Advertising on Facebook in the first place.

Remember that point about mismatch? It’s possible that Facebook is simply wrong for the product you are selling.

Just a few extreme examples to make a point:

  • Pipe valves
  • Turpentine
  • Wax paper
  • Cremation services

Even if your product is a little more consumer-friendly than the above, you still need to test the hypothesis and employ some empathy. Will people realistically buy your product just from seeing your one ad on Facebook? Be honest.

You may be better off working on your SEO game, or push your presence on other platforms. 


To answer the million-dollar question of why your Facebook ads aren’t working, some of the reasons can be traced to Facebook itself. But you can’t change their algorithm or how the want to define the user experience. What you can change is how you approach your strategy.

You need to suit the platform, not the other way around.

Write Handed Communications

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