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Marketing Insights

Mastering Facebook Carousel Ads in 2018

This post was originally published on December 27, 2017. To keep up with the ever-changing Facebook platform, updates were made July 24, 2018 to include even more relevant information.

Facebook is still one of the best ad platforms in the world for a number of reasons (1.65 billion monthly active users and an amazing, if somewhat unsettling, tracking ability), but with organic reach plummeting, you have to pay to play. And one of the best ways to do that is carousel ads.

The First Thing to Master in 2018: Carousel Ads


According to Facebook, carousel ads drive a 30-50% drop in cost-per-conversions over static ads. Digiday takes it even farther, reporting that  carousel ads are 10x better at getting that click than a static sponsored post.

Not only does this format drive high rates of click-throughs and conversions, but it can also drive foot traffic, awareness, consideration, and app installs, all while providing better metrics than its competitors. (Did you know Facebook can track how many people see your ad then walk into your store?)

Any ad format with this kind power is one you need in your arsenal.

Here’s what we’re going to cover to make you a master of the carousel ad:

  • Types & Uses
  • Best Practices
  • How to Create
  • Measure & Improve


Carousel Ads: Types & Uses

Carousel ads can be used at every stage of the funnel and in a variety of creative executions.

They can showcase a variety of products:

Carousel ad screenshot showing different products


 Also worth noting here: This ad drives installs of Foodpanda's app. 


Tell a story:

Carousel ad screenshot that tells a story


Show multiple benefits of one product or service:

Carousel ad screenshot showcasing one product's features


Drive nearby users to a brick & mortar location:

Carousel ad screenshot to drive visits

Close up of the above ad:

Closeup of the above carousel ad screenshot


Or feature one panoramic image split across multiple frames:

Carousel ad screenshot showing panoramic image split

You could go vertical with this technique if you’re especially creative.


Carousel ads can also be used in all stages of the funnel.


Carousel ad screenshot showing Awareness stage content 


Carousel ad screenshot showing Consideration stage content


Carousel ad screenshot showing Decision stage content


Carousel Ads: Best Practices

Make it a “thumb-stopper”: Your ad is competing with dancing babies, corgis on trampolines, and an old roommate's awkward wedding photos, so if you're going to win someone's attention, you'll need a great first image or video.

Learning how to make people stop scrolling is key. Unfortunately, there’s no formula for this and there are a ton of variables that can decide what captures someone’s attention.

Try this: If you’re not on your phone (and our metrics say that’s unlikely), take it out right now and pull up Facebook. Scroll through for a minute or two and pay attention to what ads grab your attention and why. You’ll start to notice what stands out and what doesn’t. Combine that with a thorough understanding of the persona you’re creating the ad for (more on that in a bit) and you’ll be headed in the right direction. 

Best image/video first: Watch your metrics; if your 2nd or 3rd image in the series is getting more clicks than the first, change the order to lead with your best content.

Nail all the components: Sure, the image is the most important thing, but don’t forget a punchy headline, desire-inducing descriptions, irresistible calls-to-action, and all the info users need before they will click.

Always keep your persona in mind: We’ve written a lot about personas, but if you need a refresher, we got you. The persona you’re creating the ad for should be top of mind throughout the entire ad creation process.

Consider the post-click experience: If your ad sends users to a web page, make sure that page matches the ad as closely as possible. Conversion rates are highest when you match the web page to the ad to ensure the highest relevance possible. If a user clicks on an ad for a coffee mug and the page they land on features salad bowls, they’re probably going to get confused or lose interest.


Carousel Ads: How to Create

This is going to be tricky, as there are multiple ways to make the ad – on your Facebook page itself (for smaller teams), Ads Manager (for the bigger marketers), or Ads API (for the seriously advanced) – and multiple objectives that will change the way you create your ad, like downloading an app, driving to a store, or buying your product. We’re going to focus on the most common approach: creating an ad on your Facebook page to drive traffic to a website. (All other instructions can be found here.)

1. Make a solid plan before you begin. Decide who your ad is for (your persona), what you want them to do (the call to action, or CTA), and the best metric (KPI) to judge if your ad was successful. You should be able to fill in these blanks before you start: “I want to create an ad that gets ____persona____ to ___CTA___. The most important thing to communicate in order to get them to take this action is _____________. We’ll know this ad was a success if we see ____specific/measurable amount of specific/measurable action____.“

Ex: I want to create an ad that gets marketing managers at companies with over $4 million in yearly revenue to read one of my blog posts. The most important thing to communicate in order to get them to take this action is that these blogs will help them lift the ROI of their marketing efforts. We’ll know the ad was a success if it generates 1200 or more blog views from our target persona.

2. Go to your business’s Facebook page and click “Promote”, then click “Get More Website Visitors.”

3. Under "Ad Creative", add the URL you’d like to drive traffic to and choose "Carousel" from the ad format menu. 

4. Add the headline you want to appear on your first image. (Here you only have 40 characters, so this one’s tough. Go simple, be direct, inform efficiently, or spark curiosity.) Click the plus sign to upload more images or videos and add the headlines for each one.

5. Add the text you want to appear at the top of the ad. (You have up to 125 characters here, so be succinct.)

6. Pick your CTA message. You have up to 16 options here, so choose the best one for your product or offer.

7. Select the audience you want to see this ad. (This is a big step if you’re just getting started with Facebook ads. If that’s you, click here for a crash course in ad targeting.) You should’ve known your audience before you even got to step one, so for most people, this step is either selecting an already established audience or selecting your persona’s info from the options available.

8. Select your budget and how long you’d like the ad to run (and don't forget to double check to make sure you're using the correct payment account!).

9. Hit “Promote” and you’re done. Your ad will be live shortly.


Carousel Ads: How to Measure & Improve

First things first: If you set your KPI (key performance indicator) for the ad right, measuring its success should be a breeze.

Did you want engagement? Click through to your Ads Manager page, then click on your carousel campaign. Reach, engagement, ad spend, it’s all there.

So what do you do when you didn’t get the click-through you were looking for?

Targeting: If you only got 100 or 200 clicks on your ad, you don't really have the statistical significance to make any solid assertions about what works or what doesn't. (You can read up on statistical significance in marketing here.)

But you certainly can – and should – try a few experiments to get your numbers up. 

Start by looking at the size of your audience. Facebook gives you so many options for targeting that people often select too many things and make your audience too small. Your industry's click-through rate (CTR) is likely somewhere around 1%. So if you need 1200 clicks, at that rate you'd need to get your ad seen by 120,000 people. Better yet, since you're new to this, aim for about 200,000. 

As you're selecting your audience, pay attention to the size. Facebook will calculate that for you each time you add a criteria to your audience and will alert you if you've gotten your audience too small. 

You can also add a Facebook Pixel to your ad so you can track what your audience does once they get to your website. If it takes 100 clicks to get 1 person to convert (or take the action you need), then you need to either find a better, more relevant audience, or improve your web page conversion rate. 

> Everything you need to know about Conversion Rate Optimization

And remember to let the data drive. By that, we mean that if you're getting good click-through numbers from a group that you don't consider your target audience, and they actually convert once they get to your site, they should be your target audience. Don't let your preconceived notions of who your customer is get in the way of growth. 

Lookalike audiences are also a great way to improve your ad performance. Look at past ads, see who clicked through those ads and create a lookalike audience from those engaged users and website visitors. You can even create a lookalike audience out of an email list. And if they cared enough about your product or service to give you their email address, they should be a good audience.

Creative: If your targeting was good but the ad still didn’t perform well, your image was likely the weak link. Head over to the Facebook Creative Hub and check out the ads that did well. Remember, that first image/video is what usually decides if a user stops. So if all your images had low numbers, the first frame is (likely) to blame. But if all the images did about the same, then you may need to make larger creative changes.

Video gets eyeballs like cheese gets mice. Shoot a simple video that works without sound. Use bright colors, motion, a few cuts to keep it lively and see if that doesn’t give you a thumb-stopping opener that lifts your next ad’s results. Better yet, go all video. Shoot a whole scene and divide it up into a few parts. Let the action from one scene carry into the next.

Tip 1: Video can be time-consuming to produce, so while you’re planning out your video, consider all the places you can use it beyond the Facebook ad. When you know you’ll be able to use it in more places, you can justifying investing in its production.

How to Build a Brand with Video
The Rules for Using Video in Marketing

Tip 2: Most people watch Facebook ads with the sound off, so captions are important if you have any dialog. Use Facebook’s free captioning tool to add captions to any video you post.

Is your offer the right fit for your persona? Maybe people did stop and look but the free shipping offer was irrelevant because the audience you targeted prefers to come into the store. Maybe they didn’t want to learn more about the product because they already want it, but are waiting for a discount. Know your persona and give a long look at whether your offer is relevant or not before you run it.

Tried all that and still can't get over the hump? Maybe you just need to go talk to some people who do this kind of thing professionally.

We know this makes it look easy, but it isn’t.

Good strategy and creative is really hard to develop. But with carousel ads, the costs are low enough and the returns are high enough to make them the first thing you master in 2018. 

Want to learn how to create top performing carousel ads for your social strategy? We created a 9-step guide to get your Facebook presence up to date and more powerful than ever:

Download Your FREE Facebook Carousel Ads Guide

About this blog

Story Block Media is a New Orleans-based marketing firm focused on helping you share your story and optimize your online presence. We offer consulting, web design, web development, branding, marketing, advertising, search engine optimization, and social media management and strategy services. At the end of the day, our goal is to help our clients reach their goals.

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