The Magic of Facebook Ads for Local Businesses


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Facebook ads for local businesses have become one of the most effective ways for small business owners (maybe that’s you!) to find new customers and increase sales. But, you might not know what makes them so special and how to run them.

So today, we’re going to chit chat about the effectiveness and necessity of Facebook ads for local businesses.

What ARE Facebook Ads for Local Businesses?

Facebook ads for local businesses are essentially three things:

  1. Ads on Facebook
  2. Ads that target specific local audiences in your area and/or region
  3. Ads that promote your local business to these specific audiences

Fairly straight forward, right? However, local Facebook ads continue to boggle the crap out of many, many small business owners.

And in case you’re wondering, here’s how Facebook explains it.

Manta’s in the middle of doing a new poll with a bigger sample size right now. But it’s likely that the data is about the same as it was three years ago, even with the onslaught of new resources from Facebook in an attempt to help businesses get a better ROI.

Local ads confuse people, and often frustrate them with their “ineffectiveness.” However, the problem really isn’t with the ad.

Think about it like this… Have you ever had a dog with terrible habits? You take them to the dog trainer, right? And the dog trainer works miracles and your dog no longer eats toilet paper when your back is turned. But what really changed?  How you handle the situation, or how the dog thinks?

It was probably a change in your behavior that made Fido more bathroom friendly, even though the end result is a more behaved dog. This is kind of the same with ads.

What makes ads more effective? You. The better you get at running Facebook ads for local businesses, the more effective your ads will be.

Learn more at Beginner’s Guide to Running Facebook Ads for Local Businesses.

Why Facebook ads for local businesses work

There are lots of heartwarming reasons why people go to local businesses instead of big businesses.

BUT, if people don’t know you’re there, they’re not going to swing by. Even if they do know you’re there, if the big boys are more convenient or cheaper, they still might not come by. A real bummer, but that’s why you should care about Facebook ads.

Facebook ads are super effective for small business, and here’s why:

Targeting is a cinch.

Even if you don’t know anything about how targeting works, you can still target YOUR area. You know where you live, and you probably have a good grasp of your service area. That’s exactly the kind of information you need for targeting.

Promotions are easier than ever.

With Facebook’s new Ads app, or one of the plethora of apps that’s been built on the Facebook API, or just with some good hard knowledge, you can start a promotion and see if it’s effective. If you’re still stuck, you can hire a Facebook ads manager to help.

Even Facebook has its own league of experts (granted, they’re not very good yet, but they’re tryin’).

The scrabble for business is lessened because people search for local things differently than they do knowledge.

Facebook serves over 2.5 billion people, so yeah, it’s likely there’s a good chunk of your area hanging out on Facebook. Luckily, when people are looking for local services, they often have some time to spare and start looking for recommendations.

Where do they look? Facebook, of course.

Any info you feed into the Facebook robot will be used to target ads. So if you run a hair salon and someone asks for recommendations for a local hair salon and you have an ad running, guess who is going to pop up in their feed?

This doesn’t work for people who need a business NOW, but for the rest of it, word-of-mouth and awareness on frequently searched places like Facebook are very useful.

The difference between local Facebook ads and national Facebook ads

If you’ve ever seen big company ads — or even small company ads that have a national presence —  you’ll notice a few things about them. We’re going to talk about the differences by dissecting both a national and local ad campaign.

Let’s start with this Dollar Shave Club ad for the national campaign.

Ha, ha. Thanks DSC, we get it. Yep.

From this ad alone, several things stand out.

  • Rate of engagement. The likes, comments, and shares on this ad are a marketer’s dream. This snapshot was taken mid-campaign, and for a national ad that’s pretty good. The engagement probably got even better over time.
  • This ad is quite clever, and even though it does target a specific audience (one that uses Gillette products), it’s still very generic. It’s sort of meant to appeal to anyone that uses a razor. There’s no local callout in the text or picture.
  • Bigger campaigns like this one do not often use faces in their ads unless they’re running ads that are very specifically targeting men or women. Then they use faces. Or legs. Body parts. You get the idea.
  • Highly professional. We’re not saying that Facebook ads for local businesses shouldn’t be highly professional, but an ad like this for a local audience probably wouldn’t go over all that well. Why? Because the appeal of local business ads is the
  • The objectives. The objective in this ad is probably the most notable thing we want to look at. When you look at this ad, it’s obvious that DSC is trying to get you to buy something. For local ads, you need different aims: awareness, engagement, and social proof.

People don’t patronize local businesses because of the amazing deals. They patronize local businesses because Jenny has a pretty smile, or they’ve known Sam for 20 years, or the Smith family has a darn cute dog.

That smile, dog, or familiarity wouldn’t translate well in a national campaign, but it can on a local level.

Now that you’ve seen a national campaign, let’s look at a local campaign. This one is from Lake Country Realty.

So what do you see that’s immediately different from Dollar Shave Club’s national ad? Go ahead, we’ll wait.

Eh, no we won’t. Here’s what we see:

  • There are some lovely people in this ad! And they’re having fun in an informal way, jumping into a lake from a dock.
  • One of the main ideas behind this ad is that it’s fun. This ad isn’t trying to sell fun, or convince you to do anything in particular, except to click and read.
  • While DSC’s objective was “click and buy,” this objective is something like “ click and learn.” There isn’t even a call to action on the post. The message is clear: we just want you to read it. We just want to be helpful. We have nothing to sell you. Technically speaking, this is likely an awareness objective, which fits in nicely with a favorite objective for Facebook ads for local businesses.
  • Who’s advertising. This isn’t even a company that is directly related to Lake Gaston. It’s a realty company. This company just wants you to have a positive impression of Lake Gaston. Look! Fun! So many cool things to do! Maybe buy a house here, yeah?

Can you see how different the aim is between a local and national campaign?

For more examples, check out 7 Examples of Great Facebook Ads and Why They Work.

What kinds of local businesses will benefit from Facebook ads?

Any local business can benefit from Facebook ads. Period.

Service-based, product-based, come-have-a-beer based. Do not shy away from Facebook ads just because you have a home-based business, or a business that uses candles instead of electricity to light the dining room (just saying, we’d totally Instagram the crap out of that).

The real question should be, “What kind of local Facebook ads should I be running for my business?”

There are a couple of different types of ads you can run in addition to what your objectives are going to be. Since this is all rather extensive, the following sections are handy guides that explain the process really well.

Choosing your campaign objective

The objective for your local business ads will vary a lot, depending on your ad type, what you’re trying to do, and what kind of audience you have to work with. However, a lot of ad campaigns are going to start with the awareness or engagement objective. This will target people who stop and look at ads and/or like to like, comment, and share.

Awareness and engagement might not sound like it translates to cash in your pocket. But it does. Remember, people need to know that you exist, what you’re all about, and that they can trust you BEFORE spending their money. That’s what these objectives accomplish.

When you start with awareness and engagement objectives, you can lead to campaigns like store visits which is great for an audience that is familiar with who you are.

However, you can also take a more aggressive approach and go with conversions or lead generation. Depending on your copy, your goals, and your quality of content, these can be very effective at getting people in the door.

For more on this and exactly how to run Facebook ads for local businesses, we highly recommend checking out our Facebook Side Hustle Course. It’s created to teach both small business owners and side hustlers the ins and outs of running Facebook ads.

Take me to the Facebook Side Hustle Course!

If you just want to read about objectives, Einstein Marketer has a freaking book of an article on how campaign objectives can be used and when to use them.

The types of Facebook Ads for local businesses you can run

There are a few different types of ads you can run for a local business, which is actually pretty cool. Depending on the season, weather, needs and wants of your customers, any of these can be effective.

Our motto is… TAFO. Try (them all) and Find Out (what works for you).


Have an event coming up that you’d like to promote? There’s an ad for that!

These are great when you’re looking to snag some “going” replies. The more “going” or “interested” replies you have, the more likely it is that Facebook will show you in the “suggested events near you” pack it shows to people who like events.

Discounts or offers

These are fairly common for Big Brands, but you can use them for local businesses too.

The one note we have about ads is that you can do them in two different ways. You can use them to run sales (like the Target ad above), or you can offer an actual coupon (these are called Offers in objectives).

If someone claims the offer on Facebook, Facebook will actually send them reminders to use the coupon. It’s pretty… sweet.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Facebook Live Ads


Boosts should only be used in super select situations, because they can only be applied to existing posts. When used incorrectly, boosts can be a waste of cash. When used CORRECTLY, it can be $5 or $10 bucks well-spent.

Basically, you should run boosts when you just want more people to look at something specific. Don’t expect a lot of cash from these ads either. Facebook used to show posts to more people without using this button, but now they don’t (#paytoplay). Tasty example:

And finally, just good ol’ awareness

Your awesome awareness ads are great because:

  • They’re low pressure for you.
  • They’re low pressure for anyone encountering them.

This means there’s a greater chance someone will stop and check it out. Awareness ads are teaching people about your business, and learning is a much easier thing to push than buying. This is a strategy that people use in real estate a lot, if you’re into that niche.

Learn more at Your Complete Guide to Running Successful Real Estate Facebook Ads.

Final thoughts on Facebook Ads for local businesses

Facebook ads for local businesses are awesome and we highly suggest you invest in them, whether that’s through your time, your education, or your money (a bit of all three probably wouldn’t hurt). With a little bit of love and magic, we know you’ll see results using this method — we’re living proof!

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