You have a mobile app: check!

Your Facebook and/or Instagram Business Pages are set up: check!

Your Facebook Ads Manager account is set up: check!

mobile apps

Perfect. Now you want to get more people installing it, using it, and re-engaging with your app over time. Right? Well, you’ve certainly come to the right place. In this complete guide to mobile app advertising using Facebook ads, you’ll learn how to get started by:

  • Registering your mobile app with Facebook
  • Selecting your campaign objectives
  • Targeting your audiences
  • Creating exceptional Facebook ads

Let’s get to it!

Register your mobile app with Facebook for Developers

Before we dive into Facebook Ads Manager and set up our first mobile app install campaign, you will need to register as a developer on Facebook. If you are not a developer, share this instructional link with your developer so they can assist and get everything set up in the App Dashboard.

Here, you will learn how to register your app, install your iOS Software Development Kit or SDK or your Android SDK, add any app events that may be important for your goals and business, and more. While installing the SDK is optional, we highly recommend doing so to our clients as it can provide a higher level of tracking and ad targeting, thus, more insights. As advertisers, the more we can get, the better, as we can use that information to make informed decisions, create custom audience, and optimize our app campaigns. Adding app events is also optional, but we recommend setting these up as they relate to your business (such as app install, app launch, add to cart, in-app purchase, etc.). That way, you can better serve your ads to people who are most likely to take an action and create custom audiences using this information.

Now sure if you’ve already done this? Want to make sure you registered correctly? You can easily see if your app is registered and all set to run in campaigns by entering your Facebook App ID into Facebook’s App Ads Helper.

Set your mobile app campaign objectives

Once the above initial steps are completed, let’s dive into campaign set up. There are two main Facebook campaign objectives that you’ll want to use: App Installs and Conversions.

App Install campaigns

If your goal is to drive mobile app installs, select the “App Installs” campaign objective when creating a new campaign.

Facebook ads app install campaign screen

This campaign objective will help serve mobile app install ads to people in your target audience (more on this later) who are most likely to take this action. The campaign will optimize towards this goal.

Conversion campaigns

If you are interested in reaching warmer audiences that have already installed your app to entice them to re-engage with, try testing out other campaign objectives, such as “Conversions.” With this campaign objective, be sure to select a conversion event location—your app—at the ad set level. To do this, select your app, the app store that it resides in for this particular campaign and ad set (iTunes or Google Play), and choose an app event that you want to optimize for, such as in-app purchases, as pictured here.

selecting a conversion campaign objective screen

Target your audience for mobile apps campaigns

Now that our campaign is selected, head over to the ad set level to select your audience targeting. Who is your target audience? Who is most likely to install and use your app? Test and learn!

While the possibilities for targeting may be endless based on your target market and your business goals, there are a number of ways to reach people at various stages of your funnel. Whether it’s a cold audience through an awareness campaign to drive installs or a re-engagement campaign to drive warmer audiences to continue using your app, you have to test out strategies to see which of these possibilities work for you and your audience. Here a few Facebook targeting options to try!

Broad targeting

If you’re just getting started, are unsure of who to reach, and have some budget to put towards these ads, go broader in your targeting. You can select age, gender, and location to see which of these demographics perform better—and which performs best. Once you figure out which demographics work for you, begin scaling backwards to cut out under-performing segments based on your results.

Detailed targeting

If you are working with a smaller budget and just getting started, we often recommend starting with a narrower audience that may be more likely to be interested in your app, especially if it’s meant for a niche market. Scroll down to the ad set level to Detailed Targeting and begin typing in some relevant keywords. If you aren’t certain where to begin, try searching for interests that your users may have. For example, if you are a food delivery app, target people who are interested in food, pizza if you offer it, or eating out, and so forth. Another option could be to target people who are interested in a competitor of yours.

Lookalike custom audiences

Another excellent option to find relevant new users is to create a lookalike audience in Facebook Ads Manager’s Audiences tab.

Facebook ads manager custom audience

Here, you can create custom audiences by uploading email lists you may have, such as leads, newsletter subscribers, or customers. Or you can use your website pixel to create custom audiences, such as website visitors. Or, since we’re on the subject of mobile apps, you can create custom audiences based on app events, such as installs, add to carts, in-app purchases, and more. Once you create these and other custom audiences, if you have at least 100 people in a custom audience, you can create a lookalike audience.

A lookalike audience is an audience that is similar to another audience. With these, Facebook will take an audience you’ve already created and then will generate a new audience of people for you to target based on similar interests and behaviors. For example, if you take your in-app purchase custom audience and create a lookalike, Facebook will provide a new audience for you to target for your app install campaigns. These work very well, and we highly recommend testing them out.

To create a lookalike audience, select a custom audience you’ve set up then click the drop down as pictured below and select “Create Lookalike.”


Next, a new window will appear where you will need to select the audience location and audience size. As you get started, we recommend the automatic prompt for 1% lookalike, as this audience will be closely related to your original custom audience. The larger the percentage, the broader the lookalike targeting will be. Start with 1% and over time, if you are looking for new, broader audiences to reach, expand that percentage reach and see how it works for you.

setting up a lookalike audience screen

Create killer Facebook ads for mobile apps

With your campaign and ad set levels set up, let’s move on to the ad level. With app ads, you have similar ad features as other ad formats, such as text above your creative, headline, and call to action button. Rather than a website URL landing page, you’ll also have the option of adding a deep link.

Here’s how to create successful Facebook ads for mobile ads using each of these ad components.

1. Text

For text portion, compose ad copy that is relevant to your campaign goal, would be interesting and relevant to your target audience, and speaks to your app in terms of solutions, benefits, features, or any new user promotions to encourage installs. There is no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to ad copy length, so create some that are short and if appropriate, test out some longer ad copy variations as well to see what resonates best with your audience. While more often than not, shorter copy out-performs its longer-form counterparts, we have seen in some accounts and some campaigns where long form performs better.

2. Headline

Put your best foot forward with your larger and bolded headline. If you are targeting a new audience to drive engagements, summarize your app and include its name. If you are targeting a warmer remarketing audience, test a promotion, detail a solution, or something exciting about it so users will re-engage.

3. Creative

Select ad creative that will complement your ad copy. Facebook and Instagram accept static images and video creatives for app campaigns, so test them both out. While images perform very well, videos tend to perform better as they leave less to the imagination and visually connect users quicker to your brand and offerings. We live in an overly stimulated world and anything that has subtle motion as users scroll down their feeds can help stop them and give their attention to you.

When it comes to images, choose something bright that will stand out against the white background of feeds. If it’s relevant to your app, try lifestyle photos. For example, if it’s an app for a dog walking on demand, use images of dogs and smiling people walking dogs of various breeds. Test carousel ads and single image ads so you can use more ad real estate and increase your chances of having something better resonate with the person viewing your ad.

When using video, showcase your app in use, perhaps a brief demonstration, or a person using the app, so the viewer can better understand the app and imagine themselves using it. If it’s a massage on-demand app, show a person in a relatable scenario to the target audience, such as being achy after a long day and then showcase how easy it is to use the app and order a back massage to make you feel better.

Use deep links to make the process of downloading your app more seamless for your users—this will increase your conversion rates and reduce bounce rates. A deep link will not only send users to your app from the ad, but it can also send them to a specific piece of content. Let’s go back to the food delivery app example for this. If you are promoting pizza in the ad, add a deep link for a page that will make it easiest for users to see pizza place ordering options, rather than just sending them to the app and leaving them to manually search for pizza themselves.

add deep link

Check out Facebook’s Deep Linking in App Ads in their developer section to learn more about deep links and how to use them.

5. Call-to-action button

Looking to really drive that action? Always add a CTA button to guide your users to accomplish the goal by installing, to use your app, or one of the other available options, as seen here.

set a CTA button option

Launch time!

Your initial Facebook mobile app ads campaigns are ready to go live. Exciting! Let them roll and see how they perform. Once you have enough performance data to make meaningful and statistically significant optimization decisions, run some reports to see what is working well and what is not. Then begin testing some of many variables available to you—such as campaign objectives, ad set targeting, and ad level components—in order to further improve performance. Have fun, get creative, and keep your users engaged once they install!