Facebook Ads vs. Boosted Posts: What is the Difference?

Elke Farnworth
March 12, 2020

In 2020 there is an array of benefits for businesses to advertise on Facebook. If you haven't taken the plunge yet, or you have but aren't reaping the results you hoped for, it's time to chat with us. But first up, here's what you need to know before pressing that 'boost post' button.

We are going to break down the difference between boosting your content posts and building Facebook ads, so you can make a more educated decision on if, when and which type of ads you should run to achieve your unique advertising goal (or whether you should get someone else to). This is important stuff, as some goals can be reached by boosting a post and others can be reached by creating a Facebook ad.

We will start with a basic overview of a boosted post and Facebook ads.

What is a boosted post?

A boosted post originates from a content post that you have created on your Facebook page timeline or Instagram profile. Any organic content post can be made into a boosted post by hitting the ‘boost post’ button, technically, turning it into a Facebook ad, because they require a spend to be allocated in order to be shared with a wider audience. This is the core similarity between a boosted post and a Facebook ad.


There are three different objectives for boosting a content post; link clicks, post engagement and messages.

These are ultimately what you want your boosted post to achieve, they are the guidelines the post will follow when being served to new audiences, who are not currently connected with your page.


Who do you want your boosted post to reach? This can be based off gender, age, location, demographics, interests and behaviours as a cold audience (someone who hasn’t engaged with your Facebook page, content posts or business website before). You can also target people who have liked your Facebook page, along with the friends of those followers, which might help you reach similar people.

Ask yourself, is this sophisticated enough targeting for what you are trying to achieve? Or, does this require a more advanced ad type or campaign?

What are Facebook ads?

While boosting a post is still considered an ad, Facebook ads have never been, and will never be an organic post on your Facebook page timeline or Instagram profile. They are created within Facebook’s Business Platform through Ads Manager. Facebook ads are more advanced in how you can set objectives, target audiences and ad placement, and they allow for a more clearer objective.


These objectives provide a more specific goal that can be optimised differently for ad placements. For example, if you choose Traffic within Ads Manager, it can be optimised for either link clicks, landing page views, impressions or daily unique reach. Whereas Traffic in boosted posts can only be optimised for link clicks. These more advanced optimisation options in your Facebook ads can make a significant difference to the outcome of achieving your goal. There are also more advanced objective available such as, when utilising a Facebook pixel, you can align your objective with a goal of creating an online purchase, someone carrying out a custom online event, or the goal of capturing someone’s details in a a lead form.


If you read our journal, ‘How To Find Your Target Audience For Facebook and Instagram Ads’, we explained the importance of cold and custom audiences and how they can be created. Within Facebook ads, these custom audiences (made from a customer list, website or app traffic, or engagement on Facebook) can be highly effective, and have helped us achieve the goals of our clients including increasing sales, generating leads and improving brand awareness. It’s important to note that these custom audiences cannot be accessed or used in boosted posts.


With boosted content, the placements of where your content post is shown is limited to Facebook News Feed and Instagram Feed. With Facebook ads, you’ll find a range of different placements including feeds, right column, Messenger ads, Instagram and Facebook Stories, Instagram Explore, Instant Articles, Audience Network, Marketplace, Search, in-stream and in-article placements.

So, when to use Facebook ads vs boosted posts?
This is completely dependant on your goals.

A lot of businesses look after their own ads simply by boosting a content post because of its accessibility and ease of use. Boosting posts definitely has it’s place but as we’ve covered - building a Facebook ad with ads manager is a much more sophisticated activity and can optimise for website conversions, video views, online purchases, leads and more.

Our strongest word of advice would be, don’t get click happy with boosting posts as that is a sure-fire way to burn a hole in your digital marketing budget. But instead, research the benefits and limitations of both Facebook ads and boosted posts before moving forward.

Have a play around and test which works for your business, and if you’re looking for advertising experts, you know where to find us.