Facebook is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to buy app installs. With over 1.1 billion daily active users, no matter what niche you’re in you will find your audience on Facebook.

The platform continues to evolve and is now one of the quickest and easiest ways for mobile app developers to start buying installs.

So now you may be thinking something like ‘quick and easy is great, but is it effective?‘.

After working with all sorts of mobile apps to help them create successful Facebook ad campaigns I can say without hesitation that the answer is big YES.

But don’t just take my word for it. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

1. Ticketing application Applauze/955 Dreams managed to achieve a 50% lower cost per install using Facebook app install ads compared to other user acquisition networks. They also saw a 10x higher click through rate with FB app install ads!

Those are some seriously impressive numbers! Let’s take a look at another one.

2. Animoca, the fashion role-playing game designed for young women, found that users acquired through Facebook app install ads had a 20% higher ARPU than their other users!

That’s right, they found that when they buy app installs through Facebook, those users spend 20% more than other users.

So not only are the installs relatively cheap, but Animoca found that they are high value as well.

This is in line with a case study published on this site that showed users acquired through FB app installs ads spent 4x more on in-app purchases than organic users.

In this article I’m going to walk you through the process of buying app installs with Facebook app install ads.

This complete guide will walk you through everything you need to know to get started with FB advertising for your apps.

This guide is huge, so to make things easier for you I’ve created an index that lets you skip to the section you are interested in:

Why Buy App Installs?
Before You Start
Creating a FB App Install Ad Campaign
Targeting Your Ads
Budget, Schedule & Bidding
Ad Creatives
Custom & Lookalike Audiences
Testing & Analytics
Keeping Your Account Safe

 

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Why Buy App Installs?

Before we get into the good stuff, let’s think about why you might want to buy app installs.

There are usually only 2 reasons.

1. To Collect Data

This is where you will likely be starting when you first buy installs.

The idea is simple. You release your app with analytics all dialled in properly. Then you buy a bunch of new installs and measure the results.

What you are doing here is buying answers to key questions about your app.

By studying your app analytics you can see how those users behaved, where they left your app, which features they used most, which ones they didn’t use, the path they followed before making an in-app purchase, and much much more.

You will also get an idea about your key metrics like engagement, retention, average revenue per user (ARPU) and lifetime value (LTV).

Once you have a baseline for these metrics you can measure how they change as you release new versions of the app. The goal is to improve your key metrics with each new version.

The data you collect will tell you what you need to focus on next with your app development.

For example, you might see that your users are all leaving at a certain level in your game. That tells you there is a problem there you need to fix. It might be a bug or simply that the level is too difficult.

Either way, you know what needs to be done because the data tells you.

Another example may be where you notice that people who use a specific feature are 50% more likely to complete an in-app purchase. This tells you that you should make changes to your app that encourage more users to use that particular feature.

Before we move on, I want to mention that you can release the app and collect data without buying installs, but the process will be slow while you wait for organic installs to trickle in.

Using Facebook to buy app installs allows you to speed up the process and get the answers you need quickly.

2. Profit!

This is the dream. It’s where every app developer wants to end up.

It’s a situation where you know you can buy installs for less than each install is worth to you. Or in other words, where you have a positive return on investment (ROI).

For example, you know you can buy app installs for $1 each, but you know that on average each person who uses your app spends $2.

When you reach this point it’s simply a case of buying as many installs as you can for less than your LTV.

Unfortunately it’s highly unlikely that this will be the case when you first start buying app installs.

The vast majority of developers need to go through that iterative process of collecting data and improving the app before they become ROI positive on their ad spend.

 

Why Facebook?

We’ve looked at why you might want to buy app installs. Now let’s quickly talk about why Facebook is a great platform to do it on.

1. An incredible number of targeting options

As I mentioned earlier in this post, Facebook has a huge number of active users. They also know A LOT about their users.

As advertisers we benefit from all this data because Facebook gives us an incredible number of options for targeting users with our ads.

You can target people by demographics like age, gender, job title, job role, education, relationships and lots more.

You can also target by interests and behaviours, which can be incredibly powerful. This is all based on what people tell Facebook so it is quite accurate. Facebook knows which pages people have liked, who they follow, which ads they have clicked on before, and much, much more.

2. Measurement & Reporting

An often overlooked benefit of the Facebook ad platform is the quality and quantity of data provided to advertisers about their campaigns.

You can see exactly how well your campaign is performing in the ad manager dashboard. Just to name a few of the things you can see about your campaigns:

  • How many people have seen your ads
  • How many people have clicked them
  • How many people have installed your app
  • How much each impression is costing
  • How much each click is costing
  • How much each install is costing

And on top of that it’s possible to break down your results to see:

  • Which country/region/city your installs are coming from, and the cost breakdown for each
  • The age of people who are seeing and clicking your ads and installing your app
  • The devices people are using
  • Genders
  • And you can even see how much revenue each campaign generated!

 

Next, let’s talk about what you need to do to prepare to run Facebook mobile app install ads.

Before you start

There are a few must-do items that you need to do before you buy app installs through Facebook.

None of these are difficult or time consuming but they are all things you shouldn’t overlook.

1. Integrate the Facebook SDK

Technically it’s possible to buy app installs without having the Facebook SDK integrated in your app, but I don’t recommend ever doing it.

You don’t need to enable Facebook login or anything complex like that. All you need is the basic integration.

Integrating the SDK is quick and easy. It shouldn’t take a professional developer longer than 30 minutes to do.

You can see the full instructions for installing the Facebook SDK here.

Why you should never run FB ads without the SDK

The main reason is because without the SDK you can’t measure your cost per install.

Facebook needs the SDK to be able to track installs that come from your ad campaigns.

Without it you are in the dark. Facebook has no idea how many installs are generated by your ads, and therefore it can’t measure your cost per install (CPI).

On top of that, the Facebook algorithm actually optimizes your campaigns by tracking who’s installing the app. Without the SDK it can’t optimize properly. That means you’ll likely have a higher CPI than you would if you had the SDK integrated.

And finally, you can’t use Custom Audiences or Lookalike Audiences without having the SDK integrated. We’ll cover those later in the post, but for now all you need to know is they are the best targeting tool available. No SDK means you can’t use them.

2. Creating a new app in Facebook

Creating an app in Facebook is basically just telling Facebook about the app that you are going to buy app installs for.

This will be your first interaction with the Facebook developer portal. You will need to enter details for your app like the app store ID’s, app name and a few other things.

I suggest you do this after you’ve set up your app in the App Store, Google Play Store and anywhere else that you plan on publishing the app.

The reason for this is because you need details like app ID’s and bundle ID’s. Some of these details can only be found after you set the app up in the relevant app store.

To create a new app in Facebook, head over to developers.facebook.com. Then click ‘My Apps’ -> ‘Add a New App’.

create new app in Facebook

 

Next, select your platform. Don’t worry if you’re on multiple platforms, just choose one now and you can add the second one later.

Select a platform for your mobile app

 

Enter your app name and click ‘Create New Facebook App ID’.

Create a new Facebook app ID

 

Select your category and hit ‘Create App ID’.

FB App Select Category

 

Now it’s just a case of following the setup instructions. These will show you how to add the SDK and ask you for the required details about your app like the bundle ID etc.

FB App quickstart

 

Not installing the SDK yourself? No problem!

Just give your developer permission to access your FB account as a developer and tell them you’d like them to integrate the SDK for you.

Here’s how you give your developer access to your Facebook ad account.

First, skip the quick start guide by clicking ‘Skip Quick Start’.

 

Skip quick start

 

Select ‘Roles’

facebook roles

 

Select ‘Add Developers’. This will allow you to grant someone developer level access to your Facebook developer account.

add developer

 

And finally, enter your developers name if you’re Facebook friends with them. If you’re not friends with them on Facebook, enter their fbid or username.

Click ‘Submit’ and you’re done! Now just let your developer know they have access and you would like them to integrate the Facebook SDK into your app.

enter developer name

 

There’s just one more thing to do to make your app ready for Facebook advertising.

You need to make to app public on Facebook.

To do that simply go to the ‘Settings’ tab and enter a contact email address. Remember to save your changes when you’re done.

add facebook contact email

 

Then head over to the ‘Status & Review’ tab and switch ‘Do you want to make this app and all its live features available to the general public?’ to ‘Yes’.

Confirm that you want to go live and that’s it. You’re app is ready to go!

make facebook app public

Creating Your FB App Install Ad Campaign

Now we’re up to the fun part.

You’ve got the SDK installed and created a new app on Facebook, so it’s time to create your ad campaign.

The first thing to do is head over to the Facebook ad manager. You can do that by clicking the link in the menu on your Facebook home page.

Alternatively you can use this link to go there directly: https://www.facebook.com/ads/manage/

Facebook Manage Ads Link

If you’ve never run Facebook ads before, you’ll see the screen below.

Hit ‘Get installs of your app’.

select buy app installs

 

If you’ve used Facebook ads before, you’ll be taken to the ad manager dashboard. Just click ‘Create Ad’.

create ad button

 

You will then be asked to enter the name of your app. Select the app that you created earlier and click ‘Create Ad Account’ (if you’ve never created FB ads before), or ‘Set Audience & Budget’ (if you’ve used FB ads before).

enter the app you want to buy installs for

 

Once your campaign is set up, it’s time to configure your ad set.

But before we move on, I’d like to explain how Facebook app install ad campaigns are structured.

At the top level you have the Campaign.

This is where you select an objective. In this case we selected ‘Get installs of your app’, but you can also select a range of other things including getting clicks to your website, page likes etc.

Under each campaign sit 1 or more Ad Sets.

At the ad set level you configure targeting options, bid type and how you pay for your advertising.

You can have multiple ad sets inside a single campaign. This allows you to target multiple audiences with one campaign.

For example, you might have one ad set targeting only females, and a separate ad set targeting only males. Under each ad set you would have different ads that appeal to each specific audience.

That’s a nice segue into the next level down, which are your ads.

Ads sit below ad sets, and this is where you configure the actual ads that people see on Facebook. An app install ad consists of an image/video, a heading and body text.

You can have multiple ads under each ad set.

 

FB ad campaign structure

 

Ok, moving on to configuring your new ad set.

basic campaign settings

The first thing you will want to do it select your platform. In this example I’ve only configured the app for iOS, so only iOS is available.

Next, select the minimum supported operating system. This is the lowest version of the OS that your app supports.

For example, if your app supports iOS 8 and up, select 8.0.

This is important because you don’t want to waste money by showing your ads to people who can’t install your app even if they want to. If your app doesn’t run on iOS 7, there’s no point showing ads to someone running iOS7.

If your app only supports specific devices or you only want to buy installs for specific devices, select those as well.

Another important thing to do here is select whether you want to show ads to people on a cellular connection or only to people connected to Wi-Fi.

This is important because Apple don’t allow apps over 100MB in size to be downloaded over a cellular connection. That means if your app is over 100MB and people click an ad while they are on cellular, they won’t be able to download your app.

Chances are they will forget about it by the time they get home and connect to Wi-Fi, so my advice is to tick ‘Wi-Fi only’ if your iOS app is over 100MB in size.

You will then need to select the locations you want to target. You can enter countries, regions or cities. How specific you get is up to you and depends on your app and where the target market resides.

The last couple of things to note in this section are age, gender and language. These are fairly self-explanatory. Simply select the options that you would like for this ad set.

Remember the example I used earlier about having one ad set targeting women and another one targeting men? This is how you would do it. Select one gender in this ad set, then create a second ad set for the other gender.

Pro Tip:

When you’re first getting started, leave your age targeting broad. It might be tempting to assume that a particular age group will be most interested in your app, but assumptions can be dangerous (expensive).

By leaving the age range nice and broad, you can then use the Facebook ad analytics data to see which age brackets are delivering the lowest cost-per-install (CPI) for you. Once you know that you can narrow down your audience to focus on the cheapest age brackets.

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Targeting Your Ads

As you scroll down the page you will get to the interesting part – ‘Detailed Targeting’.

This is where you select the Demographic, Interest and Behaviour targeting options for your ad set.

facebook targeting options

 

You can either browse through the various targeting options in the list, or start typing and Facebook will show you possible results.

Another thing to note here is that as you select multiple demographic, interest and behaviour options your potential audience will grow. This is because a person only has to match ONE of those criteria to be included in your audience. They do not have to match all of them.

You can see how big your potential audience is for your ad set by looking at the ‘Potential Reach’.

Pro tip:

Potential reach (audience size) is important. If you target an audience that is too large, you will most likely be showing ads to a lot of people who aren’t interested in your app.

Likewise, if you target a very small audience and don’t do an extremely good job of targeting the right people, your install cost will be high because you will have very few people in the target audience who are interested in your app.

So where’s the ‘sweet spot’?

There is no right or wrong answer here, but as a guide I’d suggest aiming for a potential reach of 400k – 1m to start with. You can then narrow down from there based on the data coming back.

 

Selecting Interests To Target

When you’re just getting started, targeting by interest can be one of the most effective methods available to you.

You can actually target people who like the Facebook pages of popular apps that are similar to yours!

Do this by typing the name of your competitor in the detailed targeting box. If their page is available as an interest targeting option it will appear as a result.

Not all apps can be targeted. It depends on the popularity & age of their Facebook page. But if you can find a competitor whose audience you can target as an interest this is a great starting point.

The key with interest targeting is to be SPECIFIC. The more specific you can be with selecting interests that apply to your target audience, the better.

That’s why targeting the Facebook pages of your competitors is a good option. You’re not just targeting people with a broad interest that matches your app. You’re targeting people who like to use a mobile app that is in your niche. That’s much more specific.

For example:

If you have a monster truck racing game for iOS, you could target the interest ‘car racing’.

That’s a really broad, generic interest. You don’t know if the people who like car racing are people who like watching Nascar on TV, people who like to attend Formula 1 events live, who like actually participating in car racing etc.

On the other hand you can target people to like the Facebook page of the iOS app ‘Monster Trucks Nitro’.

You know these people like monster trucks, a specific type of vehicle / racing. They also like playing games about monster trucks, and they are most likely iOS users since they liked the page of an iOS game.

Obviously the second option is going to be a much better choice in this case.

 

Narrowing Your Audience

I mentioned before that when you select multiple demographic, interest or behaviour targeting options people only need to match one of those to be included in your audience.

But what if you want get really specific and only include people who fit a particular demographic, interest or behaviour AND another specific criteria?

For example, targeting people who like boating AND fishing.

That’s possible too! Here’s how:

It’s called narrowing your audience. You do it by first entering the demographic, interest or behaviour that you want to include.

After that, just click ‘Narrow Audience’ and select the other criteria that people must meet to be included.

To make sure it’s working properly, keep an eye on your ‘Potential Reach’. It should get smaller when you narrow your audience.

buy app installs by narrowing your audience

 

And now with the narrow audience:

narrow audience targeting

 

You can see in the image above that by adding a second criteria to narrow the audience we’ve reduced the potential audience size. This is because we were previously targeting people to like ‘Boating’, but now we are only targeting people who like ‘Boating’ AND ‘Fishing’.

You will also notice the ‘Narrow Further’ option. This allows you to add extra criteria that your target audience must meet.

 

Excluding People From Your Audience

Another way to get specific with your targeting is to exclude people from your audience based on particular demographics, interests or behaviours.

This is done in a similar way to narrowing your audience, except this time you click ‘Exclude People’ instead.

When you exclude people, you select a criteria and anyone who matched that WILL NOT be included in your audience, even if they match other criteria that you have included.

Using the same example as above, we can target people who like ‘Boating’ but NOT ‘Fishing’.

excluding people when buying app installs

 

As you can see, by excluding everyone who likes fishing we reduce the audience size even more. The ability to exclude people from your audience is relatively new to Facebook, and it’s definitely a feature to take advantage of.

Budget, Schedule and Bidding

The last items to configure in your ad set are the budget, schedule and bidding options.

These let you configure when your ads a shown, how much you spend, how Facebook optimizes the display of your ads and how you pay for them.

Lets look at each of these individually.

 

Budget

There are 2 choices here. Daily budget or lifetime budget. They are fairly self-explanatory so I won’t spend much time on them.

Daily Budget

If you select a daily budget, Facebook will not spend more than than amount on your ad set each day. Once it hits the daily limit it will stop showing ads.

Facebook does its best to spread out your daily budget evenly across the day, so it’s not like it all gets spent in the first 30 minutes and you don’t show ads for the rest of the day.

The only to to note is that if you start running ads late in the day on your first day Facebook will try to spend the daily budget quickly before the end of the day.

Lifetime Budget

If you select a lifetime budget, you must also set a start and end date for your campaign.

Facebook will then aim to spend your lifetime budget evenly over the life of your campaign.

 

Schedule

The schedule simply determines for how long your ads will run.

You can either set your campaign as ongoing by selecting ‘Run my ad set continuously starting today’, or to only run between a certain date range by selecting ‘Set a start and end date’.

If you select a lifetime budget you must select a start and end date for your campaign.

 

Optimization & Bidding

Optimization and bidding is about 3 things:

  1. Telling Facebook what you would like it to optimize it’s algorithm to achieve. In this case it’s either app installs or link clicks.
  2. Choosing whether you would like Facebook to automatically set your bid amount, or setting a manual bid yourself.
  3. Selecting when you get charged for your Facebook advertising (what you get charged for).

Optimization for Ad Delivery

Here you will tell Facebook what you want it to optimize for.

There are 2 choices – App Installs or Link Clicks.

You tell Facebook what you are trying to achieve, and it will show ads to people most likely to perform that action.

For example, if you select App Installs, Facebook will show your ads to people who are likely to install your app. If you choose Link Clicks, Facebook will show your ads to people who are likely to click the link in your ad.

I recommend trusting Facebook and it’s algorithm that’s driven by a TON of data. What I mean by that is selecting what you actually want to achieve, especially if you’re new to Facebook ads.

If you want app installs, select the app installs optimization option. At the end of the day link clicks aren’t what you want. You want people who will take that final step and install your app.

Bidding

Your ads go into an auction against other advertisers who want to show ads to the same audience. It’s way more complicated than this, but basically winning bidders have their ads shown to the audience.

Facebook can handle your bids automatically for you, or you can set a manual bid.

When you’re new to this I suggest keeping it simple and using auto bidding. There are some advanced reasons for using manual bidding, but for most cases auto will deliver you good results.

When You Get Charged

Here you’re going to choose what you actually pay for when it comes to your Facebook ads.

You can either pay per result (app install or link click) or by impression (when someone sees an ad).

Your choices will affect the bidding options as well.

If you choose to be charged for app installs, you must use the manual bid option. But if you choose to pay per impression, you can select auto or manual bidding.

Paying per click does not have this limitation and you can use auto or manual bidding when paying per click.

Generally I recommend paying per impression to start with, unless have a very strict cost per install you simply can’t go over. In that case you might want to pay per app install and enter your maximum CPI as your manual bid.

 

budget and schedule for buying app installs

Ad Creatives

Your ad creatives are the actual ads people see in their Facebook news feed.

They consist of images or videos + text (copy).

To create your ads, click ‘Choose Ad Creative’.

buying app installs choose ad creative

 

First let’s talk about your images / video, and then we’ll look at creating your ad copy.

The image or video that you use are one of the most important elements of your app install ads.

These are what people will see first when they come across your ad in the news feed and they will be the determining factor in whether or not they pay attention or just keep scrolling.

Static Image vs Video Ads?

Choosing between images and video for your ads can be difficult. For most people it usually comes down to a question of budget and the type of app they are buying installs for.

One thing to note about using video is that it has to be top quality. Using a video that is less than amazing in your Facebook ads just won’t work.

If you look at the app install ads using videos in your news feed you will notice that they are all really high quality. These are your competitors, and if your video isn’t up to the same standard it won’t be successful. Poor quality videos will often end up resulting in a higher CPI than static image ads.

The other thing to think about when deciding whether or not to use video ads is what type of app you are promoting.

The truth is video simply works better for some apps than others. Apps with great graphics / visuals and a story that is conducive to video will often perform better than others with video ads.

For example, 3d games often use videos in their FB app install ads. This is because they can show off the impressive graphics and the gameplay in a nice short video.

On the other hand, utility apps are less likely to use video because the video often looks relatively dull.

If you decide to go with video, I highly recommend hiring a professional to put something together for you.

Just make sure they follow the video design guidelines.

 

Creating Your Images

Here are some tips and tools for creating images for your mobile app install ads.

General guidelines:

  • Image dimensions must be 1200 x 628px.
  • Images must contain no more than 20% text or FB will reject the ad. You can check how much text an image contains using the Facebook grid tool.
  • Some things are prohibited by Facebook, and you must not include them in your images. Check the Facebook ad guidelines to make sure you stay compliant.

Tips:

  • Stock images are a popular way to get started. Facebook offer a range of stock images you can use for free when setting up your ads. Otherwise you can use sites like:
  • I recommend customizing your stock photos before using them. It’s very easy for people to tell that you’re using a stock photo, so using one as a base and adding elements to it is a good idea.
  • You want to create images that show off the benefits of your app and that stand out. It’s easy to get overlooked in the news feed, so make your images really jump out.
  • Look at your competitors for inspiration. This one is huge. Looking at what successful competitors are doing with their Facebook ads is a really good source of ideas and inspiration. I’m not saying to just straight up copy them, but you can certainly get ideas on styling, content etc. from them.

Tools & Resources For Creating Ad Images

If you’re looking to have your images created by someone else or you’re not an expert with Photoshop, these tools and resources will help you create better images.

  • Canva – A really handy tool for creating all sorts of graphics including app install ads. Just select the Facebook ad template and it will create a correctly sized image and let you choose a template to get started.
  • Design Pickle – A flat-fee graphic design service that will create your ads for you. Unlimited designs from professional graphic designers starting at $370/month.
  • Adespresso’s Facebook Ads Gallery – An amazing free collection of Facebook ads. They have even organised them and indexed them so you can search for what you’re looking for. A great way to find inspiration for your next ad.
  • WhatRunsWhere – This is a more advanced, expensive tool that lets you see which digital advertisements are performing best. It’s a tool for researching where & how your competitors are successfully advertising.

 

Ad Copy

When it comes to your ad copy, there are 2 parts to think about.

  1. The headline – This is the text just below the image/video in your ad. It is generally shorter and used to point out the main benefits of the app.
  2. The body – This is the larger block of text that sits above the image. This space is used to describe your app in more detail.

You can see where those 2 sit within the ad in this diagram:

app install ad creative
Example of a Facebook ad from the app FreePrints

When creating your headline, keep these things in mind:

  • Focus on one core benefit (not feature!) of your app. This is likely the first thing people look at after your image, so it needs to hook them immediately.
  • Keep it short. Look at the preview of your ad and make sure the text isn’t going to be cut off.
  • Don’t use the name of your app! It’s already at the top of the ad, so don’t waste your headline by just repeating your app name.

For your body text, here are a few things to remember:

  • This text is longer than the headline. Use it to describe what people will get from your app in more detail.
  • Always check the preview and be mindful of body text being cuf off behind the (more) button.
  • Again, focus on benefits over features.

Once you’ve selected your ad images and copy, your screen should look something like this:

facebook app install advertisement

In this example I’ve only added 1 image, but I recommend you add at least 2-3 different images to test.

Once you’re done, it’s time to place your order!

Hit the green ‘Place Order’ button and your ads will be sent for review by Facebook.

As long as everything is ok they will be approved within 24 hours.

Custom & Lookalike Audiences

After your app has a few hundred installs, you will be able to take advantage of one of the most effective targeting tools available.

These are called ‘Custom Audiences’ and ‘Lookalike Audiences’.

 

Custom Audiences

Custom audiences are groups of people who have performed a specific action in your app.

For example, installing the app, completing an IAP etc.

You create a custom audience in Facebook & set up the parameters for it, and then whenever someone meets those parameters they are added to the custom audience. Pretty cool huh!

Oh and as I mentioned earlier, you need the Facebook SDK integrated in your app for this to work.

To create a custom audience, click on ‘Tools’ -> ‘Audiences’ from the ad manager.
custom audiences in fb

 

Next, follow the steps in the image below to create a custom audience based on app activity.

app activity

 

Then it’s time to set up the parameters for your custom audience. In the example below, everyone who has installed my app in the last 30 days will be included in the custom audience.

Note you can also choose other activities like app launches. If you’ve added custom events in your app you will be able to select those as well.

Custom Audience Details

 

After you hit ‘Create Audience’, your custom audience will appear in the list. It will take a few hours to be ready, but when it is the light will go green and Facebook will tell you how many people are in the audience.

Audience Ready

 

So you’re probably wondering why you care about being able to target custom audiences when they contain people who have your app already.

Good question!

The answer is, you don’t.

What you want to do is create a Lookalike Audience based on your Custom Audience and target the Lookalike instead.

More on Lookalike Audiences in the next section.

 

Lookalike Audiences

A Lookalike Audience is a group of people that Facebook creates for you. It contains people who are very similar to people in a Custom Audience of your choosing.

In other words:

Facebook will use it’s data to go and find millions of people just like the ones who have already downloaded your app. You can then target your ads towards those people.

Awesome!

Instead of making guesses about which interests, demographics & behaviours to target you are letting Facebook do the heavy lifting with lookalike audiences.

Here’s how you can create a Lookalike Audience.

First, select the Custom Audience you want to base your LA on. Then select ‘Actions’ -> ‘Create Lookalike’.

Facebook lookalike audiences - buy app installs

 

Now you need to select a country from which you would like your Lookalike Members to come from. And then an audience size.

The larger the audience size you choose, the less closely matched to your Custom Audience they will be.
Lookalike audience setup

 

After you create your new Lookalike Audience it will take up to 24 hours to populate. When it’s ready the light will go green and you will be able to see the size of your new audience.

Lookalike audience creation

Now in your ad sets you can enter your new Lookalike Audience in the audience section at the top. Just remember, your Lookalike Audience only contains people from the country you chose when you created it.

Testing & Analytics

Ok, so you’ve got your campaign up and running, and you’re ready to get started with Lookalike Audiences as well.

What now?

From here it’s all about testing, testing & more testing.

I’ve showed you how to create your first campaign with a single ad set and a few ads.

I recommend creating at least a few ad sets, each targeting different audiences. They can contain the same ads, the idea is to test different targeting strategies & find the one that works best.

Spending as little as $5/day on each of your ad sets is enough for you to start seeing where you’re getting the lowest cost per install.

As the results start to come in, you will start to see particular ads & ad sets performing better than others. From the ad manager it’s really easy to drill down into the reports to see how your campaign is performing.

Using the ‘Columns’ and ‘Breakdown’ menus you can find out everything you need to know. Cost per impression, click, install, where your installs are coming from, the age and gender of people installing your app, and much more.

reports for buy app installs

As you see data coming in about your campaigns, you can narrow down and isolate only the top performing, audiences & ads.

 

Keeping your account safe

Before you go out and start building your ad campaigns, just a quick warning that Facebook are quite strict about their advertising policy.

Make sure you’re always adhering to the ad policy and read through them regularly.

You can find the Facebook advertising policy here.

To make things even easier for you I’ve put together a handy checklist for keeping your account safe.

There are plenty of tips in there, and some that you won’t find in the official ad policy. Keep it handy and run through it every time you’re about to run ads.

 

Conclusion

The only thing left for you to do is get started!

The learning curve is steep, but with this guide you’re well on the way. Next it’s about getting your hands dirty, spending some money and learning along the way.

If you want to really step things up and fast track your learning, check out the FB App Ad Accelerator course. It’s got everything to take you from a FB ad newbie to buying app installs with confidence.

Did you learn something in this guide that you didn’t know before? Got questions? Hit me up in the comments!

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  • Hey Andy, thanks for this very comprehensive guide! One quick question: is the “narrow audience” feature new to you? I asked Facebook like three months ago when they would add this feature (again) and they told me they were working on it but couldn’t give me an exact date.

    One more quick tip I like to use when doing Facebook ads, to find interests similar to a given interest:
    1) go to findmyfbid.com to retrieve the page ID
    2) in this URL (https://www.facebook.com/pages/?frompageid=ID), change “ID” by the newly found page ID.
    3) profit! tons of new interests to target.
    4) rinse and repeat 🙂

    Thanks again. I’ll tweet this one!

    • Hey Nathan, glad to help.

      ‘Narrow audience’ is still fairly new. It’s been there for a month or 2. They might be rolling it out gradually. I’ve noticed that it’s not available in some of my clients ad accounts but most have it.

  • Political Run

    Hey Andy

    This is fantastic! Thanks so much for this article, super informative. I have 2 quick questions for you.

    1. When I setup the ads in Facebook I need to setup a minimum budget of $40 per day. How do you set it up for $5 per day?

    2. I have tried to do cost per install and only pay when the app is installed but I get the following message:

    Insufficient Install History: Your account does not have enough install history to start using billing event for mobile app install ads. Please visit https://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/ads-api/cost-per-action-ads/ to learn more

    Any ideas what this is and what I need to do?

    Thanks,
    Brian

    • You’re welcome Brian!

      I’m not sure why you need a $40/day budget. I can definitely go all the way down to a budget of $1/day. It might have something to do with the other options you’ve chosen.

      To run cost-per-install you need to establish a history of buying app installs with your FB ad account first. Facebook don’t say exactly how much you need to spend or how long you need to run ads for before CPI becomes available but for most accounts I’ve seen it’s been about a week.

      Thanks for reading. Looking forward to hearing more from you.

  • dashrath Tech

    Im running app installs business and thinking to use fb now after reading ur this blog can you let me know avarge cpi we can get from fb ? as well as main points is for getting cpi i its ask to integrate sdk so how can we avoid this because its not possible there are different kind of advertisers we got from some can integrate sdk some not so is there any solutions for the same ?

    • Honestly, if you want to run FB app install campaigns for others as a business, you need to be a practitioner yourself. If you have no experience buying installs on FB, what benefit is there for someone paying you to buy installs on FB for them when you have no experience and no expertise? Can’t they just do it themselves and have the benefit of learning as they go as well?

      It takes time and experience to learn how to get the best results with FB ads. There is not way I would feel comfortable telling you “here are 4 tips for getting the best CPI, now you’re all set to go and provide this as a service to others.”

      Not trying to be harsh, but I do feel it’s important to be honest with you for your own benefit and for the benefit of your potential future clients. Learn the craft, become really good at it, then start charging others to do it for them.

      Re. the SDK, there is no way to avoid it. Facebook uses the data it collects from the SDK to optimize your campaigns (as well as providing data for your reports). Anyone serious about buying installs through FB should have the SDK installed.

  • Soorya Sujan

    Hi,

    Thanks so much for this article, super informative. I have 2 quick questions for you.

    1.When i tried to do cost per install “app install” there were no error,but when i choose “app events” i get the following message “Your advert can’t be optimised for app events because we haven’t received any standard app events from your app(and mentioned to integrate facebook sdk”.So why the same error doesn’t appear when i tried to do cost per install???

    2. I have tried to do cost per install and only pay when the app is installed but I get the following message(at the last moment,when i placed order):

    Insufficient Install History: Your account does not have enough install history to start using billing event for mobile app install ads.