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What is the difference between Meta ads, ad sets, and campaigns?

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Table of contents

If you’re reading this article, you are probably looking at Meta’s platform to run ads for your eCommerce store. And that’s an excellent decision!

Meta (Facebook, Instagram, and Threads) is still the most popular, reliable, and profitable ad platform for any eCommerce, even after the rise of TikTok in the social media space. It is also a staple source of high-quality traffic for most eCommerce merchants.

But Meta’s ad interface can be confusing, even to the most experienced. So, where should you start?

What’s the best campaign for your store?

How many ad sets should you have in a campaign?

What are ad sets?

I’ll do my best to answer all of these questions and also suggest the best ways for you to get started with your Meta ads journey.

What is the structure of a Meta campaign? How do I get started with Meta ads? 

To get started with Meta ads, it’s important to understand what each component of an ad campaign is and what the different settings/options under each component mean.

1. What is an ad Campaign?

A campaign is the top-most level of your ads. When you create a new campaign, Meta will always ask you for an ‘objective’ – this choice determines who Meta will target, how your ad dollars are distributed, and your overall ROAS & performance.

Here’s a table to look get a quick understanding of all the objectives that Meta provides for the campaigns. Based on your goals & business objectives, the right choice here will help optimize the right KPIs (key performance indicators).

The “Sales” objective is by far the most important objective for eCommerce stores online as it directly affects your ROAS (return on ad spend) and revenue. This is what you should be using in almost all of your ads, especially if you’re a D2C brand getting started with ads.

For example, you run a clothing boutique online. You are about to launch a new collection of dresses for Autumn and you are also providing a 10% discount to existing customers. 

The best use of your ad money here is to drive the most number of conversions, or sales, in the shortest amount of time. The right objective here will be “Sales”.

Moreover, you can create 2 campaigns with this collection in mind – one to attract new customers who don’t know about your brand, and a second to inform past customers of the new launch & the offer.

And you can create more campaigns too if you would like to – the opportunities here are endless.

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NOTE: After you have selected the campaign objective, Meta will ask you if you’d like to create an “Advantage+ Campaign” or a “Manual Sales Campaign”. I’ll be discussing the Manual Sales Campaign below, but if you’d like to learn more about the Advantage+ campaign, check out our blog about the same.

Here’s a summary of all the options available under the Campaign.

a. Special Ad Category

This section is only relevant if you offer credit/employment/housing, or promote social issues, elections, or politics. You can read more about it here.

b. Campaign Details

You can change your campaign objective here (eg. switch from Sales to Traffic).

You can also find the toggle for the ‘Catalog’ – which is to enable dynamic product ads on Meta. Want to learn more about dynamic ads on Meta? Here’s everything you need to know about dynamic ads and how you can use them to boost your performance.

See how YEVU shifted 40% ad spend to Branded Catalogs (catalog ads), and increased their ROAS by 30%.

c. A/B test

Say you have 2 types of color schemes for an ad you’re about to run. One is in red, and the other is in green.

Enabling this option allows you to compare the two sets of ideas and test which one performs better. Not just the creative, you can also create tests for ad captions, headlines, etc. – whatever you would like to get a quantifiable or data-driven understanding of your audience's preferences.

d. Advantage Campaign Budget

There are two types of budgeting options when running a campaign on Meta:

CBO, i.e. Campaign Budget Optimization

The budget is set at the campaign level and distributed automatically to all of its ad sets and ads by Meta. This is also what Meta calls the “Advantage Campaign Budget” on their interface.

Turning it on will allow you to enter the budget at the campaign level and Meta will automatically spread & spend the budget across ad sets based on machine learning/AI to maximize your performance.

Eg. you have $120 for your daily ad spend and you set it up at CBO. Your ads will not necessarily get equal spending. It may happen that sometimes only 1 ad gets all the spend based on what Meta decides is performing better for your store.

ABO, i.e. Ad set Budget Optimization

The budget is set at the ad set level and Meta will optimize accordingly. When the “Advantage Campaign Budget” on the interface is turned off, the campaign will have ABO.

Eg. if you have $120 and you have 3 active ad sets – but you want to control how much money is spent on each Ad set.

With ABO, you can define equal or unequal distribution, say, 40$ for Ad Set 1, 60$ for Ad Set 2, and $20 for Ad Set 3.

Read everything about what ‘Advantage’ means for Meta ads.

We mentioned an ‘ad set’ in the section before – what is that and how does that help?

Each campaign will have an “ad set” which will hold crucial information for targeting. Let’s explore the ad set.

2. What is an ad set on Meta?

At the ad set level, the most important setting you define for Meta is your target audience. 

This is not an official definition of an ad set (you can find that here), however, it’s a simple and easy way to look at the use case behind ad sets on Meta.

While the campaign tells Meta what to optimize for, your ad set details and defines exactly who you are looking for on Meta. 

If you want to target new customers, you can create a new ad set and select:

  • Age group (eg. 18-44)
  • Location (eg. only in New York, US)
  • Demographic information like interests & behaviors (eg. Designer clothing, Women’s clothing, Vogue magazine, etc.)

And if you also want to target your past customers, you can create a second ad set and upload a CSV file of your older customers with their information.

You can have multiple ad sets within a campaign – so if you want to target multiple customer personas you can do so very easily.

Audiences in your ad set are crucial to make sure Meta is showing your ads to shoppers who are most likely to convert.

A powerful way to explore your audiences on Meta is through Lookalike audiences. Don’t know what they are?

Don’t fret! Here’s a great blog about everything lookalike audiences and how they can help boost your ROAS.

Here's a summary of all the options available under the Ad set:

a. Conversion Type

If you want to drive conversions on a website or an app, choose ‘Website’ or ‘App’, respectively. We recommend ‘Website’ for eCommerce stores to start with.

b. Dynamic Creative

When you enable this option, Meta will ask you to upload various different assets, copies, and destinations, and then automatically generate combinations of the creatives to maximize your ad performance.

TIP: We usually recommend that you start your ads with this setting turned off. This will help you get an idea of how you can build ads on Facebook, what works for your audiences, as well as all the options Meta provides for customization. Once you get familiar with Meta ads, you can create new ads and test dynamic creatives to see whether or not they work for your brand.

c. Budgets & Schedule

You can control your daily ad spend (and set limits), or set a schedule for your ads to run.

If you don’t see this option at the ad set level, your campaign is likely in CBO and has the ‘Advantage Budget Optimization’ option enabled in the campaign settings.

You will have to disable it in the campaign settings if you want to set the budgets at the ad set level.

d. Audience

Target the persona you have in mind by choosing from the various options Meta provides like age, gender, location, interests/behaviors, languages, etc.

TIP: If you have a list of past purchasers, either from an old ad account or maybe from a different platform if you’ve recently switched over, you can upload these to Meta for your campaigns. You can also create Lookalike audiences which can help find new audiences by taking signals from the past purchaser list.

e. Placements

Specify where you want your ads shown from the list of options like the Facebook news feed, Instagram reels & stories, in-app articles, etc.

TIP: If you’re starting out, you can select the ‘Advantage+ placement’ which will make this automatic and Meta will decide where to deliver your ads and help maximize your ad performance.

Now that we’ve understood a bit more about campaigns, and ad sets, let’s tackle the last piece of the puzzle – the ad or the ad creative.

3. What is an ad on Meta? 

An ad is everything your audiences will get to see when your campaigns are live. It contains all the marketing messaging, media assets (video/image), destination links, etc.

This is also your biggest opportunity to stand out and let your creative juices flow to appeal to your targeted audience – especially in competitive industries like clothing, accessories, beauty products, etc.

For example, if you’re a more sophisticated brand, you can use elegant creatives with chic, luxurious video shoots, and bold captions. 

Like Awe Inspired’s ad:


Or if you’re a sporty brand, add some energy, and fun with fast video cuts or catchy graphic elements. Whatever fits best for your brand.

See this high-energy ad from Pit Viper:


Ads can be of 4 types based on the media you want to use – single image or video ads, carousel ads, collection ads, or instant experience ads – all of which will have their own set of content, links, image/videos, etc. to enrich the ad.

Note: We’ll cover single image ads & carousel ads in this article, but you can sign up for our newsletter and we’ll let you know as soon as we cover collection and instant experience ads.

a. Single image/Video ads

These types of ads can either be a single image (e.g., posters, product photos, etc) or a video (e.g., an unboxing, product showcase, etc.).

Explore some great examples of single image & video ads in our ads library.

Explore Socioh's ads library

b. Carousel ads

This type of ad consists of multiple images that shoppers can scroll through. These can be created in 2 ways: 

<blue-low-highlight>Manual Upload:<blue-low-highlight>

You can set these up manually by uploading images (up to 10) and arranging them in the order you want them.

Here's an example of a manual carousel ad from Therabody:

An example of a manual carousel from Therabody
Meta's interface to manually upload carousel image


A dynamic carousel ad or a catalog ad, uses a product feed to pull in product data dynamically. Meta uses this to show users a personalized carousel of products that they are interested in based on their habits & engagements online.

For eg. if I’m in the market for gym/training shoes, then a dynamic catalog ad from, say, Nike, would show me shoes made for the gym and training, instead of lifestyle shoes.

This would mean efficient ad spend, and better ROAS.

TIP: Typically, dynamic catalog ads are powered by the product images from your website – which could be products on a plain white background. These can often look uninteresting or are cropped poorly.

Here's an example of a handbag store.

Here's annother example of a jewelry store.

Using Socioh’s Branded Catalogs you can power your catalog with rule-based automation and on-brand designs.

See how iconic brands like Specialized, True Classic, and Alpha Lion use Branded Catalogs to boost their CTR.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Meta ads the same as Facebook or Instagram ads? 

Yes, Meta ads are the same as Facebook or Instagram ads.

Meta is the parent company of Facebook & Instagram. Meta ads used to be called Facebook ads but since the rebranding to Meta, they’ve stuck by Meta ads.

Meta’s interface to create ads is really confusing. Is there any way to make this easier? 

You’re in the right place. Socioh is an advertising tool for everything Meta, including an easy-to-use interface that makes creating campaigns fast and hassle-free.

Additionally, you also get Branded Catalogs, proprietary custom Audiences, and your own FREE first-party pixel.

Learn more about Socioh and sign up today to get a 10% off (if you subscribe within 24 hours) :)

How many ad sets should I have in a campaign? 

There is no hard and fast rule for this, however, 3-5 is a good limit per campaign.

When creating your ad sets, you should keep in mind the budgets you set for your campaigns. Enabling or disabling ‘Advantage Campaign Budget’ (CBO vs. ABO) can also affect your budget distribution.

For eg. if I have a budget of $100 for my campaign, and I have 2 ad sets.

My cost per sale (CAC) is $25 – this means for every $100 spent, I’ll get 4 sales approximately.

Under CBO, Meta will distribute your budget between the 2 ad sets on it’s own. So it could happen that one ad set gets more of the spend than the other.
In the same scenario, let’s imagine 4 or 5 ad sets. There are even more paths to distribute – and that means, there is even more fragmentation of your ad dollars, which means your ad sets won’t get the budgets they need to optimize efficiently.

Should I combine ad sets? 

Yes, to some extent. While you should have some segmentation of your audiences to better optimize your ads, especially between prospective & retargeting, combining ad sets can help spend your budget more efficiently and reduce the time Meta takes to get out of the learning phase.

Read more about combining ad sets and Meta’s best practices here.

How many ads can I run? 

You can run as many ads as you like, however, do keep in mind that you don’t want to be spending on ads that are not bringing you success. So, if you do run a lot of creatives, keep checking on them to make sure you’re not wasting any money on an ad that’s not converting.

TIP: Keep your creative set diverse with videos, posters, and catalog ads across prospecting & retargeting.

Looking for inspiration? Check out our ads library containing 1000s of DTC ads just for you.

What’s the best campaign for my store? 

This is something unique to every ad account and eCommerce brand out there. Testing and experimenting with campaigns, creatives & audiences is the only way to know what works best for you.

But don't worry, we have some great campaign recommendations for you to get started with – check out the 9 Meta ad campaigns that you need for your eCommerce brand.

TIP: Make sure to have prospecting and retargeting campaigns running together to make sure your funnel is full and flowing.

That’s it for this guide. If you have any questions or you get stuck anywhere, we’ll be happy to help – drop us a line @getsocioh on Twitter or send us a message using the help bubble on the bottom right of your Socioh dashboard.

is a digital advertising platform for eCommerce brands. Our Branded Catalog is the industry leader in dynamic catalog advertising and product feeds.

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