Aug 14, 2022

How to run ads on Snapchat

Guide to get started with Snapchat advertising: how to get your first ads up and running, how to organize and scale your campaign.

If you have already gone through our Facebook and Instagram Ads guide, then this guide will be easier to digest as there are a lot of similarities between the two. We recommend reading that one first if you haven't yet.

🏗️ Structure and setup

Campaign structure

The Snapchat Ads platform follows the same format as Facebook and Instagram in terms of structure.

  • Campaign
  • Ad Sets
  • Ads

Each campaign can have multiple ad sets inside, and then each ad set can have multiple ads inside, but you can only have one campaign with one objective.

All the ad sets and ads inside this campaign will be optimized towards the objective you choose - in 90% of the cases - conversions.

In practice:

  • Campaign: [UK] [Men Wallets] Conversions
  • Ad Sets: [Black] [Men Bristol 18_25] [Fashion]
  • Ads: creative_1

In this example above, I am advertising men wallets to an audience based in the UK, and the campaign objective is Conversions. Going down to the ad set level, I am advertising the black version of the wallet to Bristol men, 18 to 25, interested in Fashion.

The ad that I show to them is the creative 1 - it could be a photo or a video.

Of course, you can target other age groups, other cities or countries or other interests outside Fashion. Just make you keep it neat and organized to know what you are testing out.

As soon as we log in and try to set up our first Snap campaign, two options will pop up:

  • A. Instant Create
  • B. Advanced Create

We recommend going for option B, where you have complete control over your campaigns, at least until you grasp the basics of Snap advertising.

💡 Be precise when organizing and grouping your campaigns, ad sets and ads, mainly because successful campaigns require a lot of testing different settings, objectives, copy or creative.

Campaign Objective

Snapchat offers a little more in terms of objectives, but unless you are looking for something specific or trying to create brand awareness, conversions is still the way to go.

Facebook (and Instagram) has six campaign objectives, as seen below:

  • Awareness: Awareness, Promote Places
  • Consideration: App Installs, Drive traffic to a website, Drive traffic to App, Engagement, Video Views, Lead Generation
  • Conversions: App Conversions, Website Conversions, Catalog Sales

We will focus on the website conversions objective. If you are looking for conversions (purchases, sign up, etc.), we strongly advise you to stick to this objective. From our experience, this works better.

We tried different objectives and ran many A/B Tests with other settings - eventually, we came back to this objective as this works the best so far.

Now is the time to install the Snapchat Pixel. Follow this link for guidance.

💡 The Pixel is a piece of code you install on your website that collects data from visitors and sends it to Snapchat. You need this in order for Snapchat to optimize your ads, track conversions, build audiences, and more.

There is a Daily Spend Cap and a Lifetime Spend Cap when we set our campaign.

We can set a maximum daily spend or a maximum lifetime spend. Still, at least in this initial phase, we will monitor our ads constantly (every three-four days), and we are going to run small budgets, so there is no need for this.

Ad Formats and Placements

On Snapchat, we have the following ad formats:

  • Story ad: Available just for the Snapchat Discover Feed, we recommend using this option only if you want to test it out, otherwise, the standard placement is the next one.
  • Single Image or Video: Either a video or a story, it can support a variety of swipe-up actions, and it works both between content and within.
  • Collection Ad: As the title says, this allows you to highlight a collection of products or show one product from different angles. We have not tested this option too much, so we leave it to you to play around and see how it works out.
  • AR Lens: 2022 release, never got a chance to try 😱

The following placements are available:

  • Between content: ads watched between stories and professional content
  • Within content: ads watched within the professional and curated content

We recommend not touching the placement for your ads - to start with - Automatic Placements - is the way to move forward.

Snapchat effectively finds the optimal placement for your ads and allocates the budget accordingly. However, if you want to test this out, we recommend separating ad sets and running an A/B test to see which performs better.

More ad set level settings

We decided to group the rest of the settings ad the Ad Set level.


As simple as it sounds. Advertising in the UK? Mention that. Targeting Dallas, Texas? Let Snapchat know.



Unless your product is for a specific age group, we recommend going with 18-50, so quite broad. Unfortunately, the age group, 13-18, does not have much buying power; we can leave it on the side for now.

If you are 100% sure that your product is for a specific age group, then sure, you can go ahead and select that one only. However, Snapchat itself is very good at figuring this out, so it’s still ok to go with broad (18-50) in this case too.

💡 Once you get more familiar with the Snapchat Advertising system, you can test out different age brackets to see which one works better for your product. Again, this is an excellent way to learn more about your target audience. Split them out and see which age group has more interest in your product.


Unless you are selling something specific to men or women, go with both.


Unless you target “Spanish” speakers or “Italian” or similar, leave this option blank. If you advertise in Tier-1 countries (US, UK, AU, CA), leave this on default.


Predefined Audiences → this is the Interests based audience

Follow the same process learned for Facebook Ads. Brainstorm interests related to your product or browse the Snapchat available interests to see which one matches your product.

Remember - there is no right or wrong here. However, make sure you’re not going too far away.

Custom Audiences → the Lookalikes

The process of creating Lookalike audiences is similar to the Facebook one. Just head over to → Log In → Manage Ads → Audiences → New Audience


Unless you want to target iPhone owners, Samsung owners, IOS or Android users, leave this default.

It’s one setting that is pretty specific to your advertising product. For example, for an e-commerce store owner selling black leather wallets, it does not matter if the audience uses Android or IOS.

If you have a mobile app, you might want to understand Android acquisition versus IOS acquisition costs.


Set your budget here. Go with a daily budget here, and keep an eye out to see the performance and start immediately.

  • Swipe-up: we tested this goal a lot, but it does not work for a conversion campaign. So if you are looking for Conversions, we recommend using the Pixel Purchase.
  • Pixel Purchase: the go for if you are looking for Conversions. Make sure to have the Snapchat Pixel working.
  • Add To Cart: add To Cart is the step right before the purchase; we recommend testing this out if you are running an e-commerce store and looking to retarget users. For example, you can set up an audience of people who added to the Cart but never purchased and retarget them with ads; For some stores work, for some, it does not; A/B Testing will give you the answer you are looking for.
  • Page View: get more Landing Page views; this works if you are looking more for brand awareness.


  • Auto-Bid (Recommended): we recommend going for the Auto-Bid option if you want to understand the CPA you can achieve with Snapchat Ads.
  • Target Cost: will try to keep the CPA under control at a price set by you; this usually requires more tweaking and testing and doesn't usually work as expected.
  • Max Bid:bids at or below your desired bid; this option refers to a specific bid; if you know precisely you want the CPA at $20 or whatever, go for this one. However, it’s not accurate from our testing, and Snapchat struggles to convert with this option.

Ad Level

What you can set up here:

  • Ad Name
  • Brand Name
  • Headline (handmade leather wallet, best skincare routine, etc.)
  • CTA (choose from a variety of call-to-actions available from Snap)
  • Website URL (where do you want the users to land)

Remember: keep a solid structure and organize your ads with care. It will help you understand what works and what does not for you. We talked more about this in the Facebook Ads guide.

Image and video size - 1080x1920

This is the standard size for the Snapchat creative.

Head over here to learn more about which creatives work best.

Would you like to get started with influencer marketing? Start a free trial with Social Cat and collaborate with micro-influencers to get sales, brand awareness and user-generated content.

Want to learn more before starting a trial? Book a demo.

🔨 Optimizing your ads

In this part, we will talk about optimizing your campaigns to success.

The optimizing process is similar to the one on Facebook Ads, so if you already took time to digest that guide and maybe even launch a campaign, theoretically, you should be good to go for Snapchat as well.

💡 In both guides, we focus for conversions, nothing else. The goal is to run ads and convert users (clients) at a CPA that makes sense for our business.

Short intro on Campaign Objectives

Snapchat offers a few more objectives compared with Facebook and Instagram.

However, the architecture behind the Social Media Advertising platforms, or how they work behind the scenes, is similar.

What is the objective we optimize for?

Different campaign objectives will require us to look at different metrics to evaluate performance.

As of August 2022, Snapchat groups its advertising campaign options into three categories:

  • Awareness: Awareness, Promote Places. This initial objective is divided into two main categories, as seen above. The sole purpose of this objective is to increase the awareness of your brand and product via paid advertising.
  • Consideration: App Installs, Drive traffic to a website, Drive traffic to App, Engagement, Video Views, Lead Generation. Theoretically, consideration is the next step in the funnel: after your audience is aware of your brand or product, they start to consider it. This is the moment when you drive traffic to your website or app, you collect leads that are aware of your brand or product, or you engage with them. I want to mention that driving traffic to your website or app does not mean conversion or purchases. If you set a campaign with this objective, the only goals available will be swipe-up or page view. Remember, we only discuss Conversions in our guides, more precisely: purchases or sign-ups. The Conversion objective is available below, and as on Facebook and Instagram, this is the one we will opt-in for.
  • Conversions: App Conversions, Website Conversions, Catalog Sales. We want Website Conversions or Catalog sales, or even App Conversions. In this case, App Conversions means users are driving specific actions within your app. Unless you run an app and are looking for App Conversions specifically, the goal we are looking for and the one we're going to run ads with is Website Conversions.

What metrics to look at and where?

To understand how to optimize our ads for cheaper conversions, we need to have a look at the following metrics:

  • Amount Spent
  • Conversions (purchases)
  • Cost per purchase (also called cost per action - CPA)
  • Paid Impressions
  • Paid Reach
  • Frequency
  • Swipe-up Rate (CTR)
  • Paid eCPM (effective cost per 1000 impressions)
  • eCPSU (effective cost per swipe-up or CPC)

If you don't know what these metrics mean, please read our acronym guide.

We discussed this in the second part of the Facebook ads guide, and it applies here too. The North Star we are looking for is the cost per purchase. And then purchases.

As a business owner or an advertiser, you must know how much you are willing to pay to acquire a customer. This is strongly tied to the LTV if you're running a SaaS, COGS if you are running e-commerce and more; it depends on your business model and particularities.

Your target CPA is the same if you run ads on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter or YouTube.

It does not change anything. If your target CPA is $40, you will experiment with different platforms and settings until you manage to have this under control.

Below, we're shortly running through the other metrics:

Impressions - depends on the budget you are running ads with; somewhere between 1.000 to 30.000 impressions should be enough to decide if this ad or ad set is worth investing in.

Reach - goes hand in hand with the above; they will always be close numbers.

Swipe-up Rate - this will show you how good is your creative or if you are advertising to the right people. If it's small, and I consider small, whatever is under 0.5, then go back to the creative or start looking more into audiences.

However, something to mention here: if ads are converting at a good CPA, you do get a decent amount of purchases, and the swipe-up rate is low; again, don't stress it out. Let it run as long as the CPA is making sense for you. If they don't convert, and this metric is low, it might be time to look more at the creative and the audience.

eCPM and eCPSU - understand more about your audience

ABO vs Single Ads Optimization

The structure is the same as Facebook and Instagram, except for one setting: Snapchat does not have a CBO to set a campaign budget and then let the algorithm decide which ad set is getting the results you want.

You can set a daily spend cap or a lifetime spend cap; this will give you more control over your campaigns, but it's not quite a CBO optimization like we have seen on Facebook and Instagram.

💡 Remember: CBO is the acronym for Campaign Budget Optimization, a setting on Facebook and Instagram. You set a specific Campaign Budget and then let the algorithm learn and decide which ad set brings the most ROI for your objective. Snapchat only comes with ABO or Single Ad Optimization.

ABO and Single Ads Optimizations

The same principles apply over here too. An ABO campaign will distribute the budget across your ads, and the ones picking up will get more budget; simple as that.

Turn off the ads that are not performing and add more instead.

The single ads optimizations will give you complete control over your ads: launch them individually, one per ad set, provide them with time and apply the same rule: allocate more budget for the ads that are performing and the ones that are not performing, shut them down.

You have to try them out as an advertiser to see which structure works for your product or business.


If you have already worked your way through the Facebook Ads Guide, you already know how to run Snapchat Ads. The structure is very similar, the objectives are the same, and you already know what metrics to look at for success.

Similar rules apply: keep a concise structure of your campaigns, know what you're testing and A/B test different settings and creative. Lastly, we strongly advise you to spend some time in the Snapchat Ads Manager, get used to it, be curious and go beyond what we teach you over here.

Another essential bit we want to mention: research the Snapchat audience. Overall, this audience is slightly different from the one on Facebook or Instagram, is younger, and the shopping behaviours are different.

Snapchat also offers guidance for advertisers; check out these guides below:

Would you like to get started with influencer marketing? Start a free trial with Social Cat and collaborate with micro-influencers to get sales, brand awareness and user-generated content.

Want to learn more before starting a trial? Book a demo.