Creating Facebook Canvas ads: step-by-step guide

[UPDATE: Canvas ads are now called Instant Experiences. We’ve a new guide to creating them here]

How to create a Facebook Instant Experience Ad (previously known as Canvas Ads)


The Facebook advertising juggernaut moves on with yet another huge product roll out. This time it’s Canvas Ads. As with Instant Articles for mobile, the idea is to provide an “immersive” experience with a rich media combination of images, videos, gifs, text, products, carousels and more for mobile users. As usual the idea is to keep users on Facebook, scrolling through this “canvas”of fun rather than bumping them off onto other website (and likely experiencing poor load time as part of the process). Think of Canvas as very deep web pages on mobile with the added benefit of interaction such as panning and enlarging.

With all those variables it sounds complicated right?

Well actually not so much. I actually had a lot of fun experimenting with the new tool albeit that creating a Canvas is time consuming and once you’ve hit the “Finish” button there’s no way of retrospectively editing it. But really, honestly, it’s not that tricky. The intuitive design tool lets you add in the different elements, tweak them and drag them around. If you are used to working on a CMS like WordPress, creating images with tools like Canva, building emails with programs like MailChimp you’ll find Canvas a doddle. And if you are too scared to jump straight in then read on for our step-by-step guide. I’ve stuck with really simply elements and functionality here with a simple ad for a new Musicademy (one of the brands we work with) product – as you get more confident you can explore more.

Step 1 – Find Canvas

Go to your Page and click “Publishing Tools”.

How to create a Facebook Canvas ad Publishing tools

Step 2 – Create your first Canvas

Click “Create”

How to create a Facebook Canvas ad

Step 3 – Start adding in Components

You’ll now see the Canvas Builder which is effectively a simple wizard guiding you through the different things you might want to add to your Canvas.

First select the background theme. I’ve gone for a custom colour (you can specify a hex code or choose from a pallet).

Then upload a header image (normally your logo). This will be pinned to the top of the Canvas wherever people are scrolling.

You can then add in whatever components you like. The first I’ve added in below is a photo – this, the logo and whatever button you pin to the bottom of your Canvas will be the first thing people see when encountering your ad on mobile.

Canvas Ad Components

To add in further components find the “+ Add Component” button and click that. You get a choice of media to add and once created you can use up and down arrow buttons to drag them into position.

Facebook Canvas Components

I’ve added in some text to break up the images and a button which navigates people to our website for further info. There is some basic design functionality for copy and colour.

Facebook Canvas Ad Components

Create interest by using a variety of components. Below you will see a carousel of images for users to click through (these are great for story telling) and below that a single image. I’ve selected the Default mode in order to enable a destination url.

Facebook Canvas Components

There are lots of additional features that for simplicity I won’t go into detail here but feel free to play around. You don’t even have to go to the full stage of creating an ad, you can publish your Canvas and just show it organically on newsfeed if you want.

I wanted to add in a video, however there is a 2 minute limit on videos with Canvas and I didn’t have anything short enough. Instead I’ve created a button with a “Watch Video” message which actually takes the user to the video embedded in our Facebook Page – it’s a reasonable enough workaround. Note that we have fixed this button to the bottom of the Canvas and I’ve given it a different fill treatment to the earlier button. I’ve selected to fix this button to the bottom so that scrollers will always see it (it should be your main call to action) no matter where they are on your Canvas.

One thing I found with text (see the Customer Review below) was that you cannot use carriage returns (i.e. space between lines of text). The text appears in the Quick Preview that the advertiser sees on desktop but gets truncated on the actual mobile device. Workaround this but using single short lines of text and no carriage returns. As an alternative you can put multiple text components one after the other if you need to.

Facebook Canvas Ad How To Guide

Step 4 – Save and Preview

There’s an on screen previewer that you can watch as you build the Canvas but it is best to also click to “Preview on Device”. This will send your Canvas to your phone (open up Notifications on Facebook to view it). I found that some of my text elements were not rendering correctly so had to do some edits. I also tweaked a few elements including changing the logo image at this point. All a learning curve for me as this was my first Canvas.

Step 5 – Finish and create url

Once totally sure you are done with editing you select “Finish”. You’ll get this warning screen.

Canvas Finish

This is the screen you see once you click Finish. Most users will select Get URL and progress to the stage of creating the ad.

Canvas Creat Post

Canvas url

I decided to try the “Create Post” option and popped the Canvas onto our Facebook timeline. Of course this isn’t going to make a lot of sense to desktop viewers so I added a bit of an explanation.

Canvas Post Desktop

Here’s how the same post looks on mobile. Note the little up arrow which indicates further content:

Canvas Post on mobile

And here’s a screen grab of the finished result:

Facebook Canvas Ad Example

My finished Canvas can be viewed interactively here (you’ll need to use a mobile device!). It’s not perfect but not bad for last thing on a Friday afternoon!

Step 6 – Finally create your Ad!

So far what you have been building is your ad creative. Now it’s time to return to familiar territory and create your ad.

I’m not going to go into detail on that here as I assume you are probably already an experienced Facebook Advertiser. Create your Campaign (use either Clicks to Website of Website Conversions objective). Don’t forget to include your conversion pixels!

Remember that at Ad Set level it’s important that you only select Mobile News Feed.

Placement for Canvas

At the Ads Level select “Create Ad” and pop your Canvas url into the Website URL box. Write a headline, some text and provide a thumbnail image. Do a final check and upload changes. The screen grab below is from Power Editor but you should be able to do the same thing with Ads Manager – it may just look a little different.

Canvas Power Editor Ad

Note that some users appear to be offered a Canvas box underneath the website url. If that is surfacing on your Ads Manager or Power Editor then find your Canvas using that rather than putting anything in the Website URL box.

Canvas Ad creation

Innovative formats get attention

I would recommend that you get stuck into Canvas sooner rather than later. Novel ad types tend to get good traction with users. In trials 53% of users that open a Canvas view at least half of it and the view time is a huge 31 seconds.


Want more help with Facebook ads?

Check out my brand new course ‘Zero to Hero with Facebook Ads‘ in the Digiterati Academy. You’ll fast track all my knowledge of what’s working to create great Facebook ads right now and feel confident in your ability to run an effective campaign.

Zero to Hero with Facebook Ads Course



Marie Page

About Marie Page

Marie Page is one of the UK’s leading Facebook marketing experts. She is a founding partner of digital marketing consultancy The Digiterati and the Digiterati Academy e-learning portal for marketers and entrepreneurs. Her award-winning Master's Dissertation was the culmination of three years' academic research into Facebook that resulted in a book (and companion online course) 'Winning at Facebook Marketing with Zero Budget' that became an Amazon bestseller. Marie's work on the Facebook News Feed algorithm was featured in The Huffington Post. A recognised thought leader on social media, Marie is often approached by journalists for comment in articles such as this Telegraph article. She was also interviewed for ITV's Tonight show on Facebook privacy issues in relation to advertising. Marie is a regular guest on digital marketing blogs and podcasts including Social Media Examiner and Smart Insights. In 2018 she is speaking at Brighton SEO, Europe's biggest search and marketing conference. Marie is also author of two Smart Insights books: 'Smarter Guide to Facebook Marketing', now in its fourth edition, and 'Facebook Ads Guide', both edited by Dr Dave Chaffey. Marie is also a part time yoga teacher.