Guide to Flash Sales on Facebook - How to Budget, Optimize and Run Short-Term Campaigns

Julianna Alanne Sep 19 2017 11 AM | 6 min read


Limited time offers and flash sales can be an effective way to drive revenue, particularly during seasonal holidays and festivities. Most flash sales last for 24 hours or less, so the campaigns promoting them are short-lived, too. Maximizing performance within such narrow timeframes requires a different campaign management approach compared to longer campaigns.

This article will help you prepare and master flash sales on Facebook and Instagram.

Bids, Budgets and Pacing

Before we get into the different ways to automate your work, let’s make sure we have the basics right first – what is the right set-up for your bidding and budget?

Bid Manual, Bid High

If you're promoting a flash sale, go after a high volume of impressions. The best way to get them is to enter a bid that will win as many auctions as possible. In normal circumstances, automatic bidding generally helps you get the most out of a given budget. To maximize delivery, however, you should consider bidding even higher than what Facebook recommends.

You also need to consider the timing of your flash sale. If it coincides with other popular sales events (for example Black Friday), automatic bidding can sometimes lag behind as more advertisers increase their manual bids, driving up the equilibrium price to a point where automatic bids miss out.

Lifetime vs Daily Budgets

For campaigns that run for less than 24 hours, Facebook recommends using a lifetime budget for the best results. This is the more intuitive setting: if you were to use a daily budget for e.g. a 6-hour campaign, Facebook would not spend more than 25% (i.e. 6 ÷ 24) of the budget you specified, so you have to take that into account. But more importantly, Facebook's pacing algorithm, which optimizes your delivery to get the best results available for your budget, is not designed to optimize daily budgets for shorter periods.


Accelerated Delivery

Keep in mind that Facebook’s pacing algorithm can take some time to calibrate itself in the beginning – not ideal if you want your campaign to start with a bang. In this case, you may want to enable Accelerated Delivery, which disables the pacing algorithm altogether and enters you into as many auctions as possible. Be careful, though: while this improves delivery and helps in gathering data, it can drive up costs and spend your entire budget before the campaign is over.

You should always have a plan for monitoring results and acting appropriately in various scenarios. Luckily, has you covered there - read on for ideas on how to leverage our bespoke automation features in flash sales.


Automatic Optimization in

Automatically Adjust Bids and Budgets with Custom Triggers

If your Cost-Per-Acquisition is well under your goal figure, you can most likely afford to bid even higher. This can be done automatically based on conditions you define, e.g. a optimization trigger like:

Check every 3 hours

IF Number of Purchases > 100

AND CPA: Purchase < $10.00

THEN increase Bid by 10%

If your results are good and you're not using Accelerated Delivery, remember that due to Facebook's pacing, increasing your budget effectively increases your bid. On the other hand, if results are good and you are using Accelerated Delivery, you may still want to increase the budget to ensure that it doesn't run out before the end of the sale. Your increase should be at least 10% of the budget – otherwise the effect will be too small, and you risk running into errors.

Automatically Enable and Disable Accelerated Delivery

As discussed earlier, Accelerated Delivery can be dangerous if you don’t keep an eye on it. If you want to maximise impressions early on, go for it, but you may want to have a trigger in place to disable it after a couple of hours, e.g.:

Check every hour

IF Time since start (hours) > 2

THEN Set Accelerated Delivery = Off

Or maybe you only want to disable Accelerated Delivery if your ad set is spending too aggressively. In that case you can set up some triggers that checks the spend relative to the time elapsed before turning off the feature, e.g.:

Check every hour

IF Time since start (hours) < 3

AND Spent > $500.00

THEN Set Accelerated Delivery = Off


Check every hour

IF Time since start (hours) < 6

AND Spent > $1000.00

THEN Set Accelerated Delivery = Off

If you don’t necessarily need to kick-start the campaign, but you do need to spend your entire budget before it’s over, then you may want to wait and see before enabling Accelerated Delivery, e.g.:

Check every 3 hours

IF Spent < $100.00

AND Time since start (hours) > 6

THEN Set Accelerated Delivery = On

Kill Underperforming Ads

Smartly’s Stop-loss function helps you automatically pause underperforming ads to ensure your flash campaign isn’t hindered by ineffective ads. You probably want to keep at least one ad active, however, to ensure that delivery doesn’t stop altogether.

Grow Your Audience With Lookalike Expansion

With Lookalike Expansion you can expand the audience of your campaign to include new people who have high potential to convert. This feature creates a lookalike audience based on people who have converted in any of the campaign ad sets and adds a new ad set to the campaign targeting the created lookalike audience. You can even create these new ad sets with a trigger, e.g.:

Check every 3 hours

IF Number of Purchases > 100

AND CPA: Purchase < $10.00

THEN Create Lookalike Expansion

Note that if your campaign is extremely short-lived, this feature may not be optimal as lookalike audiences can take some time to populate after being created. In that case, what you can do instead is to use lookalike audiences created from previous flash sale campaigns’ converters.


Streamline your workflow with a feed-based approach

Flash sale campaigns can take a long time to set up in comparison to the time they run. With a little bit of planning, a feed-based approach can save you a lot of manual work and even help to take your creative game to the next level.

Manage All Flash Sales From a Feed

If you're promoting multiple flash sales, you may be better off with one Automated Ads campaign that archives ads for specific deals once they've ended. Time-based filtering in Automated Ads is great for this. Managing flash sales from your product feed is a great time saver as you won’t spend time setting up individual campaigns manually.

Scale Your Creatives With Dynamic Image Templates

Another advantage to using a product feed in your flash sale campaigns is that with Dynamic Image Templates you can build beautiful creatives at scale, including all relevant visual elements like discount codes or percentages. With the right dynamic layers you can really encourage users to act fast – see for instance this case study with Hawkers.

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Julianna Alanne

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