TikTok Ads vs. Facebook Ads – $50,000 Experiment

tiktok ads vs. facebook ads

In the battle of TikTok Ads vs. Facebook Ads, we’ll also be comparing Instagram Ads, which are run through the Facebook Ads Manager platform.

Table of Contents

  1. Key Takeaways
  2. What is TikTok?
  3. Why advertise on TikTok?
  4. Split test methodology used
  5. Results
  6. Ideas for optimization – TikTok
  7. Ideas for optimization – Facebook
  8. Major differences – TikTok vs. Facebook
  9. Final thoughts

Key Takeaways

  • TikTok and Facebook (Instagram) are great for targeting younger audiences
  • The costs are generally lower on TikTok
  • Facebook and Instagram offer more options – TikTok is still very new
  • TikTok doesn’t have proper conversion tracking yet so optimize for clicks and views
  • 99% of the TikTok ads ran on iOS
  • TikTok has a lot of new creative options
tiktok ads vs fb ads inforgraphic

What is TikTok?

Formerly Musical.ly, before being purchased by ByteDance in 2018 and rebranded as TikTok. Since then, TikTok has had exponential growth and recently reached over 2 billion downloads in April 2020.

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Why advertise on TikTok?

  • Lower costs.  Possibly due to it being so new, the costs of advertising on TikTok are a lot cheaper than on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Gen Z audience. If you’re looking to reach the gen-Z audience, there’s no better place than TikTok. Its reach is highest among females aged 18-24.
  • New creative opportunities. The main difference between TikTok and other advertising platforms lies in its creativity.

Split test methodology used

Just recently, TikTok announced the launch of TikTok Biddable ads on its self-serve advertising platform.

This gives brands and TikTok ad agencies the ability to reach new audiences and expand the scope of their digital marketing efforts to a whole new level through this fast-growing social network.

In addition to TikTok Biddable Ads, which most marketers are familiar with, they also have Brand Takeovers, Hashtag Challenges, Brand Filters, and more. Focusing on TikTok’s Biddable Ads today, the campaigns come with 5 campaign objectives:

TikTok campaign objectives

Our campaign objective for both platforms was traffic.

TikTok doesn’t currently offer conversion tracking (June 2020). This was okay for us since we were driving traffic to a retailer and couldn’t track conversions anyway.

We focused on the following three KPIs:

  • Cost per click (CPC)
  • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Cost per 1000 impressions (CPM)

TikTok, Facebook & Instagram Targeting Options

The TikTok ad manager platform and targeting options are very similar to that of Facebook’s.

They both offer interest targeting and lookalike audiences if you’ve set up the TikTok pixel. We tested both, as well as broad audiences only defined by age and/or gender. Since TikTok doesn’t have a desktop version, all ads on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok ran on mobile only.

All ads used the same creative, a mobile-friendly video about 15-seconds in length with sound.

Campaign 1: Interest Targeting


For the interest targeting campaign, we targeted people between the ages of 18 and 34 who are interested in health & wellness, since we are advertising health & wellness products.

Campaign 2: Lookalike Audiences

Screen Shot 2020 07 03 at 7.25.49 PM

TikTok offers three different lookalike audience options – narrow, balanced, and broad. We tested all three against Facebook’s 1%, 1%-3%, and 1%-10% respectively.

We built lookalike audiences based on our ad engagement. Anyone who clicked the ad within the last 30 days was added to our base audience.

You can also build your lookalike audience off of your website engagement if you install the TikTok pixel. Since we were driving traffic to retailer websites, we weren’t able to install the pixel on the landing pages.

Campaign 3: Broad Audiences

Screen Shot 2020 07 03 at 7.27.32 PM

For the last split test, I tested a broad audience with no interest targeting and no lookalike audiences. Men and women who live in the United States and are between the ages of 18 and 34.

This should be the most accurate test since there are no audience restraints on either platform.

TikTok Ads vs. Facebook Ads – The Results

tiktok ads vs. instagram ads

With the exception of CTR, the TikTok ads performed better than the Facebook and Instagram ads in all three campaigns for all of our KPIs – CPC and CPM.

Screen Shot 2020 07 03 at 6.24.08 PM

When comparing impressions, TikTok is the clear winner. With over 11 million impressions, the TikTok ads generated 235% more impressions and spent $11,000 less than the Facebook and Instagram ads.


Clicks follow a similar pattern. The TikTok ads generated 155% more clicks while spending 36% less money.

The CTR is the only category where Facebook outperforms TikTok, and much of it can be attributed to a much smaller audience. All of the ads were running within the United States only.

Facebook & Instagram4,700,59768,7091.46%$0.46$6.73$31,615.51

Top Performing Ads For TikTok

The TikTok ads performed much better with a female audience than with a male audience. Regardless of the creative, it performed better with an all-female audience versus an all-male audience or an audience composed of all genders.

The best performing creative featured a male in the video and was targeted to a female-only audience between the ages of 18 and 34.

It had a CPC of $0.12, CPM of $1.95, and a CTR of 1.07%, while the next best-performing ad had a CPC of $0.14.

The best performing campaign generated 17,403 clicks with a $0.15 CPC and 1,493,437 impressions with a $1.75 CPM.

Top Performing Ads For Instagram and Facebook

When comparing the TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram ads, there were some significant differences between the top-performing ads.

Even though the cost per conversion wasn’t one of our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – since it can’t be tracked on TikTok currently – we did look at it when analyzing the results.

The best-performing ad group had a CPC of $0.39, CPM of $2.53, and a CTR of 0.65%.

Ideas for Optimizing TikTok Advertising Campaigns

After running this test, we came up with a few new ways in which we can optimize our TikTok advertising campaigns.

Here are a few of them:

  • Use Automated Creative Optimization to maximize your potential of finding the best-performing combination of headline and image;
  • Run reports to see which interests and categories your ads are performing best in and then split tests ads to these different interests;
  • Create creative that is specific to TikTok. TikTok is a very unique platform and your creative from Instagram doesn’t always work well on TikTok. Spend time getting familiar with the platform and what type of creative works well;
  • Put your bid price higher than you intend to pay for a click and then gradually decrease it as the ad runs.
  • Change the creative every 2-3 weeks;
  • Take advantage of lookalike audiences.

Ideas for Optimizing Instagram Advertising Campaigns

  • Run your own split tests rather than using the built-in A/B testing capabilities that Facebook offers.
  • Create media that fits the specific video aspect ratio for that platform. For Instagram and TikTok, these ads are only running on mobile devices so they should have the correct aspect ratio. Video on Facebook should have subtitles while videos on TikTok require sound.
  • Pay attention to ad frequency and update the campaign when you think your audience is reaching ad fatigue.

Major Differences Between TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook

Major DifferencesTikTokFacebookInstagram
Monthly Active Users (millions)8002,5001,000
Conversion trackingNoYesYes
More creative optionsYesNoNo
Desktop adsNoYesNo

Final Thoughts

TikTok ads may be so cheap because the platform is so new and they’re working on growing their clientele before raising prices.

If you base your decision solely on the chart above, TikTok clearly doesn’t offer the same capabilities that Facebook and do…YET.

On the other hand, if you base it off of the KPIs, TikTok is the clear winner if conversion tracking isn’t a deal-breaker for you.

At the end of the TikTok Ads vs. Facebook Ads battle, I recommend you test TikTok ads and see how they perform for your brand if you haven’t already.

Next, learn how to scale TikTok campaigns.