Essential guide | Social media advertising
Bad news. Getting your content noticed is harder and harder. Search engine ranking factors. Social media algorithms. Not to mention the constant stream of new content. They’re conspiring against us. Hey! I’ve got the solution… social media advertising. Put down some cash and get those paid SMA ads live...
8 of the best digital marketing freebies. Essential for social media advertising and management, reporting, content writing, competitor analysis, and more.
Social media advertising advantages
We all know the answer to this. Organic reach has gone down the pan, for most of the big networks.
Don’t we all wish for the days when we could post on social, and all our followers would see it? So simple. Now we need to target our audience. Engage. Build customer journeys. Act like humans!
But, it’s not just the social media platforms that have changed. Humans have too. We’re bombarded every day with online content. Our attention span is diminished. We’re blind to brand speak. We scroll and scroll and scroll.
That’s where paid social media advertising has come into its own, as a way more reliable way to increase leads and sales with content.
Example of social media advertising - Talkwalker promoted ad
Free crisis management templates.
Don’t jump into SMA without a plan. You’ve got to understand how it works, for each platform. Leap in blindly, and it’ll be your cash going down the pan.
Proven to turn leads into customers, social media adverts have to be part of your content marketing strategy...
- Create content and share on social media
- Promote your most engaging content on social media
- Filter your audience by behavior and demographics
- Remarket to your audience with ads - display, social, search
- Convert into customers
Table of contents
- Social media advertising definition
- Benefits of social media advertising
- Key elements of social media advertising
- Top 5 social media advertising platforms
- Your social media advertising strategy in 6 steps
- Social media advertising best practices
Paid social media marketing is a form of digital advertising that shares paid ads to your target audience, on social media platforms - Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest…
Social media advertising - SMA - is a way to target your audience with relevant content. You can place them on all or specific networks. Targeting with demographics, location, language, interests, age, gender, job role, education, etc.
Ignore targeting, and you’re forcing random content down the throats of random people. You’ll be lucky to get any wins with this kind of strategy. Plus, you’ll waste a ton of money.
Looking to build a social media advertising strategy?
If you'd like to learn more about paid advertising on social media, check out my Extensive Guide to SEO and PPC.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the benefits of paid social media advertising. The obvious benefits of SMA are increasing brand awareness, audience engagement, and driving more conversions.
The reason SMA works so well, is because you can target your audience precisely. Their interests, jobs, location, etc.
And still, there are more benefits…
Target your customers
You don’t have to spend big bucks on your paid social campaigns. Upsell your social ads to segments of your audience. Your buyers. They’re already engaged with your brand. Encourage them to spend more.
No more guesswork!
You have more control
Place a billboard on the side of the road, and you can’t predict or force who sees it. Traditional advertising limits your control. Going the SMA route means you can play around with your budget, target segments of your audience, optimize your content and imagery, and more.
Jazz up your ads
Social media advertising is changing every day. Improvements to targeting, positioning, costs, and ad layouts. You can use Canvas Ads - renamed Instant Experience - lead generation ads, carousel ads, etc. This flexibility means you can experiment and test, to find what works for your brand and your audience.
Increase your conversion rate
Obvs, we’re all looking to boost our conversion rates. Paid ads that explain to users the landing page behind the link, is proven to increase click-through and conversion rates.
Why wouldn’t you give it a go?
To win with SMA, it’s vital that you consider the following elements, when creating your paid social ads…
Determine your campaign strategy
Your SMA strategy will include…
- Campaign name
- Brainstorm ideas
- Goals and objectives, and how you’ll meet them
- Campaign hashtags
What do you want to achieve with your paid advertising campaign? What are your objectives?
They could include…
- Increase social media followers
- Boost brand awareness
- Increase visitors to website
- Increase in store visitors
- Drive sales of products and services
You’ll be asked to present your SMA results, so choosing your goals and objectives is important. It means that you’ll be able to measure results and calculate the ROI.
Check out my guide - 20 Social Media Metrics that Matter. Crucial to your business, you'll learn how to track them, and the tools for measuring results.
Choose your target audience
You’re gonna need a social media analytics tool for this. You have to dig deep into your social media accounts and pull out the data that explains the breakdown of your audience. The demographics. What kind of content they’re engaging with.
Social insights revealing audience preferences on Facebook and Twitter.
Create campaigns for each platform, depending on the audience segment you’re trying to reach.
Campaign content and visual
This is your paid ad copy. Your messaging. And your visuals - illustrations, photos, videos, GIFs. You’ll choose these according to the social platform you’re promoting from, and the creatives that each audience favors.
Includes your social media messaging checklist.
Find your voice and cut through the noise.
For example, Instagram is an image based social platform, so make it pretty. Facebook doesn’t like images with too much text, so keep it short.
Don’t assume that you can use one visual across all your social media accounts. Customize. Test. Optimize.
Which social media platforms?
For this guide, I’ll stick with the biggies - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat. Choose which social platforms, according to your brand, your audience, your campaign. If you sell to teens, jump on Snapchat. If you’re B2B, head on over to LinkedIn.
Once you’ve chosen your platform(s), you can determine the ad formats, campaign budget and messaging to build the best social media advertising strategy.
Set your ad campaign budget
To determine your paid ad budget, you’ll need to know your goals and objectives. If you’re looking to generate a certain number of leads, you’ll need to find out the cost per lead - CPL - on the specific social platform. For example, let’s say that on LinkedIn, CPL is $20. To generate 40 leads, your ad spend will be $800.
I’m going to talk about the social media platforms that you can use in your SMA strategy. I’ll keep it to the top five, otherwise you’re gonna get awful bored.
In no particular order…
Facebook advertising strategy
Facebook’s organic reach plummeted - due to algorithm updates - when the platform announced that it would reduce presenting branded content to users. Meaning that the likes of you and me, only see content that’s relevant to us.
But, Facebook triumphs when it comes to ROI for paid social ads. It has the largest user-base of any social media platform, and it’s the most engaged. It also has detailed and easy to use ad targeting. An essential for successful social media advertising.
SMA example - Facebook sponsored ad, with CTA Sign Up button.
Let’s look at Facebook advertising best practices...
Define your target audience
Facebook’s audience targeting lets you choose specific people. Those that are potentially, going to buy your product.
Build your audience
Use parameters that include…
- Demographics - relationship status, education level, job role, financial bracket
- Age - segment your audience according to generation - Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z
- Interests - identify users Facebook activity and likes, so you can target precisely
- Location - target local cities, regions, countries
Facebook - Build custom audiences for your paid media promotions.
Remarketing ads target audience members who’ve previously connected with your brand. They could be a former customer, current customer who’s going off the boil, or someone who engaged with your page and/or visited your website.
You have a client base that’s buying your product. You want more of the same. Lookalike audiences are just that. Prospects that are similar to your existing customers.
Go find those lookie likies!
Make your paid ads pretty
With so much content on social media, your ads need to stand out. Or be ignored.
Nothing worse than a scroll-past.
Don’t be boring. Entertain. Make consumers stop in their tracks. Make them think. Laugh. Question. Use written content that resonates, exciting images, intriguing videos.
Globally, videos will make up 80% of all online traffic by 2021. Facebook’s on it, encouraging marketers to get on board. Listen!
Call to action
Your goal is to get as many clicks as possible. You’re gonna need some mighty powerful CTAs…
- Help me!
- Learn more!
- Like the ad
- Love this brand
- I want to buy
The Facebook ad types you can choose, include…
- Engagement posts - drive brand awareness with boosted posts to earn more likes, comments, and shares.
- Page likes - post image and video ads to increase likes on your page and increase your followers.
- Collection - include a primary image/video, with four secondary images in a grid. After clicking, users are directed to a product page.
- Carousel - feature up to 10 images or videos in an ad, with each image/video having a different link.
- Slideshow - create a slideshow video from a set of photos. Add motion, text, and sound.
- Instant Experience - was Canvas Ads, Instant Experience ads are interactive, mobile-exclusive ads that can hold 20 images/videos, for up to 2 minutes.
- Lead generation - collect information from users who are interested in brand offerings. Available on Facebook and Instagram, can host the image, video, and carousel formats.
- Offers - offer discounts to customers using image, video, collection, and carousel ads.
- Event responses - drive awareness and boost RSVPs to events posts, using image and video ads.
Instagram advertising strategy
Instagram boasts a potential advertising reach of about 1.08 billion.
What are you waiting for?
Instagram jumped on social media advertising when Facebook bought the platform in 2013. Initially for select brands, it’s now open to all businesses.
Managed in Facebook’s Ad Manager, it offers precise targeting, and the ability to create ads for both social media platforms, simultaneously. Add Instagram Shopping to the mix, and increasing conversion rates is a cinch.
Here are some Instagram paid social best practices…
Choose your ad objectives
You should consider targeting consumers across their buyer journey…
- Awareness - frequency, reach, brand awareness, local awareness
- Consideration - website clicks, reach, frequency, video views
- Conversion - site conversions, app installs, ap engagement, dynamic ads
The ads types you can choose, include…
- Brand awareness - reach users who will engage with your ad and increase awareness of your business, products, services.
- Lead generation - identify consumers interested in finding out more about your brand.
- Conversions - for direct sales, e.g., adding payment details, buying.
- Traffic - to get consumers to visit your website, landing page, app.
- Engagement - encourage consumers to like, comment, share your ad.
- Reach - to push your ads to the largest audience possible.
- Video views - play in consumers’ feeds to demo new products, behind the scenes, influencer unboxings.
- App installs - point consumers to your app store for download or purchase.
- Messages - encourage consumers to interact with your brand, collect product feedback, provide support, purchase your product or service.
- Catalog sales - presenting the products in your catalog.
- Store traffic - encourage more store visits, if you have multiple business locations.
Target your audience
You can - as with Facebook - create custom and lookalike audiences. Audience categories include…
- Behavior characteristics
Choose your ad format
You can run your Instagram ads in news feeds and the Explore tab. There are currently five formats available, but with the platform evolving every day, look out for more…
- Photo ads - drive actions like engagement, clicks, conversions
- Stories ads - use images or videos to create ads in Instagram Stories, and push consumers to a landing page
- Carousel ads - show multiple images or videos in a single ad
- Video ads - play 60 second videos, in square or landscape format
Twitter advertising strategy
Twitter has a potential advertising reach of about 326M.
Big enough for you?
While Twitter works it’s paid ad magic for many brands, you can’t use the spray and pray method. You need a comprehensive social media advertising strategy, to get the big wins and avoid wasting money.
Twitter social media advertising works because, if we choose to - as consumers - we can scroll on past them. They don’t upset the flow of our feeds.
You’d think that was a bad thing, no?
Not at all. Twitter says that 41% of users purchase products after seeing an ad within 30 days.
Twitter ads offer value for money - decide who to target and how much money you’re looking to spend.
Twitter promoted ad formats
You’ve got three to choose from…
- Promoted tweets - Your goal is to drive clicks. These in turn, will increase followers and leads. Promoted tweets push your content in front of your target audience.
Experiment with different formats - photos, graphics, videos, GIFS - to find what works for your audience.
Social media advertising example of a promoted tweet.
- Promoted accounts - Promoted accounts put your brand in the face of your audience, in the Who to Follow section. Great for increasing your followers. Looking for prospects? This is the way to go. Plus, it doesn't interrupt users scrolling through their feed.
Twitter - Who to follow, for promoted accounts.
- Promoted trends - Your brand can’t be ignored if it appears on the top of your audience’s trending topics. Include your branded hashtag, to get more clicks and followers, when you’re promoting an event, announcement, or promo offer.
8 of the best digital marketing freebies. Essential for social media advertising, reporting, content writing, competitor analysis, and more.
LinkedIn advertising strategy
71% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn as part of their advertising strategy.
Using the LinkedIn Campaign Manager...
Set your ad objective
Decide what you’re looking to achieve...
- Awareness - more consumers aware of your brand
- Consideration website visits, video views, engagement
- Conversions - leads, site conversions, job applicants
Target the right users
LinkedIn is a business social media platform. This means - unlike Twitter, Facebook, Instagram - targeting options are more professional-oriented…
- Organization size
- Job role
Choose multiple options, to define your targeting more precisely, and exclude audiences that aren’t relevant to your campaign or brand.
Choose your LinkedIn ad format
Your choice of ad will depend on your target audience. Test different types, to see what works. While some LinkedIn users regularly check their inbox, others may simply scroll through their feed. You have several ad formats to choose from, along with placements
Message ads are sent directly to your target’s inbox. Personalized, they perform will when targeting a niche audience, not in your network. Premium users are able to send 5 to 30 InMail per month.
These look like a regular post, but they include a CTA button - learn more - and feature a promoted label. They appear in users’ news feed, on desktop and mobile. You’ve three types to choose from - a single image, video, carousel.
Social media advertising - Sponsored content, with 'Download' CTA.
Pay per click text ads show up on the right side of your screen. They include the user's profile pic - yikes - an image, headline, blurb, and CTA. While they’re less in your face than sponsored content, they still work well.
Social media advertising - LinkedIn paid text ad - Read The Guide CTA.
Similar to a text ad, but personalized. They include the user’s name and include a profile photo. You may have seen them in the format of company spotlights, follower ads, job ads, content ads.
Snapchat advertising strategy
If you’re heading over to Snapchat to sell your wares, you know your customer base. The younger generation are all over Snapchat, and if you’re selling products that cater a younger demographic, get your paid ads on Snapchat.
You know your demographic if you’re heading to Snapchat. But what about the basics of creating and scheduling.
Taco Bell doesn’t play favorites when it comes to choosing a social media platform for its ads. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat.
— Taco Bell (@tacobell) May 5, 2016
Snapchat and Twitter, where followers can use AR and become… a taco.
Snapchat - popular amongst Millennials and Gen Z - supports the following ad objectives…
- Awareness - branding
- Consideration - website traffic, app installs, app traffic, engagement, video views, lead generation
- Conversion - website and app conversions, catalog sales
Snapchat ad types
This is a social media platform that’s still evolving, so stay tuned…
These are the most common, appearing in stories. It’s a snap without attachments - web view, long-form video - that links to your website, and can autofill with user name, email, etc. You can also engage app users, linking to your app page.
Similar to those on Facebook and Instagram. The ad includes four thumbnails, with one link per image.
Geofilters and Audience Filters - advertising events and location-specific stores - add an overlay of a sticker to an image or video.
Story ads are exclusive to Discover feed. You can buy a Discover tile that includes 3 to 10 snaps. Users can swipe up to see more of your content - products, videos, app installs.
Six-seconds, non-skippable videos. Appearing in Snapchat’s premium content.
Facial recognition tech - by request, only - used mostly by larger brands.
It’s a bit pricey.
Here’s how to build the best social media advertising strategy...
1 Choose your campaign objectives
What’s the goal of your social media advertising strategy?
Gosh, you’ll waste a heck of a lot of time and money, if you don’t have a plan.
Prioritize your goals. Here’s some inspiration…
Make your brand more visible online, and you’ll increase brand recognition, loyalty, and conversions. Your reach and impressions will grow, which will lead to boosted brand awareness.
If you’re looking for more eyeballs on your content - blogs posts, landing pages, product pages - you need more traffic to your site. Your traffic goal will increase the number of unique visitors to your site, and the number of pageviews,
Measure consumer engagement - likes, shares, comments, retweets - to find out what content is working and what isn’t.
Paid social media advertising is a given for lead gen. Push your gated content, subscriptions, demos, etc.
Launching a new product? Test types of paid ads on social, to identify consumer interest in your product, and offer promos to increase sales.
2 Choose your social media platforms
Goals sorted. Now you need to decide which social media platform(s) you’ll run your paid ad campaign on.
Ask yourself the following questions…
- Where is my target audience - which channels?
- Is the demographic of the channel the same as my brand?
B2B advertising to finserv, probs won’t work on Snapchat.
- Does the channel currently work for my brand - organically?
- Which channels are my competitors using?
- Do my chosen ad formats work on this channel?
3 Choose your target audience
This is going to need a lot of testing. You’re going to be targeting new consumers, who probably haven’t heard of you before. You need to choose the most relevant target audience, and share content that resonates.
Use targeting to build a custom audience. Filter by interests and user likes. Fine tune by purchasing behavior. You’ll find consumers who are engaging with brands similar to yours, and you’ll find new customers.
Don’t forget to check out the demographics of your targeted audience. Similar to your existing customer base? Your loyal customer base, happy to spend money on your products?
Talkwalker Analytics - audience demographiics.
Save your audience
Great feature on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. You can save your audience, and update your targeting settings.
For example… you’re looking to target marketing experts in the US. Save that audience. After testing, you realize that you need to fine-tune. Filter by industry - marketing experts in the automotive sector - and you’ll have your niche audience.
Save, and hit them with some ads!
4 Choose the content you want to promote
What content do you want to push in your ads?
While you want your ads to stand out. Be seen. You don’t want to disrupt users’ social media time. Sneak into consumers’ feeds, pages, on their walls, and timelines, with what looks like organic content. Irritate users, and they’ll turn your ads off. Scroll past in a huff.
Consumers recognize spam. Don’t be a pest.
Try for slow burners. Make them laugh, think, question. So, they might not react immediately, but chances are, they’ll be back.
Suspicious of old-school advertising, consumers are using ad blockers to disappear banners, ads, and pop-ups, with 47% of consumers blocking intrusive ads. Aim for…
- Less hard-sell, more sharing - share real value, not brand pitches
- Make it pretty - you’ll need to stand out from the mass of content that’s flooding online
- Be mobile responsive - smartphones, smartphones, smartphones
Create a funnel for users coming from ads
Prospects arriving via paid ads, need a purchasing funnel to journey through, to buying your products.
Purchasing funnel - for users coming from ads
- Awareness- volume, exposure, reach, amplification – how is your content spreading? Attract users who don’t know your brand, or have shown an interest.
- Knowledge - I’ve heard about your brand, I know a bit about your product.
- Interest - Ooh, tell me more - this is it, folks, they’re considering. Find out whether they’re a former customer. A possible sale. New to your business. Retarget each separately, and differently. To avoid spammy, repetitive content.
- Preferences - Okaaaay, I’m thinking of buying from you, rather than your competitor.
- Action - Look out, I’m nearly ready to spend! Do not scare them away! Ads must be designed to give a little shove in the right direction. Once they’ve handed over the cash, STOP pushing hard-sell content.
5 Optimize your bidding strategy
Your bidding strategy is how your cash will be used to display your paid ads. How you define your bid strategy, depends on the platform you choose, your paid ad, your goals, and your budget. Here’s the basics.
Here are the bidding options that most ad platforms offer…
- CPM - cost per thousand impressions - mille = thousand views
- CPL - cost per lead
- CPC - cost per click
- CPV - cost per view
- CPA - cost per acquisition
- Maximize conversions
- Target impression share
The success of your paid social media advertising depends on…
- The platform(s) you use
- Your keyword research
- Budget and bid amount
- Your demographic targeting
- Quality of your ad
- Your industry
- State of your market
Each online advertising platform has its own way of bidding, but if you stick with social media platforms - Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter - it’s relatively simple.
- Avoid overpaying, or reducing your audience with low bids.
- Ensure that your bidding strategy is competitive.
- Watch what your competitors are bidding on.
- Don’t limit your budget, as you’ll limit your impressions.
6 Refresh and test your ads
Test. Test. Test.
As with any content, it’s essential that you refresh and update. If it’s not working, out of date, boring. Improve it. Whatever you do, don’t leave paid ads live that are flopping.
Such a waste of money.
Here’s some tips on refreshing your ads…
- Imagery - video, illustration, GIF, photo - test what works, refresh what’s stale.
- Ad copy - are you talking the same language as your target audience? Are they listening? Make sure it’s engaging and has a powerful CTA.
- Landing page - does the content work? Is it converting? Do A/B tests to find the best message.
Keep these SMA best practices handy, optimize your social media ad campaigns…
Improve your quality score
Quality Score is how Google rates the quality and relevance of your keywords and PPC ads.
A high quality score means you’ll get a higher ad impression share, for the same budget. But, the cost will be lower per engagement. To improve your Quality Score, you’ll need to increase your post engagement rates.
Check out my guide... understanding the difference between paid vs earned vs owned media, will help you capitalize on social media advertising.
The key to paid social media ads is to be picky. Cast a narrow net and maximize those engagement rates.
How do you increase post engagement rates?
Easy. Share your best content.
Check out tweet activity on Twitter to find the top tweets, and share like crazy…
Twitter Analytics, to find high performing content.
Tweet Activity on Twitter, to find social media advertising content.
Test with organic content
Before you lay down the cash for your ad campaign, test with your organic content. If it works there - with a similar target audience - you can feel fairly sure it will work for your paid ads.
Once your paid campaign is live, run A/B tests and tweak content to perfect it.
Fine-tune audience targeting
One of the reasons that paid social media advertising is a winner, is the fact that you can optimize audience targeting so specifically. Where they live. How much they earn. What content they engage with. Where they visit. What they buy…
The more you filter, the better the performance from your ads. Once the results start rolling in, you can look to increase your audience. Remember lookalike audiences?
Create the best looking paid ads
We scroll and scroll and scroll. And then we scroll some more. Did I see your ad? Did it jump out at me?
Your ad has to hit users between the eyes, so they stumble in their scrolling. Stop and go back. Click the CTA. Experiment with images, colors, video, GIFS, fonts. Write cracking headlines that make them curious to find out more.
Remarketing campaigns work
Even if I don’t scroll past your ad. Even if I see it and read it. There’s no guarantee that I’ll remember it after one viewing. Get in there and reintroduce yourself. I won’t mind, just so long as you’re offering me something that will make my life easier.
Social media advertising is a powerful way to drive engagement and conversions. Every day, ad platforms are developing new ways to target audiences.
With the majority of consumers using social media, brands can tailor content to the platform and the audience. Targeting our preferences, interests, likes, behavior, and more…
What’s not to like?!!
To help you create your social media advertising strategy, download these 8 essential marketing freebies...
- Definitive digital marketing guide eBook
- Marketing plan template
- Video marketing content strategy template
- Competitor analysis template
- Social media messaging checklist
- Social media reports examples
- Social media checklist
- Buyer persona template
Drive marketing initiatives. Maximize brand awareness. Increase your customer base. Rock social media. Nail video marketing. Triumph over your competitors.