If you’re still on the fence about social media advertising, we’ll get it.
Research shows that one of the primary goals for marketers is to increase brand awareness, which is why more and more brands are achieving this with a paid social presence.
That’s because social media has become the go-to place for consumers to research and buy products.
With the controls and creative options available to businesses today, your campaigns are more likely to get a higher return on your investment.
However, there are tons of variables that go into any given social media advertising campaign. The process is often overwhelming for beginners.
That’s why we’ve put together this introduction to how social media advertising works and broken down, step-by-step, what you need to run a successful campaign.
Why run paid social media ads at all?
Hey, very fair question.
Arguably the biggest advantage of organic social media is that it’s free.
However, there are a few main reasons why paid social ads have become so popular over the past few years.
Organic reach is decreasing for many brands
Listen: we are not saying that organic reach is “dead”.
However, we admit that social media algorithms can be volatile. Many third-party studies confirm that organic reach is (largely) decreasing.
There’s no guarantee who will see your unpaid posts: while some of your content gets a lot of engagement, other posts may feel completely hidden.
In contrast, social ads essentially ensure that you get impressions. If you want to get more exposure to your company’s content without worrying about algorithms or limited reach, ads can do the trick.
You can target specific audiences with social ads
Arguably one of the greatest advantages of social ads is that they don’t “spray and pray”.
For example, with Facebook’s advertising platform, you can define in great detail who your ads will be delivered to.
Would you like to run ads only to Chicago graduate millennial women who are interested in beauty influencers and who are following Ulta’s Facebook page? Do it.
This is in stark contrast to display ads or even email, where ads are traditionally more than one size fits all.
Ads make it easy to scale your organic presence
Growing your social presence organically can be a tedious, long-term process.
The good news is that ads can speed up that process.
Think about how social media advertising can complement your unpaid efforts instead of viewing paid and organic products as “either / or”. If you’re already creating content and maintaining an ad-free community, a targeted campaign can serve as a shot in the arm to help you grow faster.
How does advertising work on social media?
Social ads require careful planning. Even the smallest details can affect the performance and reach of your campaign.
In addition to putting together the ads themselves, it’s important to understand how ads targeting and serving work.
With the Facebook (and Instagram) advertising platform, for example, you can target specific users based on parameters such as age, demographics and interests. You can also target audiences using your company’s email list, or run campaigns only for people who have already visited your website.
The most important thing is that you really, really need to know your audience. Before starting a campaign, consider a social media audit to assess your chances of finding demographics and what products to promote.
Another crucial aspect of social ads is bidding. Based on your bids and budget, Facebook is more likely to deliver your ads to the most relevant users.
You can also set your ad budget to a daily or lifetime limit. Essentially, you can let Facebook take the reins of your campaigns – but doing so can quickly break your budget.
Figuring out your ad budget is an ongoing process of refining and optimizing your ROI compared to ad costs. We recommend running smaller test campaigns before running the risk of overspending.
How is social media advertising different from organic content?
A well-designed social ad might look just like an unpaid post. The most notable difference is the subtle “Sponsored” label.
In short, paid posts should ideally tick the following boxes:
- The focus is on a certain product, service or advertisement
- Add some type of call-to-action (“try our demo”, “shop now”).
- Take you to a social media landing page associated with the above action
What are some sample social media ad campaign goals?
While the seemingly obvious goal of an advertising campaign is to “make money,” social media advertising is not all about dollars and cents.
This is because social media goals differ from company to company.
For example, let’s say you’re more concerned about impressions and traffic than you are about actual purchases. On the other hand, you might want your social ads to turn into leads that couldn’t be converted in the field.
Thanks to social media ads, you can optimize your campaigns for all of the above.
Now let’s look at some examples of social ads in Actions that address some of these goals.
Increase in brand awareness
Whether you’re introducing someone to your business or targeting people who are already familiar with you, social ads are a great way to reach relevant customers.
For example, this Google ad ran outside of social media almost immediately after researching G-Suite. Such advertisements serve as a kind of nudge to customers to reinforce how you can meet their needs.
Lead generation (or increase in website traffic)
Looking for traffic, email signups, or demo downloads? Ads like this one from Asana are a great example of how you can direct social traffic to a landing page to do just that.
If your focus is on selling products and services, there are numerous ways you can do it through social ads.
From time-sensitive offers to the introduction of new collections to previous customers, brands don’t have to be shy about presenting products directly.
What are some sample social media advertising formats?
You may have seen your fair share of ads in your spare time, but you may not be familiar with the specifics of the social media ad formats available.
Below are some popular formats that are fair game for pretty much any business or industry.
Static image ads
While social ad targeting can definitely be complex, the motivations behind it don’t always have to be.
For example, simple photo ads are fair game to showcase products, highlight promotions, and make announcements.
Video content is well documented as the most popular and engaging on social media. The same goes for ads (especially Instagram videos).
The advantage of video ads is that they naturally grab viewers’ attention as they scroll through their feeds. The fact that video ads prefer short-form content means they can be accessed regardless of your budget. Here’s how you can create:
- Bite-sized commercials
- Product demos from practice
- Looping images and slide shows
Carousel (or collection) ads
Tap-friendly carousel displays are perfect for showcasing product collections. Here you can present several products or several perspectives of the same product.
Another great benefit of these ads is that they are inherently interactive and allow viewers to click and explore. This is a subtle example of how social media advertising encourages people to engage with your brand.
Instagram Stories Ads
The sheer popularity of Instagram Stories speaks for itself. The main benefit of Stories ads is that they naturally integrate with viewers’ Stories feeds. This means that they don’t “interrupt” their experience while exploring stories.
How do you optimize your social media advertising strategy?
To get the most out of social ads, you need to experiment (and maybe try and try).
Don’t assume your first campaign will knock them out of the park. The fine-tuning of your budget, your time planning and your advertising motifs is a matter of course.
For example, think of your ad materials that are already working for other paid campaigns like email or SEO. Creative testing can give you a better idea of which calls-to-action or images are best for your social ads.
Of course, it’s important to understand what types of content and non-promotional posts are already working organically. Tools like Sprout Social can help you quickly improve your top performing content and use it as the basis for a social media advertising campaign:
And as always, by browsing your social media analytics, you can see how your Paid Performance is compared to your organic posts.
Having a momentum on your data is critical to figuring out what works, what doesn’t, and which campaigns are worth continuing.
Is Paid Social Media Advertising On Your Radar?
However, social media advertising campaigns are now becoming more of a “when” than an “if” issue for brands.
Since organic reach is harder to reach and social competition increases, paid ads are often the best way to ensure you’re reaching your audience.
With this primer, hopefully, you’ll have a better idea of what’s possible with paid campaigns and you can start brainstorming your own.
For a hands-on look at how digging deeper into your social data can help improve your paid campaigns, sign up for a free Sprout Social trial and try out all of our paid social features.