What Is Paid Social Media Marketing?

social media

With over 10 years of history in the digital marketing space, most businesses of all sizes recognise the importance of a robust social media presence. One of the largest advantages of social media for many companies, particularly small operations with a limited budget for marketing, is the free nature of registration. However, taking the next steps into paid social media advertising often results in a little more hesitation.

While there are certainly benefits associated with a standard business profile, from an increased web presence to a platform that can help build a community with your current and prospective customers, investing in paid campaigns can provide a significant boost to your business – and you don’t have to spend a lot to get ahead. This is what you need to know to succeed in social media advertising.

What Is Paid Advertising?

Paid advertising is an alternative to organic marketing campaigns that relies on payment to achieve priority placement across social media pages.

If you’re a regular social media user, you’ve likely seen plenty of these posts on your feed. They generally appear in the form of posts by companies or brands you do not follow that are labeled “Promoted,” “Featured,” or “Sponsored.” Platforms like Facebook and Instagram don’t come up with these posts themselves; companies pay to place these featured advertisements on your page specifically.

The ads you see on your page likely aren’t the same ads your coworkers, your parents, or your partner are seeing. This facet of paid advertising is one of the most appealing benefits: businesses can target ads based on things like location, gender, age, and other page likes, honing in on those who best match buyer personas and target demographics. This provides more bang for your buck, ensuring only those who are most likely to try your brand will see your ads.

Paid advertising can achieve numerous goals, including growing your social media presence, driving more traffic to your site, and collecting leads, helping you attain the results that mean the most to your business.

Paid Advertising Platforms

Over the last several years, social media has grown exponentially. Gone are the days of MySpace dominating the industry; today, there are many popular options to consider, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat.

Despite the variety available in social media sites, Facebook is the largest market for paid advertising, with 92% of social marketers using the platform and 80% of marketers trusting results. It is also the largest social network with the longest legacy and the most opportunities to share content with the largest audience. However, this doesn’t mean that other platforms have no merit. Twitter has 126 million active daily users active daily users and 321 million monthly users, while Instagram boasts over 500 million.

In determining platforms, audience is among the best points of consideration. The demographics between social media sites can vary greatly, so who you want to target should depend on where you focus your attention. Facebook, for example, is most popular with those 18 to 39, while Instagram and Snapchat are most popular with those 13 to 29. LinkedIn is more popular among those with college degrees and Pinterest skews toward higher earners. While it’s hard to go wrong focusing on the biggest players, niche businesses may find success in a more specific approach to targeting.

Understanding Advertising Options

Ads are available on social media platforms in a few different forms. Some or all of them may apply to your business, but it’s best to be informed before investing in something as significant as an ad campaign. Facebook has the most opportunity based on its layout and content options, but variations across other platforms follow the same basic models.

Photo Ads

Photo ads are the most common form of sponsored ad, providing a way to include an image, up to 125 characters of text, and contact or shop banners that direct those who click to your predetermined landing page. These ads are ideal for showcasing new products or bestsellers.

Video Ads

Video ads are similar to photo ads but feature video instead of images. These videos can be short, lasting a few seconds, or up to 240 minutes based on your preferences. Video can be a great way of explaining products or services, featuring more in-depth product information, or tying a campaign in with an existing video spot. While long options are available, most advertisers see the greatest success with videos under 15 seconds.

Carousel Ads

Carousel ads provide the opportunity to show a collection of up to 10 videos or images. These ads are most beneficial when used to showcase a product collection, provide step-by-step instructions, or present a few different service packages or style options for a single item to maximise the amount of information available.

Slideshow Ads

Slideshow ads essentially combine photo and video ads to create a slideshow out of static images. This method allows users to attract the same kind of attention as a standard video ad without requiring the time or effort necessary to produce a short movie. Make sure all images have a theme, like the products in your bestselling collection or the destinations your travel agency covers.

Messenger Ads

Messenger ads are similar to standard photo ads but appear on the Facebook Messenger home screen as opposed to in a standard feed. This is a good way to encourage customers to reach out to you with questions and comments but is less effective in stimulating sales. To improve efficacy, consider targeting only those who have messaged you in the past.

Live Stories

An option on Instagram that spread to Facebook, this ad choice results in a photo or video clip that is available for 24 hours only for those who choose to view. Stories can be posted by your brand for free or targeted to an audience similar to any other ad. As live stories are short-lived, this is best for timely communications.

Social Media Marketing Objectives and Metrics

Social media ads are intended to help you meet several different campaign objectives, including awareness, consideration, conversion, and audience growth. Awareness refers to building reach and improving visibility, while consideration involves goals like increased website traffic, more email signups, a boost in app downloads, or any other form of lead generation. Conversion addresses the process of converting leads, like transforming advertising into sales, and audience growth is essentially what it sounds like: the ability to grow your audience and pick up more fans and followers.

How you track these kinds of goals will vary based on what exactly you have chosen to prioritize, but common metrics for social media advertising include:
Cost per action, like click-throughs or page likes
Number or percentage of conversions
Traffic activity
Click-through rate
Traffic sources
Mobile traffic
Cost to acquire a lead
Customer conversion ratio
Most social media pages offer dashboards to make these kinds of metrics easy to follow, even for those who do not have extensive experience in KPIs and analytics.

Creating Paid Advertising Campaigns

In crafting any campaign, free or paid, it’s important to start with the basics: what do you want to achieve? In general, these goals should align with what you are trying to accomplish with other areas to marketing, but may vary depending on how your business is choosing to structure tactics for growth or development. As you decide what you want to accomplish, keep these best practices in mind.

Know your audience. Who you want to shop from you and who actually spends money with you can vary, so be sure you’re being realistic.

Create measurable goals. Whether you want more followers or you want to boost click-through rates, know what you want and how you plan to evaluate success.

Choose content that resonates. Any old picture isn’t good enough to be an ad. Instead, focus on eye-catching images and videos that send a positive and interesting message.

Set a budget. Know how much you can spend, the best places to spend, and your desired return on investment.

Use organic posts as guidance. You likely already post on social media on your business pages, so use your organic top performers as a foundation. If no one likes your posts about your store redesign on your Facebook page, you likely won’t see different results should you promote them.

Measure results. You won’t know the true impact of your ads unless you stay on top of metrics and analytics. Numbers don’t lie and the objective input they provide is incredibly important.

Taking the leap into social media advertising can be overwhelming, but the benefits are substantial and the returns you receive on your investment can be significant. With the right strategy, it’s possible to see amazing results – without breaking the bank.

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