What is paid social media advertising?
There are two ways to use social media to advertise your business: organic and paid. With organic social media marketing, you set up free social media profiles and share high-quality content to build your brand reputation and increase engagement and awareness. By contrast, with paid social media, you pay to advertise your business on social media.
Some ways you can leverage paid social media advertising include promoting content you've already created (such as blog posts or existing social media posts), promoting new content (like a new social media post about your latest offer, created specifically for a promotion), creating new ads targeted to reach certain types of users, and working with influencers.
Paid social media marketing has become more important as the competition for online attention intensifies. With 230 million social media users in the U.S.,1 businesses that don't advertise risk losing out.
What are the advantages of paid social media advertising?
When you rely on organic traffic, it's hard to be sure you're reaching people, especially since organic branded posts often get less attention. Facebook, for example, actively focuses the news feed2 on posts from friends and family. When you use paid social media advertising, you gain a few advantages:
You know your posts get seen.
When you pay for promotion, you're guaranteed that people will see your posts. And some of those people will likely follow links back to your website, increasing traffic, amplifying the reach of your content, and generating leads and sales.
You reach the right people.
Another benefit is that because you have to identify a target audience for social media promotions, you're sure to reach the right people. All platforms provide analytics on your ads, which means you can also learn more about the demographics and interests of the people who see your promotions. That's helpful for future promotions and also content marketing.
You increase brand awareness.
Paid social media promotion also increases brand awareness by ensuring that your content reaches the right people on social media, including the 72% of Americans3 who are using social media on mobile devices.
What are the best channels for paid social media advertising?
Practically all social media sites offer paid advertising options. The best ones for your business will depend on your target audience. Here are some of the social media platforms you can use:
With 167 million professionals in the U.S.,4 LinkedIn is a great platform for lead generation. While business-to-consumer (B2C) companies use the platform, it excels at reaching business-to-business (B2B) audiences.
No business can ignore Facebook. It has more than 223 million users in the U.S.,5 and is great for reaching consumers, including older people. Sprout Social6 says nearly 40% of people born before 1946 are using Facebook.
The latest Social Media Marketing Industry Report7 reveals that Instagram is the second most popular social network (after its parent company Facebook). Some 76% of marketers are using Instagram for promotion. It's a key platform for reaching audiences under 30, especially if you use a lot of visual content in your marketing.
While the platforms listed above are among the most popular, you can also run paid social media advertising campaigns on Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok.
What are the options for paid advertising on each platform?
The options for paid social media advertising vary according to the platform. In most cases, you can either promote existing content, or create content specifically for promotion. For the top four platforms, some of the options include:
- Facebook: Photos, videos, stories, carousel ads (multiple images), instant experience, and collection.
- LinkedIn: Posts, images, videos, or carousel ads. Instagram: Photos, videos, stories. carousel ads, and ads in the Explore tab.
- YouTube: In-stream ads (skippable and unskippable), discovery ads (similar to search ads), and display ads.
What are the best types of content to promote on social?
The best types of content to promote via paid social media advertising will vary according to the platform, target audience, and purpose of your campaign. Typically, social media ad platforms require you to set a goal (such as brand awareness, lead generation, website traffic, increasing engagement, or getting more followers).
If you're raising awareness of your brand, you might promote a piece of high-value content related to your industry and your customers' needs. For example, a bank might create an in-depth guide to applying for a mortgage for its customers. But if you're trying to generate leads, you might promote a lead magnet -- a bonus you offer to encourage people to join your email list. Most lead magnets are digital content, like checklists, ebooks, and webinar replays.
One strategy for making decisions on the best type of content to promote: Do a competitive analysis.9 When you know what's working for your competitors, it will give you a head start on your own strategy.
Another type of content you can promote is user-generated content (UGC). This is content featuring your business, but created by your followers. The stats show that UGC is 2.4 times more likely10 to be seen as authentic (compared to branded content), which helps your brand build credibility.
Pay attention to social media analytics (such as stats for which pieces of content people like, share and comment on) and see what works best for your particular audience.
How can you limit or scale your social advertising budget?
Once you've set your goal and chosen the content you want to promote, the next step is to set a budget. Based on your goal, most social media platforms recommend a minimum spend for each piece of content you promote. But you can also set a total spending limit for an overall campaign so that you don't find yourself over budget.
However, it's worth knowing that on most platforms, the more you spend, the more of your target audience you will reach. Buffer11 recommends that if you have a tiny budget, focus your spending on promotions that will lead to revenue.
Some best practices for making the most of your paid social advertising budget include:
- Know your audience.
- Decide on your goal.
- Use analytics to find the best content to promote.
- Test different ad formats, copy and calls to action.
- Check your results and use those to guide future paid social strategy.
While creating social media posts can take time, you can get a lot done in less than 30 minutes a day, especially if you use a social media automation tool to schedule content in advance. However, social media works best when you actually engage, so as your business grows, consider hiring a social media manager or working with an agency to give your social media marketing strategy the attention it needs.