Why Social Advertising?
With Facebook continuing to tighten its grip on the reach of promotional updates, and other social media platforms sure to follow suit; it is time to be realistic about whether your social media marketing strategy can survive without including at least some social advertising.
Digital ad spending surpassed print ad spending in 2013, and is projected to top $100 billion by 2018. And social ads continue to outperform display ads in click through and conversion rates every year.
Even more impressive is how mobile ads consistently outperform any other type of digital advertising. Mobile device users click through and convert more often than desktop users. This is mostly due to the relevancy of the ads that are served up to mobile users.
And since most people access social media platforms using mobile devices today – nearly 80% in Twitter’s case – social advertising is one of the most effective ways to reach mobile users.
Luckily, social advertising is still relatively affordable. But don’t just throw money at a campaign and hope to get results. Go forth with an established strategy and a good understanding of the different ad types, targeting methods, bidding strategies, and social advertising best practices.
This guide can help you make sense of the wide range of ad type options available and help you map out an effective social advertising strategy.
Since this is a very long post, here is a convenient table of contents to help you get around:
- Facebook Ad Types
- Twitter Ad Types
- Pinterest and LinkedIn Ad Types
- Other Social Ad Types (Instagram, Snapchat, Foursquare, etc.)
- Social Advertising Strategy
- Goals and Good Content
- Targeting Your Audience
- Bidding and Budgeting
- Social Advertising Analytics
Social Advertising Types
Most social media sites offer a selection of ad types. Different types of ads yield different results: some promote updates to encourage engagement, some generate page likes and followers, some allow mobile app downloads, and still others drive traffic to your website.
Facebook Ad Types
Facebook has a number of ad types available that can help increase engagement, boost timeline updates, and drive traffic to websites, apps, events, and more.
Ads can be placed within users’ desktop or mobile news feed, as well as in the right column of the Facebook platform.
Drive Traffic to Your Website
The “Clicks to Website” ad type sends people to a specific page on your website, while the “Website Conversions” type includes a call to action button like “Sign Up” or “Learn More” that should send people to a page that fulfills the call to action like an email sign up page or a specific product page.
These ads can include a link with a single image, or a collection of images called a “carousel.” Carousel ads are a great way to tell a story or feature more than one product with a series of images.
Promote Your Facebook Page or Timeline Posts
The “Page Post Engagement” ad type lets you promote a specific post on your timeline, and the “Page Likes” option helps you get more likes for your page. These ad types are also accessible right from your Facebook page as “Promote Page” and “Boost Post” buttons. The “Page Post Engagement” ads can include photo, video, or plain text updates.
Promote Mobile Apps
You can create Facebook ads that allow users to install a mobile or desktop app, or to engage with the app in another way – like run an app demo. Facebook offers opportunities to promote apps not only within the Facebook timeline, but within many other popular mobile apps.
Drive Local Traffic, Promote an Event, or Make an Offer
The “Local Awareness” ad type has limited regional availability, but can help you reach people near your location if you happen to be in a city where Facebook offers this feature. The ad type will only be an option if it is available in your region.
The “Event Response” ad type lets you promote a Facebook event you created. People can join the event right from the ad.
Facebook also has an “Offer Claims” ad type that you can use to create discounts or special deals that people can redeem on your website or at a store location.
Caveat: This type of offer ad can get a lot of hits; but be careful. With this type of ad, you pay for each person who “claims” an offer from within Facebook; but that does not mean that every person will redeem the offer. All it means is that they are given the opportunity to redeem it.
Promote With Video
The “Video Views” ad type allows you to use video to promote your products or services. You need to upload the video directly to Facebook, however, so no YouTube embeds. This ad type also offers an optional call to action button so you can send people to a web page to learn more, shop now, download, etc.
To learn more about Facebook ads, check out the Facebook Business Ads Guide.
Twitter Ad Types
Most Twitter ad types are similar to Facebook’s, but Twitter has an added feature called “cards” that creates a more interactive experience for ads within the Twitter timeline. Cards are discussed in more detail later.
Gain Followers and Encourage Engagement
The “Grow Followers” ad type allows you to place an update in user’s timelines encouraging them to follow your business on Twitter. These ads also appear in the right “Who to Follow” column of the Twitter platform.
Promoted tweets or “Tweet Engagements” are similar to promoted posts in Facebook in that you can choose an existing tweet to promote so it shows on the timelines of the audience you target. But Twitter’s promoted tweets differ from Facebook’s promoted posts in that you can create “promoted only” tweets that do not show up in your Twitter timeline, and you can create more than one variation of promoted tweets in a single campaign.
Drive Website Traffic
You promote products and services on Twitter with Twitter cards. Think of a Twitter card as an attachment to a tweet. The tweet appears above the card, and the card consists of additional information and actions depending on the card type.
Website cards consist of a short headline, an image, a call to action, and a link to a web page. Once a card is created, it can be used as many times as you like. When promoting a web page, you compose a tweet, select the card, and the tweet shows in the timeline with the addition of the headline, image, and a call to action button that goes to your web page.
This allows you to create a number of different tweets using the same card, or even tweets using different cards, in the same ad campaign.
Promote Mobile Apps
Promote mobile apps on Twitter using App cards. An app card shows a preview of the app, the app rating, and a call to action to install or open the app. App cards are only shown to people who are accessing Twitter from a mobile device.
Twitter “Lead Generation” cards allow you to collect opt-in email addresses from people directly from the Twitter timeline. Like the website card, these cards display a headline, an image, and a call to action. When the call to action button is clicked, the user allows Twitter to add their name and email address to a list that you can download and use in your own email marketing campaigns.
Again, you can use more than one Lead Generation card, or reuse the same card within a single campaign.
Learn more about Twitter ads on the Twitter ad help page.
Pinterest Ad Types
Pinterest joined the ranks of social advertising platforms only recently, and has not made advertising available to all businesses yet. You can get on the Pinterest Ad waiting list here; but you need to have a Pinterest business account in place first.
Promote Popular Pins
Pinterest is offering “Promoted Pins” which are similar to promoted posts or tweets. You can promote one of your popular pins and include a link back to a web page.
Sell Directly From Pinterest
Even more exciting is the Pinterest “Buyable Pin” option. This is a recent ad type that Pinterest is making available to a host of large brands as well as select Shopify and Demandware merchants. Learn more or get on the waiting list here.
LinkedIn Ad Types
Though LinkedIn has always had traditional advertising options like display ads and “pro” options for sales people and recruiters, they only recently began offering social advertising options.
If you have a LinkedIn Company Page, you can promote existing page updates using the LinkedIn “Sponsored Content” ad type. LinkedIn also offers a “Direct Sponsored Content” ad type, which simply means that the content will not appear on your company page.
Learn more about LinkedIn advertising options, here.
When Instagram ads were launched for select businesses almost two years ago they were an instant hit. Continuing to build on its success, Instagram announced the ad service is to be improved and made available to more potential advertisers.
What is especially exciting about this move is that Instagram ads will become part of the Facebook advertising infrastructure. Which means that Instagram ads will be available to more businesses, and that Instagram ad types will be similar to those of Facebook.
You can keep tabs on the status of Instagram ad availability here.
Snapchat is another social media site that is revving up its advertising offerings. Right now they limit advertising to a few select brands, but there have been rumors that it is planning to launch an affordable solution for smaller brands. In the meantime, keep abreast of their promotion rules here.
If you have a physical location for your business Foursquare offers a number of different ad types. You can ping people who are near your business letting them know about special offers or tips left by other customers. Or, you can get a promoted listing that will help your business show up at the top of local searches on the Foursquare app. Learn more about Foursquare ads here.
StumbleUpon offers a unique social advertising opportunity where you can promote anything with a URL. The idea is that your content gets in front of an audience that regularly shares similar content. If someone “stumbles” your article, video, slideshow, etc. it will get even more (free) exposure on the platform. Learn more about advertising on StumbleUpon here.
Reddit offers advertising in a “Sponsored Heading” area of its platform. You can target users by interest group, “subreddit” (sub groups), or location. Learn more about Reddit advertising here.
Social Advertising Strategy
As you can see, there are a great many ways to use social advertising, and you can easily get lost in all the possibilities. You may even be tempted to just throw some options at the wall to see what sticks. But this approach can be frustrating and can even damage your reputation.
To make good choices efficiently, you’ll need to clearly define your goals for each advertising campaign, target the audience(s) you want to reach, invest time in reviewing the best practices, advertising guidelines, and image specifications for each campaign you launch, and figure out what each will cost you and what each achieved. Keep reading to find out how.
Defining Your Goals
The best social marketing strategies start with clearly defined goals. Now that you have a good idea of the types of social ads available, you can formulate a plan for each of your campaigns that includes specific goals. These goals might include:
- Driving website traffic
- Selling one or more products
- Getting mobile app downloads
- Generating email list sign ups
- Getting more exposure for posts and updates
- Generating page likes
- Promoting an event
- Driving local traffic
Make your goals as specific as possible so you can track how well your campaigns are meeting them.
Creating Good Content
If you are going to invest your money into social advertising, also invest your time into reviewing the best practices, advertising guidelines, and image specifications for each campaign you launch.
Your graphics and ad copy will differ for each platform and ad type, so research the best approach to each of these in their respective guidelines. Check the guidelines frequently since they are known to change without warning.
Image quality, text length, and relevancy will affect how well your ads perform. If you don’t have a lot of resources for images, try a discount graphics marketplace like Graphic River. They will even customize images for you at reasonable rates.
And don’t forget about mobile! Be sure to design your ads to look good across all devices – keeping in mind that the majority of people now access social media sites via smartphones.
Facebook Ad Guide
The Facebook Ad Guide has specifications and tips for each ad type. Pay close attention to the image guidelines and note that your images cannot include more than 20% text. Facebook even has a tool that helps you check how much text is on your image.
Twitter Ad Guide
Twitter also has a guide to each of its ad types. Here you can find image and other ad specs, as well as answers to frequently asked questions.
Guides for Other Platforms
The “Promoted Pin best practices guide” can help you find the latest specs and guidelines for Pinterest ad types.
LinkedIn also answers frequently asked questions about ads – including specs and guidelines – in their help center.
Be sure to seek out the guidelines and specifications for any platform you plan to place ads on. This can save a lot of grief and money down the road.
Keep Things Fresh
By the very nature of social media, users are more likely to notice (and reject) the same ads appearing in their timelines over and over. Twitter has a great way of dealing with this problem by allowing you to create a number of different tweets for a single campaign. But not all social advertising platforms are so accommodating.
Targeting Your Audience
The main social media platforms have been around long enough now to have amassed an unimaginable amount of data on their users. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is a discussion for another time. What is important here is that marketers can harness that data to target consumers in a way they never could before.
How you define your audience can easily make or break your social advertising campaign. Get to know the targeting options of the platforms you are advertising on, and don’t be afraid to experiment a few times to get it right.
Facebook Targeting Options
Facebook has many targeting options to choose from. Beyond the usual regional and demographic targeting, you can focus on the specific interests and behaviors of Facebook users. You can also target by how users are connected to your page or your business on Facebook.
Interest targeting focuses on the interests users choose on their Facebook profile as well as pages they like and other factors. Some interests can be quite specific and the lists changes often, so take the time to browse the list and check suggestions.
Behavior targeting is based on the activities of users both on and off of Facebook. These might include buying habits, charitable contributions, gaming preferences, or mobile device usage. Again, these can be quite specific, so take the time to find the right fit for you.
Connection targeting allows you to include or exclude users who have – or don’t have – a connection with a specific page, event, or person on Facebook.
As you define your audience, Facebook offers a gauge of how specific or broad your defined audience is. You may initially be tempted to target as many people as possible; but targeting a specific audience will likely yield more relevant conversions.
The catch is that targeting too narrow an audience may result in your ad not getting enough impressions without having to increase your budget. It may take a few tries to find just the right balance. Once you find a combination that works, you can save that audience and use it in future campaigns.
You can even create custom audiences based on your own mailing lists, visitors to your website, or users of your mobile apps. You can then target those people specifically in your Facebook campaigns.
These custom audiences can also be used to create “Lookalike” audiences. A lookalike audience is comprised of people who “look like” your own custom audience in that they share the same interests, behaviors, and so forth. If you have a successful opt-in mailing list, this can be a powerful way to build your ideal audience.
Twitter Targeting Options
Twitter offers targeting through interests and behaviors as well; but also allows you to target users “like” the followers of specific Twitter handles. This means that you can target users who are similar to those who follow you, your competitors, or other Twitter accounts.
Twitter also has a “keywords” option that lets you input specific keywords that potential targets may have used in a tweet or a Twitter search.
Targeting Options on Other Platforms
Pinterest targeting is based mainly on suggested key terms. Since the service is still quite new, it will likely evolve into a more robust targeting engine over time.
As a business-to-business and recruiting site, LinkedIn’s targeting options also include job titles, specific companies, schools, and so forth.
Obviously, specific targeting options are based on the characteristics and user base of each individual platform. So it is best to get a good feel for the targeting options within each platform you use, and to referencing the guidelines for best practices.
Bidding and Budgeting
Most social advertising platforms offer Cost Per Click (CPC) or Cost Per Thousand [Impressions] (CPM) bidding options. Choosing the CPC option means that you pay only for clicks to your website, likes of your page, engagements on your posts, etc. – depending on what type of ad you are running. CPM means that you are paying for how many times your ad is shown (impressions).
How much you pay per click or per impression depends on a lot of things: the ad type, the targeted audience, your budget, and even your image and ad copy. There are other factors that affect these rates as well, and it is worth learning more than we have room to explore here. Here is an excellent article from Adweek if you want to explore this further.
The safe bet is to stick with the CPC option, especially if you are just starting out. If you have a lot of time to spend on optimizing and analyzing your ads, however, the CPM option can pay off. But the bottom line is that you want your ads to generate results, whether those results are clicks, likes, or engagement. And you may need to spend some time in the beginning discovering what will generate those results for you.
In most cases, you will be setting a per-day maximum or a lifetime maximum budget for your campaign. You can also decide on the maximum amount you are willing to pay for a click or engagement. Often the platform will offer to optimize your bidding to try and balance the bid amount with the number of impressions. This can also be a good way to go when you are first starting out.
The platforms also let you know if you are bidding too low depending on your audience and ad type. You don’t necessarily need to increase your bid, however. You could instead, adjust your target audience to see if the recommended bid rate goes down.
Establish Your Budget Ahead of Time
Many social advertising dashboards display an estimate of how many clicks, leads, likes, etc. you might expect to get based on your chosen budget. By establishing a budget ahead of time for each campaign you launch, you will be less likely to “up your bet” in hopes of hitting some illusive social media jackpot.
Analyzing Social Advertising Efforts
The beauty of social advertising is that you can see the results of your efforts almost immediately. We discussed in the targeting and the bidding sections how important it is to experiment to try and find the right balance – analytics can help with that!
Facebook ad analytics show you how an ad is performing on a number of levels. You can see how much you are paying per result, how many people have seen your ad, how much you are paying for each engagement or click, the click through rate (CTR), and more.
But you want to be careful not to read too much into the numbers. For example, don’t get hung up on what some people would consider low click through rates if you feel you are getting the conversion rates you want. If you feel your efforts are meeting your original goals, then stay focused on improving what it working.
If your campaign is not performing the way you want, take a deeper look into what might be the culprit. Chances are it is either your targeting or your bidding strategy. In Facebook you can look deeper into the analytics by filtering the placement stats.
Twitter’s analytics features are even better than Facebook’s. You can get a clearer picture of your results – including how each individual card is performing – one one screen. Twitter also makes it easier to drill down to how specific targeting choices are performing.
If your campaign is getting a lot of impressions but very few clicks, it is good to take a close look at where the impressions are going. Similarly, if you are getting a lot of clicks, but very few conversions (like sales or sign ups), then look at where the clicks are coming from and adjust accordingly. You can see how your targeting choices like regions, interests, behaviors, and more are affecting your results.
If you want to succeed in social advertising, don’t neglect your efforts. Keep a close eye on how your campaigns are performing and continue to try new things to improve them.
A New Dawn For Social Media Marketing
Though you don’t want to replace your social media marketing efforts with social advertising, to stay competitive, you should think seriously about adding some advertising to your existing strategy.
The necessity of social media advertising has been a big pill to swallow for those of us who have embraced social media from the beginning. But I am a realist. I knew this day would come. I am just relieved that social advertising is still accessible and affordable for small businesses.
Look for a new video course on Social Advertising soon from DeltinaU. In the meantime, check out our awesome deals.
Here’s to your success!
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Author: Deltina Hay
DeltinaU founder, Deltina Hay, is the author of The Bootstrapper’s Guide to the Mobile Web and The Social Media Survival Guide. Deltina developed the graduate, Social Media Certificate program for Drury University, and serves as the board chair of the Independent Book Publishers Association.