How to Successfully Advertise on Social Media: A Step-by-Step Guide

by: Dustin Hawley | Saturday January 12, 2019

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we feel a sense of moral obligation to start this piece with the negative first. And the bad news is, it's tougher than ever to get your social content noticed. Changes to Google's search results pages have all but obscured organic content, especially on competitive commercial searches. Paid search CPCs are at all-time highs in established markets, and is rapidly growing in other verticals. The market for advertising on social media is both complex and somewhat overwhelming.

You may be asking "What about organic reach on social media?" News flash: It's pretty much dead. More than half of all social media content gets zero shares, and less than 0.1 percent will be shared more than 1,000 times. Simply put, visibility on social is not easily attainable. Facebook, for example, changed their algorithm in 2016 so that users would see more content from their family and close friends, and less content from members who didn't fit into that category. Which means that today more than ever, you're less and less likely to get your content in front of people who aren't related to you.

group of people browsing social media

Yes, the major social networks do offer advertising options to amplify your content and get it in front of more people. But not all of these options are necessarily a great fit for every brand or marketer. When thinking about which social networks to use for advertising, analyze which ones are performing well organically. Networks where your content naturally seems to strikes a chord with fans are an obvious choice for your social ad campaigns.

But the question on many people's minds is "Where do I start?". While we have already led in with the difficulties that exist with advertising through social media, it's not all bad news. In fact, there are many great tactics you can deploy to generate results from your social advertising efforts. When properly implemented, social advertising can produce some of the best bang for your buck in your marketing ecosystem, and the potential ROI can be immeasurable. So for those looking for a resource for building effective social media advertising campaigns, look no further. Here's a step by step guide to successfully advertise on social media.

First off, what are the benefits of advertising on social media?

So why is social media advertising a great bet for quick ROI? We're glad you asked. There are 3 core reasons social advertising possesses great value.

  1. An overwhelming majority of marketing channels require significant lead time to yield an ROI. For example, content marketing typically works best over a long period of time, allowing it to yield backlinks and SEO traction through online searches. Time consuming accomplishments (like domain authority) contribute to this traction, but again, take time to bear the fruits of the labor.
  2. Some marketing channels are consistent, but are extremely time consuming to dial in. AdWords, for example, can produce consistent results for your brand, yes. However, it takes quite a while to master and earn specific placement. It's both a science and an art that requires a significant time investment and dedicated focus.
  3. Some marketing channels can yield quick results, but not day in and day out, and not on a consistent basis. An example is influencer marketing, as it exists on both sides of the spectrum depending on how you implement it into the fabric of your marketing efforts. Brands can earn quick results from influencer marketing in terms of high sales for 'low' effort on their own part. However, those results don’t continue occurring over time. They are to some extent, experiential.  Instead, you earn sales on a per post basis, and often less each time it is posted. This is where having consistent influencer marketing campaigns can not only produce substantial short term gains, but also position your brand for long term growth and stability.

This is the most appealing element of social media from a brand's perspective. With social media advertising, you have the access and ability to create consistent sales from the first day your website is live. And for modern businesses and e-commerce sites, the ability to immediately and consistently bring in new customers is a really BIG deal. Regardless of whether or not you are producing net positive revenue on the initial sale, residual results and effects the likes of referrals, email marketing and customer retention can pay off in spades over the long term.

To start, build a long term Social Media marketing strategy instead of relying on short term tactics

Let's be clear. Both short term and long term tactics have their place in your strategy. But if you want to gain results that will help your business grow in the long run, you should be thinking primarily about the long term. A well-thought out —and equally well executed —social media campaign is bound to yield results. This likely includes an increase in brand awareness and lead production, not to mention site traffic months and even years down the road. Admittedly, attracting consumers can be difficult. But keeping them should be your main goal, and there is no overnight success in that realm. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

For starters, when planning your social ads, create a quarterly goal and then reverse engineer your schedule. See exactly how many ads, pieces of content, and budget you will need to execute your plan. Monitor your data daily, and update your statistics accordingly. Data is paramount to establishing your marketing stride. You need to know what's working and what's not. Keep in mind, failure is a good thing if you learn something from it.

At the end of a quarter period (Q1, Q2, etc.), revise your strategy and execution. Get feedback from your staff and consumers so you can start the new quarter a bit more experienced, and a whole lot wiser. By year end, you should see a substantial improvement in the results of your social ads. 

Also, choose your primary social media platform carefully

It's a harsh reality, but brands need to come to terms with that fact that organic reach has steadily declined, and will likely only continue it's downward trend. Brands must stop relying solely on short term tactics that used to effectively keep them in business.

Instead, businesses should start building sustainable strategies that produce results in the modern marketplace. And this means being very selective when it comes to the networks you post content on, and investing more in social ads and growing their social presence. Whether that's influencer marketing, advocacy strategies, and/or brand ambassador programs.

A best practice here would be to use paid advertising on all social media platforms that your target audience and potential customers are on. Which we all know in 2019 is likely many of them. But in reality, most brands simply don’t have enough of a budget to go all in on multiple platforms. So focusing a large portion of your budget on the most effective platform, with the most reach, is an efficient way to maximize your advertising efforts.

choosing the right social media platform for your business infographic

* the figures appearing in the above graphic for active users on each platform were based on data from January 2018

Therefore, when choosing which platform to go all in on, think of your desired outcome. Are you looking to achieve brand recognition? Are you seeking engagement? Is your focus on acquiring new leads? Answering these questions is imperative to concluding which platform will provide you the best forum for producing results.

Additionally, research your niche. For example, if you are a fashion business and you want to work with influencers, LinkedIn likely isn't the primary platform where you should place your ads. Instagram and Pinterest dominate the fashion industry — try there. Conversely, if your company sells medical equipment, putting your chips into Instagram ads will likely not produce leads or customers the way LinkedIn might. Medical professionals on LinkedIn are much more likely to convert into customers than those who surf their feed on Instagram. Keeping these factors top of mind will ensure you are devoting your time and energy into the platforms that are most likely to produce results for your brand. 

Next, establish a clear intent of who you are trying to reach

Being someone who grew up in the 90's, I can vividly remember the G.I. Joe slogan "Knowing is half the battle'. That catchphrase applies to your marketing efforts. Knowing your target audience is truly half the battle, when structuring your content strategy for your social ads. Information like buyer personas (or your ideal customers) help you define and target the right people, in the right places, at the right times with the right messages. And every layer of that funnel holds a level of importance that effects the whole process. With that said, you must familiarize yourself with your intended demographic based on factors like:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Income
  • Social status
  • Generation
  • Lifecycle

Buyer personas cannot be built in 10 minutes, or even 10 days for that matter. The process demands proper research and time to dig deep and establish the specifics. 

Testing the ad on a test group before releasing it to the general public can be beneficial, so you can fine tune your ad and generate even better results from the campaign itself. Platforms like Facebook now have a Split test — allowing you to A/B different ad copies to determine which is performing best. Utilizing these tools and others like it allow you to effectively edit your ads into their most effective form. 

Also, build a solid Social Media following to enhance your visibility

The advertising algorithms on all networks favor content that has already had a previous organic engagement, or is naturally attracting a larger audience. So building a faithful network of followers on your social networks is crucial for gaining visibility and engagement. Once you have established an audience on your networks, your social ads are sure to generate more website traffic, engagement and lead generation. Promote your posts organically and with paid advertising to maximize the number of views your ads can achieve.

“We have technology, finally, that for the first time in human history allows people to really maintain rich connections with much larger numbers of people.” –  Pierre Omidyar

You should emphasize marketing to Generation Z

At the end of 2015, a study conducted by Goldman Sachs concluded that Generation Z was more valuable to most organizations than millennials. Today, the oldest Gen Z'ers are in their mid 20's. They are just beginning to get established in the labor force, and are continuing to increase their buying power as they progress in their careers. Brands are beginning to recognize this, and are altering their social media strategies accordingly. Gen Z'ers are frequent users of Snapchat and Instagram, particularly the latter. This makes Instagram a prime forum for your marketing efforts, and more and more brands are investing large budgets into advertising on the photo sharing platform. 

Remember to adjust your tone of voice to connect with your target audience

To have a successful line of communication with potential or existing customers, you have to understand who they are. Earlier in this article, we discussed the intrinsic value of knowing your target audience. When you know your target audience, when you understand them, you have the relevant information needed to appeal to them. And from there, it’s merely a matter of giving them what they want, and presenting it in a way they will appreciate and engage with.

Produce high quality, colorful and unique visual content

National Geographic is known for producing high quality, colorful and unique visual content — this is the first step in getting users to stop scrolling. The ‘wow’ element of the image makes the user stop and wonder where/who it is — wanting more information and letting them escape from their current location and situation.

social media quote graphic

Content is king, so post consistently

The best content strategies need to be consistent, thus you need to evaluate when your target audience is online. And once you know when your audience is active, you need to feed them content during those time periods. 

According to a research from Sprout Social, the best times to post on social media are:

  • Facebook: Wednesday through Sunday in the afternoon.
  • Twitter: Weekdays in the afternoon or the evenings.
  • Pinterest: Any day of the week in evening.
  • LinkedIn: Tuesday through Thursday at 5 p.m.
  • Instagram: Monday through Friday at 2 a.m. or 5 p.m.

This also applies to serving ads. For instance, Facebook ads allow you to choose the optimal time when your post should be actively running. Utilize data points that show you optimal times for posting, and create a content cadence that supports publishing content during these windows of time. 

Personalize the relationship  and make the consumer your brand ambassador

In so many words, a brand ambassador is a person who works to promote and represent a brand within its specific marketplace. They are often customers who were already advocating for brands before they started working with them. On the other hand, some brand ambassadors are chosen because they have a large social following and are typically social media influencers. Brand ambassadors maintain a working relationship with the brands they represent, in turn taking direction from the brand on how to interact with customers in the marketplace. 

Ambassadors can broadcast information about your brand with their entire following with just a couple of clicks. When doing so, your content is quickly in front of an entire network of people who already trust the messenger, who happens to be the ambassador.

When your consumer becomes your ambassador, they create an evergreen flow of content and brand visibility, and have a much stronger and more personal relationship with your brand that can be contagious to other consumers. Having an enthusiastic group of consumers-turned-brand-ambassadors generates organic conversation around your brand on social media. And conversations started by these individuals typically echo a positive sentiment. 

Make sure to include a call to action

So you put in the time and effort, and create an amazing piece of advertising content for your social feed. Now you just need to post it and let it generate results, right? Not so fast. If you’ve forgotten to add the CTA (Call To Action) you may find that your ad falls flat in terms of generating your intended results. Particularly if your goal is to generate conversions.

If you haven’t specified what you wanted your followers to do, your communication—or lack thereof—leads them to nowhere. Instead, be tactful. A strategic CTA substantially enhances the value of your ad. That's because it allows the post to do more than simply show your followers something. It gives them a next step to take, or a direction to go in with the new-found information you provided in the content. This in turn will transform views into conversions.

example of facebook ad with image only and with image and cta

Final thoughts

According to a study by​ ​Zenith​, time spent watching media online will officially surpass time spent watching TV for the first time ever in 2019. That's kind of crazy to think about, but really, how surprising is it? Social media usage is on an exponential rise, and your advertising budget should begin reflecting that shift. It has already begun, whether your brand is already on board or not. Regardless of how complex or overwhelming it may seem to figure out where to invest your dollars into, if you follow the tips described in this article, you'll put yourself and your brand in an optimal position to reap all the benefits and ROI social media advertising have to offer. 

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