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Paid Social Ads 101 Guide: Learning the Basics

By: Viral Nation | 4 mins read |
If you don’t fully understand the basics of paid social ads, you might view it as a waste of time or money. With paid social media, you can get your messaging straight to your target audience without figuring out a complex algorithm or competing with other businesses. This year alone, companies in the US allocated $ 56.85 billion in paid social ads - a 16.2% increase from last year. This might be because consumers respond positively to paid social ads, with 49% of internet users saying they are more likely to buy products from brands whose ads they've seen on social media. You might be missing out on a lot by not understanding and giving paid social ads a shot.  Here's a guide that will help you understand the basics and benefits of paid social ads. What are paid ads? Paid ads are a method of displaying advertisements or marketing messages on social media platforms that aim to target a specific audience to generate leads and sales for your business. They can also be used for increasing brand awareness or consideration of your products. Every paid social media ad will have a “sponsored” or “promoted” tag near the post. What do paid ads involve? Using the ad tools available to you on social media channels, you can create, schedule and post targeted ads that you want to reach a specific market. With paid advertising, marketers pay the owner of the desired ad space in exchange for use of that space. This is often settled through a bidding process between marketers and the ad space owner. If your bid wins, the space is yours to advertise. Different Types of Paid Ads  Buying paid ads is essentially buying a person’s attention. That attention is captured by a combination of where and how the ad is delivered. “Where” refers to the environment where the ad is served, and “how” is the type or format of the ad. The most common types of digital ads are as follows:
  • Display Ads - image ads or banner ads
  • Video ads 
  • Text ads 
  • Sponsorships & Product placements - including influencers

Benefits of paid social advertising

What makes digital advertising special and important is the use of data in every step of the advertising process. There are many benefits to paid social advertising and we highlighted the top three below.

Paid social ads tailor custom messaging

These types of ads allow you to tailor your messaging based on the person you are targeting, and deliver sequential messages to that person. You can design your ad and its messaging perfectly to ensure that it grabs the attention of your target audience, while taking their personal preferences, buying habits and geographical location into account.

Paid social ads target the most relevant consumers

Paid social ads focus your reach. With organic reach, you can't pick who sees your content, but by using paid ads, you can specify on your campaign what kind of people will find your advertisement. It’s a simple way to ensure your ads are only delivered to those who you are interested in reaching and those who want to see it most. You can target those with specific income levels or their location and even choose your post to be seen only by your followers or previous customers. Track performance of your paid social ads Digital advertising, when done properly, can track it all and sets itself apart from traditional advertising channels. Know how each ad is performing, whether your goal is to build awareness, brand recognition, product consideration, web traffic, signups, app downloads, purchases or in-store traffic. 

Best social media platforms for your paid ads


Besides having a massive user base, Facebook's comprehensive Ads manager is a great reason to run your paid ads on the website. They offer campaign budget optimization, saved audiences, block lists, automated rules, and more. Facebook has streamlined the ad targeting process by launching Automated Ads. Brands simply have to input their campaign's objective and the platform will then personalize and manage the corresponding ads. Automated Ads will learn what worked best during your previous campaigns and make suggestions and improvements for your next paid ad campaigns.


YouTube is the third most visited website worldwide and sits behind Google as the most used search engine. The website has over 2 billion logged-in users per month and generated US$28.8 billion in revenue in 2021.  Not only do they have an extensive user base that will see your ads, but YouTube is incredibly good at granular targeting - you can target your audience from demographics, customer matches, video remarketing, affinity audience, life events and more. Beyond that, YouTube also offers analytics where you can easily track your paid ads campaign's performance.


Instagram is one of the leading social platforms, with 1.5 billion global users and US$47.6 billion in revenue in 2021. Think of all the possible ways to advertise on Instagram - photo ads, video ads, carousel ads and story ads. With a heavy emphasis on shopping through Instagram, brands have the opportunity to place a paid ad with a shoppable image on the platform.


With annual revenue of over US$5 billion in 2021 and 329 million users, Twitter is one of the best social networks to launch your campaign. If you run ads on Twitter, you will only be charged according to the ads' performances. Let's say your campaign on Twitter aims to get more followers, you will only pay for your ads when people actually follow your account. Twitter also offers other useful features to target your audiences, such as keyword targeting, tailored audience and Tweet engagement targeting.


Tiktok is a great platform to run a campaign, especially for brands targeting the youth, because 48% of TikTok users are between the ages of 18 and 24.  TikTok users are among the most engaged by spending more than half an hour every day on the app. It offers various types of ads, like in-feed videos, top view, branded effects, and hashtag challenges. Now that you understand what paid social ads are and various benefits it provides for your brand, why not use them? Social media — and its ads — have become an integral part of our daily lives, and it would be a waste not to use capitalize on this opportunity
_About the author
Viral Nation

Viral Nation is a new media innovation group that powers the social ecosystem through integrated solutions that align strategy, talent, media, and technology. As pioneers in the influencer space, Viral Nation is comprised of a full-service creative agency, a creator and athlete-influencer representation agency, and a technology division creating modern marketing solutions for the social media age.