Paid Social Media Advertising 101: Get the Most Out of Your Budget

by: Dustin Hawley | Thursday June 13, 2019

If you’re still unsure about paid social media, let's bring you up to speed.

Over three billion people use sociasl media every day. The average person spends over two hours per day on social networks. Additionally, the number of small businesses advertising on Facebook has doubled to 50 million in recent months.

In today’s market, brands that aren't advertising on social media or no longer just at of risk falling behind; they already are. But business owners both small and large have taken notice. In fact, 92% of small businesses increased their investment in social media in 2018. Online advertising is undeniably a pay-to-play game, which means social media advertising is an absolute must for brands looking to succeed in today's ultra-competitive business landscape.

graphic of

So why is it so important? Well for one, organic reach has dramatically decreased over the past couple years across most of the major social networks. Gone are the days of simply posting on social and expecting all your followers to see and consume your content. Quite frankly, that approach has been ineffective for a few years now. These days, it’s all about how you target your audience, create experiences for your customers, and funnel people to your website to make a purchase. This is where paid social media strategies come into play. While there are many social media challenges to overcome today, the real challenge lies in understanding the in’s and out’s of social media advertising; how to get started, how much budget to allocate and how each network operates. This is a challenging task for even the most experienced brands on social media, as is choosing the right social media platform for your app or product.

For those still on the fence about whether or not to dive into paid social, we’re here to provide valuable insights around your social media advertising efforts. If your brand is looking to create high-performing paid social ads, look no further. So let's get right into it, and break down how to get started.

Getting Started With Paid Social Media Advertising

If you’re just getting started in the world of paid social, it’s important to understand the fundamentals of social media advertising. Every organization operates differently with its own unique approach, so creating a strategy tailored to your brand needs is paramount to your success. The challenge is knowing where to start. So let's discuss what paid social actually is, as well as some key areas of focus when it comes to budgeting. 

Paid social

Simply put, paid social is defined as paying to display adverts (no matter the format – text, static image, video, carousel, etc.) or brand-sponsored messages to social network users. These efforts are typically targeted at specific individuals based on their user profile (i.e. demographic). A cost is incurred when an action takes place on the advert, depending on the type of ad was deployed. For example, many ads incur a cost per click (CPC), a common metric in today's paid social media landscape.

cpa vs cpm vs cpc

Strategies for Paid Social

So now you have decided to take your paid social efforts seriously, it's time to begin to formulate a strategy to not only create conversions and sales but also to maximize your budget and produce optimal results.

Micro-target when using paid campaigns

There are numerous approaches to targeting when it comes to paid social, but a few stand out for their specificity and effectiveness.

Targeting based on interest

The beauty of social media marketing is that you can target users based on their self-identified interests. For example, if you are selling cameras, you can specifically target social media users who have expressed an interest in photography. Digital marketers who take this approach often experience higher CTR and conversion rates on their social ads than those of blanket campaigns.

Lead generation ads

Facebook lead generation ads are mobile-only ads that include pre-populated forms. This makes it easy for people to:

  • sign up for your newsletter or mailing list
  • ask about a free trial
  • request a quote

Here's an example of a lead generation ad on Facebook.

facebook lead generation ad

Lead generation ads are a great tool if you’re looking for leads to supply to your sales team, or to build your online sales funnel.

Look-alike audiences

Another huge asset that social media advertising provides is the ability to upload customer lists into your brand's social accounts to create lookalike audiences – which allows you to target other users on the social network who closely match the characteristics of your existing customers. This draws from a core acquisition marketing principle, which is to understand core audience profiles and then invest in campaigns that appeal to others match the criteria.

lookalike audience graphic

How Paid Social Can Fit Any Budget

So we touched on a few of the targeted approaches to paid social media advertising. Now let's discuss why it is a cost-effective way to promote your business.

Each social platform uses the pay-per-click (PPC) payment model, which means that you pay only if the user takes the action you want. Unlike conventional advertising methods, this allows your brand to engage with niche markets at a substantial discount. After you have run a few ad cycles, you can then refine your targeting in more granular detail in order to drive greater results and increased ROI.

Facebook Ads

Here's some context: Facebook ads have an average cost-per-click (CPC) of $1.86 and cost-per-thousand-views (CPM) of $11.20, which can vary based on a number of factors like ad quality and competition. The average small business that is currently advertising on Facebook spends around $1,000–$2,000 per month, making Facebook affordable for most businesses.

Instagram Ads

It’s important to keep something in mind: Instagram ads aren’t Facebook ads.

Though they are synergistic in many aspects, comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges – especially as it pertains to Instagram engagement.

Though the cost is often greater, Instagram boasts more engagement than the other social platforms. In fact, Instagram ads typically see 10 times the engagement of a Facebook ad, meaning a much better chance at converting users into loyal brand followers or paying customers. That's why Instagram ads typically cost a bit more than Facebook ads – even for the same target audience.

So if your product or service is visually-oriented, paying a bit more and investing in Instagram ads may actually drive better results at a lower end-cost. When creating your ad budget, start small and invest in the efforts that begin producing results.


As is the case with any new marketing strategy, it's best practice to test, measure and adjust your approach based on your results. If you’re not getting the ROI you’re looking to achieve from your ad spend, then you’ll want to take a step back and realign.

You can also amplify your paid media ads with influencer marketing on the major platforms. In fact, running a combination of both tactics in tandem can actually offer a potent one-two punch that can raise brand awareness, build a social following and convert more sales. And all at a very cost-effective rate in terms of the potential ROI. As mentioned above, brands that aren't advertising on social media or no longer at of risk falling behind, they already are. So what are you waiting for?


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