There comes a point in every company’s social media journey when they start to think about ads. There’s no getting away from the fact that social networks are ad platforms. Businesses must buy ads to access the best features and to find their target audiences.
If you want to get the best out of social media in 2019 you need a media budget. There’s little point in investing the time and money it takes to develop social media posts and manage various social media accounts if nobody sees or interacts with any of it. But paying shouldn’t be seen as a negative – social media advertising is a fantastic opportunity for almost any business. There’s a reason so many companies are switching their ad budgets from print, outdoor and TV to social – it works.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve come to the conclusion that you need to dip your toe into the world of social advertising, but you don’t know where to start. Here’s our guide to taking your first steps in social media advertising.
1. Set your goals
As with any campaign you need to start with a goal. But before we look at business goals, we need to talk about likes and followers. Many companies fall into the trap of chasing these vanity numbers with their first paid social campaigns. Facebook makes it so easy to click a button and launch a Facebook page like campaign or boost a post – but it’s best to resist the temptation.
It’s the normal first step in social ads. An ad campaign to recruit followers seems like the right thing to do, but it doesn’t really make sense any more. In the past when a follower saw all of your posts, it made sense: pay once to recruit them, then convert them with your regular posts. But now, since Facebook reach is as low as 1%, you’ll pay twice (or more). Once to recruit them, then again and again to try to convert them.
Boosting posts can be a good tactic, but it has to be done with the right strategy and an objective in mind. Just boosting your best performing posts won’t necessarily drive business results, but it will get you more likes (see below for more on boosting posts).
Also, “bought” followers tend to be poor quality followers. They don’t engage with your posts, which weakens your reach, and they probably aren’t potential customers. If you aren’t convinced yet, read this post. Your goal for your first campaign should be something that earns you measurable revenue.
If you need help with choosing a goal, check out this guide to SMART goals (this will help you come up with achievable targets).
Common goals for social media campaigns are:
The first four are solid business objectives that should generate directly measurable revenue for your business. For your first campaign it’s best to stick with one of these. The next two are for brands who are further along in their social maturity and already know that moving these metrics will have a positive effect on customer recruitment or retention (and therefore revenue).
2. Set a budget
It’s wise to do this at the beginning, because your budget will help determine the rest of your choices. If your budget is very small, you may have to go back a step and redefine your goals. Really, goals and budgets have to be considered at the same time and one will be a trade off against the other.
That said, you can start advertising on social media with a really small budget – say US$5 per day – to test the water and see what works. As a guide, US$200-350 is an average, or 11% of total marketing budget, according to Social News Daily.
3. Choose a social media platform
Facebook is usually the best place to start. It has the biggest audience, the most effective ads, the best targeting tools, most brands already have an account, it’s combined with Instagram so you get two for one, it’s easy to use the self-serve tool to set up ads and there’s a wealth of support articles and guides out there to help you get it right. Also, you’ll be familiar with the ad formats (if you use Facebook) so you feel more comfortable setting up the ads than with a platform you don’t know so well. Here’s a great guide to running Facebook ads on a small budget, and a more extensive beginner’s guide to Facebook ads.
Boost your best performing post that has a call to action and drives a business objective, such as a link to your website, a special offer, or a link to buy one of your products.
Instagram has proven to be a great platform for selling products. The visual nature of the platform and the wealth of tools available – both on the platform and from third parties – make it easy to sell products on Instagram. If you have your own e-commerce site, you can now integrate your store with Instagram and sell your products with shoppable posts. For a deeper look into running your first Instagram campaign, take a look at this guide from Shopify.
The quick win with Instagram is the fact that once you have successful Facebook ad campaigns, you can easily try them out on Instagram.
Twitter is a different animal to Facebook and Instagram. It isn’t quite as straightforward to get a successful campaign up and running but there are some good reasons to give it a try. First, it’s generally cheaper, so if your budgets are tight it could be worth the extra effort – especially if your brand is already active on Twitter and you are familiar with the platform. Twitter has seriously upped its ad game in recent years and advertisers are coming back to the platform. See here for the ultimate guide to advertising on twitter.
Twitter can be complicated for first time advertisers, and in recognition of this Twitter launched Promote Mode, which will automatically promote your Tweets for a flat fee of US$99 a month. For brands that are up to speed with paid social, it probably won’t be effective, but for inexperienced users it’s a really easy, low-cost way to get up and running and has proved effective for some, especially when trying to increase awareness. Trying it for a month and just watching how your promoted tweets perform is also a great way to learn more about paid social.
As you would expect, LinkedIn advertising is primarily for B2B businesses. So, if you are looking to target other companies, this is where you should start. Delve into this complete guide to LinkedIn ads.
LinkedIn Matched Audiences lets you upload your subscriber database for your company newsletter or blog. This means you can use LinkedIn’s suite of ads to engage with and convert your existing audience on the platform.
4. Decide what to feature in your ads
This might be straightforward if you just want to drive traffic to your website and convert customers there, but if you want to promote specific products directly on social media or reach a new audience, then it can be a more complicated task.
The easiest tactic is to find an event, launch, or campaign that’s coming up for your business in the next couple of months and use your first paid social media campaign to support it. Then you can easily adapt existing material for social channels. If there’s nothing on the horizon a contest or a promotion is a good place to start. Or, if your business works based on securing leads or signups, then lead generation ads can be a good place to start.
5. Set the campaign live
All the mail social networks have easy to use self-serve ad tools:
If you don’t feel comfortable doing this in house, then this is the point where you need to put everything you’ve done so far into a brief and get in touch with a social media agency.
6. Track, measure and optimise
This is where the real work starts. Once your first campaign is live, you need to monitor it and learn as much as possible about tracking, measurement and optimisation. Even if you choose to use an agency, monitoring your campaigns is vital. If you wait until a campaign is finished before you look at the results, optimisation is impossible. A decision to stop ads on a certain platform could be the difference between hitting your targets or a failed campaign.
Optimisation is any action that you take that makes your campaign perform better. For example, if you’ve got three separate ads running in a campaign and you remove the worst performing ad, that’s optimisation. Without tracking and measurement, you can’t optimise, because you don’t have any data to base your decisions on. Also, it’s important to realise that snap decisions based on limited data should be avoided. Here’s more reading on tracking and optimisation.
Split testing is a perfect introduction to ad optimisation. You create alternative versions of the same basic ad, then run a test to see which version works best. One you know which ad is best, you can then put more budget behind the winner. Facebook’s Ad Manager has a guided creation option that will walk you through setting up your first split test.
Social platforms have their own monitoring and optimisation tools, but optimisation is also possible on a platform basis. In the future, when you are running campaigns across multiple social networks, it is much harder to compare performance. This is where the Sether platform comes in. Sether allows you to compare the performance of all your social campaigns in one place. This gives you an overview of your entire campaign and helps you to see which channels are hitting your objectives and which need further optimisation.
Sether is also a useful tool for organising and planning your social activity. You can use it to monitor agency performance, brand sentiment, online reviews, and much more. Sign up for free and monitor your first social campaign.