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Create the ultimate paid social media advertising strategy

Social media has become an inescapable part of the digital marketing mix, but there’s only so far you can get with organic content ALONE.


Paid social media advertising can deliver powerful returns, but only if you have an effective strategy. Find out what you need to focus on to get results from your social ads, including the different types available, what platforms you should be looking at and how to manage your budget.

According to Statista, ad spending in the global social media market is projected to reach $219.8 billion (£176.1 billion) by the end of 2024.

If your competitors are all out there bidding on paid ads, then it’s time to create a strategy to supplement your organic social media efforts. From the types of advertising available to how to manage your paid social budget, this guide will help you unlock the secrets to success.

Why pay to advertise on social media?

Asking why you would pay to advertise on social media when you can post for free is a reasonable question. We’re not suggesting that paid ads should replace all your organic content, but be used to work in conjunction with it as a way to help you meet your goals in a timely fashion.

What is the difference between paid social advertising and organic social media?

There are a number of key differences between paid social advertising and organic as well as the cost. While paid ads target audiences and drive sales like organic content does, the time it takes to see results is often significantly reduced.

The main benefits of a paid social element to your strategy are:

  • Greater visibility
  • Improved message frequency
  • Sustained viewing figures
  • Boosted engagement
  • Retargeting opportunities

Organic social media posts take time to gain traction, so, if you’re looking for quick wins or instantaneous results, paid advertising will give you that boost. Bypassing the algorithm to get your content in front of audiences in a timely fashion represents a good move at strategic points in a campaign.

When should you use paid social media marketing?

Some three-quarters of all marketers run some sort of paid advertising campaign on social media platforms, but they’re not placing ads at random. Identifying the right time in a campaign to boost social advertising in this way is the key to its success.

Firstly, be sure to have established your business profile and established a basis of organic content before running paid social ads. This means anyone who’s attracted to your page through a paid campaign isn’t then met by an almost blank landscape.

Then, tie your paid social campaign to clear business initiatives. These can include a product launch, seasonal sale or giveaway that offers additional value to potential customers. Investing money in paid social ads should never be done without clear goals, as it’ll be difficult to measure results and see a good return on the money spent.

Which social media platform is best for advertising?

All social media platforms offer some form of paid ads, but the ones you focus on will depend a lot on your business and the objectives you’re looking to achieve. Be sure to select the channel where your audience can be found. Remember:

  • X, formerly known as Twitter, is best for short-form content
  • Instagram relies on visual elements
  • Facebook is great for reaching millennials, with almost half its audience (49 percent) between the ages of 25 and 44
  • TikTok’s users tend to be younger still than those of Facebook
  • LinkedIn is targeted at networking professionals

So, before crafting copy or creating a carousel ad, be sure you’ve done your research to ensure you’re meeting your audience in the place online where they’re found. This means you don’t have to use paid ads on all the social media platforms where your business has a presence. In fact, it’s often more effective to just focus on the most relevant.

What are the types of social media advertising?

All of the organic content types you post to social media can be boosted and converted into paid social ads. That said, it’s important to think carefully about which ones are worth putting your ad spend behind and how the ad format will work on your chosen platform. Ask what types of social media advertising are most likely to perform the best in the context of both your business and your audience.

What are the main forms of ad available?

Social media content comes in many forms, some of which can work together. So, for example, an image ad may also be a carousel ad or a video ad might function as an Instagram Story at the same time. These nuances can help define where your ad will be placed and how it’ll be viewed by your target audience.

Ad types to consider include:

Image Ad

Probably the most common ad format across all social media sites, image ads can feature on news feeds, sidebars and banners. Use them to raise awareness around your business or a particular product and make sure you add a call to action (CTA) to a page on your website.

Video Ad

Some 87 per cent of marketers believe that video has a direct, positive impact on sales, making it a good choice for your social media content. Videos can be attention-grabbing, shareable and a great source of engagement.

Carousel ads can be a form of image ad or video ad, but instead of a single tile, they’re made up of multiple visuals, as well as headline, description and CTA. Tell a story or show different sides to a product with your carousel ad.

Stories Ad

A Snapchat, Facebook or Instagram Story will pop up in between user-generated content on these apps. Being at the top of a viewer’s feed makes this type of social media ad highly visible and its short duration lends itself to time-sensitive promotions.

Message Ad

An ad format you may not have considered is messages, which taps into a different type of social media usage. Appearing between users’ conversations, these ads are a useful way to follow up with warm leads. Once clicked on, they can take a social network user to a product page or start an automated conversation.

Collection Ad

Those adverts that include a large image or video followed by smaller pictures of a product’s specific features are called collection ads. Each tile can have its own URL and these advertisements allow users to make purchases straight from the social network platform.

Should different formats be used on each social network?

Making the most of a social media ad means leaning into the ad format that’ll work best on that platform. Some social media content performs well across all sites, while making sure a Facebook ad and a LinkedIn ad are different will boost your chances of success.

  • An image ad will work particularly well on the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest.
  • Video is supported on all social network sites, but each has its own set of specs. Instagram Stories ads are a good fit for video.
  • Carousel ads are commonly found on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Stories are only available on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat.
  • Choose message ads like Facebook Messenger and LinkedIn Sponsored InMail.
  • Use collection ads to great effect on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.

How do you choose the types of social ad to post?

All your decisions should be made based on data in order to take the element of chance out of your paid social media ads. Collecting this information will enable you to make an informed choice about ad types that you’re confident will be a success.

The best way to make sure you’re selecting the right types of ad for your brand and your chosen social media platform is to speak to the experts. A specialist social media advertising agency will guide you through the process, from research to creation and measuring results.

It will take all of the context required to discern the best ad format, platform and messaging for your brand and its target audience. With an ad agency in your corner, you’ll know that your paid social media strategy is likely to make good returns and support your organic social media content in the long run.

Why is a strategy important for success in paid social media advertising?

Posting to a social network without a strategy means that not all of your efforts are pulling in the same direction. A carefully laid out strategic model will enable you to get the most out of your paid social media advertising and offer a great return on investment. It should mean you’re posting to the right social platform where your target audience is found and that you’re sending out a consistent message.

What is an advertising strategy?

An advertising strategy is a business’ long-term roadmap for reaching out to its target audience, building awareness and promoting products and services. It should be focused around the goals an organisation is looking to achieve over time and the steps required to work towards them.

Each element of a paid social media advertising strategy should have an impact on driving the vision forward. Unlike a to-do list, a social media strategy should be more like a matrix, with all activity on each social platform feeding into the whole. This way, everything from paid advertising on the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn to email marketing and Google ads all work together.

A formal social media strategy, which should contain both paid media and organic elements, is vital to ensure everyone on the team knows their roles. It should be referred back to regularly and tweaked when necessary, if the situation on the ground is not as was originally expected.

How to optimise your social media campaigns

While the importance of a paid social media advertising campaign strategy cannot be understated, the way to go about optimising it has some clearly set out steps. Be sure not to miss any of these stages if you want to do a thorough job and have clear results to show the decision-makers at your company.

Research your target audience

A common misstep in optimising paid social media campaigns is marketers believing they fully understand their target audience without looking at the data. Do the research to find out who’s buying your products, what their pain points are, what motivates them, which social media platform they prefer and how they like to be addressed.

Tackle your audience’s pain points

Now that you’ve identified what your target audience’s pain points are, be sure to tackle them in your copy. By focusing on the benefits as opposed to the product, you’re showing users how it can improve their lives, as opposed to just appearing to be selling for the sake of making money.

Test multiple versions of your ad copy

No matter how much research you do, the best way to see what works with your target audience on your chosen social platform is to test it. Write multiple versions of the same ad copy, with varying CTAs and see which performs the best. Not only will this help your current paid advertising campaign but it will inform your future social media strategy.

Include CTAs

Failing to include a CTA means you’re not pointing your audience towards the logical next step, which is an opportunity lost. You want users to press the button, click the link or buy the product, so make sure this is explicit. It’s amazing how many paid social ads are missing a CTA.

How to know if your strategy is working

Measuring the success of your paid social media advertising should not be an afterthought, but an important part of your strategy right from the beginning. Since all of your social activity should be working towards specific goals, it’s vital to know what achieving these goals will look like.

Once you’ve established this, you should set up metrics to track the progress towards these goals. They may include things like engagement, follower growth and conversions, which in turn lead to improved brand awareness, sales and customer loyalty.

Tracking these from the outset means you’ll have a benchmark to measure the point from which you’ve come, as well as the distance you’ve come. Displaying this information in charts and graphs will enable marketers to show key stakeholders that paid advertising is an important part of the brand’s social media strategy that provides a good return on investment.

How to manage a social media advertising budget

Like most things in business, social media advertising comes down to money. The success of your brand awareness or other marketing campaigns will come down to how well you manage the budget. Luckily, there are processes in place to help bid on ads and make the most of your social media budget, with those familiar with them able to show you how they work.

How to set an ad budget

Setting a budget is one of the hardest parts of social media management for the inexperienced, but over time should become easier. A social media manager should have good oversight of expected costs, as well as real-time data and the returns that have been gained.

The projected ad spend for socials should sit within the wider social media marketing budget and then again the entire digital marketing budget. This will give a clear picture of where funds are being allocated and how successful they are over time.

Most of the time, a social media budget will be set out over a month or a quarter, although some marketing departments forecast for a whole year. An ad budget should be a dynamic document that’s constantly updated to make it as useful in practice as possible.

In 2022, B2B product companies spent 12.83 per cent of their marketing budgets on social media advertising, while B2C product organisations used 18.54 per cent this way. All those surveyed intended to spend a bigger proportion in the future. As well as paying for ad space, businesses must remember to factor in other costs, such as content creation, software and tools into their budgets.

How does bidding on social media work?

Social media advertising space is sold via an ad auction, which enables social platforms to offer the ad which will provide the highest value. Each channel works slightly differently, but factors to consider include:

  • Your bid and how high you’re willing to go
  • The quality of your ad 
  • Its relevance
  • The estimated action rate

Bids are placed through ad management tools on each of the social network platforms. Bidding happens autonomously after advertisers set the maximum they’re prepared to pay for an advertising campaign.

Can you change your advertising technique?

All social media marketing should be conducted as part of a well-researched strategy that means advertising is a success. Despite this, elements don’t always perform in the way that’s expected, but the great thing about digital marketing is that certain aspects can be tweaked if they’re not getting results.

Monitoring a social media advertising campaign means you can reallocate ad spend as you go. Update the budget and adjust your social media management to focus on the areas that are working. This will mean you’re getting the best return on investment and not continuing to pay for areas that are being outperformed.

11 Minute Read

By axonnmedia | Updated

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