With more than half the world’s population now using social media, and people spending an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes a day across the major platforms, it’s not surprising that businesses are looking for ways to get the most out of social media marketing.
Sadly, the days when a company could join for free and rely on organic content to connect with customers are gone. Social ads are now a requirement. In order to maximize your paid investment, it’s important to understand both the benefits and challenges of advertising on these platforms.
The good news is that there’s a relatively low barrier to entry for advertising on social media. On Facebook, for example, ads are bought self-serve through an ad auction, and there are a wealth of free online courses available to teach you the basics (such as Facebook’s Blueprint videos.) Competitive buying rates also mean you can dip your toe into social media advertising without breaking the bank. Because it’s so affordable, you can often see a very fast return on investment.
One of the biggest benefits to social media advertising is that your ads can be used to reach a very wide audience, or to target very specific segments of potential customers. These platforms have powerful data built in that lets advertisers tap into demographic, psychographic and behavioral targeting in order to bring your message to the exact person you want.
Those capabilities go as far as allowing you to use a pixel to segment out different types of people based on actions they are taking on your website, to upload customer or prospect lists and reach those individuals, or to find people who are very similar to your current customers through prospect modeling.
It’s also incredibly easy to experiment with different types of ad formats and messages for each audience you are trying to reach. Simply put: Unlike on other media channels, you don’t have to put one message out there and hope for the best. Social media is a great place to test and learn about what types of promotions motivate action. Ultimately, by building content that your audience finds both relevant and engaging, you can generate more powerful connections that lead to increases in sales and long-term brand loyalty.
Measuring the success of your social media ads is also relatively simple, whether your goal is to generate awareness, engagements, website traffic, leads, sales, or some other media metric. Robust reporting lets you quickly learn what’s working and make real-time adjustments to campaigns in order to optimize performance.
There are certainly disadvantages to social media advertising as well. Because leveraging these platforms is so accessible, there’s a lot of competition among other brands and content vying for people’s attention. An effective social media ad campaign requires an investment in your creative to ensure it is optimized for these platforms and the behaviors people display when interacting in their newsfeeds. A three-minute video or overly text heavy photo ad is definitely going to fall flat, whereas a vertical story video or interactive swipe-able experience is much more likely to stand out.
As powerful as the targeting capabilities are in the ad auction, if you’re new to social media advertising it can be difficult to navigate all the nuances of the platforms and the overwhelming amount of campaign settings available. Without a smart targeting strategy in place, it’s possible you’ll spend money buying ads that don’t do anything to move the needle for your business.
For example, advertisers who are new to Facebook advertising might not know that optimizing an ad to “clicks” tells the ad auction to focus solely on finding “clicky” users, and not those who actually care about your products or services. If your ad campaign doesn’t perform as expected, it is often challenging to troubleshoot issues in these platforms unless you have a good support system of representatives to work with directly.
One last factor to consider is that social media can be used to aid in the spread of negative feedback and misinformation. As a result, advertisers need to have a strong response plan in place to review user comments on paid ads.
It’s also important to keep a pulse on general trending topics across social networks to ensure your content adds to important conversations without inadvertently damaging your brand reputation. This could result in needing additional resources to manage your social media presence.
If your business is new to social media advertising, it’s important to recognize that managing a paid campaign requires a deep knowledge of best practices for each platform, constant monitoring of performance, and the experience to know which levers to pull to maximize results.
Learn more about how Centro creates effective paid social strategies for our clients here.