A Beginner’s Guide to Social Media Advertising

by Cici DeWaal

posted on 07-18-2016

Getting the most from your marketing dollar isn’t as straightforward as it has been in the past. Social media has changed dramatically over the past few years, and marketers have had to quickly learn the art of using social advertising as part of an effective digital strategy.

Why have social platforms evolved? Simple — they need to make money. And, most of the big ones — Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, for example — are turning to their communities to secure advertising revenue. Paid social media is a fantastic avenue to reach your desired audience, but if you’re not smart about how you go about it, you could lose ground quickly. New to the pay-to-play space? Try these tips to get started.

Develop the Skillset for Paid Social.
Doing social advertising well on the major platforms requires a basic foundation in ad buying and bidding. Part of your learning strategy can include borrowing skills from other departments within your organization. The search or SEO team likely has experience bidding on different platforms, using handy techniques for setting up paid campaigns on social channels. Audience targeting is another useful skill for serving your social ads to the right audience.

Many of the social networks are beginning to publish their own resources — check out Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. A lot of the learning will start as you begin to test and create your own campaigns. Though each of the networks have slightly different terminology and set up, a lot of the functions are similar.

Learn From the Platforms Themselves.
In the absence of available formal strategies for implementing paid social, the platforms themselves are improving resources for those just starting out. Facebook and Twitter have comprehensive resource centers — and occasionally, helpful training webinars — with information on how to create and manage paid campaigns. Consider recording a session or two to play back as needed. Of course, if you spend enough money, many of the platforms will assign your company its own representative. LinkedIn also has a helpful section on marketing solutions for the beginner looking to implement paid features.

How Paid Social Works — What Can You Expect?
Getting started with social advertising is a relatively simple process. Navigate to the ads dashboard and login; this is where you set up your account and create and fund your campaign. You usually begin by defining your target audience and then creating content to be promoted. Within each platform, you have the ability to manage your campaign — whether checking on live content, promoting content more aggressively, or creating new content altogether.

To make things easier, Twitter has six or seven predesigned campaign types that can be helpful if you’re just starting out. Twitter designed these to help optimize your campaign whether you want to gain more video views or increase engagement. While it can be tempting to set and forget, staying actively involved in your campaign is good practice.

When funding a specific campaign, or “bidding,” be sure to set a maximum campaign budget. A defined maximum amount will automatically stop the platform from spending when it reaches your bid amount. Setting an upper threshold will save the campaign from going over budget if you forget to turn it off or pause it. Lowering your bid can also help set the pace. Bid high to start and then drop the threshold as you see it beginning to gain traction.

Build Paid Social Skills In-House.
Do companies need dedicated teams of paid social media experts to be successful? The way the industry is going — yes! Ultimately, the goal of your campaign will depend on what you want your audience to do — read an article, download a whitepaper, watch an empowering video, or something else altogether. However, it’s helpful to have a group of people within your social team — even if it’s an extension of your organic team — to handle social media advertising. They know which content performs well, and building this skillset in-house, rather than with a third party, creates more value within your social team.

Put It all Together!
As social becomes even more pay-to-play for brands, more challenges emerge. Securing a budget large enough to make a meaningful investment in paid social is still an uphill battle for many social marketers. The techniques involved in paid social aren’t excessively complex, but gaining that knowledge is more difficult, as the industry still lacks a single go-to resource to gain the necessary skills. On the plus side, paid social is a convenient and proven way to reach your desired audience. Unlike many traditional marketing campaigns, social media advertising makes it possible to see exactly where the money went — and what value it drove!

Topics: Social