Paid Social Media Advertising: Fad or New Reality?

Pay to play. These three words are usually thrown around in reference to having some level of clout and influence. But what if they were becoming synonymous with social media? But why, you ask. An argument is social media has become the new advertising. And with most forms of advertising, free only goes so far before the impact and luster wear off.

Businesses of all shape, size, and industry have started to add paid social media to their marketing budgets. And why wouldn’t they? Consumers weigh the ad influence of social media more so than TV during the warm weather months. Paid social media otherwise has near even influence with TV advertising the rest of the year.

How Does Paid Social Media Differ from Pay-Per-Click?

With pay-per-click (PPC), you only pay when someone clicks on the ad. But with paid social media, you’ll pay whether someone clicks on your ad or not. Think of paid social media like traditional print advertising. There you pay for space taken up in the publication based on the size of the ad. And also in traditional advertising, paid social media is viewed as awareness of your company or brand for customers instead of enticement for sales.

With PPC, the crux is around keywords that will garner the most return-on-investment (ROI) which means it’s a competitive area. The more you pay for a PPC campaign doesn’t always equate to better ROI and conversions. Conversions are why you want an optimized landing page behind any PPC campaign.

How Can I Tell What Is a Paid Ad and What Is a Post?

Let’s look at the four major social networks. For Facebook, a boosted post will look the same as an ad. Both will have ‘sponsored’ under the page name on the upper left corner. The difference can is in the URL at the bottom. An ad may have a custom long-tail ending to the URL. A post is usually a link to created content while an ad can be for this, a service or product, event, etc.

Since Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012, a paid post is set up through Facebook’s Pages platform. ‘Sponsored’ appears in the upper right corner for paid photos and videos. Celebrity users on Instagram often use #ad in the hashtag stream on posts of endorsed products or services.

LinkedIn refers to their paid advertising as ‘sponsored content’. Like Facebook, sponsored content targets an audience outside who already follow your company page. Sponsored content on LinkedIn has a ‘promoted’ designation in the upper right corner.

Twitter makes a clear notation of promoted tweets. These tweets have the same engagement ability as regular user produced content.

If Social Media Is Free to Use, Why Should I Pay for Ads?

This is a common question we’ve heard and an understandable one. To start, using paid ads on social media ads can reinforce essential messages. These may be ones already shared on social media or other platforms by your company or brand new messages waiting to be unveiled. Another way to think of it is a way to create brand or business awareness without having to push sales and conversions. If you’re an established company, consumers already know who you are, what you do, and what you can provide them. Paid social media can be a gentle reminder of this from time to time.

But, unlike traditional advertising, paid social media allows you to pinpoint a targeted audience with many demographics. It also lets you A/B test ads with these demographics to gauge ultimate impact. Consider this: your company is national, but is getting ready to roll out a new product to two specific markets on opposite ends of the country. With a couple paid social media ads, you can let these markets know what’s coming to them without the ad being lost in the shuffle nationally.

Do I Have to Pay for Advertising to Be Seen on Social Media?

In a simple world, the answer would be no. Quality and timely content would suffice and engage your fans each time. Ideally, even following hashtag best practices would get your posts reach and clicks from fans and non-fans alike.

But there isn’t much in life that’s simple. As social media networks adjust and change the algorithms which bring us posts, it’s a challenge at times to keep up. What would shoot to the front of the line two months ago may now waste away hidden in the stream of published content. Paying for a post or several isn’t guaranteed to be seen beyond a moment or two as users can hide or dismiss social ads. That reason alone is enough to spend quality time creating ads which appeal to your audience.

What Are Best Practices for Using Paid Social Media?

To start, defining your target audience is required. The work for creating your buyer personas is already done. Because you target your personas everywhere else doesn’t mean you can skimp on them when it comes to paid social media. In fact, wouldn’t you want to get the biggest bang for your buck?

Shake things up to learn what works when it comes to your ads. Creating a singular, end-all ad for a social media network won’t work. Since you already customize each organic social media post to the platform you’re using, think of that when creating many ads for one network. Plan on creating three to four variations of the same ad for one network. With variances, you can see which ads are working and stop running ones that aren’t.

Going back to your targeted audience, speak like they do. If your ideal or current customers are 9-to-5 office workers, don’t speak to them through paid social media as if they’re stay-at-home parents. Use language that appeals to emotions.

Look at the numbers and go from there. Maybe a paid social media campaign will wrap up in two weeks, or maybe your budget and plan allow for a month or more. It’s okay to take a peek at the ads once a week, but once a day would drive anyone batty. Ads need time to grow and viewers need time to digest what they’re seeing. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and even the best ad campaign can take a day or more to gain traction.

Keep your end goal in mind, not individual metrics. Do you want people to sign up for a mailing list, giveaway, take advantage of special pricing on a service or product? These are examples of end goals. Individual metrics such as replies, likes, shares, and retweets are good ways to gauge the campaign performance as a whole, but not whether it was a success or not.

My Time and Money are Valuable

If you’re concerned about running your own ad campaign, whether you’ll get the most bang for your buck or you just don’t have the time, we can definitely help. Our team is dedicated to putting your advertising budget to work to get you a solid ROI. We will write your ad copy, select appropriate images, A/B test your ads and monitor your ad performance for adjustments along the way. Whether you want to advertise on Facebook, Google AdWords or both, give us a call and we’ll give you a free business analysis and discuss a profitable growth plan with you. Visit our contact page and tell us how we can help or call now at 352-281-1134.

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