It hasn’t even been 10 years since the first social network arrived on the scene, but their rapid adoption by billions of users has turned them into serious media channels. The model has already proven itself: a portion of people engaging with a brand on social media will also engage with the brand’s website and become customers.

Many companies have joined the action by advertising on social media, either to grow their social audience or to target offers directly to those on a social network. Social ads can complement, and may even be an alternative to Pay-per-Click Ads, with lower cost-per-click prices than mainstream PPC. But how does a company know whether or not they should advertise on social media? What steps help ensure a successful social advertising campaign? Here are some best practices to bear in mind.

Pre-Campaign Best Practices

Before you start a campaign, get clear on your objectives (e.g. growing awareness among audience, voicing thoughts for stature as a leader in your industry, draw identified leads further down sales funnel). Your activities will vary based on what you’re trying to accomplish.twitter

Try to promote your content, not yourself. Instead of paying for followers or ‘likes,’ sponsor content you create and post on these networks. All platforms let you amplify content you place on the network. On Facebook it’s a Promoted Story/Post, on twitter it’s a Promoted Tweet, on LinkedIn it’s a Sponsored Status update.

Use the many targeting options these networks offer. They let you narrow down who sees your ads by location, interests and behaviours. These networks have the unique ability to target by demographic traits (gender, age, workplace, etc.) and by whom they are connected to; even connections they’ve made with your competitors.

There’s more to developing paid social campaigns that just setting up ads. Be prepared for some web development to get your site ready. You may need to markup your landing pages or place targeting pixels throughout your site. The networks won’t show ads until they’ve scrutinized and approved these modifications.

Network-specific Tactics

It’s critical to consider which social ad platform you are advertising on before you design ad content. For example, don’t make a text ad that is longer than 140 characters if you’re going to run it on twitter. LinkedIn specializes in B2B advertising, but make sure your ad copy is written for people with specific job titles, as that is the likeliest targeting method you will use to show your ads.linkedin

Before you dismiss Facebook as a platform for reaching businesspeople, consider the tactics shared by Kim Walsh-Phillips in a recent interview with Jason Swenk
You can promote your post only to who you really want to see it, and a great place to start is your own email list, using Facebook custom audiences…With Facebook’s Power Editor you will be able to get an audience based on an email address list you upload, and Facebook will match your email addresses to the ones they have on file. I’m not opposed to spending significant advertising dollars on my own email list. I know that sounds kind of weird; why would I pay to reach a group that I can reach via email? But we have found a really great cost-per-conversion on our Facebook ads to our email list. Perhaps they have Gmail accounts and our emails are going straight into their Promotions folder, so this way our message is more likely to be seen.

Kim goes on to explain, “You can create a new list, upload it based on anyone’s behaviors, so let’s say you have a newsletter and you have a key article in there that you want all of your clients to read. You upload your newsletter list to Facebook and then run an ad saying ‘Make sure you check out this month’s article. It
will be in your inbox this week.’ or ‘Thanks for being a subscriber.’ It’s like having a personal conversation with somebody on Facebook. It’s amazing because it’s so cheap. You have uploaded a custom list; you are using just the email addresses you have, you’re not bidding against anyone else. So your cost per click is really, really low. It’s a cost-efficient way to do some really cool marketing.”

You should consider YouTube a
s a social network unto itself. It is distinct because it takes video ads –¬†they are the only game in town. If you have video ads, don’t overlook Facebook and Twitter, they are in the game too, as we saw with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Time will tell how people react to video ads on various platforms.youtube

Mid-Campaign Best Practices

It isn’t fair to say ‘advertising on social doesn’t work’ as the saying goes, no generalities are true, including this one. This is true in paid social media because no two audiences behave alike. You have to test everything.

Make yourself familiar with each platform’s dashboard. They show campaigns differently, so get familiar with the interface so you can interpret campaign reports and take action from them.

Finally, for your first few campaigns, gear your ROI expectations way down. Consider the investment as your tuition for learning how social ads work.

In Conclusion

The ROI of marketing on social media has a yin-yang relationship with paid media. Paying for eyeballs doesn’t let you off the hook of organically growing and engaging with your audience. The more connections and posts you have (aka your social graph), the more the network’s advertising platform will be able to leverage this data to reach the right audience. When paid and organic are used together on social platforms, your content gets amplified and you get more engagement.
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IMAGE CREDIT: FLICKR, WITH ALTERATIONS