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The Ultimate Guide to Social Media Advertising

social_media_advertising_platforms

Social ad platforms compile information based on user activity such as shares, likes, and the sites and apps they frequently use rather than relying on keyword targeting methods. While users on each social platform are hit with ads, there is also an opportunity for users to control what type of ads they see or don’t see, and even opt out entirely from being served certain ads. As a result, it’s pivotal that any business looking to use social advertising to generate great ROI fully understands what it takes to create a successful campaign from both a technical implementation and creative design standpoint.

Before we dive into specifics on how a business can make this happen, it’s important to understand precisely how advertising on social media works. In order to compile user information, behavior tracking is done using a user’s cookies along with pixel tags that are embedded in a business’ website. Once the information is gathered, users are shown ads that each platform estimates will be of interest to them. For example, if a user is visiting websites looking for real estate options, a moving company, and other businesses or industries related to moving, an ad platform may consider that specific user as part of an appropriate target audience for a storage company's advertisement that is being served to people in their area.

The fashion industry is another great example of user activity defining what kind of ads people will be served with. Say a user engages with content from their favorite fashion blogger on a regular basis – showing a strong interest in what the blogger is doing and saying. If this blogger has a favorite brand, style, or trends, it is likely that the social platform will show ads to the user from brands that are showcased or related to that specific account, as a social advertising platform understands that those businesses or products will logically also interest the user.

In order to be able to fully understand what your social advertising is getting your business in terms of ROI, it is important for each ad platform to provide businesses with insights into how their advertising efforts are performing. I have compiled three tiers of social insights in terms of importance and relevance to the user, with the most important and relevant insights that are necessary for launch at tier 1. As a sidenote, when analyzing performance, it is necessary for advertisers to have the ability to create a custom date range to measure any and all of these specific performance metrics.

Tier 1:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Click-Through Rate
  • Amount Spent
  • Cost Per Click
  • Placement
  • Traffic

Tier 2

  • Cost per 1,000 Impressions (CPM)
  • Frequency
  • Unique Clicks
  • Unique Click-Through Rate

Tier 3

  • Options for date-range features
  • Ability to Export Report
  • Viewability at Account, Campaign, & Ad Level

Now that we’ve established what insights a business would need and why user-level information-based social advertisements are important, let’s look at what kind of capabilities are available on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to fill this need.

Facebook Ad Manager

When it comes to Facebook, the best option to get this sort of advertising completed is the Facebook Ad Manager. The tool makes it simple very simple to get started - when creating your first ad on Facebook, you have the following options when initially creating your campaign:

Objectives-For-Your-Campaign
Boost a post using this functionality is what is commonly referred to as a dark post, a piece of sponsored content that looks like a regular organic Facebook post but is actually an advertisement. Google defines a dark post as: “An unpublished post is a status update, link share, video or photo that was never meant to be shared as an organic post. Staying true to it name, it’s never published but is only surfaced as an ad.” Dark posts use strong CTAs to drive conversions, letting users know exactly what steps they should be taking when interacting with the ad. As an example, check out this dark post from Hostgator:

Host-Gator
While it may look like a regular post, the ad itself makes sure that there is a strong CTA and a purpose behind the post that looks to generate measurable results (in this case conversions) for the brand.

Steps for Creating an Ad:

Creating an ad like this can be a complicated process at times, but there are some simple steps to keep in mind that can help streamline this process.

To begin, enter the URL (or page) you’d like to promote. Then create your target audience by choosing from a variety of different options that Facebook offers. These options include:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Languages
  • Interests
  • Behaviors

Once that is complete, enter your budget and schedule when you want your ad to run – whether that is on a continuous basis or with a set start & end date in mind.

Copy & Design

Now that you’ve got all the details for where the ad is going to lead users and who it is targeting squared away, it’s time to move on to the ad itself and focus on the copy and design elements that are going to make up your ad. The first thing you to need to do is upload the image for your ad. You can upload up to 6 different images, at a suggested size of 1200 x 628 pixels, but it is important to note that each image you choose for your ad needs to feature less than 20% text – including logos. If that isn’t the case with your images, Facebook will keep your ad from running.

Once you have nailed down what images you are going to use, it’s time to turn your attention to your ad copy. This begins with choosing an appropriate headline and text description for your ad. On Facebook, both have limits – a headline needs to be no more than 25 characters, while the text description shouldn’t be more than 90 characters total.

Once all your copy is finalized, the next step is to choose an appropriate CTA button. On Facebook there are preset options that include: “Shop Now”, “Book Now”, “Learn More”, “Sign Up”, and “Download”. Make sure you choose the CTA that makes the most sense for whatever goal you’re trying to achieve with your Facebook ad and that you don’t go with a CTA that will confuse people once they arrive at your landing page.

The final step when it comes to copy is making sure that you create an appropriate news feed link description that tells users exactly why they should be visiting your website. Much like headline and description, there is a character restriction, although this time it is a generous 200 characters. Make sure you take advantage of this so you can attract as many clicks on your ads as possible.

Dance.com

Twitter

If your business decides that advertising on Twitter is a better option, you have a lot of options that are both similar and different to what Facebook has to offer. Campaigns on Twitter can be for gaining more followers, generating website clicks or conversions, increasing tweet engagements, driving app installs or engagements, building leads on Twitter, or various other custom options.

Create New Campaign
For the purposes of this blog post, we’re going to focus on “website clicks or conversions” as this will be the most relevant for most advertisers that are using the platform to drive new traffic and sales to a dedicated existing website.

Steps for creating an ad:
To get started with Twitter ads you need to set a schedule for your campaign. This means choosing between starting immediately, running continuously, or customizing start and end dates.

When it comes to creative for a Twitter it's a relatively simple four-step process:

  • Write copy for the tweet (Limit 140 characters)
  • Website URL (Shortened link)
  • Add image
  • Select a CTA (Read More, Shop Now, Learn More, Donate, Apply Here, etc.)

Targeting is a bit more complex on Twitter than the creative is. Advertisers can set one or multiple locations to target, as well as gender, languages, devices, platforms & carriers, the keywords that the target audience is searching or using in their tweets, the followers of your twitter account, interests, and general behaviors. Twitter even allows you to target based on tailored audiences like website visitors or lists and also allows TV targeting based on TV marketing, shows, network, and genre. There are a ton of options to choose from, and when done properly and ad should have no problem reaching a very specific subset of the most qualified leads.

If there are certain people you don’t want to see your ad you can also exclude specific audiences. Advertisers may limit targeting by excluding tailored audiences & specific behaviors – much like a negative keyword in AdWords.

When everything’s all set in terms of creative and copy, all that’s left to do is set your budget. Just like most other advertising platforms, Twitter allows you to set a daily maximum spend, as well as the option to set a total budget threshold that shouldn’t be exceeded so that you don’t have to worry about overspending on your campaign.

After setting a budget, all that’s left to do is run your campaign. When everything is all set and done, it should look something like this:

Dance Twitter Ad

LinkedIn

For many B2Bs justifying a social spend can be a difficult thing to do. Using LinkedIn for social advertising makes this a lot easier, as the platform is specifically tailored with businesses in mind. Depending on your business goals, LinkedIn offers the following options when creating your campaign:

LinkedIn-Ads

Creating an Ad

As with most social advertising platforms, the first step is naming your ad campaign appropriately. From there, you also need to select which language your ad is going to be in so that your ads are being read by the right language speaker.

Once language and campaign name are all set, you can begin to create your ads. LinkedIn supports up to 15 variations of an ad for each campaign. It is definitely helpful to have as many different variations as possible so that you can use the included social advertising data LinkedIn provides to optimize your campaign with new ads accordingly. Each different ad should contain the following elements:

  • A web page (or select page to promote on LinkedIn)
  • A headline (25 character limit)
  • A description (75 character & 2 line limit)
  • An image (PNG, JPEG or GIF; max size 2 MB. Image will be resized to fit a 50x50 pixel square)

Much like Facebook or Twitter, a big part of LinkedIn success is having appropriate targeting. While it can be a bit confusing as to who you can target with LinkedIn, I’ve build out a resource that you can use to see precisely who you can target with LinkedIn advertising before you even start building your campaign. See it here.

The last step to launch a successful LinkedIn advertising campaign is to choose what kind of payment model you're going to run your ads with - a cost-per-click or cost-per-impression model. For both models, LinkedIn suggests a bid and has a minimum bid already set. Depending on whether or not you're trying to drive engagement and traffic (we suggest you use CPC) or just brand recognition (CPM), both models can be effective. LinkedIn also has a daily budget option as well as a length of campaign setting that will help you make sure your goals are set and that spend is kept within your guidelines.

The ad will be shown on the right-hand side of the LinkedIn platform, and look like this:

LinkedIn Ads Right Hand Side

Key Takeaways

  • Simple is best.
  • CPC model – This will entice users who want results.
  • Lifetime budget and start/end date.
  • Automatic & manual bid option

Regardless of what kind of social media advertising platform you decide to use, it is important to remember to offer ads that provide clicks to your website instead of just simple audience growth or engagement on the social media platform. Clicks to your site can also link to social pages if an advertisers wants to include that in the main goal for the campaign, and there is always the opportunity for a "suggested social feed" option in the future, similar to a social integration on a website.

In order to make sure that your ads are capturing the behavior and interests of your target audience, there needs to be a focus on serving relevant ads - regardless of what social media platform you decide to advertise on. Depending on your audience, broad details like gender and age might be fine, but narrowing down your audience to include specifics like location, prior behavior, and related interests, is always helpful for businesses that want to make sure they are reaching an appropriate audience segment.

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Comments on this post

  1. Dear Kate,

    In relation to an on-going social media research, I would like to know whether you are willing to answer some questions. The questions concern topics such as personal experience,giving advice, stating opinions and views on social media usage among start-up companies.

    I am an international graduating student, who is specializing in International Communication and Media at the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. At this moment, I carrying out a research in order to find out in what ways (effective and efficient) can start-ups attract bigger audience online and trigger more reactions. This is why I am trying to get in touch with media experts, who can shed some insights on that area and share their professional knowledge and experience.

    In case you are interested in spending some time and answer my open-ended questions, there are two options: online questionnaire or a Skype conversation. I understand that experts in the media world are constantly busy, and this is why the participation in this research would be highly appreciated, well-kept, and valued.

    I am looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time and consideration in advance!

    Kind regards,
    Veronika Bikova, International Communication and Media
    Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, the Netherlands

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