Should You Ever Pay for Social Media Advertising?

In this blog series we will be looking at various aspects of social media and whether to pay or not to pay. It’s important to start with whether you should be paying for social media advertising.

Many of you have been using social media for a number of years and can’t believe how much things have changed in that time, but should you now be paying for social media advertising too?

When the main social media platforms were launched, they were free to use.  Over time, as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube have grown their user base, they have introduced paid tools to increase ‘reach’ but also ‘revenue’.

In this series, we’re going to look at the pros and cons of paying to reach more people on the platforms we regularly use to share content, attract website visitors and raise our brand awareness.

There was an assumption that social media would allow us to connect with our customers free of charge, create profiles and build a following. When Facebook went public (i.e. floated their shares on the stock exchange), they had to start making money from advertising revenue. Almost immediately, business page reach went down.

The other social platforms followed suit, which is to be expected.

There is a clear trade-off: we get to access our customers, communicate with them and let them talk to each other. In order to reach people we don’t already know, though, we have to pay.

They gather the consumer data we share with them to build a picture of who we are as individuals. They know what we’re interested in, which is based on everything we do and every interaction we have. Selling access to this data is how they make money.

In this series, we’ll be looking at the pros and cons of social media advertising on some of the most popular platforms, what sort of costs are involved and the potential benefits.

First, you have to decide what your goals in using Social Media are

Some of the goals that a business or organisation will have for using social media are marketing goals:

  • raising awareness of your brand and products
  • engaging with people and building on their awareness
  • encouraging them to be willing to share contact data or details with you
  • using their contact data in lead generation to convert them to purchase.

Predominantly, your goals will include lead generation, generating enquiries, finding people who are interested in working with you and getting that sale – either as a one-off or repeatedly.

Other goals could included: customer service, enquiry handling, complaint handling, recruitment, public relations, etc.

 Before you start using social media advertising, there are a few things to have ready and wise steps to follow.

Step 1 – The Target

Every time you go into the advertising tools on your social media platforms, you need to consider your advertising goals and who makes up your target audience. This is the first question they will ask you as their templates and tools serve different goals, i.e. the Call to Action button will say something different. Yes, it is often as basic as that.

The question you need to ask yourself is, do you want people like the customers you already have, because that already works for you?

Or do you want to reach out to a new type of customer? You can define the categories or characteristics using the knowledge you have about the people you want to target.

 Step 2 – The Message

It may take some time to work on the ad creative – the graphic design, photography, ad copy and tone of voice – the language you use. This includes the ad copy (the words) and the call to action, and these can often be ‘the make or break’ of an advert.

Step 3 – The Design

You may use a self-service tool such as Canva or Pic Monkey, or you may be working with your graphic designer or agency. The ad creative (photography, graphics, animation) was always vital for advertising, and continues to be so now. This is where time and budget needs to be focused.

Step 4 – The Positioning

Selecting ad placement is about where your ads will be seen. Will they be on the main feed or in an advert sidebar? Are they on both the desktop and mobile version, or just one? Depending on what you want to achieve, there may not be much difference between them. However, if you feel that your customer makes decisions about you ‘on the go’, consider a mobile-only campaign.

Step 5 – The Budget

Deciding on your budget and scheduling is also important. You may run this ad as a one-off, or you may do it regularly. Either way, start small and build. Monitoring is really important, but one of the good things about social media advertising compared to traditional ad campaigns is that you can stop, pause and modify your ads at any point.

The key question is always what the Cost of Acquisition is (the average of how many people you reach, how many convert (respond) divided by the total cost). If it is more than you can afford to spend on each new contact (who may not be ready to buy from you just yet), then focus on other tactics to increase your reach on social media.

Step 6 – The Impact

The great thing about all these platforms is that they have fantastic FREE analytics, so you can dive in in real time and see how your campaigns are doing.

Your customers are almost certainly on social media. Most people are on something, even if they’re just on Pinterest for their hobbies or they WhatsApp with the ‘rellies’ – without realising they are social media platforms.

As with any of your activities on social media, though, are you confident that your customers expect to see you there and are they happy to hear from you on that platform? Is there a conversation you can add to or enhance in some way?

Are there places where your customers wouldn’t expect to see you? You don’t want to be the gatecrasher.

The same approach applies to your ads as it does to your posts and general social media activity – if customers would be happy to see you there anyway, they’ll be open to seeing your ads too.

You can now advertise on almost all of the social media platforms. With some of the newer platforms, they haven’t opened the whole advertising suite fully to everyone. For example Snapchat who launched the first tier of social advertising tools, but you had to use one of their affiliate marketing providers to access these tools.

Now for the fun bit

You now need to decide which platform is best for you and what type of social media advertising (or paid promotion) to create. Over the series, we’ll focus on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube, because they are the platforms where you’re already most active, no doubt, and they are a good place to start.

In our next blog, we look at the ‘pros and cons’ of Facebook advertising.

If you like video, check out our recording of this fascinating topic and learn from these amazing thoughtleaders.

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Photo by Neonbrand on Unsplash