When it comes to planning where to spend your marketing budget effectively, advertising on social media is one of the most sound investments you can make.

I often speak to marketers who are just getting started with online advertising, and I offer the same advice at the start of each call. Advertising is complex; it’s never a set-it-and-forget-it process. It requires testing and checking, and experimenting with all forms of advertising offers the best chance of showing you what is truly effective. In addition to display advertising, I suggest giving social a try.

In fact, social media recently became the most effective digital advertising channel for driving impressions, clicks, and conversions. These days, businesses are allocating on average 28% of their spend towards it.

Advertising on social media plays nicely with your existing social media activity. While your social media strategy may be focused on educating your market, increasing awareness and nurturing prospects, ads are there to catch those who are ready to convert today.

At BuySellAds, we love working with marketers who want to integrate their existing social media marketing with new advertising efforts. The biggest question marketers ask as they get started: Which social networks should I advertise on?

Well, that depends on your business, what you offer, who your target demographic is, and your goals.

In this post, we’ll go over everything a marketer needs to know about social media advertising—how it fits in among existing marketing efforts, how to choose the right channels, how to measure and analyze your campaigns, and a few best practices to make sure your campaigns stand out from the rest.

social media advertising guide

On top of that, you can go into even more depth with our new ebook, Practical Startup Marketing Guide to Online Advertising—it explains all this and more.

Types and benefits of social media advertising

You can advertise on nearly every channel out there—Twitter, reddit, your brother’s blog. But we’ll focus in on the top three channels where most marketers focus their time: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Each channel offers the benefits of:

  • Interaction: Your ad and content right on the homepage allows users to interact with it like they do any other piece of social content.
  • Reach: Expand your reach to new potential customers who can interact with your content by commenting, liking, favoriting, retweeting, etc.
  • Followers: Brands also report a notable increase in followers through these social advertising options, since brand visibility increases significantly.

Twitter: Lots of options, deep analytics

Twitter offers a variety of advertising options so you can choose the option that best relates to your bigger marketing goals. Here are the available options:

Twitter advertising options

This is how each campaign type ties into your marketing goals:

  • Followers: If you are just starting out on Twitter, or are about to make a big announcement such as a product launch, having a larger targeted reach will be extremely beneficial to you. Promoting your account to gain followers (like Shoutlet is doing here) could help you achieve this.

Twitter Promoted accounts

  • Website clicks or conversions: To understand the impact social media has on website visitors and new customers, set up conversion tracking on promoted tweets or Twitter Cards. Closely tracking clicks and conversions from Twitter will help you understand both the impact that social media has to your business as well as how advertising can accelerate that.

Twitter advertising website cards

 

 

  • Promoted Tweets: Promoted tweets operate very similarly to regular tweeting, except there is a cost involved in order to reach a larger targeted audience. Promoted will give you visibility and engagement on important posts that you can’t match through regular tweets.

Let’s take a look at one of Airbnb’s Twitter advertising campaigns.

This specific promoted tweet achieved a 4% engagement rate:

Airbnb promoted tweet

The reason it worked so well:

  • Informal: Airbnb used informal language that matches how others talk on Twitter.
  • Personality: They generated excitement through their brand personality.
  • CTA: Airbnb offered an incentive that was very valuable to their audience.
  • Targeting: Through Twitter’s ad targeting, they were able to access an untapped, qualified audience that fit their ideal customer profile, thus expanding their reach.
  • App installs or engagements: Advertising your mobile app and encouraging regular app engagement is tough. This form of Twitter advertising entices both app installs (via Twitter Cards) and app engagements to entice people to come back. It’s a great way to supplement lead generation and nurturing campaigns you’re already doing to achieve these goals.

Twitter ad engagements

  • Leads on Twitter: Social media is becoming ever-present in the top of the marketing funnel. Twitter Cards allow you to capture a lead’s contact information within the tweet itself, allowing you to capture people ready to convert today.

Twitter card

  • Custom: Perhaps you have different (or even more specific) goals. Custom Twitter advertising gives you the opportunity to further specify keywords, television programming, interests, follower types and audiences you’d like to go after.

Twitter custom advertising

Measuring Twitter advertising performance

We’re pretty impressed with Twitter’s advertising analytics! They have a separate dashboard for each ad product, allowing you to dive into specific performance numbers and insights. You’ll see impressions, new followers, engagement and follow rates, audience demographic details, and a clean A/B testing interface.

Twitter advertising analytics

Twitter also recently made available to all users a tweet activity dashboard, which provides a robust look at organic Twitter performance. This can then be tied in nicely with your Twitter advertising metrics once you launch your first campaign.

Twitter benchmarks: What you’ll spend (and what you’ll get)

A lot has been reported on Twitter advertising performance benchmarks, but Wordstream’s comparison chart of Twitter and Facebook advertising benchmark numbers really stands out:

Twitter ad results

Engagement rates on Twitter are higher than most other channels, at 1-3%, yet that comes at a higher cost of $3.50 CPM. And most importantly, their revenue per visitor (RPV) increases 300% year-over-year.

Facebook: Advertising with social proof

Facebook is a great way to target both your followers and their friends, allowing you to tap into a market that could be eager to hear about you. For example, when you visit a company’s Facebook page or view their ad in your News Feed, Facebook will show you which of your friends like that page. This provides social proof.

Facebook promoted post

Facebook offers many of the same types of advertising options as Twitter and on average allow you to reach 89% of your intended audience on the platform (most other types of digital advertising only reach 38%).

  • Boosted Posts: Many marketers are concerned that their Facebook page alone isn’t reaching enough of their audience. Although they come at a price (about $5 a post), Boosted Posts allow you to promote any of your Facebook posts to a much wider audience. So if you have a product launch, newly released eBook, or industry report that you want more than just your followers to see, boost your post!

Facebook boosted posts

  • Facebook Offers: Sometimes you just want to give a little something extra to your social following! Many times, companies give their Facebook community a discount on their next purchase, or engage them in raffles. For an expanded and targeted audience, promote your offers. Those who se it can share that offer with friends too, thus expanding your reach.

Rosetta Stone facebook offer

  • Ads Create Tool: Much like Twitter’s custom ads option, Facebook allows you to create an ad to meet your specific marketing goals. You can customize your targeting and creative options as well as choose what you’d like people to do when they see your ad. This allows you to align Facebook advertising to your other marketing efforts. If the above two options don’t relate to your goals and how you want to position yourself, customize your experience instead!

Types of Facebook advertising

You’ll notice that many of these custom options match what Twitter offers for advertising too. This makes it even easier to match campaign types and offers across multiple channels.

Measuring Facebook advertising performance

Facebook advertising reports

Facebook provides a lot of detail on how your ads are performing in real time, including reach, unique clicks, CTR, conversion tracking, audience demographic details, and more. You can even schedule and export reports to send along to your team or manager.

Facebook benchmarks: What you’ll spend (and what you’ll get)

Performance for each ad type differs significantly, especially by industry. Salesforce has pulled together a great benchmark chart to help you understand what to expect:

Salesforce Facebook performance by industry report

LinkedIn: Great for business-to-business marketing

Whereas Twitter and Facebook advertising is great for business-to-consumer marketing, LinkedIn advertising is very much positioned for specific business-to-business campaigns.

Here are LinkedIn’s advertising options and how they tie into other marketing initiatives:

  • Sponsored Posts: LinkedIn has a very specific demographic that visits it regularly (active job hunters, recruiters, corporate executives). Sponsored posts are visible in the home feed when your target audience logs onto LinkedIn, and with priority positioning so that users are much more likely to see it. This gives your audience who may not log in regularly a greater chance at seeing your post than they would if you kept that post just on your company page. And it’s a great way to drive up page followers and post engagement, as well as gain visibility on announcements, launches, offers and more.

LinkedIn advertising

  • Display Ads: We work with a lot of marketers who are looking to get more specific with their display ads. We’ve found that time and again it’s more effective than spreading your ads too far and wide (such as on Google’s Display network). Approach your display ads here the same way you post regular updates on your LinkedIn company page—by focusing on certain, targeted content, as opposed to Twitter and Facebook.

LinkedIn display ads

LinkedIn InMail

 

  • PPC Advertising: Similar to the benefits of running display ads just on LinkedIn and/or other targeted platforms, PPC ads on LinkedIn allow you to reach a niche audience through a combination of text, visual and video formats. If broader PPC platforms like AdWords are not effectively reaching your audience, consider running a platform-specific PPC campaign on LinkedIn to generate leads, increase website visitors, and build brand awareness.

LinkedIn text ads

Measuring LinkedIn advertising performance

Linkedin offers a relatively informative reporting interface. You can view all baseline metrics including clicks, impressions and CTR:

Linkedin ad reporting

You can also customize a report on any campaigns to send to your team or manager.

LinkedIn ad reporting

 

LinkedIn benchmarks: What you’ll spend (and what you’ll get)

KISSMetrics explains that you should expect a CPC of around $2, but it can be as high as $4-5 if you’re in a competitive space and/or your click through rates aren’t good. As far as CTRs go, LinkedIn indicates that an acceptable CTR is around 0.025%, but KISSMetrics encourages you to shoot for 0.08% to 0.10%, as do we! Be sure to also keep a close eye on engagement percentage, demographics, and how you compare to others.

What makes for an effective social media ad?

Before you get started on social media advertising, think about how to position your ads so that they’re in line with your brand messaging:

Here are a few of our top tips:

  • Be informal and talk like your audience does naturally on social media.
  • Show your brand’s personality so the ad feels genuine and on-brand.
  • Be succinct. You only have a few seconds to catch their eye—make it good!
  • Always include a call to action (CTA). Make it clear what you want them to do.
  • Include an image for visual impact to boost click-through rates. On Twitter, for example, including an image can boost engagement by 94%!

Bringing it all together

At its core, online advertising is about supplementing your current marketing activities to accelerate lead generation. Advertising on social media should always relate back to your overall social media, marketing, and business goals. First know what you’re looking to achieve, and then choose which advertising option on social media helps you achieve that!

Amplify your message through experimentation, measurement, and analysis with social media advertising to generate more leads faster, and at a lower cost than most other channels.

Have you tried advertising on social media yet? How did it go? I’d love to hear about your experiences with it, as well as how your audience interacted with the ads.

In the meantime, if you or a friend are just starting off with social media advertising, download our free Practical Startup Marketing Guide to Online Advertising. You’ll learn how to develop and measure your first online advertising campaign and more.

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Written by Matthew Kammerer

Matthew is a coffee snob by day and frog keeper by night. He co-founded UX Booth, a leading UX publication. His main role at BuySellAds is managing the niche networks like Carbon Ads and Syndicate Ads.

  • Amazing stuff!
    I have used BuySellAds – hidden gem!

  • TakeActionWAHM

    This is definitely a “bookmark this page so I have it for always” kind of article – thanks!

  • Annie

    Such a well rounded overview in one post! Thanks!

  • Pretty good post. Thank you for sharing, Matthew!

    I have been doing all of the ones you’ve mentioned. What I have noticed when promoting a Twitter account or a Facebook page for the purpose of growing the audience, I’ve noticed that the targeting set does not necessarily match the resulted Follow/Like. Many follows and likes are received from apparent off target users that have nothing to do with what we are looking for. I was wondering if you have noticed the same…

    • Great point, Borislav! I’ve read some similar accounts.

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    • Constanza de Ramón

      I’ve had the same experience. Is facebook advertising system reliable?

  • deb

    This is amazing I have to prepare a company budget for SMM and this is the most helpful guideline I could find!

  • Pretty good post. I have been doing all of the ones you’ve mentioned. What I have noticed when promoting a Twitter account or a Facebook page for the purpose of growing the audience, I’ve noticed that the targeting set does not necessarily match the resulted Follow/Like.