Last year on Facebook alone, social media advertisers spent just shy of $27 billion. And it’s not hard to figure out why. With 1.8 billion monthly active users and a slew of targeting capabilities, and sharing, Facebook — and other social networks — present a huge opportunity for brands like yours to reach their target audiences.
Whether you’re fully immersed in social media advertising or just starting to dip your toe in the water, everyone can use a little help optimizing this fairly young media channel. To this end, we asked some of our favorite social media and digital marketers to provide their best social media advertising advice, and they delivered.
Meet Our Social Media Ad Gurus:
- Carrie Kerpen, CEO at Likeable Media
- Neal Schaffer, Co-Founder at Maximize Your Social
- Aine Devane, Senior Marketing Manager at HubSpot
- Larry Kim, Founder of Wordstream & CEO at Mobile Monkey
Read on to see what Neal, Carrie, Aine, and Larry had to say about social media advertising best practices.
1. What do most brands get wrong about social media advertising?
Carrie: Advertisers still care too much about engagements and likes. This arises from the fact that when they first got going, and before paid, engagements and fans were pretty much the only numbers they could track to see if their efforts were making any impact. Now that paid social options have become so sophisticated, engagements and likes are often the least important numbers to look at for campaigns designed to drive business results.
Neal: I think that a lot of brands still treat social media advertising as advertising. Instead of treating social media ads as advertisements, they’re really the ultimate way for you to get attention and to retain attention. I believe there should be three types of ads:
- Ads to grow a targeted community
- Ads to strategically increase reach of best organic posts
- Campaign-based ads to get more leads, sales, and website hits — this is obviously where you’ll want to spend the majority of your ad budget
Aine: Thinking that social ads don’t work for B2B. There’s a perception that a B2B audience act completely differently than a B2C audience, and that just isn’t true. After 5pm, I don’t turn into a different person. We are marketing to humans, not fictional work/personal life personas. If I see an article on how brands can use Instagram stories to engage their audience after 5pm, I’ll still be interested in it. If I see a killer pair of shoes I love during work, I’ll click on that too. Lines are blurred between work and personal lives and we need to adapt.
Larry: The biggest mistake people make is to promote garbage content with low engagement rates — these end up costing several dollars per click and don’t even get served that often. What people don’t realize is that if, instead of promoting junk content, you promote high engagement unicorns (eg: stuff with +10% engagement rates), you could get away with paying just pennies per click, since the ad algorithm greatly rewards highly engaging promoted posts with much greater visibility and lower cost per click.
2. How do you get the most bang for your buck on social media?
Carrie: Video posts almost always provide the biggest numbers per dollar spent, as long as you believe a 3-second video view is distinctly more valuable than a flat impression.
Neal: A big mistake brands make is the lack of A/B testing across platforms and limiting one to certain platforms. “No, we’re not going to do LinkedIn; it’s irrelevant.” Well, if you’re targeting a wealthy demographic, LinkedIn is more and more relevant when compared to a Facebook or an Instagram. Or ignoring Instagram, or ignoring Pinterest.
Obviously the better your targeting is, the more variations of ads you have, and the more you optimize those according to the ad image, the ad copy, the targeting, and of course your landing page — that’s really the only way to get the most bang for your buck, in addition to the A/B testing across networks.
Aine: Post your best content organically. Choose the content that performs best organically (engagement) and put some money behind.
Ensure you have conversion tracking pixels set up for each platform, which will allow you to create more effective campaigns, get better results, and build future audiences.
Use lookalike and retargeting lists of your customers/leads/high quality leads — especially on Facebook; they work every time.
Larry: The holy grail of social media is using custom audiences to get very specific messages to a very targeted audience.
3. What’s your personal favorite network for social ads and why?
Carrie: Facebook (and therefore Instagram) has the most robust platform by far. The best targeting, the most variety in ad units and the most detailed measurement. It’s not perfect, but some of the other platforms feel like the minor leagues in comparison.
Neal: I’m a big fan of Twitter because I’ve seen results. What I like about Twitter is, once you turn the switch on, it’s on. With Facebook there’s this vetting process — sometimes they reject your ads, or sometimes you have to wait several hours in order to see it going. Twitter is immediate, and I do find that Twitter has a lot of different options to easily optimize on your own.
Aine: Facebook is my channel of choice, always. The level of granularity of targeting is amazing (ex: targeting people who are friends with someone who just got engaged, people manage a Facebook account , etc.), the custom retargeting and lookalike audiences are incredible, and they are always releasing slick new ad formats.
Larry: Facebook because it has the most people, but there are other fantastic use cases for Twitter Ads (eg: growing your personal brand, connecting with influential people, etc.).
4. How has advertising changed in the last few years?
Carrie: The life cycle of creative/campaign, and the resulting volume of new creative that’s needed, especially on social, is one of the biggest changes. You can’t spend years honing messages into one 30 second spot anymore. Brands don’t need to reinvent themselves but they need to change outfits, as it were, a lot more often.
Neal: More and more targeting options in social ads. More and more users using social media. More and more users getting used to clicking on those social ads. Furthermore, we see the platforms bringing in third-party data, and this is critical. If you still have more of your money in traditional advertising or even traditional digital, you really need to move more over to social.
Aine: There has been a dramatic decrease on organic social reach in the past couple of years that has made it difficult for brands to reach even their own fans. Research from Ogilvy suggests that Facebook pages only reach 2% of their fans with their content. That makes it essential to pay to get your content seen.
Larry: Five years ago, Google was the only serious venue for direct response marketing. Now, going after audiences (demographics, interests, purchasing behavior, etc.) is deemed to be just as important as going after keywords.
5. What’s next in social media advertising?
Carrie: Spurred by Snapchat and the Instagram copycat version, the rise of Stories and the use of mid-roll video ads rather than “native” units, especially in vertical format, is a trend to watch as it will change the way people create content for social.
Neal: I believe that the next wave of social media advertising is going to come in mobile messaging applications. Some examples of these include Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Line in Japan, and WeChat in China. I think we’re going to see Facebook begin to open up Messenger and Whatsapp. Snapchat does it with geofencing photo frames, sponsored photo frames, what have you. With over 1 billion users, it’s a no-brainer for Facebook to figure out how to open up advertising there.
Aine: Messaging apps (think WhatsApp/Facebook Messenger/Slack) and chatbots are taking over social media. The active audience size is huge, engagement rates are high and marketers and adopting quick and fast. Chatbots allow seamless purchases, customer service requests and lead generation in a super intuitive format, keeping the user within the platform that they are on.
Facebook’s roll-out of news feed ads that open directly into Messenger chats is massive for advertisers . There are some great applications already out there from brands that genuinely add value to the end consumer.
Larry: It’s all about messaging: the ability to run ads that drive people into chat sessions, that can be handled by either people or chatbots.