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3 Concepts to Consider When Starting with Social Ads

Social media ads are now part of almost any social network. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have platforms that allow users to run various advertisement campaigns on their networks, using profile and behavior information to hyper-target their audience. Other networks, like Instagram and Pinterest, have recently started offering advertisement options on their platforms, utilizing the growing audience.

What social media networks offer that doesn’t exist in any other channel is the ability to target users based on both their behavior and their profile. This hyper-targeting, allows advertisers to create ads that are highly targeted and serve them to only users that explicitly meet their audience criteria. Unlike PPC (AdWords) or Display (Google network or any other network and platform) that use implicit, suggestive data such as keywords, content and channel, the social networks have the data on their users to allow you to target only the audience you are interested in.

This premise gave rise to new ad products on these networks as well as increase in usage and adoption. But the infancy of these solutions presents both challenges and opportunities for the networks and the advertisers. For example, users can react negatively to ads showing in their previously-clean feeds (See Michael Kors first Instagram ad), but at the same time, advertisers jumping early on the ad-wagon can take advantage of the low competition and see huge returns that are unparalleled in other ad networks (read: PPC).

But before you jump head first into the social ads world, here are some best practices to consider.

3 Concepts to Consider When Starting with Social Ads

Channel Alignment

Possibly the most important question you need to ask yourself before you commit to spending thousands of dollars on a social network is “Can I engage with my target audience on this network?” If the answer is anything but a strong, loud “yes” you should slow down and make sure you have a good enough reason to advertise on a channel that your audience doesn’t use or will not engage with you on.

Let’s breakdown this concept into three basic questions:

  • Is your target audience even on this network? For example, say you sell to teenage girls in North America in the higher socioeconomic tier (household income of over $200K based on zip codes). Would you use LinkedIn for that? Probably not. Would you use Twitter? Maybe. Facebook? Possibly.
  • Do they engage with similar solution on this network? It’s not enough that your target audience is on that social network, the real question is whether or not they are willing to engage with solutions in your category on that channel. For example, there are over 1.1 billion active users on Facebook so it’s safe to assume that your audience is there, but if you wholesale construction reinforced steel to huge construction firms, it’s more than likely that advertising on Facebook would yield high response rate.
  • Can you engage them on that channel? Your audience might be on that channel and it might also engage with solutions in your category, but the paid options are either too expensive or you don’t have the right offers to get them engaged. If that’s the case, build your offers before you jump into the paid option. Move to the next concept.

Behavior Alignment

Once you determined that your audience will engage with you on [insert the social network of your choice], it’s time to make sure you align your advertisement and offers with the behavior they exhibit. This is essential to ensure you will get some response to your ads. Here are a few questions you should answer to help you get started:

  • What do they use the network for? For example, do they use Facebook to engage with their family and friends? Do they use it to follow brands and get discounts? Do they use it to share news about their work?
  • What type of content do they consume and share on the channel?
  • What type of content detracts or turns them off?
  • What formats work for them?
  • What style (copy and creative) speaks to them?

Some of this data is available online through 3rd-party research and stats and some of it you will have to either guess, assume or research. But here are my 3 best practices when it comes to aligning offers with social media channels:

  • Only top-of-the-funnel-content. Don’t be aggressive with your offers and try to sell on social media. Your goal is to get the audience to engage with you. Think of social media ads as a networking event where all you are trying to do is collect business cards not close deals.
  • Copy, creative, “flow”. Your copy, creative and “flow” (the user experience as they engage with your offer) should completely match the channel. The networks are already doing a good job in offering ad products that look similar to the organic experience (sponsored stories, promoted tweets, etc.) but you should make sure that you don’t “break” that experience by servicing copy, creative and overall experience that are so different than the experience on the channel. While sometimes it’s smart to “break the mold” so your ads stand out, it’s actually pretty hard to do in a way that creates good reactions (or any reaction, for that matter).
  • Follow up. Your follow up to the engagement, for as long as you can track it, should be in the context of the channel to ensure contextual alignment. For example, in a follow up email to a lead generated on Twitter, consider using the lead’s Twitter handle in the email personalization and use Twitter’s logo in the graphics.

Optimize for ROI

It’s easy to start with social ads and quickly burn through your entire budget. They make it easy to spend and the volume you can experience, especially in this current low-competition stage, could be pretty phenomenal. But don’t celebrate your initial results on social media too fast. Make sure you have a way to measure the results over time and optimize for ROI. Whether your “R” is followers, leads or actual revenue, if you spend money on it, you better optimize it and be able to prove and report your success.

More on Social Media Ads

About a month ago I presented at the Heinz Marketing B2B Fast Track event on social media. My presentation covered the basic available ad products the big social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) offer (Download the deck below), and after the overview part I moved into offering the concepts and best practices listed above. You can view and download the presentation here.

Uri Bar-Joseph

VP of Marketing at Simply Measured and the designated punching bag for the marketing team. I believe in marketing through data, but love the creative elements of marketing. I write about strategy, decision making, the future of marketing and how social media is reshaping marketing. I'm on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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