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A Beginner’s Guide To Social Media Advertising

As a small business owner, spending your hard-earned cash on social media advertising can be scary.

You might ask questions like: Is this going to work? How will I know if it is working? How much money should I set aside for marketing?

I’ll be the first one to say that social media ads aren’t right for every business. It really depends on your sales and marketing goals, your budget, and to a lesser extent, your risk tolerance.

However, for many businesses, there are a ton of upsides that comes from running social media ads. In this post, we’ll walk you through how to get started with social media ads, some best practices as well as how to measure your ad campaigns.

Deciding What Platforms to Advertise On

From Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram to Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube, Pinterest, TikTok (beta), and Reddit, there is no shortage of social media sites to advertise on.

Yeti weighing the different social media options

Unless you have millions of dollars to spend on ad campaigns, there is no reason to be advertising on all of them.

It is a great idea to start slow with one or two platforms. For most companies, that’s likely going to be Facebook and/or Instagram as they are the most popular social media channels with the broadest reach.

If you don’t have a massive audience already, Facebook and Instagram Ads provide some of the most effective ways to generate buzz, drive brand awareness, and get new leads (and sales). It is possible to get great results on a limited budget—even as low as $10-$20 per day.

To get started with Facebook ads, all you need is a Facebook business page. Here is a guide for how to set one up. Then, you can link it to your Facebook Business Manager account. 

Understanding the Bread And Butter of A Great Ad Campaign 

On Facebook, if you focus on nailing the ad targeting first, everything else will be way more effective. The best copy targeted to the wrong group is still going to be an ill-performing ad. 

Chicken at laptop considering ads

1. Ad Targeting / Ad Sets

The most important part and the most under-leveraged by companies is ad sets.  

If you have many people already on your website (more than 5,000 monthly visitors), start with a retargeting campaign. This is as easy as installing the Facebook pixel on your site and then creating a custom audience. For example, if you run a subscription business, you can retarget everyone who goes to your pricing page but doesn’t sign up. 

If you don’t have many visitors on your site but have many email subscribers, you can create a custom audience and retarget your subscribers on Facebook and Instagram.

However, even without a large number of visitors or email subscribers, you can still get great results with cold traffic campaigns. You just need to laser-focus on a niche and then target them with at least three data points. 

For example, these three data points could be: 

  • A list of relevant job titles 
  • X famous person(s) or big company that they like 
  • Location 

Pro Tip: You can run ads targeting any large Facebook pages (e.g. ~100K+ likes or more). This can be very effective if you are a smaller company going up against a bigger brand. For example, if you create a CRM solution for IT companies, you could run an ad targeting everyone who likes Salesforce’s Facebook page and excludes anyone who lists themselves as an employee of Salesforce. Monitor what everyones says about your brand and gain instant insights by using BrandMentions

This strategy works because it has the benefit of resonating more profoundly, and that leads to more engagement, whether that’s visitors on the site, more email subscribers, content downloads, etc.

Just make sure you don’t go too far overboard on the targeting where it becomes stalkerish or creepy. 

2. Writing Compelling Ad Campaigns  

Your ad copy and creative will vary based on the company, your niche, and whom you are targeting.

However, the less your ad actually looks and feels like an ad, the better it will perform. In other words, the ad should feel like it is coming from a person, not a company. Be casual and approachable.

Some of the best performing ads that I’ve created have been simple screencasts or IG story vertical videos.

Tools like Screencast-o-matic, Loom, and Promo by Slidely can help you quickly create videos, captions, and add background music for video ads.  

One way to take your ad copy and creative to the next level is through competitor research. In this post for Social Media Examiner, I go into a lot of detail about how to reverse engineer your competitors’ paid ad campaign strategy. 

3. Measure Everything

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. If you are going to be spending any money on ad campaigns, you should know how it is going at any given time.

Here are the minimum things you should do.   

  • Make sure your Facebook pixel is working properly on your website. You can use the Facebook Pixel Helper Chrome plugin to test this.
  • As for ad metrics, you should keep an eye and track the following on at least a monthly basis (preferably weekly)—reach, click-through rate (CTR), new direct leads (or sales), assisted conversions (where Facebook ads contributed to a sale), cost per lead (CPL), and customer acquisition cost (CAC).
  • Always be testing and tinkering with your ads.
  • Redirect anyone who signs up to your email list or buys any products to a thank you page on your site. This is not only common courtesy but helps you to correctly attribute where all your leads are coming from within Google Analytics. 

Are You Ready for Social Media Ads?

To sum up: if you are looking to start running social media ads, you should do the following:

  • Choose one platform to advertise on. 
  • Start slow with your ad budget (even $10-$20 per day) and then ramp up as you start to see some initial traction 
  • Focus on nailing your ad targeting first.
  • Write ads that sound like a human wrote them (i.e. lose the marketing and tech jargon) 
  • Analyze ad campaign performance and make changes regularly 

Are you ready? Let us know how it goes!

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Jessica Malnik avatar

Jessica Malnik

Jessica Malnik is a content strategist and copywriter for SaaS and productized service businesses. Her writing has appeared on The Next Web, Social Media Examiner, SEMrush, CMX, Help Scout, and Convince and Convert, among many other places. Her website is blog.jessicamalnik.com. More articles written by Jessica.

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