With all the tens of millions of users with free accounts on social media, have you ever considered how these platforms are making money? Of course, the answer is advertisements – social media advertising. More free users mean more people to see paid advertising, meaning more money the platforms can charge companies that want to sell products to all those users.
Consider these statistics from the top two social media platforms:
79% of people living in North America have a Facebook account
53% of U.S. residents say they check their Facebook account several times a day
32% of Americans use Instagram
35% of Instagram users claim to check their accounts more than once a day
With that many users, anyone can easily see that it’s smart business to advertise on social media. Unfortunately, the days of growing an organic audience on social media are for all practical purposes, over. With Facebook and the other social media networks selling user data to advertisers and making a ton of money from it, don’t expect them to make it easy to grow a following on their platforms for free.
While social media platforms are a fun and simple way to stay connected on the outside, on the inside each one is a business. And they do not want you to use their incredible reach for free. If you want your business to be noticed on social media, you have to pay to play. However, considering the great mass of humanity using social media, it’s well worth your time and dollars.

Why Effective Social Media Advertising is “Pay-to-Play”

Growing a social media following with creativity and determination and no money is almost impossible. Now, it takes dollars, and the more you have to spend, the more people you can reach. Of course, this is by design. Social media networks want you to pay to reach your ideal audience. And, the more popular the platforms become, the more they can charge for advertising on their network. And they do.
Consider this cold fact: on average, companies only reach 6% of their fans without using paid advertising. Why? Because social media platforms don’t want you to build a large following for your company for nothing. They want to profit from it. Facebook and other social media companies intentionally restrict how many of your current followers are able to see your posts. They do this under the guise of “showing you more of who you want to see,” but don’t be fooled. It’s a simple and smart marketing tactic to compel you to spend more advertising dollars.

How Can You Get the Most for Your Social Media Advertising Dollars?

  1. Set Advertising Goals

Every ad is going to cost money, so don’t throw that money away. Set a goal for each advertisement to accomplish. Where in your sales funnel does the ad fit? What is the end goal of the ad?

  • Traffic
  • Conversions
  • Brand awareness
  • Engagement

The goal of your ad should drive the copy, image, and message you create. Who is your audience for this particular ad? What message will resonate with them? Clear goals allow you to create ads with purpose and direction, which result in better ads and better ad performance.

  1. Choose the Best Social Media Platform

Each social media platform works differently and has particular strengths. Some work well for B2B advertising while others are better for B2C advertising. Some have great advantages for both. Moreover, each social media network has different advertising options that are appealing for different industries and businesses. Some are better for SaaS while others excel for selling physical items.
Here’s a quick overview of each social media platform and their unique strengths:

  • Facebook is king of mobile, with more people using the app
  • Twitter has the largest penetration in the U.S.
  • LinkedIn is B2B oriented
  • Instagram is all about images
  • Pinterest is dominated by a female audience
  • Google+ has 300 million active users in groups

These different strengths should impact the networks where you advertise and the ads you create. Each has their own system and costs for paid advertising, so choose the ones that will provide you with the best return for your ad spending.

  1. Target Customized Audiences

Targeting means aiming your advertisements at a particular audience, one with characteristics that make them more likely to respond to your ads. You can do this by narrowing certain parameters when you set up the advertising campaign. Change such parameters as location, age groupings, and interests. You can target anyone in the social media world with the right interests.
Or, you can target people who are similar to your current successful audiences. These are often called lookalike audiences. Most social media platforms have some variation of this option under slightly different names.

  • Facebook calls them lookalike audiences
  • LinkedIn calls them matched audiences
  • Twitter calls them tailored audiences

This feature allows you to create new audiences for targeted advertising that are similar to previous or current successful audiences. For example, you have an email list of customers who are steady buyers. With the lookalike audience option, you can leverage that email list by using it as a model. Create a targeted audience that is similar to your email list, with similar attitudes, buying habits, demographics, and more. If your previous audience was successful, a similar audience can be expected to achieve similar results.

  1. Use Retargeting Ads

These ads allow you to show advertisements to visitors who have taken (or not taken) certain actions on your website. By using a simple social media widget on your site, you can keep track of visitors and the actions they take. Here’s how it works – a user visits your site, and the social media pixel tracks their actions. In this sample case, they place an item in their shopping cart, but leave before making a purchase. Later, when they are browsing their Facebook account, they will see an advertisement showing the exact item they added to their cart, but possibly offering an additional incentive to purchase, such as a coupon or discount.
As you may imagine, retargeting ads are more successful than other ads. If someone was already considering a purchase, given another chance, they are much more likely to make that purchase. How likely? Average retargeted ads receive three times more clicks, and they are four times more likely to generate conversions.
Retargeting ads also work across different devices. This is important in a world where an increasing number of internet enthusiasts use both computers and mobile devices interchangeably. They view your website on their laptop and then check Facebook later on a mobile device. Clearly, retargeted ads really give you more bang for your buck because of the nature of the user seeing the ad. That little extra push is often all they need to buy.
Social media is a remarkable medium through which to find, target, and reach an audience. Although the only effective way to use social media advertising is “pay-to-play,” using your money wisely can bring rich dividends to your business.
How do you use social media advertising in your business? What are some tips you could share with our readers? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author: Donna Amos

I believe you can achieve anything you truly want to achieve. “It might sound trite, but time and time again, I’ve seen it happen with my clients. They overcome the fear of exposing themselves to the possibility of failure to creating profitable exciting businesses. My clients do great work, and sometimes it only takes someone else believing in them to give them the confidence to step out and take the chance.”