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A Marketer’s Guide to Social Media Advertising

Welcome to our social media advertising guide for marketers and business owners. In this blog we take a look through the basics of social media advertising and how you get the most out of your campaigns. We breakdown how you can start advertising by explaining the ad types, audiences, placements and pricing of each platform.
As this one is a little long, we’ve outlined each section to make it easier for you to find exactly what you’re looking for.
1. What is Social Media Advertising?
2. Social Advertising vs Traditional Advertising
3. Social Ad Objectives
4. Types of Social Ads
5. Planning and Budgeting for your Social Ad Campaign
6. Choosing the right Audience for your Social Ad Campaign
7. Creating Social Advertising Content
8. Getting started with Facebook Advertising
9. Getting started with Twitter Advertising
10. Getting started with Instagram Advertising
11. Getting started with LinkedIn Advertising
12. Getting started with Youtube Advertising
13. Getting started with Pinterest Advertising
14. Getting started with Snapchat Advertising
15. Monitoring and Optimising your Social Ads
16. Optimising your Social Ad Content
17. Social Media Advertising post GDPR

What is Social Media Advertising?

Social media is a key part of any business’ marketing plan today. It offers a way to tap into an incredibly large audience in a targeted and often cost-efficient way, all the while offering clear results in real time. Additionally, Ads can be highly targeted, reaching only the people you want them to reach.
Facebook is the most used social platform today, with 1.3 billion daily active users (DAU). It is the powerhouse of social media advertising, but, Instagram is quickly catching up. The image sharing platform has grown exponentially over the past few years. Currently, it hosts 4.2 billion likes and 95 million new images each day. While these two are the largest, it’s important to understand where your audiences spend their time and which channels are relevant to them when making decisions around your industry. While Facebook and Instagram may be great for a fashion brand, LinkedIn and Twitter may be stronger for B2B efforts – do your research and test, test, test!
Each social platform has its own dedicated advertising platform, and while some are simple and clear-cut, others can seem complicated with the sheer number of possibilities available when compared to traditional forms of advertising.

Social Advertising vs Traditional Advertising

There are pros and cons to any advertising platform, and which you choose is ultimately down to your brand’s marketing strategy. When it comes to traditional vs social advertising, the latter certainly offers a more affordable solution but can also play a powerful role in converting customers alongside traditional ads. Where traditional forms of advertising are a static, one-way message, social advertising allows you to communicate with your customers and often better engage audiences. Having the ability to monitor your ads means that you can easily and efficiently edit (or remove) anything that may be received negatively by your customers.
Targeting and low cost media placements make it accessible to businesses large and small. Not only can you advertise with as small a budget as you’d like (Impression ads can be less than £1 a day), the platforms allow you to monitor the spending per result in real time. So if an ad isn’t performing as well as you’d like, you can simply switch it off and re-think.
Social advertising makes it far easier to monitor your results. They are highly targeted, which in turn helps you keep costs down while reaching the people best for your business. Social ads give you the ability to test them against each other in real time, and edit or cancel as you go. You can measure reach, impressions, cost per result, relevance and other stats that can be helpful for future ads.

Social Ad Objectives

Unlike traditional ads, social media advertising gives you the option to choose what you want your specific campaigns to achieve. It’s important to set the right objectives for the different types of ads in your campaign. Different ads contribute to your goals in different ways – ads designed to raise awareness should not be judged in the same way as ads designed to convert sales. When assigning objectives, mapping your ads to your sales funnel can really help:


Awareness ads are at the top of your sales funnel. The objective of these ads is to raise the awareness of the brand. With these you can generate interest in the brand’s values and to start building a community. You are trying to reach as many people as possible who will have an interest in your brand or service. Awareness ads work best when the content is able to both get and maintain the audience’s attention. You want the attention of the audience and to leave them wanting to learn more. While you can include links through to your website or product, you’ll want your main focus to be the content.
Feminine hygiene brand, Always’ #LikeAGirl ads are a great example of a successful awareness campaign. The objective was solely to create a buzz around the brand, taking the common ‘like a girl’ phrase and switching its meaning. The video was designed to evoke a reaction by pitching the different perceptions of the phrase against each other, challenging the negative use of the phrase. The campaign was an instant success both on and off social media. The video gained over 200,000 likes and got audiences talking.


Consideration ads come once you have made your audience aware of your brand. These ads could be a variety of different styles – they could inform, or entertain. Studies have found that it takes between 6-8 touch points for an ad to generate a conversion (for example a purchase or a download), most of which can be hit in this stage.
Here, your ads should maintain your audience’s attention so you’re looking for content that tells the story of your brand, values and gives people a reason to form a connection with you. Promote your best performing organic posts and stay in the front of audiences’ minds to cultivate a relationship with your followers.
ASOS is one of the UK’s best-known fashion retailers, and their social advertising game is incredibly strong. Their in-house content team are continuously trying out the new ad formats, and they were one of the first few brands to use Instagram Story ads to showcase products and sales. Their Instagram ‘Next Level You’ ads kept audiences interested. They created the ads to look as if it were shot on mobile, and kept audiences interested by not making them look like ads. The videos felt like they were shot and posted by friends, and by the time audiences realised it was an ad, they were interested in the new pair of shoes they saw.


Conversion ads are the part of the funnel that brings together all your hard work. They present an opportunity for you to see the results of your marketing efforts, and convert the customers you have built a relationship with. These ads are a great way to directly promote products, one-off promotions or sales to your engaged audience. Ensure your conversion ads do well by tailoring your ads to the different audiences you are targeting. Re-target website followers with personalised ads, featuring products from pages they have visited. Or, if a follower has expressed interest in a post about a sale, make sure you target them with a reminder of when the sale will be ending.
Glu’s attempt to boost downloads of their app Diner Dash is a great example of a well executed conversion campaign. Using a video ad on the Instagram timeline, they combined live video with cartoon food items from the game to create a narrative that invited the audience to download the app to complete the story. They saw a 39% increase in app downloads from the campaign.

Types of Social Ads

While each social media advertising platform offers different ad formats and objectives, one approach is to run the following three types to create a well rounded strategy:

  • Awareness and Page Promotion: these ads are essential in getting your brand out there and in front of the right people. By attracting people to your page and encouraging them to become a follower, you’re building a warm audience for future communication.
  • Post Promotion: social media algorithms are changing all the time, and the most recent changes have monumentally decreased the reach of brands. In fact, your organic content only reaches 3-7% of your followers, so it is a good idea to promote your best performing posts to your followers and beyond.
  • Product Ads: these ads are a great way for you to convert your social following into customers. Once you’ve built your engaged community, you can promote your products to them. They’ll be warmer leads because of their familiarity and trust in your brand, and will impact your ROI.

Planning and Budgeting for your Social Ad Campaign

Planning and budgeting your paid social campaigns are crucial parts of making sure they are successful. Each platform has an algorithm designed to make the most of your budget for whichever objective you have chosen.
Most work on a bidding system. Bidding options are the way in which you choose to spend your budget, whether it’s every time your ad is clicked on, every new follower or for every 3 second view of a video, there are many ways to use your budget. These different bidding options are a great way for you to optimise your ad and to split your budget efficiently.
Cost per click
Cost per Click or CPC, represents the cost for every time a user clicks on your ad. This means while your ad may reach thousands before a click is achieved, you will not be charged until someone clicks on the ad.
Cost per thousand
Cost per Thousand or CPM represents the cost for every 1000 impressions. This means you will be charged per 1000 people your ad appears in front of.
Cost per action
Cost per Action or CPA represents the cost for every action a user takes as a direct result of your ad.
Cost per like
Cost per Like represents the cost for every new page like you gain as a result of your ad.
Cost per view
Cost per view represents the cost for every video view your ad gets. With these, you are able to select at what point you will be charged, while times may vary it is usually between 3 seconds to full video views.
Using a budget calculator will give you an idea of how far your budget can go. We have put together an easy to use calculator which you can download here.

Choosing the Right Audience for Your Social Ad Campaign

One of the greatest advantages of social media advertising in comparison to traditional forms is the targeting options you are given. While some platforms offer better targeting than others, all offer you the chance to refine your audience to some level.
Generally speaking you are able to break down audiences based on three categories: demographics, interests and behaviour.

  • Demographics refer to the basic information you may have on your audience based on statistical data. You may take into consideration their age, location, gender or the language they speak.
  • Interests refer to their social interests – these may be the pages they follow, hobbies or posts they actively like.
  • Behaviour refers to the analytical, these are the purchasing decisions of the customer, or which device and browser they use.

You can bring your audience segments to life by referring to your trusty personas. You probably already have these set up for marketing purposes. If you don’t, personas are characters created to be representations of how your target audiences look and behave. These can prove to be incredibly useful in creating a picture of who you will be talking to. These should take the form of your ideal customers, either from previous data collected or from what you predict they might be. As your campaigns move forward, you can update these with more relevant and clear data.
The best way to begin is to create personas to represent the different audiences you want to reach. 3 to 5 personas is a good start. Your personas should include basic facts: age, family life, job, income and a picture of the individual. Include their motivation for purchasing or using your brand, values, and barriers to them becoming your customer. Then, build that personas’ online presence: outline which platforms they use and which brands, media, and individuals they might follow.
For some, getting access to accurate data to inform personas can be difficult. If this is the case treat them as “ideal customers” and be open to developing over time as data comes in.

Creating Social Advertising Content

Having the perfect content for your ads is pivotal to the success of your campaign. Choosing the perfect audience, budget and objectives may all prove to be ineffective if your ads don’t speak to your audience needs.
Whether it’s video, photo, animation or a graphic, your content needs to be impactful. Ads need to catch the attention of your audience as they are scrolling through their timeline, and make them want to stop and engage. You may want to include text on your ads, but remember, Facebook will restrict the reach of images that contain more than 20% text. This applies to both still images and the first frame of video content. 
Different ad styles will reach audiences in different ways. Video content is cost efficient (it’s favoured by most platforms), and a fun way to grab your audience attention. Video content make perfect awareness ads. Similarly, carousel ads are an innovative way to take static graphics and differentiate them on the timeline, and result in a
If possible, try to use people in your ads. Lifestyle shots show your customers what they could have after purchasing your product and are more likely to connect with them. Similarly, use simple and bold messaging. You want to get your point across clearly, don’t leave your audience wondering what the product is.
Social Advertising offers real-time feedback; make sure you’re making the most of this and test your ads continuously – test, measure, improve. Good practice is to create at least two versions of the ad, with two different graphics. Test the big stuff first (headlines, images etc) and narrow down to the detail.

Getting Started with Facebook Advertising

Facebook as an advertising platform gives you far more choice and in-depth data than the others. With over 2 billion monthly active users, the platform is the most powerful when it comes to reaching a variety of audiences. The vastness of ad types also gives you the freedom to create almost any type of content.
As an advertising platform, Facebook gives you a wide range of options in terms of targeting and placements and offers in-depth reporting on your campaigns. Their recent change in algorithm has also meant that advertising is crucial to your brand’s awareness. Learn how it has affected business on our blog here.
All ads on Facebook are run through their Business Manager, so ensure you have that set up before you begin – find out how here. Once you have set up your Business Manager, get started with Facebook advertising with our blog here

Getting started with Twitter Advertising

Twitter ads, while not as extensive in features as Facebook, are still a great way to get your brand out there. With 336 million monthly active users (MAU) there are more than enough potential audiences. The platform sets out its advertising in a simple step-by-step process that is easy to follow. Start advertising on Twitter with our blog here.

Getting started with Instagram Advertising

Instagram ads are created and run through the Facebook Ad platform, because of this you get all of the highly detailed targeting and choice of objectives that Facebook offers. With over 800 million monthly active users, the platform is powerful above all for content-rich, engaging ads. Get started with Instagram advertising with our blog here.

Getting started with LinkedIn Advertising

In order to start advertising on Linkedin, make sure you’ve created and optimised your Company Page. The platform has 250 million monthly active users, all of which are there for one reason: business. Linkedin is an ideal platform for promoting your business or product as long as it aligns with a business goal. Get started with LinkedIn advertising with our blog here.

Getting started with Youtube Advertising

YouTube advertising is all about the content, so ensure you have created a great video for your campaign. YouTube advertising does not have its own dedicated platform, instead, you can upload your video to YouTube and then set up your campaign through your Google AdWords account. Get started with YouTube advertising with our blog here.

Getting started with Pinterest Advertising

Pinterest as a social platform can, at times, be overlooked. While it has fewer users than other platforms with just over 175 million monthly active users, it’s the quiet powerhouse of social. Pinterest’s audience is 81% female, and 87% of users have purchased a product because of Pinterest. It’s a social platform with an incredible purchase power, all you need is a business account. Get started with Pinterest advertising with our blog here.

Getting started with Snapchat Advertising

Snapchat has an incredibly specific type of user, so while it may work for some it will not work for all. The social platform has over 300 million monthly active users, but 71% of their users are under the age of 35. This can affect the purchasing power of the platform, as it alienates a large number of users with potential disposable income. However, the app is opened by its active users over 18 times every day, and they spend an average of 40 minutes on the platform per day. Get started with Snapchat advertising with our blog here.

Monitoring and Optimising your Social Ads

Once you have your ads up and running, you need to revisit them daily to ensure they are running as well as they could be. In order to do this you need to stay vigilant on your spending together with your performance.
No matter which bidding option you’ve chosen to pay for your campaign through, ensure you keep an eye on how much you are paying for every action taken on your ad. Paying per impression may be reaching a large number of people, but is it resulting in something more? Your cost per click may be below average, but if they aren’t converting, is this campaign working? Reconsider the objective of the campaign and if a different approach may work better.
Monitor the engagement on the posts. If your community is replying, reacting or commenting in a negative manner then your ad is not working. Rethink your creative, copy and the way you are targeting. If the same ad is appearing multiple times in front of the same people, it may have negative reactions and your audience may get frustrated or annoyed at the bombardment. Your ad may also be appearing to people who are simply not interested, which in turn can increase the cost of your ads.
If your campaigns are costing more than the industry average, rethink your audiences. Revisit your personas and check them against the audience segments you have created. Consider aligning your audiences to your sales funnel. It takes between 6-8 touch points to convert a customer, so once you have introduced the brand to the audience (awareness), make sure you build the relationship with consideration ads. After you have established that connection, target them with conversion ads. As warm leads they will be more likely to take action from your ads.
Social media advertising has proven time and time again to be crucial to your brand’s marketing success, reaching more people at smaller cost than traditional forms of advertising. Paid social allows you to communicate with your audience, stop and start campaigns and to edit budget, audience and placements. These are all advantages that traditional forms of advertising do not offer, a way for you to identify, correct and report real numbers, in real time.

Optimising your Social Ad Content

The last thing you want when running your social ads is for your performance to be poor. As well as monitoring the performance and how you’ve set up your campaign, you should look to optimise your content. Keep in mind the shareability, clarity and how engaging your content is. If your content becomes tired, then your audience will stop clicking or engaging and in turn the cost of your ad rises.
The first step (on all platforms) is to create at least two creatives and two copies, and test them against each other. Test the big things first and double down on what works. This way, you’ll be able to see which combination is performing best and base future campaigns from them. However, optimising your ads will depend not only on your audiences, but on the platform you’re running them on too. Content for Twitter will have to look drastically different to the one on Pinterest.

  • Facebook: Make sure your Facebook ad content, above all else, passes their Ad Checker. Currently Facebook runs on a 20% rule – this means that your ad’s performance will dramatically drop if your ad has text on more than 20% of the image.
  • Twitter: Your content here will have to be short and to the point and keep in mind that the majority of your audience here will be mobile based. Twitter has an Ad Policy which can give you a better idea of what your ads must look like.
  • Instagram: The visual-heavy platform means that the biggest challenge will be creating content that stands out when the user is scrolling. Consider using video, as they have been found to retain the attention of audiences far more than statics images.
  • Linkedin: Your Linkedin ads will have to be clear and concise, keep your content aligned with the tone of the platform and the audience you are targeting. The platform has created Advertising Specifications to follow when creating your ads.
  • YouTube: Content is the most important aspect of YouTube advertising. The platform has simple Content Guidelines to ensure your ads run smoothly.
  • Pinterest: Similarly to Instagram, the visual based platform means that your content will be key. The best way to create good content is to make it blend into the timeline. Your pins will work best if your audience doesn’t realise it’s an ad at all. Don’t forget to check out Pinterest’s Best Creative Practice guidelines.
  • Snapchat: Similarly to YouTube, your ads here have to be attention grabbing almost immediately. Keep an eye on the restricted and prohibited content outlined in their Advertising Policy.

Social Media Advertising post GDPR

By now you know what GDPR is – the new data privacy regulation gives individuals in the EU control over their personal data. And, it directly affects how you run some of your social ads.
For you to use your customers’ data in your targeted advertising, you now must have had consent to do so. This means that in clear simple English, you must have given your customer the option to opt out (or opt-in!) and told them how you would be using their data. You must have a record of them actively opting in, and accepting the terms.
The data from the types of social ads will have been affected by the policy change:

  • Lead Gen Ads: These will have now have to clearly state how the data collected will be used on the form. You will have to add a disclaimer and the consent checkbox on your Facebook ads. While on LinkedIn, you can now add the link to your privacy policy as well as text stating what the information will be used for.
  • Pixels: You must have clearly stated on your website cookie that their movements will be tracked and will then be used in your marketing efforts.
  • Custom Audiences: When you upload your customer Database to social advertising platforms, you must have ensured that all the customers on the list have opted in.


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