Content Marketing Blog

Social media advertising: Everything you need to know

Unfortunately, word on the social-street is that organic reach is on the decline. Long gone are the days where businesses can rely on unpaid distribution alone. After altering algorithms, the world’s largest social media platforms are now focusing on giving users more content from those who matter most to members – think more updates from Auntie Mabel and fewer posts from irrelevant corporations.

“As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard – it should encourage meaningful interactions between people,” said Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg in a press release in 2018.

While the big dog of social media may have spoken, it’s not the end for businesses wanting to connect with consumers on some of the world’s most influential and visited platforms.

The light at the end of the tunnel comes in the form of social media advertising. But what does it mean, how does it work and why is it so important?

Navigate your way around one of the world’s biggest platforms with ads.

What is social media advertising?

Social media advertising is the term used to describe online advertising efforts focused on social media network sites. From Facebook to Pinterest, YouTube to Instagram, this umbrella covers a broad spectrum of sites – all of which share a total number of 3.5 billion active users!

This large pool of people that are liking, tweeting, sharing and commenting each and every day is extremely attractive for businesses aiming to increase their reach and get noticed in an ever-growing competitor crowd.

However, size isn’t everything. Phew!

In social media advertising, targeting smaller and specific groups is better than a large, unrelated one.

While impressive, the large pool is more attractive to businesses because they can take this huge audience and segment it into smaller, specific target groups. This is made possible thanks to social media advertising’s ability to combine current targeting options, like geographical, behavioral and psychographic targeting. This allows businesses to create more tailored advertising campaigns that can better target the people who they actually want to see them in the first place! This isn’t the only advantage to social media advertising, however.

There are plenty of other reasons to consider advertising your product or service across social media…

What are the benefits of advertising on social media channels?

Now more than ever, businesses are beginning to recognise the great opportunities that come with having a positive online presence. While identifying the importance of such is, well, important, it’s just as crucial to grab the bull by the horns and do something to bring your ideas to life.

Yet to don your business bolero? The merits of advertising on social media channels speak for themselves. However, we want to ensure every business hears them loud and clear, so here we with our megaphone in tow …

Increased brand awareness

Imagine a magpie inside a kaleidoscope store (stay with us). With brilliant colour and shine around every corner, we can imagine how difficult it would be for the stealer of sparkly things to stay fixated on just one object,

How could he possibly choose out of such an attractive and abundant choice?

No – we haven’t lost our marbles (dang magpie). In fact, this shiny scene can be used to describe just how hard it is for businesses to stand out to customers on social media platforms.

With various brands saying they’re the best, it’s incredibly hard for customers to stay fixated on just one – much like Mr magpie in the above scenario.

So, what can businesses do to stand out and stay above competitors?

Social media advertising is one of the most cost-effective digital marketing methods used to increase visibility. When your ad appears and people interact with it, they’ll remember your name. Next time you show up on a social feed, they should recognise you. This is called brand recognition, and it helps build familiar relationships between customers and businesses. Once they know who you are and have a positive experience with you, the more likely they are to recommend your brand to others, therefore increasing your brand awareness.

Social media ads help you stand out among an attractive competitor crowd.

More inbound traffic

By now, you should understand that social media is kind of a big deal. With more people than ever logging on to engage and interact with friends, posts and content, there truly is an unlimited world of potential when it comes to marketing your business on the web.

Without creating ad campaigns on social media channels, this wide variety of people may never come across your great product or service, and your inbound traffic stays limited to your usual customers. While you know you can rely on the usual order from Sally down the road, without social media advertising you’ll find it much more difficult reaching anyone outside of your loyal consumer circle.

So, if you’re looking to increase revenue and expand, a social media advertising strategy is a must. Every ad you create is a gateway to your website, giving more chances for customer conversions.

And, as we’ll explain later, the cost of advertising on social media compared to the revenue you could get from a new acquisition is extremely effective.

“Without creating ad campaigns on social media channels, your inbound traffic stays limited to your usual customers.”

Better return on investment (ROI)

Everyone seeks to get the best bang for their buck – and it’s no different in the world of advertising. Thankfully, social media advertising can be one of the most cost effective forms out there and has the potential to get great ROI – even when spending as little as $3 per day!

Out of all social media channels, Facebook is one of the most renowned for potentially increasing ROI. This is because businesses can set budgets for different ad objectives (more on this later), which can be as low as $1 per day. While small, these ads still target who you want to target, i.e. your desired audience.

It’s important to compare this against traditional advertising methods, whereby you could spend more than $2,000 for a billboard that advertises to roughly 500 people in a day. You have no control over who sees it and therefore over your demographic. With social media advertising, you have the power to advertise to those who best fit your target audience, and thus, are more likely to buy from you.

While no one can say for sure that Facebook ads guarantee conversions, any number of clicks you get on top of your average clicks from organic efforts are welcome. If you have ads that promote an asset download or a newsletter signup (some sort of form fill) and a person completes this action, you’ll have acquired important information. Sales teams can use these details to follow up with the person which could increase your chances of converting them into a customer. This is just one example of how a small amount of money per day can work to increase reach and hopefully revenue.

Better yet, social media ads have come on leaps and bounds in terms of appearance and format. With a reduced use of flashy borders and garish colours, consumers are now less aware they’re being advertised to, and can be more receptive to your ads.

Forget flashy banners and neon signs, social media advertising looks more natural - just how people like it.The Different Types Of Social Media Platforms To Serve Ads

As discussed, there are many different types of social media platforms. While they may share similar qualities such as the ability to share or like, they’re all special in their own right. Here are some of the most popular and how they are best-suited to serve social ads:

  • Social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+).
  • Microblogging (Twitter, Tumblr).
  • Photo sharing (Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest).
  • Video sharing (YouTube, Facebook Live, Periscope, Vimeo).

So how do you decide which social media platform is right for you?

Which social media platform is best for you?

While they’re all ripe for the picking, it’s best to not overcrowd your business basket with too many social media platforms when getting ready to advertise. Instead, keep your finger in one pie for the time being. Once you’ve nailed one, then you can work on tackling the rest.

But where do you start?

It’s important to understand that different social media platforms attract different audiences, and these groups act differently on them. Therefore, there’s no one size fits all rule.

For example, Snapchat has found strength in numbers within the younger demographic. Data from a Pew Research Center survey shows that 73 per cent of 18-24 year olds use the social media site, compared to nine per cent in the 50-64 age category. Furthermore, 68 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 29 reported using the app multiple times a day.

However, on the other end of the spectrum, Facebook continues to dominate in all age categories, with 76 per cent of 18-24 year olds and 68 per cent of 50-64 year olds claiming to use the site regularly.

While you’re never going to please everyone you advertise to, we do recommend advertising where your audience is. Opting for a platform that is already performing well organically is a great place to start. With all eyes on a particular site, such as Facebook, the potential for ad revenue is greater than a channel with lower engagement rates.

Once you’ve tracked and measured the best places to reach your target audience, it’s time to start narrowing down your choices. Here are some of the most popular social media platforms businesses choose to advertise on.

Don’t get greedy when it comes to picking a social media platform to advertise on - start small, end big.

Facebook advertising

No doubt you’re familiar with Facebook on a personal level, but as a business, it’s deemed the big cheese of social media advertising. In the year ending December 31, 2018, Facebook generated more than $55 million in advertising revenue alone – up 37 per cent from the last year. And this is expected to keep rising!

Over the years, Zuckerberg and co have worked hard to amass a Facebook following of almost 2.4 billion monthly active users as of March 31, 2019. (Facebook data). The site also estimates that 1.6 billion of these users are connected to at least one small business on Facebook.

But what does this mean for advertisers?

For starters, Facebook is the leading social media platform across the majority of age groups, with Instagram only stealing the teen category. So, not only do you have access to a potentially large share of your target audience, you can alter campaigns throughout the year to make your advertisements even more specific to different demographics in your overall audience group. For example, if you own a plant store, you could create banners that advertise trendy succulents to people in their late twenties during the winter, and come summer, peonies and gardening mats for the older demographic. All of this can be achieved in one easy-to-use space in a variety of ways.

Facebook’s various advertising campaigns are built on specific objectives. Altogether there are 11 advertising objectives, held under three parent categories:


  • Brand awareness.
  • Reach.


  • Traffic.
  • App installs.
  • Consideration.
  • Engagement.
  • Video views.
  • Lead generations.
  • Messages.


  • Conversions.
  • Catalogue sales.
  • Store visits.

The above objectives are what you want people to do when they see your ads. You must decide which outcome is most important when creating your ad, whether it’s increased brand awareness or downloads of a whitepaper. This makes choosing the right category simple, and helps narrow down that two billion-strong Facebook audience more easily, too.

Selecting the right objective isn’t the only choice budding advertisers have to make. When it comes to Facebook, there are a whole host of different ad formats to select from …

No matter which objective and format you choose, Facebook makes it extremely easy to create compelling and eye-catching adverts. They’ve even compiled a handy checklist of everything you need to do:

  1. Choose your objective.
  2. Select your target audience.
  3. Decide where you want your ad to run (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger – or all three!)
  4. Choose your budget.
  5. Pick an ad format (like those in the image above.)
  6. Place your order.
  7. Manage and monitor your ad!


While it sounds easy enough on pen and paper (or monitor), many still need an extra helping hand to ensure everything goes off without a hitch. That’s why Facebook has created several different tools for ad creation:

  • Ads Manager.
  • Business Manager.
  • Ads Manager App.
  • Catalog.
  • Creative Hub.

Still, a lot of businesses who aren’t as passionate about content and digital marketing as others (cough cough) choose to outsource this important job to a specialist agency. Putting your feet up sounds good, hey?

Facebook advertising puts all the steps in place for a successful campaign.

Instagram advertising

Us humans are a visual bunch. We’re wired to view images better than any other media. Experts estimate we process imagery 60,000 times faster than text, and retain nearly four times as much visual content than written. As such, it wasn’t long before business brains got together and created the social media powerhouse known as Instagram.

The photo-sharing platform is used by an estimated one billion people every single month, according to the site’s own data. Of these, 80 per cent follow a business on Instagram. More specifically, in an advertising sense, Instagram estimates that 9.7 million of its users can be reached by adverts on the platform (data published in a We Are Social report).

This is great news for businesses looking to immerse themselves in a more creative and visually-focused area of advertising.

It’s important to get down with the kids when creating your Instagram advertising campaign, however. As previously mentioned, the social media platform boasts the highest share of teen users than any other. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider how you’re going to shape your content to appeal to this audience.

Thankfully, doing so is easier than you think. The image-heavy platform is under the Facebook umbrella, meaning we’re in the safe hands of Mark and the gang. As such, advertising on Instagram follows the same structure in terms of objectives:

  • Awareness.
  • Consideration.
  • Conversion.

However, because Instagram one of the more visually oriented social media platforms, the types of ad formats available differ to Facebook.

  1. Stories ads

An estimated 500 million Instagrammers use the app’s ‘stories’ feature everyday (Instagram data). Thankfully the company saw this as an opportunity for businesses and gave plucky brands the chance to feature adverts in this section.

Ads can take the form of photos or videos. Photos are shown for a default of five seconds whereas videos can roll for a maximum of 120 seconds! However, in both cases, these marketing moments only last for 24 hours – so first impressions count. Stories ads are great for limited time offers and product deals, so including images is crucial.

The full-screen format eliminates added distraction and ensures the user’s attention is on your ad and your ad only.

  1. Photo ads

Get your message across to your audience in a simple yet stunning way through Instagram’s photo ads format. They look like a regular Instagram post, with the exception of a small sponsored logo on the top right of the image. This makes it transparent for users and lets them know when a post is paid for. When creating a photo ad, always ensure it follows the same style as organic posts to maintain a theme and let users know it’s from your brand.

  1. Video ads

Give your target audience that little more by adding motion and sound to your ads. Instagram video ads are great at providing unbeatable visual appeal. They can take the form of landscape or square format and play for up to 60 seconds. Note that videos autoplay with sound turned off, so optimise your own to work well with and without sound.

  1. Carousel ads

Have more than one image to show off in your advert? Instagram carousel ads give users the chance to swipe and scroll through different images in one ad. Always make sure all visuals are tied together by a common theme to maintain cohesion and style.

Instagram uses the same advertising tools as Facebook. This makes it easier for businesses to create, run and track campaigns in the same way as Facebook ads.

Get your creative flair on and reach a younger demographic with Instagram social ads.

Twitter advertising

Around the world, many people are going cuckoo for one particular social media platform. That’s right, it’s time for Twitter. Giving users the chance to share stories, insights and trending topics in a neat 280-character limit post, Twitter is the go-to social media platform when it comes to finding out what’s happening all across the world.

As such, businesses have jumped at the chance to advertise their products and services on the site.

Twitter’s variety of ads help brands stand out amongst the millions of tweets that are sent each day. The social media site’s own Q3 2018 data revealed a 50 per cent year-on-year increase in ad engagement and a 14 per cent decline in cost-per-engagement – not bad hey?

A Twitter ad is built around one of five business objectives:

  1. Awareness: Designed to help businesses maximise their reach.
  2. Followers: Created to assist with building a bigger and better Twitter audience.
  3. Tweet engagements: The goal here is to increase all types of engagements with promoted tweets, such as retweets, likes and replies.
  4. App installs: This is a way to promote a mobile application.
  5. Website clicks: Designed to encourage people to head over to a website.

And the choice doesn’t stop there. Just like the Facebook and Instagram ad set-up, Twitter also boasts its own range of ad types. Here they are in a little more detail ….

  • Promoted trends: This type of ad shows Twitter users a ‘sponsored’ topic at the top of Twitter’s own “trending topics” box. It reflects what’s hot right now in terms of time, context and event-sensitive trends. They are clearly marked as promoted.
  • Promoted tweets: Whilst they have all the qualities of a regular tweet, there’s one big difference here. They show up at the top of searches on related subjects, user’s timelines when someone follows the account, and pretty much well, everywhere!
  • Promoted accounts: Oh it just gets better. This ad format suggests promoted accounts to users that don’t already follow them, but might find interesting. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door and start sharing your great content to the right people.

Starting with choosing your objective and ending in selecting the tweets to put in your campaign, Twitter’s process for getting started is straightforward and effective.

The tip of the iceberg

We’ve already delved deep into Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – the three big kahunas of social media. However, there are other sites and apps vying for consumers’ attention. From LinkedIn to Pinterest, Snapchat to YouTube, there are heaps of other social platforms that give businesses the chance to advertise to various audiences. This shows that the power of social media advertising is infinite – there’s so much potential to reach new demographics, increase brand awareness and find new ways to build long-standing consumer relationships.

Tips on creating successful social media ads

We’ve gotten you this far, so it’s only fair we leave you with a little more expertise to help you succeed in the social media advertising world. Here are some of our top tips for creating successful social media ads:

  • Know which business objective you’re trying to achieve: It’s hard to achieve your goals if you don’t know what they are to begin with. Decide on your objective focus beforehand as this will help guide your ads strategy.
  • Create your ads with mobile in mind: You don’t need us to tell you what a mobile-dominant world we live in. As such, you can estimate that the majority of your target audience will see your ads from a smartphone. Always ensure your ads meet requirements for mobile viewing for the best user experience possible.
  • Test your ads to determine ROI: Use each site’s specific analytics tools to help gauge exactly how your ads are performing. From here you can work out what needs to change, what can stay the same and what it takes to create the ultimate social media ad!

The importance of compelling content in social media success

Martha Brooke
Martha Brooke About the author