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What are the advantages of social media advertising?

6-minute read

Sam Bromley

10 May 2022

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We’ve all seen big brands using social media effectively, but these platforms have lots of potential for small businesses too. Here’s how to get ahead of your competition by using social media advertising.

What is social media advertising?

You might already have business social media accounts that you use to talk to your customers, whether you post photos on Instagram or updates on Facebook. This sort of broad activity is called social media marketing.

Social media advertising, on the other hand, is a paid form of social media marketing. It’s where you create highly targeted adverts to specific audiences in the hope of selling your product or service.

Think about your own social media use. You might recognise social media advertising because the word ‘sponsored’ usually shows up to explain that it’s been paid for by a business.

Each platform has different options to explore. Not all of them will suit your business, so be sure to research which one best fits with your business plan.

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What platform should I use for paid social media advertising?

There's now lots of social media platforms, from long-term players like Meta (which owns Facebook and Instagram) to new upstarts like TikTok.

Each platform offers different formats for posting your content, for example simple photo ads to video ads and carousel ads (in which your audience can click through a series of products all in the same ad).

Each platform also has advanced tools for tracking performance, which encourages testing and experimentation. While video ads might work well for one business, they could fall flat for another.

So when you’re starting out, it’s useful to take a ‘test and learn’ approach and record your results. Eventually, you’ll have enough data to optimise your ads, from the best time of day to post to the ideal types of content that resonate with your audience.

The death of Facebook has been greatly exaggerated. It has nearly three billion monthly active users. And as it’s one of the earliest social media platforms to be adopted on a big scale, it has lots of data on its users.

This means you can create highly targeted ads for your audience, using details like age, interests, location, and consumer behaviour.

One way to get started using paid Facebook advertising is by boosting an existing post. If you’ve posted something to your business page that’s had a positive reaction already and you’d like it to reach new people, you can click the boost post button.

You can then choose how much you’d like to spend and how long you’d like the post to be boosted.

Otherwise, you can create a brand new ad by clicking the promote button. Then you can set your objectives, budget, and audience.

Meta gives you the ability to run the same ad across Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram.

Facebook has free resources to help you get your ads up and running. Plus, read about how to sell using Facebook Shops.

Instagram is also owned by Meta, meaning it has similar features to Facebook when it comes to ads.

Of course, Instagram is different in that it’s primarily a platform for photos, imagery, and video.

This means you can run photo, video, carousel and story (a feature that shows images and video in quick succession) ads on the platform.

As with Facebook, you can choose to boost an existing post or create a new ad, and you can get very specific about who you target.

Read more about creating an Instagram ad.

There are a few ways businesses can use paid advertising on Twitter.

  • promoted tweets – you can pay to promote tweets to people who aren’t already following you (these can include video content too)
  • promoted accounts – where you advertise your whole account in an effort to get more followers
  • promoted trends – topics can trend on Twitter, with trends showing up on the platform’s right hand side – brands can pay for a spot in the list
  • promoted moments – Twitter moments work in a similar way to Instagram stories in that they’re a collection of tweets that tell a story – businesses can pay to promote moments

You can explore Twitter’s campaigns 101 to get help on setting up your ads, including how to set your goals, audience, and budget.

LinkedIn helps you target people in a professional context. For example, if your ideal customers are other businesses, LinkedIn can help you reach key decision makers.

You can create LinkedIn advertising using LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager.

LinkedIn adverts come in different formats:

  • sponsored content – this appears in targeted people’s LinkedIn feeds and can be image, video or carousel-based
  • message ads – these ads go directly to your targeted audience’s private messages
  • dynamic ads – these give you the ability to personalise your ads at scale
  • text ads – simple ads that are pay-per-click (PPC) or cost-per-impression (CPM)

As with paid advertising on other social media networks, when setting up your ads you choose your objectives, audience, budget, and format. Then when you’ve gone live with your ad, you can measure its performance.

LinkedIn has resources that explain how to get started with your first ad.

The above are four of the most well-established social media platforms that you can start experimenting with today.

But remember, every social media network is a relatively new tool – and more are springing up all the time. These include (with links to their paid advertising resources):

And of course, don’t forget that YouTube is a social media platform too. Read more about how to make money on YouTube.

As with any advertising, it’s best to go back to basics and write a marketing plan before putting it in motion.

Doing groundwork on your audience and objectives will help you choose the right platform to use for advertising.

Social media advertising costs UK

Social media advertising costs vary depending on the platform you use and your objectives.

But according to Buffer, the average social media marketing budget is between $200 and $350 a day.

And these are the average costs by platform for the UK, according to Airtasker:

  • Facebook – £0.40 a click
  • Twitter – £79 a month
  • Instagram – £0.50 a click
  • TikTok – £6 a click
  • YouTube – £6 a day
  • LinkedIn – £4 to £6

Your costs might also increase if you decide you need freelance help, for example a graphic designer to create content for your ads, or a copywriter to write the copy.

How to do advertising on social media

As mentioned above, there’ll be a fair amount of trial and error when advertising on social media for the first time.

When creating your content, it’s worth having a look at how your competitors are using social media ads. What are they doing well and how could you improve on them?

Set up a document that you can add examples to when you see them. Eventually, you should have a set of social media advertising examples that you can refer back to when you’re creating your own.

Plus, keep notes about how you engage with social media ads in your personal life too. What ones do you click on and what ones do you ignore? This should give you inspiration.

Advantages of advertising on social media

  • cost-effective – in general, you only pay when someone has clicked on or viewed your ad, and platforms make it easy to control your budget and spending (this gives you a low-risk way to experiment)
  • data gathering – social media platforms have lots of data on users – by advertising on them, you can build up detailed information on performance and your audience too
  • lead generation – social media platforms have wide reach, so clever use of ads can help you get email addresses and contact details of people you can later market to (for example, by encouraging people to sign up to an event you’re running)
  • brand awareness – as people live their lives online, they enjoy interacting with their favourite businesses on social media – and expect to be advertised to

Disadvantages of social media advertising

  • learning curve – while there’s lots of free resources to help you get set up, taking the initial steps can be overwhelming
  • negative feedback and comments – with targeted advertising, you need to make sure your audience and tone of voice are exactly right, as people may wonder why you’re trying to talk to them
  • it’s difficult to cut through the noise – you should weigh up the benefits of social media advertising against more traditional marketing for your business, as social media is an increasingly crowded space
  • security and privacy – it’s important to make sure that you handle people’s data correctly (and protect your business against any data breaches, too)

Are you considering setting up a social media advertising plan for your business? Let us know in the comments below.

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