It’s 2019 and almost every brand and every company has a social media presence in some way. Yet, many digital marketers still spent a lot of time and money on organic content and post only. That strategy isn’t completely wrong: organic content still matters. But, if you’re not spending time on social media advertising—including advertising outside of just Facebook—it might be time to take another look.
Effective social media advertising is a game. Your competitors vary: some of their budgets dwarf your own, but they don’t compete on the same field. Others have smaller budgets than yours but compete fiercely over the same audiences in the same markets. To play the game well, you not only need a winning strategy, but you also need to be able to quickly overcome adversity, adapt, and grow. In this article, let’s dive deeper into how you should be setting up your social media ad campaigns for long-term success.
#1 Set up Your Game Plan
No matter what size your company is or how big or small your budget is, you need a game plan. This is your holistic strategy for how your ads and social media work are going to work to meet your goals.
Let’s start by talking about goals. What is the main purpose of your social media ads? If your aim is to direct people to your website so that you can track clicks and leads, you’ll want to double-down on strong call-to-actions that give people a reason to click to your site. Conversely, if your goal is to build awareness for a new product or service, maybe the CTA doesn’t matter as much as the ad being eye-catching and visually interesting. The versatility of social media advertising lends itself to so many different goals that there can never truly be a one-size-fits-all approach.
When you build your strategy, keep in mind that good plans are flexible. You may find that your plan doesn’t work, or—more realistically—that some parts of your strategy work and others do not. Don’t be afraid to change the plan when you have data that pushes you in a new direction.
#2 Focus on Effective Content
Now that you have your game plan in place, it’s time to start putting together the ad copy itself. We recommend thinking about the copy (written) and the visual elements as one piece of the larger puzzle. If they don’t fit with one another, the ad will appear disjointed and sloppy, which will impact your reach and conversions.
After a while, even good copy can become stale. Keep changing the content of your ads to not only keep things fresh but to also try new tactics or A/B test new concepts. You’ll be surprised what even minor changes to a call-to-action can do. Maybe turning “Sign Up” into “Try Us” comes off as more inviting and less committal to your target audience.
#3 Get Visual
At its heart, social media is a visual medium. Two of the most popular social media networks today, Snapchat and Instagram, are completely visual. But, even on Facebook, visual appeal will take your ad a lot further than anything the actual ad copy has to say. As your target audience scrolls, you want their eyes to see your ad and keep coming back. A great design, compelling images, and a lot of creativity buy you that 1-2 second window in which your audience sees and comprehends what you have created.
So, in general, what works? First, use real faces. People are more likely to engage with human faces than just text alone. Also, consider using videos when possible. These can hold visual interest for far longer than just a photo, and most platforms—including Facebook—now support auto-play videos in their feeds. Just remember: the chances of users actually turning up the volume on your ad are slim-to-none. Make sure that either the visuals or captioning of the video convey your message just as well as the sound or voice-over narration does.
#4 Prepare to Pay-to-Play
Content and visuals still matter, but the social media world has changed a lot over the past decade when they were arguably all that mattered. Today, even organic content on social media plays by advertising rules. Take Facebook, for instance. The new Facebook algorithm encourages social media managers to pay to “boost” posts, which increasingly is the only reliable way of ensuring that those following your page see your content.
If you manage your brand’s advertising budget, don’t neglect the value of these boosted organic posts. Even on Facebook, the costs are often worth the price of being seen: if you’re not boosting posts, all that time and money that went into crafting engaging and creative social media posts need to be diverted elsewhere. Yet, there’s a flip-side to this. Creating low-quality content and then just paying to push it to people isn’t going to bring back good returns. The best campaigns feature creative content, great visuals, and a solid budget for boosting posts.
#5 Keep an Eye on Trends
No social media manager is an island. The very nature of social media advertising and the detailed ways that ads are targeted mean that more social media advertisers are talking, collaborating, and working together to find new ways to make better ads.
No matter what size business or agency you represent, keep an eye on what the big brands are doing. These social media trendsetters have the high-powered teams and budgets to do incredible amounts of research and testing before funneling their work into actual ads. You can take advantage of this by trying some of their strategies for yourself. Also, read up on the latest news from social media experts. They may be able to point you to more effective methods or steer you away from making common mistakes.
#6 Never Stop Experimenting
Following larger industry-wide trends and the advice of social media, experts can only take you so far. In the world of social media advertising, innovation is key and experimentation is necessary. Take the research you did earlier in the process and look for new angles.
Run regular A/B tests with different types of ads to see which gets the better response, and then take that winner and modify it even further. With a bit of patience and creativity, you’ll eventually stumble across a winning formula. But, even a well-tested, high-performing ad can only be king for so long. You’ll need to keep experimenting to make sure that your once-innovative content and designs haven’t become stale, old news.
#7 Embrace The Challenge
At first glance, the complexity of social media advertising—Platforms! Audiences! Budgets!—may be disheartening. It’s certainly not the “good old days” of simply placing an ad in the newspaper and then seeing what came of it. Yet, here’s the upside: as an advertiser, you have more tools and flexibility at your disposal than ever before. By being innovative and creative, you can create ads that work. There’s something exciting about that. Embrace the challenge of social media advertising, and you’ll find that the rewards for your business and your brand are worth it.
Kevin Bertram is the content manager at 5 Fold Marketing, a professional digital agency in Tempe, AZ that provides online marketing services for clients throughout the US. Kevin has a master’s degree in U.S. History from Northern Arizona University and has previously worked in both journalism and content marketing for almost 8 years. Outside of the office, Kevin enjoys hiking in the mountains and kayaking with his wife, Maria.