Social Media Advertising: What You Need to Know for Success

Stir Marketing - Social Media Ad TipsWhen business owners start out in social media, they often focus on the things they can see – the posts, the engagements, the likes and shares and comments (the “organic” stuff).

And while those things are critical for creating brand buzz, they only make up a part of the equation. Social media advertising is as important a consideration as social posting and engagement.

In fact, today, in many cases and in many social networks, a social posting and engagement campaign can’t be completely successful without a social media advertising component. Social posting and social ads work best when they’re used to support one another.

Here’s why: In the past several years, many of the top social networks have become “pay to play” environments. They’ve moved away from a focus on networking and towards a paid advertising model.

That shift means that businesses can no longer count on their organic content (Facebook Page posts and shares, for example) being seen by their target audiences (or even their existing fans and followers). From “Organic reach is also shrinking as the leading networks ramp up their paid channels to monetise platform investment. If the first era of social was engagement, the new era is acquisition and conversion.

So while a great organic posting and engagement campaign is important and, over time, can help a business to build a sizable following, drive web traffic, and get conversions, a paid ad, post, tweet or similar, will always appear with more prominence, frequency and visibility than an organic one, and is therefore the only way to guarantee visibility (reach).

This new paid advertising model in social isn’t a bad thing. It’s just an evolution that requires a shift in thinking. And savvy brand managers will see it as a great opportunity for growth.

Why? With social ads (unlike regular organic social newsfeed posts or traditional advertising methods like print ads), targeting can be laser-focused and results (analytics) can be tracked in near real time.

What’s more, because some social ads are pay-per-click (or pay-per-view), even businesses with modest budgets can participate. Of course, the more a business has to spend the better exposure their ads will receive. However, with smart design and strategic ad targeting, results can be very exciting even with little to spend.

Further, social ads can get results earlier than other online advertising activities: “A traditional search campaign (like Google AdWords) works by targeting users who are searching for a specific item or term. Social media ads are able to reach your audience a step before they start searching by looking at their existing online behaviour. Social networks gather an incredible amount of information about their users’ lives and for marketers that information is a goldmine. Access to this information lets marketers create more personalized ads” (

Anyhow, as a business owner or brand marketing manager, sometimes you simply have to match-step with your competitors (whatever they’re doing) to be successful. And today they’re doing digital and social advertising: In 2016 just under $5 billion was spent on digital ads, with approximately $775 million of that spent in social.

From, the social media platforms with the best return-on-investment (ROI) as at March 2016:

Stir Marketing - Social Ads ROI

Below is a an overview of some of the many social media advertising opportunities available today:

First, a definition: what constitutes a social ad? From Hootsuite’s Blog: “Quite simply, a social media ad is any kind of paid content on a social media network. The options run from a one-off promoted Tweet or Facebook post to a full-scale campaign with major budgets attached.

The best recommendation for a business just starting out in social ads is to start small, to start advertising in the networks where their prospective customers are spending their time, and to try a variety of tactics to see what works best – what tactic in what network most resonates with the target market.


Facebook may be a good place for a business to start with social ads if for no other reason than that in 2017 Facebook still has the biggest user base of any social network. And “…in terms of ROI, more than 95 percent of social media managers say Facebook offers the best return, followed by Twitter and Instagram” (

Further, Facebook now has a variety of advertising options available and they come with lots of targeting options so that not only can a brand reach their current fans, they can strategically target new ones (including the friends of their existing fans). Deeper targeting options include gender, location, interests, and/or keywords.

Facebook’s new ad interface allows business owners to choose ad design by objective. Some of these include:

  • Brand Awareness
  • Clicks to Website
  • Lead Generation
  • Local Awareness
  • Offer Claims
  • Page Likes
  • Page Post Engagement
  • Video Views
  • Website Conversions

There are lots of options for the ads themselves, too – Facebook offers photo, video, slideshow, Facebook Carousel, Facebook Canvas ads and more. Below, for example, is a look at a Facebook Mobile Newsfeed Ad (in the easy-to-use Facebook Ads interface):

Facebook Ads Success- Stir Marketing

Because of the many ad options offered by Facebook, it is perhaps more pertinent than ever to seek out the guidance of a Facebook marketing and advertising agency to help you navigate through it all.

Facebook Promoted Posts (Boosted Posts)

On top of the variety of ad types and options, Facebook also allows regular posts to be “boosted” (promoted). Applying a budget (of your choosing) to the post and setting targeting will mean that that post is seen by members of that targeted group. (Again, this is critical to Facebook marketing success as regular newsfeed posts aren’t likely to be seen by fans.)

The budget for a boosted post can be very low – any amount at all – and this amount can be modified next time / next post if it’s determined that the budget was too low to get results. Targeting for Boosted Posts can be set to users who already like your Page, those people’s friends, and gender, location, age, interests and more.

Because you can boost posts in real time, you’ll be able to see results very quickly and decide what budget is required to get the likes you want. Note: You can also track in Facebook the number of Page likes that result from the boosted post. This is an important metric in tracking social ad success. Look in Facebook page insights to see clicks, shares, post likes and page likes.


As with Facebook, Twitter provides a variety of paid advertising options (and good analytics) for businesses including Promoted Accounts, Trends and Tweets (which puts your tweet at the top of a selected number of the newsfeeds of targeted users) as well as a new Twitter ad program interface that allows business owners to design ads based on their objectives (similar to Facebook).

In the past, Twitter’s promoted products were too expensive for most business owners. However, now Twitter’s ads are priced by a bidding system so it’s possible for even smaller brands to advertise. For more tips on Twitter ad success, and Twitter marketing for business in general, click here.


Instagram (owned by Facebook) ads are “now available globally for all businesses — big and small” and allow for similar “choose your budget” scenarios as Facebook and Twitter. Ads appear as “Sponsored” posts in the feeds of targeted users. Sponsored posts can be photos, videos or carousels and are designed to help business owners achieve website traffic, conversions, clicks/likes and engagement


Businesses can advertise on Pinterest too, with “Promoted Pins” (though only those in Canada, the US and the UK). Pinterest offers targeting like the other networks, and has an interface for ad creation. Pinterest is a great place for businesses in retail, fashion, beauty, travel, cuisine and more!


“Marketing on YouTube turns viewers into fans, and fans into new customers. Let your video campaign deliver real success each day…”

YouTube (owned by Google) offers advertising options as well, and is an excellent choice for businesses with video at their disposal. YouTube ads can be expensive, but have been said to have the highest conversion rate of all the social networks ads.

Branded channels, “to YouTube what Fan pages are to Facebook”, are places where businesses can engage with fans, gain subscribers, and drive website traffic. YouTube also offers “in video ads” and Promoted Videos.


LinkedIn is an interesting advertising consideration for business owners because it represents a different audience than Facebook and Twitter. LinkedIn offer a variety of advertising options, but is recommended most for B2B businesses.

Combining Tactics and Strategic Planning

Organic social and paid social (ads) shouldn’t be seen as two separate efforts. In fact, some of the best marketing return-on-investment (ROI) happens when one supports the other. For example, a targeted paid social ad can promote a brand’s organic content (social posts, for example, with links to websites or blog posts) maximizing bang for buck – driving strategically targeted traffic to a business’s website.

All social media campaigns, but especially those that will include paid advertising, should start with a carefully-researched and super-detailed Strategic Social Media Marketing Plan and an Editorial Calendar. Those tools will help a company’s social team ensure that everything stays on course and on budget, and that all opportunities for cross-promotion are maximized. An editorial calendar will help the team to avoid redundancies in posting and help to highlight the most appropriate content for promoting with ads.

Monitoring and Analytics

In both social media marketing and advertising, monitoring the results is critical to success. It’s how you know which tactics are working and which aren’t so that you can either do more of something or modify plans to maximize success.

Many of the social networks have built-in analytics dashboards and reporting (ie: Facebook Insights) that show how many likes, clicks or shares a social ad receives. Alternately, there are social analytics tools that will measure campaign results across all social networks and over a much longer time period.

This article via PCMag, “The Best Social Media Management & Analytics Tools of 2016”, provides a great overview of some of those paid tools. If your budget allows for the purchase of a paid tool, consider one that allows for scheduling/posting content, engagement, and analytics – the most bang for your buck and only one tool to learn how to use.

If the goal of your social media advertising campaign is to drive traffic to your website (an important goal!) make sure that you’re using Google Analytics to track social traffic (instances of website visits and conversions via social).

Jump in!

Most of the social networks’ ad interfaces are built for ease-of-use so that business owners can run campaigns themselves, and there are some great social media marketing and advertising resources online to help:

However, many brand managers feel overwhelmed by the idea of managing a social ad campaign in-house, and don’t have the time or money to train their own in-house teams. (More, it takes a long time to learn the intricacies of great social networking and a brand’s public social channel is definitely not the place to test the waters. When a business’s reputation is on the line, having a Pro is key.)

Luckily there are digital agencies that specialize in social media marketing and advertising that can help set a brand up for success. A great social media marketing agency will have years of experience in social, the ability to create and implement tried-and-true strategies, and the skill to develop efficient ROI-generating ad campaigns.

Learn more about Stir’s Social Media and Digital Advertising Services or contact the Stir Marketing team for a free, no-obligation project proposal now.

Related Reading: Learn more about using artificial intelligence and automation in your social media marketing