First things first

One of the things that makes social media so compelling is that it’s free. People like things that don’t cost anything. And social media channels provide a valuable service, namely connecting you with other weirdos who share your interests.

The whole shooting match is paid for by advertising. And if you’re not advertising there, you probably should be.




It may seem like an obvious thing, but it’s not. Many businesses buy social media ads thinking that they will just magically boost sales. But there’s more to it than that.

Before you ever place an ad in social media, you should be 100% crystal clear what you want the ad to do. Is it to boost awareness of your brand? Are you trying to increase traffic to your website? Do you intend to generate leads or drive sales?

The one answer that’s not allowed here is “all of those things.” That’s just not going to work, no matter how good your ad is. If you want to be effective, you have to keep your focus narrow. Hold that thought now, because you’re going to hear it again.


Let’s say that you decide you want your paid social media ads to boost sales. Okay, fair enough. So how do you do that?

“Why are you asking me? This is YOUR blog article.”

Because there is no straightforward answer to this question. Here are some questions that need answered first:

  • How do you normally sell?
    If the answer isn’t “online” then you will probably find paid social media ads can’t change that.
  • Are you selling online on your e-commerce site?
    If you already sell online, that’s good. But that still doesn’t mean your paid social media ad is going to work. You still need to figure out how a user’s interested click can easily convert into a sale. After all, you’re paying for the click, not the conversion.
  • Do you have more than one product to sell?
    It’s important to give users exactly what they’re expecting when they click. If you try to link them to your shopping cart expecting them to browse your full product line, you’re going to be disappointed.
  • Are you selling services?
    If so, then you probably want lead generation, not sales. There are not a whole lot of services that can be reasonably sold online. Even if you aren’t selling services or looking for lead gen, you should bear in mind that there’s not a lot of information that can be contained in a paid social media ad, so you may need to drive them to a landing page where they can learn more before opting to buy.
  • How expensive are the items you’re trying to sell?
    You may be able to sell small items online, but people aren’t going to buy cars or real estate that way, no matter how cool your ad is.

The trick in deciding upon your paid social media ad strategy is examining your sales funnel from the perspective of your prospect. Imagine that they’re scrolling through their social media feed, see your ad, and decide to click on it. Whatever happens next needs to make sense to them. It may seem obvious that your ad should be consumer-focused, but just let the fact that it needs to be spelled out in this article speak for itself.


Facebook allows you to target your paid social media ads with a remarkable degree of precision. In fact, it’s more precision than many advertisers can come to terms with. Blame traditional media for that.

If you’re advertising in print, or on TV or radio, you’ll probably try “spreading the widest net” by placing ads where the most people will see them. But that’s just not how paid social media ads work. In digital media, you pay for every impression, and every click, whether it converts to a sale or not. Trying to spread a wide net by targeting too many people will burn through your ad budget quickly. So, you need to narrow your audience to only the most likely buyers. However, if you go too narrow, and your ad won’t get enough exposure.

So before you do the “dance of the ever-shifting scope” in building an audience for your ad, you should probably spend some time building a profile of who you’re trying to target. You know, like they do on those shows about serial killers.


You may have created your paid social media ad to sell, but how many of the people who see it are using social media to shop? Before you get all huffy about being asked questions again, understand that question is rhetorical only. The answer is “none.” Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nobody watches TV just for the commercials, and nobody uses social media looking for things to buy. Deal with it.

This means that you can expect people to actively avoid your ads. In fact, the more “ad-like” it looks, the more likely it is to be avoided. This doesn’t mean that users can’t be reached with paid social media ads. It just means that you have to be crafty about it.

One way is to create ads that look like regular organic content. Paid social media ads are always marked as such, so you’re not going to completely fool anyone, but you don’t want to. All you want is to gain just enough of their attention to capture their interest. After that, you WANT them to know it’s an ad they are looking at.

Another way to blend in is to use video. Video content on social media has been proven to be significantly more engaging, and most users will give any video that doesn’t look too “spammy” a second or two to prove it’s worth. Use those seconds wisely to capture attention, and you may well be able to hold them long enough to make your pitch for the sale.


As mentioned above, paid social media advertising is not like traditional media. The strategies are different because the capabilities are different.

One place where social media really shines is through its ability to be continually refined. Your ad will generate useful data, which will help you to make it even more effective. You can change your messaging, change out images to find what works best, and continue to refine your audience.

For example, let’s say your ad works well at driving traffic to a landing page, but conversions fall off there. Perhaps you should modify your landing page to see if you can make it convert better.

You can (and should) also tweak your bidding strategy. There’s a fair bit of both art and science to bidding on paid social media ads, and no one approach works best. You may find it takes several tries to arrive at an ad budget that keeps your cost per acquisition (CPA) where it needs to be for your marketing budget. And then you’ll probably need to keep on tweaking as competitors adjust their own spends.


Remember that social media channels are all different, and so are their users. In addition to figuring out what you want your ad to do and how it’s going to do it, you should also consider which channel is the best for reaching the audience you want.

The net result is that there is no magic formula for effective paid social media ads. Yet there is an abundance of opportunity for businesses that market in these channels.

The best way to cut through all the complexity in advertising through social media channels, you should probably enlist the services of a DAMN GOOD agency. A little experience and expertise goes a long way.

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