Social Media Advertising Overview for Businesses

Social Media Advertising Overview for Businesses

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Social Media Advertising

In my book, How To NOT Suck At Social Media, I briefly touched on using social media channels for promotional purposes. In a nutshell, it is usually not okay to use the hard-sell on a site like Facebook, for example, but it can be perfectly acceptable to advertise your product or service as long as it is clearly labeled as an ad.

Overview and Guiding Principles of Advertising on Social Media

Let me start this section with a recap of the four goals for any business using social media, found in the beginning section of my book:

  1. To not suck
  2. To engage with your current and prospective customers
  3. To build your “tribe.”
  4. To network, damnit!

Believe it or not, even though you’re paying to get your message out there, you should still keep these four goals in mind when placing an ad on a social media site.

The same principals apply – people aren’t using Facebook because they like being sold stuff. They’re not usually shopping for a deal on Twitter. They’re not looking for pictures of coupons on Instagram.

So don’t spam them or come with the hard-sell on social media, even when paying for advertising.

A kinder, less obnoxious approach is going to work for you much better in the long run. Used correctly, and with proper planning, social media advertising can be immensely effective because of the ability to zero in on your ideal target audience.

Targeting Your Audience

One huge benefit to digital advertising, especially on social media sites, is the ability to cut down on the amount of wasted ads by leveraging large amounts of user data (behavioral, demographic, psychographic, location, etc.) in order to focus your ad campaign to be in front of the right audience at the right time.

Social Media sites excel on this because, by their very nature, they know an awful lot about every user. And why wouldn’t they? The users willingly give them tons of details about who they are and what they like!

Nearly every social media site that offers advertising has some form of targeting. The first thing you should do is to decide where you think your users are likely to be.

I believe that you will know the circumstances of your business – and your target audience – better than I will so rather than make a recommendation on which network to use, I’ll break down the top three for you below.

Facebook Advertising

Facebook is probably the reigning champ for B2C advertising as far as social media sites go. Their self-service interface could not be easier to use.

You’re able to advertise a Facebook page, place, app, status update, event or even an external website URL.

Create an Ad on Facebook
Create an Ad on Facebook

Often the advertising mechanism is built right into the admin interface of your page, place or event. You can also easily promote a status update of any type right from the actual post itself.

If you want to advertise an external website, you’ll need to start off by going to the ad creation tool located at:

Paste in your URL and most of the fields will be populated for you, including the headline, text and image – but you’re able to edit/change any that you want before submitting the ad.

Next you’ll create a budget and then select your audience. They make this entire process very easy, including telling you the approximate audience size, which recalculates every time you add or exclude a demographic, interest, or location.

Preview your ad, then make it live and you’re done!

Twitter Advertising

There are two ways to promote on Twitter. You can promote a tweet (Sponsored Tweet) or you can promote your account to get more followers.

So if you just want to increase your amount of followers, you’d definitely want option two from above. I’m not sure why you’d want to pay for this, but undoubtedly there are large companies that promote their account – we’ve all seen them. I doubt it would be good for a small business owner.

Sponsor a Tweet or Account on Twitter
Sponsor a Tweet or Account on Twitter

A good, solid following on Twitter takes a lot of time, a lot of work and a lot of patience – unless you’re famous of course.

So that leaves Sponsored Tweets. If you decide that Twitter is the place to spend your ad budget, keep in mind that the same 140 character limit will apply. So the best use of a sponsored tweet will be a strong call to action and a link.

If you do end up sponsoring a tweet, you’ll pay only when someone clicks, replies, or retweets.

To promote your tweets, go to

Twitter has a lot of tools to help define and target your audience. You can primarily use keywords or interest categories.

Again, this is a pretty self-explanatory and well-built system. After picking your tweet, entering your daily budget, and selecting your audience, you save and run the campaign.

You get to choose the max bid for each engagement (click, retweet, follow, favorite, reply, etc.)

Google+ Advertising

Google+ Brand pages and Local listings are technically considered social media advertising, but in order to advertise on Google+, you need to use the Google Adwords program.

Google Adwords Keyword Planner Tool
Google Adwords Keyword Planner Tool

Google Adwords provides a robust, self-service platform for search, display, and mobile advertising. Most campaigns begin with their Keyword Planner tool, which I’ve written about here.

Google+ Brand pages and Local Listing pages can be incorporated into an ad placed through Google Adwords.

For example, when placing a text ad, you can also include content from your Google+ page, which will be embedded into the ad. For Google Local listings, your phone number and address can be incorporated into a text ad as well.

The Big Three Social Networks are Only the Tip of the Iceberg

Most people instantly default to Facebook for social media advertising because it is currently pretty effective in reaching general audiences. Twitter and Google are not that far behind when it comes to social media ad budgets.

One we’ve not talked about yet would be LinkedIn, which is a great choice for B2B marketing messages, or to reach employees of a certain company or industry (definitely also a feature of Facebook ads.)

Instagram and Pinterest are doing things a little differently than their other social media counterparts. Instagram is owned by Facebook, but as of this writing is still running their ad program differently than their mothership.

Instagram Sponsored Image
Instagram Sponsored Image

Both Instagram and Pinterest are proceeding very cautiously as they roll out their ad programs. When users first received Pinterest’s email notification about their “Promoted Pins” advertising program (which was then in the testing phase) it sounded more apologetic than anything else, with tons of caveats and reassurances that they would not ruin user experience.

For the most part, both services have kept that promise by not offering their advertising program to just anyone. They have pursued partnerships with specific brands in order to control the types of promotions that are allowed. I’m assuming they both have rigid ad and content standards that these brands must abide by in order to “keep it classy.”

On Instagram you’ll see a “Sponsored” label above the photo/ad and pins will be labeled “Promoted” on Pinterest.

Promoted Pin on Pinterest
Promoted Pin on Pinterest

The common theme between the two is that ads are meant to resemble natural content (a photo on Instagram, and a pinned graphic on Pinterest) rather than a tacky, flashing, starburst-laden ad.

How Are You Advertising On Social Media?

Leave a comment below to share your experiences and any insights you’ve gained with other readers.

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