Social Media Advertising

A Guide to advertising in Social Media

Social media dictates how we conduct everything these days: making friends, displaying holiday snaps, campaigning on an issue – or marketing.

As budgets get squeezed, marketing departments and entrepreneurs must spend where money will have most effect. I want to look at why social media and paid ads deliver the most bangs for your advertising buck and what the main platforms offer you.

Why does advertising on social media work?

The internet is now the second largest ad medium in the world, overtaking newspapers in 2013 and with TV in its sights. It’s easy to see why.

In the old days, if you wanted to reach a wide audience with traditional media, you had little choice but to pay the rates of a national newspaper or broadcaster for a brief exposure and a scattergun approach to audiences.

But on social media, no matter what your size, you can compete with the big boys for the attention of a global audience of billions; all you need is a good idea, imagination and planning to enjoy the benefits:

  • Audience targeting. You may even go viral with content people want to share.
  • Transparent results. Analytics are provided by most social media providers.
  • Agility. You see results in real time and can change an ad or develop a campaign.

All this, and it’s cheaper. The metric we use to measure the cost of ads is cost per thousand impressions (CPM) – how much money is spent reaching 1000 people. Studies in the US show that the CPM of social media is less than $3, compared to radio at around $10 and television at $28.

Choose your social media platform carefully

The problem you’ll have is deciding which of the expanding market of established and newly sprouting social media sites to choose from, and which of the paid ad platforms each ones offer.

Unless you have a large online marketing team, you don’t have the time or resources to manage an effective business presence on more than one or two sites, so you need to choose which to focus efforts on for the best return.

Different social media sites work better for certain types of businesses, some are better for imagery and others will be more popular with the demographic you’re aiming for. Choosing the right social media site is crucial to success.


This is a medium for sharing events and views as they happen, with around 290 million active users.

  • Mainly targeted for B2B and B2C advertising.
  • Paid ad platforms include promoted tweets and trends.
  • You can select ad audiences by location, language, age and other criteria.

The way to success is to create your own hashtag, allowing you to steer a conversation. For example the idea for Red Bull’s #PutACanOnIt came from a customer who superimposed their branded can onto a photo and tweeted it. Red Bull encouraged others to do the same and the idea took off because tweeters felt they were part of the campaign.


1.5 billion active users sharing new, stories and content make Facebook the social media colossus.

  • Mainly B2C advertising.
  • Paid banner ads or the more effective sponsored content.
  • Like Twitter, you can target Facebook audiences by demographics but also by people’s interests and purchasing behaviours.

American Express enjoyed huge success setting up an open forum and competition for small businesses which increased their fan base. They got engagement from viewers through the variety of their content, including articles, quotes, questions and images.


The business-orientated version of Facebook with 380 million global users looking for career opportunities, doing business and keeping up with business news.

  • B2B advertising.
  • 79% of users are over 35’s.
  • While more expensive than their rivals, LinkedIn offers sponsored content, text ads and efficient customer targeting.

Dutch manufacturers Philips wanted to build credibility and awareness with key audiences for their two main B2B offerings, health and lighting. They created a LinkedIn group for each, which grew to more than 38,000 and 27,000 members respectively, through display ads, targeted mail, and word of mouth. Key to success was building up a large network of connections and to personalise your messages.

And the rest?

The three I’ve looked at are the main players but in the third quarter of 2014, Facebook earned nearly $3 billion in advertising revenue so others are following suite. Instagram and Pinterest are currently beta testing their ad platform so, if you have a product for B2C advertising that’s better suited for an image-based site, then one of these may be for you.

I hope I’ve encouraged you to do a bit of research on the social media sites out there and try some out for paid ads. The great thing is you can dabble and see what works without having to mortgage the business.

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