It’s one of the oldest truths in marketing: in order to get customers’ attention, you have to live where your customers live. And today more than ever before, where customers live is on social media.
According to a study by marketing firm MediaKix, the average person spends 2 hours per day on social platforms. As the post helpfully points out, that amounts to 5 years and 4 months over a lifetime – enough time to fly to the moon and back 32 times or run 10,000 marathons.
With numbers like that, it’s no wonder that paid social media advertising has supplanted radio and possibly even television as the new darling of the advertising world. Mediakix predicts that social media advertising spend will hit close to $36 billion globally in 2017, and eMarketer noted that digital advertising as a whole surpassed television in dollars spent for the first time in 2017.
But, here’s the thing: the more companies migrate to paid social media, the more crowded it gets, and the harder it becomes to stand out. So how is a little startup to break through the noise and use social media advertising to connect with the customers they need to move their business forward?
Marketing and Business Consultant, Sarah Goliger and Brian Meert, CEO of Advertisemint and author of The Complete Guide To Facebook Advertising joined us to discuss how to create an effective social media strategy.
The short answer? Understanding your goals, understanding your audience, getting creative and, as always: testing, testing, and more testing.
The first ingredient to good social media advertising strategy: understanding your product, and where it fits into the digital world.
Specifically, says Sarah Goliger: is your product search-oriented or discovery-oriented? In other words, “Are people actively typing into google questions or searches around what I offer? If not, then Google AdWords may not be the right fit. Instead, we’d focus on Facebook or Twitter ads, which allow us to target audiences and have them discover what we offer. If they’re not looking for it, let’s show it to them.”
Once you understand what outcome you are trying to achieve and what you’re trying to communicate, the trick is to pick the platform that best matches up with those goals. Which brings us to our next point: social media advertising is never about a “spray and pray” approach, where you just throw a ton of ads out there and hope that it connects. Good social media advertising is strategic, and carefully matches content to platform.
LinkedIn is for the B2B crowd. Instagram is particularly great for fitness, fashion, and other lifestyle brands with a strong visual focus. Facebook is kind of a catch-all, but its newsfeed favors longer-form, more story-oriented posts. Snapchat may be a good bet if your audience skews young – otherwise, with Instagram folding a lot of Snapchat’s features into their platform, the more established player may be the better bet. Each platform has its own set of rules and customs. Good social media strategists have a deep understanding of those rules, and how to use them to their brand’s advantage.
Moral of the story: Get clear on what outcome you’re trying to drive, what you’re trying to communicate, and then match those goals to the social media platforms that are going to move the ball forward.
At the same time that you’re getting clear on your goals, there’s another little tiny detail you’ll need to get established: who exactly it is that you want your social media advertising to connect with.
“You want to think about what characteristics define your target audience,” Sarah says. “Start with developing personas, if you haven’t already. Run some insights on the people who’ve liked your page, and start to get a sense for what traits these folks have in common.”
If that sounds a lot like the segmenting we talked about during our chat about sales prospecting, that’s because it is. “Think about how can you effectively segment your audience in order to send the right message to the right person at the right time in your buying cycle,” Sarah advises.
One tool to help get super targeted with your advertising: Facebook’s lookalike audiences. “Lookalike audiences are a great way to leverage Facebook algorithm to find people who are similar to folks already in your funnel, whether that’s website visitors, Facebook followers, or even customers,” Sarah says.
Cultivating a deep understanding of who your audience is and what’s important to them is one of those eternal truths of starting up that we’ll be shouting until the end of time. But it’s hard to think of an area where a solid understanding of your audience matters more than in social media. Get it right, and converting followers into customers will become just a logical next step in the process. Get it wrong, and no amount of social media spend will get you the results you’re looking for.
Once you’ve got your goals, your platforms, and your audience on lock, you’re ready to draft some click-tastic social media ads. But what exactly does a good social media ad look like?
That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Like any form of advertising, social media advertising is a science – but it’s also an art. If making good social media advertising creative were easy, strategists, writers, and designers would be out of the job.
That being said, there are a few ingredients that good social media ads have in common. Sarah Goliger highlights a few in particular: relevance and uniqueness.
“Relevance and uniqueness are really key [for good social media advertising]” says Sarah. “ If it’s not relevant to the person seeing your ad, forget it! Attention spans are shorter than ever, so if it’s not immediately relevant, you’re wasting your time and money.”
As for uniqueness? “With so many brands competing for consumers’ attention, and ads popping up on every platform, you really have to stand out to be effective,” Sarah says. “I’m not saying you have to reinvent the wheel or you won’t be successful, but you do have to get creative and think about how you can really make your message resonate.”
One more ingredient that can take your social media advertising from “good” to “great,” says Brian Meert? Interactivity.
“My advice would be to make it a conversation, not just talking to someone,” he advises. “Ask their opinion, ask for their feedback, make them pick – A or B. People always love other people and the ability to connect. They also have a need to be first and want to share cool things before their friends, use that to your advantage.”
We’ve talked before about the importance of keeping the “social” in social media. People don’t come to social media to be talked at – and they definitely don’t come to be sold to. They come to be informed, entertained, inspired, moved – and to make their voices heard. If you can craft social media advertising that hit on one of those sweet spots – or better yet, a few at a time – the chances that your ads will connect go up exponentially.
The internet is chock-full of hard and fast rules about social media strategy. “The optimal Facebook post is X words long,” or “the most effective LinkedIn post has X lines of copy.”
But in the eyes of our experienced panel, the only truly hard and fast rule about social media advertising is that there is no hard and fast rule.
“For a while, the mentality was ‘shorter is better!’ assuming that people won’t take the time to read more than a few words,” Sarah shares. “But I’ve actually found with some of my client accounts that the opposite is true. If you’re really targeting the right audience with something valuable, they often will take the time to read through the whole thing. And the best part is, that shows even more intent from them!”
As with almost everything in marketing, the hard fast rule of “what works” is never as valuable as the reality of what works for you. And the best way to figure out what works for you, Sarah says: “Test, test, test and see what the data says!”
Another common mistake Sarah urges folks to avoid when it comes to social media advertising: getting too hung up on what the competition is up to.
“You can certainly look at what your competitors are doing to get an initial sense of what might work. But I warn clients against getting too caught up in their competitors,” she says. “I literally had one client who justified their ad budget by saying ‘We have to outspend our competitors! No, you don’t. If anything, you should be looking to outperform them. The best way to do that is often to forget about them.”
Instead, Sarah says: “Focus instead on being creative. Focus on your audience and what they want and need. Focus on delivering that super, super well. That will put you 100x ahead of your competitor, instead of trying to do what they do but only 10% better.”
So how do you tell if your social media advertising strategy is on target and your ads are getting results? This one’s easy: measure, measure, measure.
As for what you should measure, Brian Meert boils it down to three main metrics:
“Is it working and generating money?”
“Do people actually care about this ad? Is it relevant or valuable to them? Are they clicking through to learn more?”
Are people actually seeing my ad, are they seeing it too much?
For Sarah Goliger, a successful social media advertising strategy always comes down to one essential factor: return on investment.
“At the end of the day, I care about ROI. So my “strong” metrics are typically conversion volume and CPA (cost per acquisition). What am I getting, how much am I paying for it? And then, of course, you want to compare your CPA with your average customer LTV (lifetime value) to make sure you’re getting a positive ROI and see what that multiple is.”
Gathering metrics is great, but remember that you’re not doing it for your health. Once you have your metrics in hand, it’s decision time. Every month or so, remember to take time to look at the numbers and ask yourself questions. Are we happy with the interaction we’re seeing? What could we do to strengthen our numbers? Would we get better ROI if we rerouted some of the funds from this channel that’s underperforming to a channel where we’re seeing more reliable results?
A good social media advertising strategy is never static. It’s constantly changing and evolving, just like your product, your audience, and the social media platforms themselves. Make sure you’re ready to evolve with it.
Need help jumpstarting your social media advertising strategy? Connect with an expert today on Clarity.
Interested in how you can leverage social media beyond paid ads? Check out our discussion about social media strategy.
Want to know more about how to make your social media work for your brand? Check out Crystal Lee’s lesson on social media and branding.