PUBLISHED AUGUST 2015
by Deltina Hay, Founder, DeltinaU.com
With Facebook continuing to tighten its grip on how many of your page fans get to see your promotional updates (see on.fb.me/11cJMb9), and with other social media platforms sure to follow suit, it is time to be realistic about whether your social media marketing strategy can survive if you don’t include at least some social advertising.
As someone who embraced social media marketing from the very beginning, I have long been reluctant to pay for exposure within social media platforms. But I am a realist. There are more than 37 million Facebook business pages with 10 or more likes—that is a lot of noise.
So I figure it is time to start cutting through the noise a bit. I am not suggesting that you replace your existing social media marketing strategy; just enhance it by promoting some of your best content and most important events with ads.
Digital ad spending surpassed print ad spending in 2013 and is projected to top $100 billion by 2018 (see bit.ly/1HXrQnR). And social ads continue to outperform display ads in click-through and conversion rates every year.
The fact that mobile ads consistently outperform any other type of digital advertising is even more impressive. Mobile device users click though and convert more often than desktop users, mostly because of the relevancy of the ads served up to them.
And since most people now access social media platforms using mobile devices—nearly 80 percent in Twitter’s case—social advertising is one of the most effective ways to reach mobile users.
Luckily, it is still relatively affordable. But don’t just throw money at a campaign and hope to get results. Go forth with an established strategy based on a good understanding of the different ads types, targeting methods, content options, bidding strategies, and evaluation tools. What follows identifies and describes the wide range of ad type options you can choose among on major social media platforms. Part 2 of this article will cover the other aspects of social media advertising next month.
Social Advertising Types
Most social media sites offer a selection of ad types. Different types of ads yield different results. Some promote updates to encourage engagement; some generate page likes and followers; some allow mobile app downloads; and still others drive traffic to your website.
Facebook Ad Types
Facebook offers a number of ad types that can help increase engagement, boost timeline updates, and drive traffic to websites, apps, events, and more.
Ads can be placed within users’ desktops or mobile news feeds, as well as in the right column of the Facebook platform.
The Clicks to Website ad type is designed to drive traffic to a specific page on your site.
The Website Conversions type includes a call-to-action button such as Sign Up or Learn More that should send people to a page where they can fulfill the call to action with, for example, an e-mail signup or the purchase of a product.
Both these ad types can include a link with a single image or a collection of images called a carousel. Carousel ads are a great way to tell a story or feature more than one product.
The Page Post Engagement ad type lets you promote your page or timeline posts and can include photo, video, or plain text updates.
The Page Likes option helps you get more likes for your page.
These ad types are also accessible right from your Facebook page, as Promote Page and Boost Post buttons.
Mobile App Ads can promote any mobile apps you offer by allowing users to install a mobile or desktop app, or to engage with the app in another way (for instance, by running an app demo). And you can use these ads not only within the Facebook timeline, but within many other popular mobile apps.
The Local Awareness ad type is designed to drive local traffic to a physical business. It has limited regional availability but it can help you reach people near your location. You will be able to create a local awareness ad only if it is available in your city.
The Event Response ad type lets you promote a Facebook event you created. People can join the event right from the ad.
The Offer Claims ad type is useful for creating discounts or special deals that people can get on your website or at a store location. Caveat: This type of ad can get a lot of hits, but be careful. You pay for each person who “claims” an offer from within Facebook, but that does not mean every person will use the discount or take advantage of the special deal. All it means is that they are given the opportunity.
Facebook’s Video Views ad type lets you use video to promote your products or services. You need to upload the video directly to Facebook, however, so no YouTube embeds. This ad type also offers an optional call-to-action button for sending people to a web page to learn more, shop now, download, and so on.
For more about Facebook ads, check out the Business Ads Guide: facebook.com/business/ads-guide.
Twitter Ad Types
Most Twitter ad types are similar to Facebook ad types, but Twitter has an added feature called cards (see below) that creates a more interactive experience for ads within the Twitter timeline.
The Grow Followers ad type can help you gain followers and stimulate engagement by placing an update in users’ timelines that encourages them to follow your business on Twitter. These ads also appear in the Who to Follow column of the Twitter platform.
Promoted tweets or Tweet Engagements are similar to Facebook promoted posts in that you can choose an existing tweet to promote so it shows on the timelines of the audience you target. But Twitter’s promoted tweets differ from Facebook’s promoted posts because you can create “promoted only” tweets that do not show up in your Twitter timeline, and you can create more than one variation of a promoted tweet in a single campaign.
Twitter cards are tools for driving website traffic and come in three varieties so far: website cards, app cards, and lead generation cards. Think of Twitter cards as attachments to tweets that promote products and services. The tweet appears above the card, and the card consists of additional information and actions that vary with card type.
Twitter website cards consist of a short headline, an image, a call to action, and a link to a web page. Once a card is created, it can be used as many times as you like. You can create a number of different tweets using the same card, or even tweets using different cards, in the same ad campaign.
App cards are useful for promoting apps. An app card shows a preview of the app, the app rating, and a call to action to install or open the app. These cards are shown only to people who are accessing Twitter from a mobile device.
Twitter lead generation cards allow you to collect opt-in e-mail addresses from people directly from the Twitter timeline. Like the website cards, these cards display a headline, an image, and a call to action. By clicking the call-to-action button, users allow Twitter to add their names and e-mail addresses to a list that you can download and use in your own e-mail marketing campaigns.
You can use more than one card of this type, too, and reuse the same card within a single campaign.
To learn more about Twitter ads, go to business.twitter.com/solutions/grow-followers.
Pinterest Ad Types
Pinterest joined the ranks of social advertising platforms only recently and has not yet made advertising available to all businesses. You can get on the Pinterest Ad waiting list here—ads.pinterest.com—but you need to have a Pinterest business account in place first (business.pinterest.com).
Promoted Pins are similar to promoted posts or tweets. You can promote one of your popular pins and include a link back to a web page.
Buyable Pins, a more exciting option, are available to a host of large brands as well as to selected Shopify and Demandware merchants. To learn more or get on the waiting list: business.pinterest.com/en/get-list-buyable-pins.
LinkedIn Ad Types
Although LinkedIn has always offered traditional advertising opportunities, such as display ads and “pro” options for salespeople and recruiters, it only recently began offering social advertising options.
The Sponsored Content ad type lets you promote your LinkedIn Company page updates to other LinkedIn users.
And like Twitter promoted tweets, the Direct Sponsored Content ad type does not appear on your company page as an update.
When Instagram ads were launched for select businesses almost two years ago, they were an instant hit. Continuing to build on its success, Instagram has announced that its ad service is to be improved and made available to more potential advertisers.
What is especially exciting about this move is that Instagram ads will become part of the Facebook advertising infrastructure. Which means that Instagram ads will be available to more businesses, and that Instagram ad types will be similar to Facebook ad types.
You can keep tabs on the status of Instagram ad availability here: business.instagram.com/advertising.
Snapchat is also revving up its advertising offerings. Right now it limits advertising to a few brands, but there have been rumors that it is planning to launch an affordable solution for smaller brands. In the meantime, you can keep tabs on its promotion rules here: support.snapchat.com/a/promotions-rules.
Foursquare offers a number of ad types for businesses that have physical locations. You can ping people who are near your business to let them know about special offers or about pointers left by other customers. And you can get a promoted listing that will help your business show up at the top of local searches on the Foursquare app. Learn more about Foursquare ads here: business.foursquare.com/ads.
StumbleUpon offers the opportunity to promote anything that has a URL. The idea is that your content gets in front of an audience that regularly shares similar content. If someone “stumbles” on your article, video, slideshow, or other content, it will get even more (free) exposure on the platform. Learn more at: ads.stumbleupon.com.
Reddit offers advertising in a Sponsored Heading area. You can target users by interest group, subreddit (subgroups), or location. Learn more at: reddit.com/wiki/selfserve.
Choosing the Optimal Options
As you can see, there are a great many ways to use social advertising, and you can easily get caught up in the process of evaluating all the possibilities. To make good choices efficiently, you’ll need to clearly define your goals for each advertising campaign, target the audience(s) you want to reach, invest time in reviewing the best practices, advertising guidelines, and image specifications for each campaign you launch, and figure out what each will cost you and what each achieved. Guidance on those topics will be coming your way next month.
Deltina Hay is the author of books about social media, the mobile web, and search optimization, and the founder and curator of the online learning portal DeltinaU.com. She chaired the IBPA board of directors from 2013 to 2015.