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A Practical Guide to Social Media Advertising, Part 2

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by Deltina Hay, Founder and Curator, DeltinaU.com —


Deltina Hay

Given today’s social media noise level, I recently decided that I would pay for some exposure within social media platforms. Now I’m suggesting that you do the same, not by replacing your existing social media marketing strategy but by enhancing it to promote some of your best content and your most important events. Last month, Part 1 of this article described the wide array of ad options major social media platforms offer. What follows covers ads in terms of targeting your audience, making choices about content and money matters, and using analytics to get best results.


The main social media platforms have now been around long enough to have amassed an unimaginable amount of data on their users. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is a discussion for another time. What is important here is that you can harness that data to target consumers in ways never available before.

How you define your audience can easily make or break your social advertising campaigns. Get to know the targeting options of the platforms you are advertising on, and don’t be afraid to experiment a few times to get things right.


Along with the usual regional and demographic targeting categories, Facebook offers ways to focus on the specific interests and behaviors of users, and ways to target users connected to your page or your business on Facebook.

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Interest targeting focuses, as you would expect, on the interests users choose on their Facebook profiles as well as on pages they like and other factors. Some interests can be quite specific, and the list changes often, so take the time to browse the list and check suggestions.

Behavior targeting is based on the activities of users both on and off Facebook. These might include buying habits, charitable contributions, gaming preferences, or mobile device usage. Again, these can be quite specific, so take the time to find the right fit for you.

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Connection targeting allows you to include or exclude users who have—or don’t have—a connection with a specific page, event, or person on Facebook.

As you define an audience, Facebook lets you measure how specific or broad it is. You may be tempted to target as many people as possible, but targeting a tightly defined audience will likely yield more relevant results and actual conversions.

The catch is that targeting too narrow an audience may result in your ad not getting enough impressions unless you pay more. Often, a few tries are necessary to find just the right balance. Once you do find a combination that works, you can save that audience and use it in future campaigns.

Also, you can create custom audiences based on your own mailing lists, visitors to your website, or users of your mobile apps, and then target those people in your Facebook campaigns.

These custom audiences can be used to create Lookalike audiences, which are composed of people who “look like” your own custom audience in that they share interests, behaviors, and so forth. If you have a successful opt-in mailing list, creating Lookalike audiences can be a powerful marketing move.


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Twitter also offers targeting through interests and behaviors, and in addition it lets you target users “like” the followers of specific Twitter handles. In other words, you can target users who are similar to those who follow you, your competitors, and/or other Twitter accounts.

Twitter’s Keywords option lets you input specific keywords that potential targets may have used in a tweet or a Twitter search.

Other Platforms

Pinterest targeting is based mainly on suggested key terms. The service is still quite new and will likely evolve into a more robust targeting engine over time.

As a business-to-business and recruiting site, LinkedIn offers targeting options that include job titles, specific companies, schools, and so on.

Obviously, specific targeting options vary with the characteristics and user base of each individual platform, so it is best to get a good feel for the targeting options within each platform you use, and to refer to each one’s guidelines for best practices.


Ad copy and ad graphics options also differ for each platform, and they differ as well for each ad type, so research the best approaches in site guidelines, and check those guidelines frequently, since they are known to change without warning. This can save a lot of grief and money.

Image quality, text length, and relevancy will affect how well your ads perform. If you don’t have a lot of resources for images, try a discount graphics marketplace such as GraphicRiver.net, which will even customize images for you at reasonable rates.

And don’t forget about mobile. Be sure to design your ads so they will look good across all devices—keeping in mind that most people now access social media sites via smartphones.


The Facebook Ad Guide (facebook.com/business/ads-guide) has specifications and tips for each ad type. Pay close attention to the image guidelines; note that your images cannot include more than 20 percent text, and take advantage of the Facebook tool that helps you check how much text is on an image.


Twitter also has a guide to each of its ad types (business.twitter.com/solutions/grow-followers), with image specs and other ad specs, as well as answers to frequently asked questions.

Other Platforms

The Promoted Pin Best Practices Guide can help you find the latest specs and guidelines for Pinterest ad types (help.pinterest.com/en/articles/promoted-pin-best-practices).

LinkedIn answers frequently asked questions about ads—including questions about specs and guidelines—in its help center (help.linkedin.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1015).

Given the nature of social media, users are more likely to notice—and reject—ads that appear again and again in their timelines. Twitter has a great way of dealing with this problem by letting you create a number of different tweets for a single campaign. But since some other social advertising platforms are not so accommodating, it is best to have a handful of different graphics and copy blurbs ready to recycle every few days during your campaign.

Bidding and Budgeting

Most social advertising platforms offer cost per click (CPC) or cost per thousand impressions (CPM) options. If you choose CPC, you pay only for clicks to your website, likes of your page, engagements on your posts, and so on, depending on the type of ad you are running. If you choose CPM, you pay for the number of times your ad is shown.

How much you pay per click or per impression depends on a lot of things, including the ad type, the targeted audience, your budget, the ad image, and the ad copy. It is worth learning more; see adweek.com/socialtimes/cpm-vs-cpc/321685.

The safe bet is to stick with the CPC option, especially if you are just starting out, although the CPM option can pay off if you have a lot of time to spend on optimizing and analyzing your ads.

The bottom line, of course, is that you want your ads to generate results, whether those results are clicks, likes, or engagement. And you may need to spend some time discovering what will generate those results for you.

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In most cases, you will set a per-day maximum or a lifetime maximum budget for your campaign. You can also decide on the maximum amount you are willing to pay for a click or engagement. Often, a social media platform will offer to optimize your bidding by balancing the bid amount with the number of impressions. This can be a good way to go when you are starting out.

Social media platforms let you know when you are bidding too low for your audience and ad type. If you are, you can either increase your bid or adjust your target audience to try to get the recommended bid rate down.

Many social advertising dashboards display estimates of how many clicks, leads, likes, and so on you might expect to get, based on the budget you’ve chosen.

Budget enough money to get results but leave room for experimentation. You may need to adjust your targeting, bidding, and budget a few times to find your sweet spot, but by establishing a budget ahead of time for each campaign you launch, you will be less likely to “up your bet” in hopes of hitting some illusive social media jackpot.


The beauty of social advertising is that you can see the results of your efforts almost immediately. And analytics can help you with targeting and bidding as well.

Facebook ad analytics show how an ad is performing on a number of levels. You can see how much you are paying per result, how many people have seen your ad, how much you are paying for each engagement or click, the click through rate (CTR), and more.

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But you want to be careful not to read too much into the numbers. For example, don’t get hung up on what some people would consider low click-through rates if you are getting the conversion rates you want. When your efforts seem to be meeting your original goals, focus on improving what’s working.

If your campaign is not performing the way you want it to, the culprit is probably your targeting or your bidding strategy. In Facebook you can look deeper into the analytics by filtering the placement stats.

Twitter’s analytics features are even better than Facebook’s. You can get a clearer picture of your results—including how each individual card is performing—on one screen. Twitter also makes it easier to drill down and see how specific targeting choices are performing.

If your campaign is getting a lot of impressions but very few clicks, take a close look at where the impressions are going. Similarly, if you are getting a lot of clicks but very few conversions (such as sales or signups), then look at where the clicks are coming from and adjust accordingly. You can see how your targeting choices about regions, interests, behaviors, and more are affecting your results.

The necessity of social media advertising has been a big pill to swallow for many of us who embraced social media from the beginning and took pleasure in using it free. But realists knew the day would come for including paid ads as part of a social media strategy. I am glad—and relieved—that those ads are usable by, and affordable for, small businesses.

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.

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