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How to get started with social media ads

Many small businesses are anxious about venturing into the realm of paid social media advertising. As mentioned in a previous post, business owners tend to view social media from their personal perspective – free. But as a business, nothing is free, and there will come a time when free social media is not enough.

At this stage, you’ll need to bite the bullet and invest some of your money into social media advertising. But this raises the question: “Where do I even begin?”

This post will explain four things you should do before placing your first social media ad.

1: Set a budget

The power of social media advertising is that you are always in full control of how much you spend. By setting a clear budget before starting, you’ll be able to project out how many clicks or impressions (views) you can expect from each platform. This lets you make an informed decision of which will provide the most value. Set a budget that you are comfortable with and then adjust your spending depending on your results.

2: Determine your key performance indicators (KPIs)

Measuring everything is critical to social media advertising. If you are part of a larger team, you’ll need to demonstrate that the money you’re spending is benefiting the organization. If you’re a small business or entrepreneur, every single marketing dollar is precious and needs to be contributing to the business.

Before starting, you should have a list of goals in mind. Some of these can be superficial, such as the number of likes, comments, or shares. But most should delve deeper into the value you are getting. How many of your followers are in your targeted industries? How many people converted (downloaded your content, made a purchase, etc) after clicking your ad? How many times did an influencer share your content? These questions will vary depending on the goals you set up, but they should clearly demonstrate whether your ads are creating value.

3: Choose your platform

Once you have come up with a clear budget and objective you can start deciding which platforms you should use. Keep in mind that all social media advertising platforms are linked to an account, so you’ll need to have or set up an account on each site you want to use. To make an educated decision, spend time looking at each platform’s targeting options and look up statistics to determine if your audience actually uses that site. It’s no good to spend money on a campaign if your audience will never see it.

Next, figure out how much it will cost. Paying for ads works on a fairly complex auction system, but the basics are the same across all platforms. The more in demand your audience is, the more you will have to pay to reach them. Most platforms will provide some sort of preview in terms of estimated cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM). Choose the one that best aligns with your audience, content and budget.

4: Run your first ad!

Once the planning is complete there is nothing better than trying it out. This is fairly risk free as you can allocate a very small budget to these first few ads. Look to see if the projected and actual costs are aligned. Determine what your click-through-rate (CTR) is on each ad and analyze what you can do to improve it. Return to your KPIs to see how your ads truly performed.

Every time you run an ad, you should be looking for ways to test new ideas that improve performance against your KPIs. Each ad should build on the previous one by throwing away ideas that didn’t work and implementing techniques that did. As you become comfortable with the platform, you can start A/B testing to compare two ideas directly against each other.

Put it all together

Paid ads, like all forms of social media, require time and investment. Done well, they can be a powerful tool to grow your business with a very precise audience. By having a strong strategy and integrating it into your content marketing, lead nurture and demand generation programs, social media advertising can become a critical part of your marketing strategy that grows your business.


Bridge the Gap Marketing Solutions provides social media advertising consulting, strategy and implementation services to small businesses and technology companies.


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