Social media. Those have become two of the most loaded words for modern marketers. It’s rise to the top happened at near warp speed and its importance is still growing, with no signs of slowing down.

Social Media Marketing is Trickier Than it Sounds

What makes social media so tricky is that it evolves nearly every day and anyone can shape that evolution. Whereas advancements in technology are typically confined to those who build the technology, the same can’t be said for social media. Sure, each social network plays a key role in platform evolution, but anyone from innovative users to those who produce complementary products to manage social media can change the game with the drop of a dime.

Add to that near constant change the fact that social media is beyond crowded, and you have yourself an uphill battle to stay current and be heard.

Staying Top of Mind with Paid Social Media Advertising

One solution to staying current and relevant in the crowded social-sphere is paid advertising. While paid advertising is only one of many ways to rise above the social media noise, it’s one that can’t be overlooked.

Social media ads represented 14% of digital ad spend in 2015 according to Hootsuite, and that number is on the rise. In fact, Hootsuite also predicts that spending on social media ads will grow from $33.5 million in 2015 to well over $35 million by 2017. Twitter, for example, already demonstrates this increase, with ad revenue increasing 60% year-over-year from Q3 2014 to Q3 2015.

Why is paid social media advertising increasing so quickly and steadily? The answer becomes clear when you consider that paid social advertising:

8 Steps to Help You Master Paid Social Media Advertising

Once you make the case for paid social media advertising and secure your budget, it’s time to get started. And, as with any social media endeavor, you need to be very strategic in order to see the results you want. As you get started, taking these eight steps can help you grow your expertise:

  1. Pay close attention to platform choices: Any time you share content on social media, you want to make sure it’s a channel that your target customers frequent (and, in the B2B world, that they frequent for work purposes). The same holds true for paid social. But when it comes to paid social advertising, you also need to consider what each platform has to offer and how that compares to what you can do organically to ensure the investment will be advantageous.
  2. Target users wisely: When you run a paid social campaign, you have the opportunity to be extremely specific about who you want to target. While the parameters differ from one network to the next, the options are always very specific, which is exactly what we as marketers love to see. If you know your customers, then this targeting should be easy, but remember to think outside the box too. For example, some networks allow you to target people who follow certain accounts or other characteristics that might not be in your standard personas, and using those parameters wisely can help expand your reach.
  3. Conduct tests: If you’re paying to get content in front of people, you want to optimize your content to make that investment worthwhile. Therefore, you should conduct tests to determine which topics, content types, tone of voice, images and so on work best for you on each channel. You can conduct these tests both with organic posts and with paid posts that you run for a short period of time in front of a small audience.
  4. Understand ad types and visuals: Many networks have different types of ads (for example, a promoted post versus a more traditional ad on LinkedIn and Facebook or a promoted post versus a promoted account on Twitter). You need to decide which type of ad is best for each campaign based on your end goal, audience preferences and insight from previous campaigns. After deciding which type of ad you’ll run, you need to understand how that ad will appear on all different screen sizes so that you know how to optimize your content accordingly.
  5. Become a bidding maven: Once you have your audience, content and ad layout set, it’s time to set your bid. Bidding is arguably one of the most important pieces of the paid social advertising process because if you get it right, you can maximize your reach without maximizing your spend. Each network has its own bidding parameters, but you absolutely need to get to know each inside and out. Even with that knowledge, it pays to play around a bit on the bidding screen to see the estimated output (reach, clicks, etc.) that different bid inputs are expected to deliver. Your goal is to the find the sweet spot that stretches your results and your dollars the furthest.
  6. Measure and learn: Paid social advertising doesn’t just give you more targeting options and guaranteed reach — it also gives you very detailed reporting, and you need to use that insight for all it’s worth (which is quite a lot). In addition to tracking the performance of your paid advertising and using that to inform future efforts, you should also use the detailed metrics to better understand things like the audience with whom your content resonates and the times at which they are online most. Those types of metrics can make both your paid and organic efforts smarter.
  7. Mix it up: Of course you want to play to your strengths — if something works well, find out why and replicate that — but you also don’t want to be a one-hit wonder. With that in mind, be sure to mix up networks and post content to further expand your reach and keep it fresh and engaging for your audience.
  8. Stick to your best practices: Even though the paid side of social media marketing is quite different than the organic side, the same best practices like social listening and tying efforts back to demand generation still apply. Additionally, you don’t want to do paid social advertising exclusively, which means you still need a strong organic social presence in order to achieve your goals.
  9. Remember to Educate, Not Interrupt

    Finally, as you run your paid social campaigns, remember that even though you are using advertisements, your goal to educate, not interrupt should remain in tact. Those ads that don’t actually seem like ads because they feel natural to and provide value for those who see them will perform significantly better than the ones that interrupt users’ social experiences.