Reaching the right people at the right time, with the right message is the pillar of a successful content marketing program. And with more organizations developing content these days, the competition to reach potential customers with tailored content is fierce.
For many organizations, the challenge usually isn’t the creation of valuable content. The challenge is ensuring your content is breaking through the millions of pieces of content shared every minute. It used to be enough, for example, to share posts to your Facebook newsfeed or Twitter timeline. Organic reach would get your content to your desired audiences. Facebook posts used to reach a significant percentage of your community, and using the right hashtags could help the right audience see your Twitter content at the right time. But as we’ve seen these platforms become massive content warehouses with a focus on driving their own revenues, consistently reaching your audiences has become an uphill battle.
Enter social media advertising.
Why social media advertising?
Allocating a portion of your marketing budget towards social advertising can help you achieve four important things:
1. Ensure reach
The algorithms these social platforms use to deliver content places a lower emphasis on information from brands, making it less likely that your existing communities will see your content. Social advertising ensures that your content will appear in the newsfeeds of those you target. And, importantly, beyond your existing audience. Various targeting options can guarantee that new audiences — the right audiences that you select — will see your content as well.
2. Provide a cost-effective way to reach new/existing audiences
Social advertising is extremely cost effective compared to traditional media buys. Minimum spends are often just a few dollars per day, and these advertising campaigns can be turned on/off at the click of a button. You don’t have to commit to weeks or months of spending, giving you a unique opportunity to test different messaging or even different audiences.
3. Track your results
The return on investment on a media placement, as discussed in a previous post, can often be hard to quantify. But with social advertising, marketers can easily and directly attribute web traffic, downloads and even purchases to their social advertising investment.
4. Target more than traditional advertising
Traditional advertising mediums don’t allow you to pick and choose exactly who will see (or hear) your ad. But social advertising does. It allows you to be extremely targeted by focusing on demographic characteristics, online behaviors and interest targeting. Need to reach women, between the ages of 25-33 in California who are corporate executives and have a friend with an upcoming birthday? According to Facebook, there are 15,000 of them.
Determining your objectives
Ready to start your social advertising campaign? First, you need to determine your objective(s). Different social platforms allow you to optimize for different objectives, but for the most part, each social platform will serve your ads to people who are most likely to complete your objective. Page likes, link clicks, video views, engagement and lead generation (or conversions) are just a few of the objectives available to marketers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
For example, a public utility client of ours was launching a content plan, with essentially no existing social community. A necessary first step was building out a community that was interested in reading their content. Based on their budget and timeline, we set an objective of achieving 1,000 likes and followers on their Facebook and Twitter pages, respectively, within a six-month timeframe. By continually testing and refining both owned and paid content, we were able to not only achieve this objective, but also drive the cost-per-like/follower down over this timeframe.
Defining your audience(s)
Equally as important as determining your objective(s) is defining your audience(s). Assuming that you don’t have an unlimited budget, you’ll want to first identify your target audiences and prioritize their importance. Do you want to reach existing customers or new customers? Are there different segments within those audiences that are different demographically? The targeting options within each social media network’s ad platform will allow you to serve ads specifically to those people who match the characteristics, interests, behaviors and demographics of your target audience(s). Keep in mind that the more targeted (or narrow) your target audience becomes, the more expensive it may be to advertise to them. But that expensive audience just might be the most valuable one to your business.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram also will allow you to use your existing data within their advertising platforms. For example, on Facebook you can upload your list of email subscribers, and within Ads Manager, that list of email subscribers will be matched to existing Facebook users (remember we all use an email address to sign up for Facebook). Additionally, you can place a small piece of code (called a tracking pixel) on pages of your website, which will match your website visitors to Facebook users, allowing you to remarket to those who have already shown interest in your product or service. These custom audiences can become some of your most valuable social advertising targeting tools, considering it is much easier to convert a warm audience than a cold one.
Establishing your budget
Allocating a portion of your organization’s marketing or PR budget toward social advertising is almost a no-brainer at this point; it is just something that needs to be done. But figuring out exactly what that line item should be on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis often can be confusing and intimidating. At Hodges, we like to budget for each objective we’ve identified as important to the success of our overall social advertising strategy; we then use established benchmarks or industry averages to work our way toward a number. We’ve even created a nifty social advertising budgeting worksheet to help you discover what you should be allocating each month to reach your goals and set realistic expectations.
Tracking your progress
After you define your objectives, determine your target audience, create a budget and actually set up your social ads, your work is not done. In other words, you can’t just set them up and forget about them. The key to your long-term success with social advertising is testing and refining. What exactly should you be testing? The short answer: audience, copy and creative. Depending on your budget size, you might be able to test all three at once, or you might have to settle for testing one at a time. A/B testing, comparing different variables like copy, images or audiences, should be an important part of optimizing any digital advertising campaign, whether you’re developing ads for Google AdWords or Facebook. Keeping track of your campaigns day to day, week to week or even month to month can help you to better understand what works and what doesn’t, allowing you to create ads that use your budget more effectively.
Social advertising has quickly become an integral part of ensuring that the content we create for clients reaches the right person, with the right message at the right time, and it is here to stay. Facebook made an astonishing $6.2 billion in revenue from its advertising platform in just Q2 of this year, up from $1.3 billion for all of 2012. And the revenue numbers are expected to continue to grow as more and more marketers learn to use social advertising to promote their organization. If you’re ready to start using social advertising to promote your business smartly, remember four simple things: determine your objective(s), define your audience(s), set aside a budget and always be testing and refining.
This post is an excerpt from our eBook: Earned, Owned, Paid, The Hodges Playbook. If you would like to read more about how PR programs can make use of these different channels, download the book here.