Social media advertising, otherwise known as paid social, is a form of advertising over social networks, such as Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. With 2.65 billion worldwide social media users, paid social gives businesses a cost-effective way to reach their advertising goals by putting their ads in front of users of your choice based primarily on audience targeting.
How Social Media Advertising Works
Nearly any business can use social media marketing given that social networks are “self-service” advertising platforms where businesses can create and launch their own ad campaign. There are hundreds of social networks businesses can advertise on, from major platforms such as Facebook and Instagram or lesser-known, niche platforms. Generally, businesses choose one or two to advertise on based on which best fits their target audience.
First, find the right platforms for advertising your business. Consider your target audience and which networks they most likely use the most. While the top social networks such as Facebook and Instagram have large enough user bases to fit almost any target audience, don’t overlook other social networks. For example, a restaurant would be well-suited for advertising on Yelp, whereas an executive education provider would be well-suited to advertise on LinkedIn.
After selecting which social networks to advertise on, create an advertiser’s account, such as a Facebook Ads Manager account for those advertising on Facebook and Instagram. While every advertising platform works a bit differently, most ultimately work in a similar manner. For example, in Facebook Ads Manager, click the “Create” button to start the new ad campaign creation process where you will be led through each step from start to finish.
Reasons to Advertise on Social
The benefits of social media marketing often revolve around building brand awareness and generating leads, but those only scratch the surface of why businesses should advertise on social. One of the biggest reasons to advertise on social is that it’s a cost-effective way of reaching the exact people you want to target. People also look to social to find new products or services and for businesses, paid social has a high return on ad spend.
Here are five reasons to advertise on social:
- Reach the right people: Paid social has sophisticated audience targeting, giving businesses a way to choose exactly who they want their ads to display to. Traditionally, advertising has been limited to broadcasting ads to everyone, but now businesses can pinpoint who they want to see their ads. This makes ads so much more effective and your ad spend go further.
- Affordable: With social media advertising businesses get to choose how much (or how little) they want to spend on ads per day, or per month, making it fit nearly any advertising budget. Paid social is also a form of pay-per-click (or PPC) advertising where businesses only pay when users interact with their ads. In other words, you’re only charged when your ads effectively connect with your target audience.
- Generate leads: Businesses use paid social to generate leads and build a contact list by creating ads designed to resonate with their target audience. To do this, ads are linked to landing pages with an offer, such as sign up to get 20% off your first order or to download an e-book, which collects user information such as their name and email address.
- Influence buying behavior: Social media is a powerful tool that actually influences people to buy certain products or services based on posts they see from businesses and their friends. According to a study by HubSpot, over 70% of consumers are influenced to make a purchasing decision based on social media.
- Drive traffic to your website: Putting your business in front of your target audience on social will not only build brand awareness, but it will drive people to visit your site. Business websites should serve as a sales and marketing tool for business, so the more website traffic you get more likely you are to generate sales.
No matter your marketing objectives, the chances are your business could benefit from social media advertising. Whether you’re looking to build brand awareness, generate website traffic, generate sales, or even just allocate the remainder of your market budget to another marketing channel, social is a good option for businesses who have a strong grasp on who their target audience is and which platforms they’re using online.
Social Media Advertising Costs
Paid social is an affordable form of digital advertising with an average cost-per-click of $1.86 on Facebook, and as low as less than 50 cents per click on Twitter. Most social media advertising platforms have a minimum daily ad spend of around $1 to $5, with the option to turn ads on and off at any time. There can be other costs associated with using social media advertising such as the cost of social media marketing tools and for social media management services.
Here are the different costs generally associated with social media advertising:
- Interactions (i.e., CPC, CPM, CPV): Businesses are charged for their ads based on the type of user interaction they’re looking for. Businesses may choose from cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM), cost-per-video-view (CPV), or cost per conversion. CPC is the most common for PPC advertising, though businesses should consider their advertising goals and select the pricing model that best assists with that.
- Daily or monthly ad spend: When creating an ad campaign, advertisers set a daily or monthly ad spend. Since ad spending is based on user interactions, you can set the maximum amount to spend over the course of a day or month. For example, a clothing brand is advertising on Instagram with an average CPC of $2. It sets its daily spend to $20, which would yield approximately 10 clicks per day.
- Social media marketing tools (optional): While it’s not a requirement to use social media marketing tools, many businesses opt to as they can save you time by scheduling posts or help you build better landing pages that have a higher conversion rate. There’s a range of tools available to help businesses more effectively market on social and prices vary from free to over $50 per month.
- Social media management (optional): Businesses that don’t have the time or expertise to strategically build, manage, and optimize ads often choose to outsource their social media marketing to professionals. Businesses can use a freelancer, such as someone they find on Fiverr or Upwork or use a full-service marketing agency such as Lyfe Marketing. Pricing varies from around $100 per month to over $500 per month.
Businesses advertising on social have a great deal of autonomy when it comes to choosing how much they spend. How much a business allocates to social media advertising, including pricing model, ad spend, tools, and services collectively. The average small business spends in the ballpark of $200 to $2,000+ per month on paid social.
Average Cost of Social Media Advertising by Platform
Minimum Daily Ad Spend
$5 per day for clicks
$1 per day for impressions
$5 per day for clicks
$1 per day for impressions
$0.10 for clicks
$2 for impressions
$10 per day
$5 per day
(Source: Data is available from WebFX & Moz)
Top Social Media Advertising Platforms
Even with thousands of different social networking platforms available, businesses tend to gravitate toward advertising on the top platforms with the largest active user bases. These include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, and forums such as Reddit.
Here are the most popular social media advertising platforms:
Every social media advertising platform has its own unique audiences and use-cases. This means that while one platform might be an ideal advertising solution for one business, it may not be the best choice for another.
Facebook is the world’s leading social network with nearly 2.5 billion active users. It has a wide user base covering all demographics and it offers a wide range of advertising opportunities for businesses from sponsored posts that appear in users’ news feeds to Facebook Messenger ads. It’s a self-service PPC advertising platform with affordable CPCs averaging at $1.86 per click and a minimum daily ad spend of $5.
Who Facebook Advertising is Best For
Given the sheer size of Facebook, it can fit nearly any type of business. Facebook ads are designed to be triggered based on audience targeting, so the key for businesses advertising on Facebook is knowing exactly who is your ideal customer or target audience, so you can create ads strategically to reach people who will most likely be interested in what you’re offering.
Ways to Advertise on Facebook
Facebook offers a wide range of ways to advertise. Businesses may use Facebook to market organically with business pages and Facebook Groups or use boosted posts or paid ads that can be displayed in a number of places such as the newsfeed, side column, stories, and Facebook Messenger. Learn more about Facebook advertising and get step-by-step instructions on how to create a Facebook ad.
Instagram is a major social network with around 1 billion users worldwide. It is a media-based social network where users share images and videos. Businesses can create ads that display over Instagram using Facebook Ads Manager. Just the same as Facebook Ads, Instagram ads a form of PPC advertising where advertisers pay based on user interactions and there are different ad placement options available including in the newsfeed and in stories.
Who Instagram Advertising is Best For
Instagram is large enough to reach nearly any business’s target audience. However, it’s best for businesses that can create aesthetically pleasing visual content. This is because Instagram users visit the platform to look at interesting images and short videos. For example, a real estate photographer may use Instagram to reach local realtors by displaying their high-quality work, or a jewelry company may advertise on Instagram to build awareness and promote new products.
Ways to Advertise on Instagram
All Instagram ads are created through Facebook Ads Manager. To create an ad, login to Facebook and navigate to your Ads Manager account. From there, click the “Create” button to start the new campaign creation process. This will walk you through all of the steps from selecting your ad-type and ad placement to audience targeting and ad design. Learn more about Instagram advertising.
Twitter is another leading social media platform with 330 million users that offers advertising opportunities. It’s a text-based content and news sharing network that offers businesses the chance to show up in users’ feeds with paid ads and promoted tweets. It has a low average cost-per-click of just $1.35, and no minimum spend, giving businesses with any advertising budget the opportunity to gain exposure through its network.
Who Twitter Advertising is Best For
Twitter is best for businesses sharing news-worthy content via ads. For example, an event venue could advertise on Twitter to share information about upcoming events. Another example would be a food truck that is frequently changing its location. With Twitter ads, the business could target its ads to display to users within the same city it’s currently in, gaining local awareness and driving visits.
Ways to Advertise on Twitter
Businesses can advertise on Twitter using paid ads, promoted tweets, or co-marketing efforts such as working with influencers. To create a Twitter ad, first set up your Twitter ads account. From there, begin the new ad creation process, which starts by entering your ad’s objective, then walks you through all steps including inputting your budget, ad targeting, and designing and launching your ad.
Pinterest is a social networking platform that is based on visual content discovery. In other words, users visit Pinterest in order to discover new things, whether that be interior design and home decor or travel tips and fashion trends. It offers affordable pay-per-click advertising with an average cost-per-click of $1.50. Businesses that offer products or services that fall into one of its wide range of categories should consider Pinterest ads for a low-cost, high return network.
Who Pinterest Advertising is Best For
Pinterest ads are best for businesses that have entertaining and informational to share. For example, an RV rental company may use Pinterest ads to promote the idea of road trips by sharing an article about amazing road trips to experience. Another example could be a money management app that advertises an article about tips on how to save money for a house.
How to Advertise on Pinterest
Businesses can advertise on Pinterest through promoted pins and Pinterest ads. Creating Pinterest ads is easy. Simply log in to your Pinterest business account and click the red “+” button in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. Then select “create ad” and follow the prompts to build your Pinterest ad. Learn more about Pinterest marketing.
LinkedIn is a social network of 260 million people who use the platform to develop and maintain professional connections. Since it’s a business-focused social network, it’s a great platform for B2B advertising. Ads are on a pay-per-click basis with an average cost-per-click of $5.26 and a minimum daily ad spend of $10.
Who LinkedIn Advertising is Best For
LinkedIn advertising is best for B2B businesses and those offering products and services targeted toward professionals. For example, a tech company selling military-grade ruggedized tablets may use LinkedIn ads targeted at decision-makers in public safety and manufacturing companies. Another example could be a digital marketing agency that specializes in generating leads for the real estate industry, so it targets real estate agents and brokers.
How to Advertise on LinkedIn
LinkedIn offers two advertising services, a fully managed service, and a self-service ad platform. Businesses looking to create their own ads should choose the self-service ad platform. There they can build and manage ads in-house. If LinkedIn ads are out of your budget, keep in mind there are a number of ways to market a business on LinkedIn organically. Learn more about LinkedIn marketing.
YouTube is a video-sharing social network where nearly 5 billion videos are viewed daily. It offers businesses the opportunity to advertise in a number of formats from video ads that automatically play before the start of a user’s selected video to overlay ads that display as a banner at the bottom of a video. It has an average cost-per-click of $3.21 and no minimum daily ad spend, enabling businesses with any budget size to use it.
Who YouTube Advertising is Best For
YouTube ads are triggered based on your interests based on your Google Ad settings, as well as your YouTube video history. However, ads may not be targeted for users who are not signed into Google or YouTube. Since YouTube Ads cannot currently be highly targeted beyond general interests, topics, and keywords, they are best for businesses with a general message that serves a large and varied audience, such as a food brand promoting a new product.
How to Advertise on YouTube
To create a video ad on YouTube, log into your YouTube account and upload your advertisement. Then, log into Google Ads or create a new Google Ads account if you do not already have one. Start the new campaign creation process and select “Video” from the campaign-type options. Follow the remaining prompts to build and launch your video campaign.
Reddit is a community forum made up of 330 million users worldwide. It offers businesses the chance to advertise over the platform via sponsored posts and banner ads that display in the right column of the site. It’s one of the cheapest social media advertising platforms with an average cost-per-click of just $0.75 and a minimum daily ad spend of $5.
Who Reddit Advertising is Best For
Reddit ads are targeted by user location, subreddits, user interests, and device-types. Businesses looking for an affordable way of reaching niche audiences and advertising based on these options, such as an event venue promoting an upcoming concert to users within a specified location or under a subreddit for that band or its genre, would be good candidates for Reddit advertising.
How to Advertise on Reddit
To advertise on Reddit, first, do your research and get to know Reddit and its community to determine if your business is a good fit for the platform. Once you have found your audience on Reddit, set up an advertising account. From there you can create ads to be displayed within subreddits or in the right-hand column. There’s a lot more to Reddit than paid ads. Learn more about Reddit marketing and find out how you can grow a business with Reddit organically.
Social Media Marketing Strategies
A social media marketing strategy serves as your blueprint or plan of action for achieving your social media marketing goals and every business using social should have one. To create a strategy set your marketing goals, select the best social networks for your business, and ways to implement, deploy, and measure your social performance.
Here are the five primary social media marketing strategies:
- Organic social: Organic social, or social media marketing, is free and involves using social networks for their intended purpose. This is where businesses create profiles and manually build a following using outreach. It’s a long-term strategy for growing a presence on social, and something that businesses are advised to incorporate into their overall social media marketing strategy.
- Paid social ads: Paid social is another term for social media advertising where businesses pay to display ads to users who do not currently follow them, in return, increasing brand awareness. Paid social, like paid search (e.g., Google Ads) are on a cost-per-click basis where advertisers pay when users interact with their ads, making it a cost-effective and short-term advertising channel to quickly reach your marketing goals.
- Remarketing: Remarketing is a digital advertising strategy where ads are displayed to users who have previously visited your website. It’s commonly used as a form of PPC advertising and it’s highly effective as it’s essentially targeting warm leads. For example, they can be used to reduce friction between interest and landing a sale for those who placed items in an online shopping cart, but didn’t complete the purchase.
- Co-marketing: Co-marketing is a marketing strategy where two businesses join forces to promote each other, creating a mutually beneficial partnership and in the process expanding their overall reach. An example of this could be a coworking office partnering with a coffee shop to offer its coffee within the office. This way, both businesses get to promote their product or service through the other, providing more value.
- Influencer marketing: This is a subset of co-marketing, but instead of companies working with one another, a company works with a social media influencer to promote its brand, products, or services. For example, a social media influencer who is an avid hiker may get paid by a company that sells insoles for hiking boots.
Businesses should select a combination of social avenues such as both organic and paid social in order to develop a plan that will help specific goals both in the short term and the long term. It’s also worth considering alternative social networks to advertise on such as Snapchat, Vimeo, TikTok.
Social Media Advertising Tools
Social media advertising tools are available to help businesses more effectively and strategically build, manage, and optimize their social networks and social ads. There are tons of different tools available that help to do everything from saving businesses time through automating social posts to analytics tools to give businesses more insights enabling them to create better ads.
Here are some of the top social media advertising tools for small businesses:
- Buffer: Buffer is a social media scheduler and workflow automation and productivity tool. It gives businesses a way to plan and schedule posts across all of their social networks. Plans start at $15 per month.
- Canva: While Canva is a free graphic design platform and not a social media tool, it enables businesses to easily create graphics for social media using one of its hundreds of pre-built and fully customizable templates that are designed to fit the size and specs of social media posts and ads.
- Awario: Awario is a social media monitoring tool that provides more comprehensive social data in a more digestible way. It’s a way for businesses to easily find out when people talk about their business or brand on social. Plans start at $29 per month.
- Facebook Ads Grader: Facebook Ads Grader is a free tool that analyzes Facebook ads and grades it based on a number of factors. It covers a wide range of areas from where your ads need improvement to how your ads compare to your competitor’s ads.
- Ubersuggest: This is a free keyword research tool that can help businesses better understand which keywords they should be using. While most paid social ads are triggered by audience targeting rather than keywords (like with paid search), keywords still hold power in writing ad copy that captures interest and drives clicks.
With so many different social media advertising tools to choose from—many of which have overlapping features—it can be difficult to choose which tools to use. To find out, learn more about the top social media advertising tools.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What’s the difference between paid search & paid social?
While paid search, such as Google Ads, and paid social, such as Facebook Ads are both leading self-service pay-per-click advertising platforms, they work very differently. The main difference between the two is user intent and targeting.
How do I advertise on Yelp?
Yelp is one of the largest online business directories. Businesses have a number of options when it comes to advertising on Yelp. For example, businesses can choose to make their business listing land in the top of relevant search results, add CTA buttons to their pages, or remove competitors listings from the bottom of their business page. Hear what real people think with Yelp advertising reviews.
What are the best social media advertising agencies?
The best social media advertising agency will depend on your business’s unique needs, goals, and budget. However, those that are generally regarded as the best social media agencies for small businesses include Lyfe Marketing, Hibu, Jumper Media for Instagram advertising, Perfect Boom for LinkedIn advertising, and Likeable Local for those that want to manage social in-house. Learn more about the best social media services for small businesses.
Bottom Line – Social Media Advertising
Social media advertising gives businesses an opportunity to reach and connect with their target audience in a cost-effective way. Unlike paid search, the vast majority of paid social advertising platforms put users at the center of ad campaigns by enabling businesses to target ads by user demographics as opposed to search terms and keywords. This makes it a great way to get discovered by people who fit your customer profile, but who are not actively searching for it.
Businesses often waste a lot of money on ineffective ads that get clicks and little to no conversions. A better strategy that is more cost-effective in the long run for many small businesses is to outsource to a professional social media advertising agency, such as Lyfe Marketing. There your business will get experts running your social and reaching your goals.