Social media advertising guide for small businesses

There’s now lots of social media platforms, from long-term players like Meta (which owns Facebook and Instagram) to new upstarts like TikTok.

Each platform offers different formats for posting your content, for example simple photo ads to video ads and carousel ads (in which your audience can click through a series of products all in the same ad).

Each platform also has advanced tools for tracking performance, which encourages testing and experimentation. While video ads might work well for one business, they could fall flat for another.

So when you’re starting out, it’s useful to take a ‘test and learn’ approach and record your results. Eventually, you’ll have enough data to optimize your ads, from the best time of day to post to the ideal types of content that resonate with your audience.

The death of Facebook has been greatly exaggerated. It has nearly three billion monthly active users. And as it’s one of the earliest social media platforms to be adopted on a big scale, it has lots of data on its users.

This means you can create highly targeted ads for your audience, using details like age, interests, location, and consumer behaviour.

One way to get started using paid Facebook advertising is by boosting an existing post. If you’ve posted something to your business page that’s had a positive reaction already and you’d like it to reach new people, you can click the boost post button.

You can then choose how much you’d like to spend and how long you’d like the post to be boosted.

Otherwise, you can create a brand new ad by clicking the promote button. Then you can set your objectives, budget, and audience.

Meta gives you the ability to run the same ad across Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram.

Facebook has free resources to help you get your ads up and running. Plus, read about how to sell using Facebook Shops.

Instagram is also owned by Meta, meaning it has similar features to Facebook when it comes to ads.

Of course, Instagram is different in that it’s primarily a platform for photos, imagery, and video.

This means you can run photo, video, carousel and story (a feature that shows images and video in quick succession) ads on the platform.

As with Facebook, you can choose to boost an existing post or create a new ad, and you can get very specific about who you target.

Read more about creating an Instagram ad.

There are a few ways businesses can use paid advertising on Twitter.

  • promoted tweets – you can pay to promote tweets to people who aren’t already following you (these can include video content too)

  • promoted accounts – where you advertise your whole account in an effort to get more followers

  • promoted trends – topics can trend on Twitter, with trends showing up on the platform’s right hand side – brands can pay for a spot in the list

  • promoted moments – Twitter moments work in a similar way to Instagram stories in that they’re a collection of tweets that tell a story – businesses can pay to promote moments

You can explore Twitter’s campaigns 101 to get help on setting up your ads, including how to set your goals, audience, and budget.

LinkedIn helps you target people in a professional context. For example, if your ideal customers are other businesses, LinkedIn can help you reach key decision makers.

You can create LinkedIn advertising using LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager.

LinkedIn adverts come in different formats:

  • sponsored content – this appears in targeted people’s LinkedIn feeds and can be image, video or carousel-based

  • message ads – These ads go directly to your targeted audience’s private messages

  • dynamic ads – these give you the ability to personalize your ads at scale

  • text ads – simple ads that are pay-per-click (PPC) or cost-per-impression (CPM)

As with paid advertising on other social media networks, when setting up your ads you choose your objectives, audience, budget, and format. Then when you’ve gone live with your ad, you can measure its performance.

LinkedIn has resources that explain how to get started with your first ad.

The above are four of the most well-established social media platforms that you can start experimenting with today.

But remember, every social media network is a relatively new tool – and more are springing up all the time. These include (with links to their paid advertising resources):

And of course, don’t forget that YouTube is a social media platform too. Read more about how to make money on YouTube.

As with any advertising, it’s best to go back to basics and write a marketing plan before putting it in motion.

Doing groundwork on your audience and objectives will help you choose the right platform to use for advertising.

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