The best things in life are free: Except social media? Part 1

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Whether you’re a superstar brand with a million followers, or a small start-up with a few thousand, your aim is to use social media to engage with advocates and raise brand awareness. But with the rise of paid for social media advertising, is it enough to take a solely organic (see also ‘free’) approach to social media marketing? In the first part of this blog series we lift the lid on the elusive art of paid social promotion.


What’s ‘paid social’ anyway?


From tech companies to charities, the adverts you see on social media are varied, but marketed to you because of the people you follow, your gender, location, even your likes and dislikes.


So why should your company use paid social media advertising? Firstly, it’s a cost effective way to get new followers and traffic to your website. If you’re only posting information to your current followers then you are effectively tweeting to the converted. By using paid social media advertising you can make sure your posts are seen and communicate with your follower’s followers, thus taking full charge of the word of mouth aspect of social media.


Secondly, if all the major companies are doing it then it is going to be harder for organic posts to be as visible.


What’s in it for me?


Metrics will mean different things to different businesses, however Galen Ward, CEO of American real-estate company Estately, provided anecdotal evidence that Facebook adverts increased their brand awareness for little cost. Using a Facebook promoted post to promote a blog, the company paid under $100 and received 8,500 likes, thousands of visitors to their website, and their post seen by over 30,000 people.


Let’s take a look at what the different platforms offer businesses looking to utilise paid social opportunities.




Facebook currently offer Promoted posts, which are placed higher in news feeds and will be seen by people who like your Page as well as their friends, and Sponsored posts which target people according to their own likes etc., but also show the user which of their friends already likes your Page. 


Source: Hubspot Blogs


If you currently rely solely on organic content however, then you may need to raise your game and supplement with paid advertising in order to make an impact through the noise. With the introduction of Facebook’s new algorithm filters they now weed out posts according to quality and relevance, citing that ‘…pages that post promotional creative should expect their organic distribution to fall significantly over time’.




Along with their own Targeted and Sponsored posts, Twitter has launched Quick Promote enabling businesses to take a high performing tweet from their Analytics dashboard and target it to users with similar interests to their followers, all in a couple of clicks. With Twitter stating that promoted tweets are 32% more likely to result in user engagement, this is a valuable resource for small businesses.


Twitter cards have also been introduced in the past year, which allow you to create posts with longer text and larger images. They also include a clear call-to-action button that allows users to sign up for newsletters for example, from within the Twitter application, reducing the opportunity for the lead to drop off at that additional step. As the format also allows for a traditional 140 character tweet when expanded there is the option of clicking a follow button or in-tweet link as well, increasing the number of engagement possibilities compared with organic or traditional paid-for posts. 




Source: Twitter for Business




The power of Instagram should no longer be underestimated by brands, particularly those in the B2C space. The platform tentatively introduced Sponsored posts in 2014 and ‘carousel’ adverts this year. Carousel adverts allow more storytelling scope as they use 3-4 images in one post and provide a link to the brand’s website. Showtime, the makers of the TV series Penny Dreadful, used each image in the carousel ads to demonstrate the complexities of specific characters, creating greater engagement ahead of the premiere.


Source: Instagram Business Blog

With more users than Twitter and John Lewis and Cadbury reporting greater brand recognition as a direct result of the sponsored ads, the possibilities of Instagram are gaining precedence.


Benefits to the business


Some of these monetised changes may seem sinister, but there are benefits to using paid social media advertising. They allow you the ability to monitor performance, target specific users and gain greater exposure for your company or product. Like any new marketing strategy, they do require dedication and hard work and will only be successful if your organic content is strong enough to hold the users attention once your paid ad has pulled them in.


Next week, in part 2, we discuss how to implement social media advertising and what metrics you can use to monitor their success.

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