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Best Practices for Social Media Ad Spending

Social network ad spending isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. By 2018, social media ad spending is expected to be just under $20 billion; amounting to nearly 22% of total digital ad spends. The bulk of this, about 77%, is expected to be spent on Facebook advertising.

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It’s not chump change or something to be taken lightly. Serious inefficiencies in the process will lead to serious lost media dollars. With that in mind, here are some best practices to ensure your brands dollars are used wisely.

1. Keep Paid with Other Social Media Disciplines

The best scenario works when your social disciplines work together to formulate a strategy on paid; after all, organic reach is dismal at best and paid efforts offer much of that needed reach (to your followers and beyond). For instance, your community manager ensures the right voice, tone, and look is expressed in the community and the content producer uses this information to develop creative that best serves the social platform and audience. Then, with agility, the content is amplified by the media buyer. The social media analyst steps in to feed the numbers back to the team reporting on what is working, what is not working and insight into why. All this information stays in close quarters, without lag, and is a serious exercise in continuous improvement.

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2. Use the Native Tools Provided

There are definitely good platforms/technology out there that work well the social platforms. These include names such as Adaptly, SocialCode, and AdParlor. In many cases, they offer managed services so they can take the weight of buying off your plate for a fee. What we have found extremely beneficial is getting to know the native buying tools up front and personal. There are two main reasons for this. For one, they are free. There is no service fee, or fee for managed services that will cut into your media budget. Secondly, you can test new features right away. For instance, if Facebook comes out with a new ad objective, a vendor would have to technically build that into their respective platform. If you buy straight from the native tool, you don’t have to wait for a build that could take months (if they decide to use it that is).

3. Leverage the Audience Data

What we know about social platforms is that they know quite a bit about us. They aren’t short of information about who we are and what we are like, even where we are at (not just live, but literally your current location). Here’s the kicker. If they don’t know, they likely have a research partner in the mix that will help them out. All of this data is quite private but can be leveraged when placing an ad. Audience data should be used to its fullest potential when applicable. If you want to do general targeting, maybe radio or print is your bag. If you are looking to get granular and efficient, weigh your social media advertising options for more efficiencies.

4. Remember it’s an Auction

Unlike mediums such as TV and radio, where you can get a guaranteed (well, sometimes) placement at a set cost, social buying typically falls into an auction setting. What’s crucial to remember with this is that costs will fluctuate based on demand. You’ll likely find times like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are relatively expensive. If at all possible, work your media strategy around high demand times to keep costs down. The other important consideration is if you have several ads running on the same network, you may actually be bidding against yourself. Try and create space in your strategy to avoid running too many ads at the same time against the same audience, especially if it’s a very granular target.

5. Keep the Content Organic (Organish™)

We can’t put enough emphasis on how negatively users react to content that looks like a traditional ad. Yes, they can be beautiful and yes, they can cost a mint to produce. But social audiences want a social experience when they are on the platform. When a highly finessed ad comes through their feed, it disrupts their experience. Creative should really follow the look and feel of the platform and each one has its own idiosyncrasies. And the numbers speak to it. When we’ve changed traditional ad creative to social ad creative, the positive engagement increases and the spend decreases.

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6. Keep up-to-speed on Changes

Since ad revenues are critical to social platforms, most of them are constantly making changes to improve the experience to lead to better ROI so you’ll invest more ad dollars. These changes can be a job in itself to keep up with. We recommend leveraging social media news sites (digiday, mashable, socialmediaexaminer) and also following the social platform blogs (listed below). These are of extreme (not using that term lightly) importance especially if you are not fortunate to have a dedicated account representative feeding you updates.

7. Measure. Measure.

They say set it and forget it. But don’t. Instead, set your social media ad campaigns and constantly garden them by looking at the data ad insights provides and pivoting when you need to. There are not many times with traditional advertising that you can A/B test on the fly. It takes a significant amount of time for the data to populate and report back, resulting in slower adjustments. With social, a variety of metrics are available, including Cost per Thousand, Cost per Web Click, Cost per Engagement and so forth. Once your campaign commences, be sure to check your stats and turn off audience targets and creative that are inefficient compared to others. It’s how you save valuable marketing dollars.

Social media advertising is great for business both small and large. All of these best practices can be utilized no matter what the size of your business. The bottom line is to do it right, you need to invest time into really understanding how the platforms work. And, of course, if you can’t handle it all yourself, look for agency help to get the best ROI you can achieve.

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