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Updated: Jun 14, 2017
If you know what you’re doing, social media advertising can have a tremendous impact on your business’ bottom line by increasing awareness for your company and driving more customers to your website or into your store.
And, unlike more traditional forms of marketing (print advertising, billboards, TV or radio), it only takes a small initial investment to launch a social media campaign that drives measurable results for your business. Social media also provides the opportunity for “virality” — which gives your business the potential to snowball into the next big internet sensation.
But just because Dollar Shave Club managed to build a billion-dollar brand on the back of a few viral videos, it doesn’t mean your business is guaranteed the same lucky break. Whether you’re just starting to experiment with social media advertising, or already spinning out social campaigns like a politician on a merry-go-round, it’s worth taking a moment to think carefully about the way social media fits into your overall marketing plan.
Here’s how a small business like yours can devise an efficient and effective strategy for social media advertising using $25,000 (or less!).
This should be the first step of any marketing campaign you ever create. Do you want to drive more traffic to your website? Get more subscribers for your newsletter? Increase your sales?
The answer to this question is going to be your guiding star as you set your strategy, so make sure you have a clearly defined answer. While it’s certainly possible to convince someone to buy your product with a single social media ad, don’t get overly ambitious. Brand awareness and other smaller steps that help lead to increased revenue are easier outcomes to achieve with your first campaign than “direct response” (aka click-to-buy).
At the same time, don’t think too small. With the decreasing levels of organic reach that Facebook and other social media platforms are offering brands, it’s probably not in your best interest to spend money with the sole purpose of getting more likes or followers on social media.
There are four parts to your social media marketing budget that you need to consider: content creation, content promotion, analytics/optimization, and manpower. Exactly how you divide your budget depends on the goal you just defined and the marketing resources you already have in place.
Don’t spread yourself too thin — pick one or two platforms that you want to try advertising on and run some tests to see how expensive and effective they are for your business. How do you pick where to start? Think about where your target audience spends their time, and consider which platform offers the best format to highlight the service or product you’re selling.
Audience targeting is one of the most amazing features of social media advertising. The marketing executives from the Mad Men era could only dream of this sort of control.
Depending on which platform you choose, you will have different ways to control who sees your ads. On LinkedIn, you can fine tune your ad copy so if your company sells a photo editing software you can use industry jargon when speaking to professional photographers and emphasize your software’s more basic features when targeting amateurs and hobbyists.
Audience targeting is one of the most amazing features of social media advertising.
On Facebook, in addition to normal audience segmentation, you can build a “custom audience” by uploading actual emails from your customer database. Then, let Facebook’s algorithm build a “lookalike audience” to find users with similar qualities to the people you know already love your company. Almost every platform lets you filter geographically, so if you own a brick and mortar business in Colorado you don’t have to pay to show your ads to folks in California.
The trick is to choose an audience that is broad enough for your ad to be shown thousands of times at a cost that’s acceptable to you, but not so broad that you’re paying for impressions or clicks from people who will never become your customers.
Engaged users are the lifeblood of every social media platform, so it’s in the platform’s interest to weed out the boring ads and promote the ones that its users will like. This means advertisers (you) are rewarded with lower costs if you create ads that people actually want to see.
It’s great personal validation when your ad generates lots of comments, likes, and replies from potential customers, and it’s fantastic if people like the ad enough to share it on their own wall or retweet it to their followers. But the real benefit of all those interactions is the affect they have on your relevancy score. Simply put, the social media platform’s algorithm interprets those interactions as an indication that the content is interesting, which decreases the amount you have to pay to get the ad seen by more people.
Coming up with a creative idea is the first step. Next, make sure you’re following the platform’s guidelines so your images or videos are the right size and format. (Here’s a great cheat sheet with all the info you need.) Finally, don’t forget to take advantage of all the latest formats each platform offers. Check out Facebook’s Creative Hub Gallery for inspiring examples of ads that use slideshows, image carousels, and even 360 video to tell a compelling story.
Samples of carousel and video ads on Facebook designed in the Creative Hub and formatted for mobile devices.
Another advantage that digital advertising has over traditional channels is the ability to track results every step of the way. It’s hard to measure the impact an ad in the local paper has on your monthly sales, but with social media advertising you can see how many people are actually looking at your ad, how many are interacting with it, and what actions they take from there.
The metrics you choose to track depend on the goals you set in step 1, but here are a few to consider:
A budget of $25K is more than enough to develop a robust social media marketing program for your small business. After spending a small portion on manpower and content creation, you can set the rest aside for content promotion on a few different platforms. Once you find a platform and an audience that works well, try cycling through different types of ads to continue to drive down CPC and improve conversions.
And don’t be surprised if a social media marketing campaign has positive impacts on your other marketing channels. Even if the advertising doesn’t convert immediately, if you’re targeting your audience correctly, you may see more people searching Google for your company’s name or walking into your store after seeing your ad on Twitter.
Just remember to think strategically, start slow, and test everything along the way.
Paige Smith is a Content Marketing Writer and Senior Contributing Writer at Funding Circle. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and specializes in writing about the intersection of business, finance, and tech. Paige has written for a number of B2B industry leaders, including fintech companies, small business lenders, and business credit resource sites.