Making sense of social media advertising

Image via Facebook

Every time we talk about social media marketing on this blog, we stress how you can do so much on social media for free. And it’s true: Setting up profiles for your business and then posting pictures, links, and status updates is free, and if done in an entertaining and engaging way, you can reach many of your fans.

The reality, though, is that social media sites are businesses, too, and unless you spend a lot of time crafting engaging posts that get your fans to like, comment, and share every time, you’re never going to reach all of your fans every time.  But if you’re willing to spend a little time investigating social media advertising – and then investing a little money – your social media reach could expand even further. Here’s a bit of information on the most popular social media advertising options so you can start deciding whether this is right for you.

Some commonalities between all of the social media sites:

  • Set up help. Each site walks you through the process of creating an ad, from figuring out what your goal for the ad is to targeting to content to budgeting and bidding.
  • Budgeting. You’ll set up an advertising budget, either by campaign or total across all of your campaigns. You can even set a timeline for your advertising campaign(s).
  • Pay per click or impression. You’ll only pay when someone sees or interacts (likes, clicks, follows, etc.) with your ad.
  • Bidding. You’ll set the max you’re willing to pay for each click or impression. For some sites, this can be as low as a few cents.
  • Labeling. Ads are always labeled as such. They’ll be called “promoted posts” or “suggested posts” so users know which items in their newsfeed are organic and which are paid advertising.
  • Free trials. Occasionally, you’ll see offers for free advertising trials. You’ll get a small budget -- $5-10 – and the chance to try out that site’s advertising system. If you get the offer, take them up on it!


Let’s start at the top. If you’re thinking about social media advertising, Facebook is probably the first place you’re looking at. The social media giant offers several advertising options. They can appear in the newsfeed on (desktop and mobile) or in the right-hand column (desktop).

You can target your ad based on location, demographics, interests, behaviors, or connections, or you can set up a custom target audience.

These are your advertising options on Facebook:

  • Page promotion. If you’re looking to increase the number of likes on your business page, Facebook recommends page promotion. The ad encourages people to like your page right in the ad text, and it helps you increase your fan base and get more brand awareness.
  • Boosted posts. Use boosted posts if you’ve got an event, promotion, or big news to share and you want it to get in front of as many of your fans as possible. Boosted posts increase the reach of your post among your fan base, or you can increase the audience to “all of Facebook.” You’ve probably noticed that your organic posts reach a small number of your total number of fans; entertaining and interesting posts and more interaction with your fans can increase this number, but it’s hard to get a post in front of most or all of your fans. That’s where boosted posts come in: You can ensure that your post will show up in the newsfeed of a large percentage of your fan base.
  • Facebook Offers. Discounts and promotions can be shared with your fans with Facebook Offers. A “Get Offer” button appears right in the ad, and users can share your offer with their friends.


Twitter is probably the second site you’ll think of if you’re considering social media advertising. Here are your ad options on Twitter – in 140 characters or less, of course.

  • Promoted accounts in search results. This option gets your account in front of more users when they search Twitter for people and businesses to follow. Target these ads by geography, gender, or interests.
  • Promoted accounts in timeline. These ads show up in the “who to follow” area of a user’s page. You also target these ads by geography, gender, or interests.
  • Promoted tweets. Promoted tweets appear right in users’ newsfeeds with tweets from the other users they follow. The promoted posts are labeled as such, of course, and you only pay when some retweets, replies, or favorites your promoted tweet. Target these ads by keyword, interests, gender, geography, device, and similarity to your existing followers.

Other Social Media

You won’t be surprised to hear that other social media sites are rolling out advertising options of their own. Keep an eye on these sites if they’re the best place to reach your audience.

  • LinkedIn. LinkedIn lets you advertise in several places across the site based on job title or function, industry, company size, seniority, age, or LinkedIn Groups.
  • Pinterest. Pinterest advertising doesn’t exist yet, but the site is experimenting with promoted pins in users’ feeds.
  • Instagram. Instagram is also starting to add promoted photos and videos into its users’ feeds. It’s relatively new, but we’d expect it to grow throughout the year.

Stymied by social media? We can help! Contact Professional Network Solutions today. And, don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Comments are closed.