The complete guide to Social Media Advertising

by Ana, posted 2 years ago
Join 500,000+ users and check your own Twitter Stats for Free! Sign up now!

The time when social media was free is officially over. Social media advertising is not a buzzword anymore but rather a reality for marketers around the world with tangible results on driving leads and sales. Social media marketers realize more and more that social media is now part of their marketing strategy with huge potential regardless of the size of your business.

What you will find in this guide is some general tips for Social Media Advertising as well as a break down of all the advertising options you have per platform including costs:

Why give it a shot

Social Media advertising can help you reach your marketing goals faster by helping you generate leads, increase visibility and awareness of your brand and nurture prospects.

You might think that in order to make it work you need to spend a ton of money. Well that’s not entirely true. You can make social media advertising work for you, even at a low budget as long as you treat as part of your overall marketing efforts, you know what you want to achieve and how to measure your success.

Some general tips for Social Media Advertising

1.Know the difference between owned, paid, earned media

Let’s start with the basics by looking the different distribution channels you have at your disposal.


Owned media includes all channels belonging to you and are unique to your brand such as your website and your social media profiles. Being part of your brand identity, your social media profiles are usually meant to target your brand’s existing community.


Earn media is more of an online word of mouth and includes mentions, shares, retweets and your content being shared by other accounts.


Paid media is basically anything you have paid for to promote your content on social media in order to generate more exposure for your brand and potentially drive earned or even owned media. amplification

As the diagram of Titan SEO shows, there’s often an overlap among these three content distribution channels as a single piece of content can be distributed in all three ways on social media.

owned-earned-paid media

2. Define your social media marketing strategy

Before starting with social media advertising it is important that you have your social media marketing strategy all cleared-up with well defined goals and KPIs.

A general social media marketing strategy is essential for your brand. I find Jay Baer’s guide really helpful  for building a bulletproof social media strategy step by step, from scratch. However, every campaign you run should naturally have a strategy of its own that aligns with your overall marketing plan.

One way or another, it all comes down to asking yourself the right questions.

Who do you want to target?

An essential part of your social media marketing strategy is having a well-defined target audience. Who is it that you want to target? Where are they located? What are their interests? What’s their behavior on social media like? What platforms do they use? Creating different audience personas can help you tremendously in channeling your marketing tactics and planning specific marketing campaigns tailored to niche audiences.

When creating social media marketing personas, think of each segment of your audience as a person with a unique name, gender, education, job or even favorite TV show, if this makes sense to you.

What is your goal?

Once you know who your target audience is, it is time to consider what you want to achieve in the following months and where your social media marketing efforts should focus. It is best to set some long-term and short-term goals and focus on one at a time. This way, you keep your eye on the ball and have a clearer view on your outcomes.

Whether your goal is establishing yourself on a certain platform, reaching out to a new target audience or generating leads, it should all be documented along with a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) well defined for each one of your goals.

Remember that your Social Media Marketing goals need to be SMART:

SMART Social Media Marketing goals (1)

What is your budget?

Social media ad spending in US is expected to grow to nearly $14 billion by 2018 which is an indication that the days when social media were free are over. Social media marketers are realizing more and more the importance of setting some budget aside for social media campaigns throughout the year to gear up on their marketing goals.

For example, if your company is launching a major product, if your account needs an extra boost in audience before a major event or if you need to increase your Facebook reach, having a social media budget you can invest based on your needs can get you out of the difficult position and improve your results. No matter how low or high it is important to  know how much you have at your disposal to allocate to social media marketing.

Picking your platform

Once you have decided on the mix, between paid, owned and earned it is important to look into the platform specifications and pick the social media advertising mix that will help you reach your marketing goals in a fast and efficient way.

Simply put, social media advertising falls under your paid channels. It is therefore a tactic to drive owned and earned as well as achieve more specific marketing goals such as lead generation and sales.

Let’s take a look at a break-down of advertising options offered across platforms.


With more than 270 million users active each month, Twitter is one of the main Social Media advertising platforms businesses choose to increase brand awareness and conversions. The main difference with other social networks, is that Twitter Ads are integrated into the users’ experience allowing them to engage with promoted content the same way they would with any other type of content.

Engagement rates for Twitter ads can be as high as 3%, much higher than Facebook’s average CTR of 0.119%. Brands that have tried Twitter advertising report an increase in their visibility, engagement rates, leads generated, as well as product and brand awareness.


Twitter offers a variety of targeting options for promoted content, making your message more relevant to your target audience. Advertisers can target users based on their followers, interests, geography, gender, keywords, devices or platforms or tailored audiences.


You can choose your advertising campaign depending on your marketing goals. Here are some of the options that Twitter offers:

Website clicks and conversions

This type of campaign is ideal for driving traffic to your website and increasing conversions by using Twitter Cards that allow to more context, rich media and a headline as opposed to regular tweets.

Tweet engagements

Promoted tweets allow you to teach out to a target audience, boost the visibility of your brand and increase engagement. According to a recent study on the effect of promoted tweets on brands, promoted tweets drive a stronger message association and increase brand favorability and purchase intent.

App installs or engagements

With 75% of Twitter users active on mobile, Twitter is a great platform for promoting our mobile app. You can choose to either allow people to download your app via Twitter Cards, or even use it straight from the platform.

Leads on Twitter

With the ability to include rich media, a call to action and visuals, Twitter Cards stand out from regular tweet. Lead Generation Twitter Cards are an excellent way to drive interest to your brand or product and find people to that are more likely to convert.


Twitter Advertising can cater to specific marketing goals with the Custom campaigns option. This allows you to set up a Twitter campaign targeting audiences based on their interests, television programs, certain keywords, followers or tailored audiences using your own customer data such as cookie IDs, email addresses and twitter IDs.


Promoting tweets can cost you anything from $0.50 – $4.00 per engagement. But if you want to go for promoting trends on Twitter, you’d better be ready to spend big as according to reports that could cost you $200,000 per day.


With over 1.4 billion monthly users, Facebook remains the leading digital platform worldwide. However, many brands struggling with Facebook’s algorithm changes,  so it seems that Facebook advertising is a solution to unlock larger reach on Facebook and reach out to more people. Facebook ads can contain a single image, multiple images or video and are displayed both on desktop and mobile on the users’ regular feed as well as on the right side.

Source: Facebook

Source: Facebook


Facebook offers a variety of targeting options for your ads with audience based on location, demographics, interests, behaviors, and connections. Facebook also allows you to import your own data and create custom audiences for your ads based on your website visitors or customer database. Another interesting targeting option is what Facebook calls lookalike audiences – people that are similar to your current customers and are likely to be interested in your product or page.


Similar to Twitter, Facebook offers different advertising options based on your marketing objectives. Here’s what you could use:

Clicks to Website

This campaign is designed for generating traffic to your website via sponsored posts based on a single image or an image carousel. It is important to remember that in general Facebook does not allow for images with more than 20% text to be used in ads. Depending on your goal, you can choose to either include a call to action (for example, Shop now, Sign up, Donate etc.) or not.

Click to Website

Source: Facebook

Website Conversions

Website conversions look and feel similar to Click to Website but the main purpose is to increase conversions on your website. By asking your target audience to perform a specific action such as buying a product or signing up for a newsletter through a CTA. You’ll need a conversion pixel for your website before you can create this ad.

Page Post Engagement

This campaign allows you to boost any existing posts you have already shared on your Facebook page to maximize your reach and engagement rates. Options include photos, videos or simple text.

Page Likes

Pretty self explanatory, these campaigns basically help you promote your page and get more relevant fans for your brand.

App Installs

Whether your app is mobile-based or on desktop you can get more people to download it through Facebook ads. It is important to note that in this case you will pay only based on the number of people who actually installed your app and not by the number of impressions your ad received.

App Engagement

This ad campaign focuses more on specific actions the target group (for example people who have already installed your app) can perform. This can help you to increase engagement for your product.

App Engagement

Source: Facebook

Offer Claims

This is a great option for seasonal discounts and offers that people can redeem either in your physical or online store.

Local Awareness

Perfect for local businesses, this campaign allows you to target people near your business. Although this option is limited to a few countries at the moment, it could have an impact in driving more customers.

Event Responses

Who hasn’t attended a Facebook event? If your brand uses Facebook to organize online and offline events, an extra boost can go a long way. Raise attendance at your event.

Facebook event

Source: Facebook

Video Views

Video really is the future of social media marketing as it is a chance for you to share more information in less time and tell the story of your brand in a more visual way. According to Facebook, 50% of people in the US watch at least one video daily and 76% of people in the US who use Facebook say they tend to discover the videos they watch on Facebook.


All Facebook ads, with the exception of App Installs are charged on a Cost Per Click (CPC) basis. At the moment, the minimum amount you can spend per day is $1 which makes it quite affordable but obviously, the more you spend, the more the impressions for your ads.


LinkedIn is often overlooked when it comes to Social Media Advertising.  This is because this platform is considered mainly suitable for B2B marketing that focuses on building business connections.

LinkedIn might have a smaller audience compared to other networks but with more than 259 million active users, its audience is quite considerable. More than that, LinkedIn allows for highly targeted campaigns as its users include more detailed and professional information compared to Facebook for example.


If you are targeting people with certain profession, skills and interests or even people working in specific organizations, LinkedIn could be just the platform.

Apart from the usual demographics and connections options that the other platforms offer, LinkedIn allows you to target people also by job title, employer, industry, and even skills/ interests.

What is important to keep in mind when picking your target audience is that people use LinkedIn less often than other social media platforms. This means that it is often wiser to pick a larger target audience by using LinkedIn’s suggested targeting options.


Compared to Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn offers less campaign options catering to small or medium businesses as well as organizations with a high marketing budget.

Sponsored Updates

Sponsored posts allow you to push your company updates on top of the fold. This means that users that log in less regularly are more likely to see your post and interact with it. The good thing about Sponsored updates is that they are completely integrated in the regular feed offering the user a better experience and your post greater visibility.

tour-slide-desktop (1)

Source: LinkedIn

Text Ads

LinkedIn’s text ads are displayed on the right side of the user’s feed and are a good option if your goal is to drive traffic to your website or generate leads.

Text Ads LinkedIn

Source: LinkedIn

Display Ads

LinkedIn display ads are similar to any ad you’d run through Google’s display network, though far more targeted. Display ads allow you to target your audience on and off LinkedIn and could work for lead generation or increasing engagement.

LinkedIn Display Ads

Source: LinkedIn

Sponsored InMail

Any marketer would tell you that email marketing is still going strong. So this LinkedIn campaign sort of gives you the best of both worlds since it allows you to send targeted private messages on a social platform setting. The extra advantage compared to other LinkedIn campaigns is that sponsored InMails are sent only to users that are active.

Lead Accelerator

This is supposed to be one of LinkedIn’s super power campaigns which allows you to do two things: First, target customers or existing audience that haven’t been interacting with your emails, but also convert anonymous website visitors with relevant ads and content.


The truth is that advertising on LinkedIn will cost you slightly more than Facebook or Twitter ads. A lot more.

The more advanced advertising options LinkedIn offers, the Lead Accelator, the display ads and the Sponsored InMails that are the more advanced advertising options that LinkedIn offers appeal to businesses with a budget of $25,000 or more.

The good news is that for small and medium businesses Text ads and Sponsored ads are a lot more affordable. LinkedIn offers two basic pricing models: pay-per-click (CPC) and pay-per-1,000 impressions (CPM).

With CPC, you specify the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for each click (minimum $2 per click). Then, you can set a daily budget to identify the most that you’re willing to spend each day.
With CPM, you pay a set cost for each 1,000 times your ad is shown, no matter how many clicks you receive. This is a good option if you care more about the number of times your ad is shown than getting clicks. The minimum CPM bid for LinkedIn text ads is $2/1,000 impressions. The minimum bid for Sponsored Updates will vary depending on the audience you target.

Instagram and Pinterest

Instagram is turning into a leading digital platform for marketers and brands, with less than 80 million users three years ago, Instagram has now reached 300 million active users and is estimated to reach $2 billion in advertising revenue next year.

Instagram announced that will open its app to all advertisers over the course of this year, expanding a program that was available only to a few select marketers. So stay tuned for more exciting updates this year!

instagram ads

Source: Instagram

Pinterest is slowly opening up to social media advertisers. At the moment, marketers in the US have access to promoted pins however the platform is planning to provide more advertising options for more marketers in the coming months. For now, marketers in the US can be excited for one more thing: buyable pins! Does this mean Pinterest is changing into a new emerging ecommerce platfrom? That remains to be seem.

To sum up

Social media advertising is not just for large corporations and unlimited budgets anymore. On the contrary, it can be an affordable marketing tactic that can help you reach your marketing objectives in a fast and efficient way. So if you’re brand hasn’t experimented with social media advertising yet, now is the time to do that.

Bonus: If you ever wondered how social media advertising would be Mad Men style, check out my absolute favorite Tumblr and relate. 

madmen tumblr


  • Carol Ackerman

    Wow! What a great kickoff to the weekend, to begin your Friday morning with a credible, up to date primer on this complex, ever-evolving and increasingly vital communications component. For small businesses and sole consultancies, having this much direction at your finger tips is a gift. Thank you, Katerina!

    • Hi Carol,
      Thank you so much for your kind words! I am really glad that you found this piece useful. Thanks for reading!

  • Periscopitaly

    Katerina… in one word: amazing!
    Many, many thanks from Milan:))

  • Abha Maryada Banerjee

    Thanks Katerina, Whatever you do in this day and date..there will be something that we do not know. This is brilliant.Feeling better informed and rounded 🙂

  • Lucidica

    This is such a useful post – some brilliant tips! It really is so important to define a social media strategy so you know your target audience and your goals. Going it with a a plan always makes things so much easier, and hopefully you won’t get as lost…

    There’s a good article on forming a strategy for twitter campaigns that may be useful;