Paid Social Media: Does it work?

Paid social media is becoming all the rage in B2B marketing - but does it actually work? And how can you get the most from your efforts? Find out here.

Picture of Lauren Nuttall Lauren Nuttall

Published: 23 Apr 2020

7 minutes read

Paid Social Media: Does it work?

The simple answer? Yes. Paid social media does work; in fact, it works extremely well

When 27% of internet users say they find new products through paid social ads, it’s absolutely something you should consider doing - especially in the current climate, where more people are turning to online research before buying, and roughly 93% of UK internet users are expected to turn to online shopping by 2021. Paid social media taps directly into this market, and is one of the best ways you can keep up with changing buyer behaviours. So, in short, you should be investing in paid social at some level - here’s why.

What is “paid social”?

Simply put, paid social is effectively advertising on social media, but instead of just posting on your page, you pay a fee to have your ads displayed and promoted across various platforms. Most social media platforms now have their own native ad tools making it easier than ever to get your message out there, but your strategy will vary across these different platforms (i.e. what you’ll post on LinkedIn is likely to be different to what you’ll post on Instagram). How much you’ll pay for social media ads can vary depending on your budget - but don’t think you need a huge budget in order to do paid social, it can work for everyone.

Paid social fits nicely into any existing marketing strategy you currently have, and when it’s done well, you’ll see great results. But first, you need to see if your current efforts are up to scratch.

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Which social media platform is best?

There is no straightforward answer to which social media platforms you should be using. In order to see successful results with paid social media, you need to know how and why your target customers use social media, and build your various strategies based on their preferences and behaviours. To do this, as always, you need to have a reasonable idea of who your buyer personas are (we’ve spoken at great lengths about these and we won’t bore you with the ins and outs right now, but check out our guide here), what platforms they’re using and most importantly, what they’re looking for on those particular platforms.

Top tip: Don’t be one of those people that claims your buyers don’t use social media. They do - 86% of us use social media everyday, and it's fast becoming one of the biggest influencers when it comes to making a buying decision - trust us, you can no longer afford to ignore it. 

There are a multitude of social media platforms to choose from, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even YouTube. There’s one platform that shines above all in the B2B world, and that’s LinkedIn, with more than 90% of B2B companies preferring to use it for their product marketing. However, don’t make the mistake of solely using LinkedIn ads if it isn’t the only platform your target audience is using. 

Many B2B organisations rule out using Facebook and Instagram because they aren’t seen as being particularly business focused - but this is the wrong approach to take. Depending on who your customers are, their challenges, goals and needs are likely to be on their mind outside of working hours, and if you focus solely on LinkedIn, you may miss out on vital opportunities. To avoid this, we recommend doing extensive research on which platforms your customers are using, and splitting your budget between these platforms.

Paid social media: The Do’s & Don'ts

As previously mentioned, knowing which social media platforms you’ll target prospects on is the first step. However, in order to do paid social media successfully, there are a number of other things you should and shouldn’t be doing. Let’s take a look.

Do:

  • As always, have goals in mind

When it comes to marketing, you shouldn’t be doing any activity without goals assigned to it - and this doesn’t change when it comes to paid social, so make sure you know what you want to achieve, and have SMART goals assigned to your paid social campaigns. 

  • Consider the type of ads you want to run

This is dependent on the goals you’ve outlined and the overall nature of your campaign. For example, boosted/sponsored ads can help you promote your own posted content, and help get it seen by the most relevant people. There are multiple ad variants you could choose to run, including photo ads, video ads, story ads, and messenger ads. What you need to consider when deciding which format to run is how the ads will move your customers through their buyers journey.

  • Run ads with a clear buyer's journey, or sales funnel in mind

Whenever you run a paid social media campaign, you should be moving your prospects through their journey towards a purchase, which means not all your ads should be promoting products - as not everyone will be ready to buy. Think of it like this:

  • Awareness: These paid social campaigns should build brand awareness and develop your audience and reach.
  • Consideration: These social media campaigns should aim to send traffic to your website, generate leads and increase engagement with your business.
  • Conversion: These social media campaigns should drive people to convert on your website and help close sales.

When doing paid social media campaigns, it’s important to have your buyer’s journey completely mapped out - this way you can see which ads are working and know which ones need improvement.

  • Narrow down your audience

Even though advertising is typically thought of as an outbound marketing method, paid social can fit nicely into your inbound strategy. While it might be tempting to put your ads out there with the intention of reaching as many people as possible, this isn’t necessarily the best method. 

One of the best ways to optimise your campaign and get the leads you want is to use exclusions in your targeting criteria, so that your ads are only reaching the relevant target audience. Think of your inbound paid social campaign like a magnet - when you narrow down your audience and pull the right people in, you’ll be much more successful when it comes to getting them to stay.

  • Test! 

As with every marketing campaign you’ll ever run, you need to ensure you’re doing regular tests on how your efforts are performing. Testing is extremely important when it comes to paid social, as what you often expect will work doesn’t, and vice versa. There’s no actual science to creating the perfect paid social media campaign - but constant testing and reviewing will help you get there. 

Don’t:

  • Run ads that are too sales-y

Today’s digital buyer is savvy, educated and therefore wise to the traditional tactics of outbound marketing; not only can they spot even the subtlest ad from a mile off, they can remove it from their feed completely. Research shows that 47% of internet users globally use an ad-blocker, and the users that don’t block ads, tend to ignore them completely. Paid social works best when people don’t feel like they’re being advertised to, and while the balance between wanting to sell your product and not be too sales-y can be difficult to achieve, you’ll have a lot more success if you manage it. 

  • Put all your “ads” in one basket

Excusing the terrible pun, this is an important one. As previously mentioned, you don’t want to focus solely on one social media platform if your target audience is using others. Additionally, even when it comes to your ads there is no one-size-fits-all - meaning you can’t rely on the same ad format and strategy across all demographics and platforms. The last thing you want is a tired, overused ad - if your prospects see the same ad multiple times and aren’t being engaged, it’s likely that they’ll become less inclined to learn more about your business. When 88% of people felt that diversity in advertising helps company reputation, it pays to be different. 

  • Place too much emphasis on paid marketing methods

It’s very easy to get caught up in paid marketing methods, especially when you’re seeing results. However, paid social can quickly become expensive, and if you don’t have the budget, it could cause you some issues. We think paid social media is a great way to get your business out there, as well as drive quick results. However, as with any marketing strategy, it only works well when used alongside other methods.

When used in conjunction with other inbound marketing methods, paid social media can be an excellent way to see quick-wins, meet goals and gain customers - but only when you have a good strategy in place: do you?

To see if your marketing strategy is as good as it can be, request your free marketing audit from the team here at Axon Garside. We’ll review everything from your website, content and SEO strategy to any paid social campaigns you’re currently running - and if you’re not, we’ll help you get started.

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