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How to Use Social Media Like an Advertising Department

Social media advertising is set to explode, shouted Business Insider last month. The article summarized a report on what the publication called the “advertising ecosystems of Facebook and Twitter,” a report that cited deep user bases and the ability for social networks to target specific interests. According to Business Insider, social media advertising revenue will grow to $11 billion in 2017—almost triple what it was last year.

Coupled with the knowledge that the public is leaving TV for mobile devices, reports such as this one can certainly imply a need to hop on the bandwagon. Commentaries about social advertising appear almost daily in respectable places—from Forbes to The New York Times. Triple your ROI by following these steps! Make sure to avoid these pitfalls with social media advertising! The chatter’s getting hotter than this month’s heat wave.

However, all the shouting is loud enough to cover up the fact that “social media advertising” is somewhat … broad. Are we talking promoted Facebook posts, a service that will only affect users who’ve already liked your Facebook page? Or are we talking promoted tweets, banner ads and YouTube commercials, which can be found by any user. Mostly likely, the endless articles are talking about both. Just to make things clear: I am as well. For the purpose of this blog post, when you read “social media advertising,” know that I’m talking about any form of social media marketing that requires a payment to the social network.

Does it work?

Unlike social media-based PR or marketing, advertising results are easier to measure in numbers. And because advertising involves dollar transactions (and not simple hours devoted toward crafting, scheduling and posting messages), ROI is easy to track. Not unlike traditional C-suite activity, right?

Before we go any further, let me say that it is very possible to achieve great results with social media marketing while spending no money at all. Cue Viral Solutions, an online marketing company that procures more than $1 million in annual revenue. The company’s CMO is constantly posting things on LinkedIn—both on the company page and in the 29 various marketing-based Groups of which he is a member. He claims that 85 percent of business leads come directly from this social network.

This is obviously an atypical example, and if you don’t have time to juggle 29 different conversations, you’ll probably have less spectacular results. But as is the case with any business venture, money can quicken the pace of progress. If you have room in the budget (or if you want to lobby hard to make room in the budget), here are the numbers to show that social advertising works:

Of course, statistics vary widely from organization to organization and it’s impossible to give a number depicting increases in revenue to every business at once. Instead, you can check out several case studies online, including this one, which shows an increase in website traffic of almost 4,000 percent. Anecdotally, I can also tell you that I’ve clicked on ads clearly targeted to me based on my indicated interests. The first time I did so, I became a loyal subscriber to the advertised website. Oh, and this was in 2009.

At the end of the day, social media advertising has been shown to work, time and time again.

How to start advertising:

If you’re trying to convince upper management to add a line to the budget—or if you’re in charge and are acting appropriately cautious— my advice is to start with one promoted tweet and one promoted Facebook post. The prices are scaled according to following count and levels of engagement, which means you can set it up so to spend less than $100 in total. I recommend spending more if you can get more in order to produce more data, but I don’t recommend spending less.

After you’ve set up your promoted items (of course, making sure they’re knockout posts), wait a few days. Next, analyze audience behavior using Facebook Insights, Google Analytics (to track incoming traffic to your website) and the analytics Twitter provides with its promoted tweet service. In the off chance that nothing changed, then wait a while and try it again at a different time in the week. Perform some basic analytics to find which days of the week are best for audience participation.

If you do see results, then you can start thinking about other forms of advertising. Facebook is the most popular, but other heavy players include Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest. On all four platforms, you’ll have the ability to pick your audience—and with the amount of data we give these networks, you’ll have a high ability to target that audience. I advise you to wait on this type of advertising because unlike promoted tweets and posts, you’ll have to design the banner ad or create the YouTube video. There’s no point in spending the extra time if you can’t first prove—to yourself or to management—that advertising is a smart business move.

In conclusion:

Despite predictions that social media advertising will “explode,” this hot topic is still just a dull glow. So far, social media advertising represents less than 10 percent on a broad array of advertising budgets.

Also, advertising is a luxury that not all budgets can afford. PR or marketing-based approaches to social media can be entirely free, but the trade-off here is time. Building relationships or increasing name recognition is much harder to do without money.

However, as TV ratings continually decline, advertising is clearly headed in a new direction. Mobile growth seems to skyrocket annually, and now both Twitter and Facebook have reached the 50 percent mark for mobile activity. The new frontier is growing. My point is this: Don’t underestimate the possibilities that arise from social media-based advertising. If you’ve got the money or (and this is the more likely scenario) you’re trying to figure out how to increase generic marketing effectiveness, this may be the way to go.

Are you looking for more information on how to maximize your business and sales potential through social media? Check out our 3-day Social Media Boot Camp or click here to receive more information on all of our marketing training and services.

About the author:  Joseph Havey is the Director of Social Media for the Triangle-based Shelten Media, LLC, a start-up company specializing in social media marketing. He is a member of N.C. State’s PRSSA chapter, and writes for the school newspaper, Technician. In his free time, he trains for triathlons. 

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