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If you are self-employed or run a startup, not using social media to help boost sales is like going to the plate with a 6-inch bat—you’re much more likely to strike out. What many entrepreneurs are learning is that while having a website and Facebook or LinkedIn page is a good start, it’s likely you’re not yet exploiting the full power of social media.
You can use social media advertising to build a credible reputation, attract customers, connect with similar businesses and colleagues, drive traffic to your website and cross-promote your content across different social media sites.
In what follows, we cover social media advertising strategies beyond the basics of using Facebook and LinkedIn.
Benefits of social media marketing
The holy grail of marketing is return on investment (ROI). Social media advertising is best at providing a quick ROI, due to several reasons:
- It’s faster than content marketing: You can expect to see results almost immediately from a properly pitched social media advertising campaign. Contrast this with content marketing on website copy and blogs, which takes time to yield results from search engine optimization (SEO) and backlinks.
- It’s more persistent than influencer marketing: Recommendations from the right influencers—in the form of product reviews, paid spokespeople, survey articles, blog content and more—can give your brand a quick caffeine jolt, but it’s not certain to sustain over time. The gain in sales caused by influencer marketing often decreases with each new post.
- It’s easier to deploy than search ads: AdWords is indeed effective at producing consistent results, but it requires a good deal of tweaking to optimize the ads. You need the right keywords and right bids to get the specific page placements you want.
Social media advertising can get you consistent results from the first day of your campaign. It can grow your sales and your recognition, leverage customer-generated content, effectively target new and returning customers, and facilitate A/B testing using platform analytics.
The effects of an ad-motivated sale can be substantial, including referrals/word of mouth, customer loyalty and email marketing opportunities.
The other social media platforms
Even with the blowback Facebook has received for its privacy policies, it remains the 600-pound gorilla in the social media jungle, with 2 billion monthly active users. LinkedIn is the leading business-oriented social platform, with more than 250 million active subscribers.
However, several other channels have quite respectable numbers for monthly active users, including Instagram (500 million), Twitter (330 million), Pinterest (175 million) and Snapchat (301 million). Running ads on each of these social platforms works best if your product or service is a natural fit for the platform’s user demographics.
Selecting which platforms to advertise on requires some strategizing. You’ll want to go where there’s a concentration of target customers and where those customers are easy to access and engage. Of course, your ad messaging must be more than visible—it must be compelling to get the results you want.
The following is a summary of four important social media platforms beyond Facebook and LinkedIn that you might want to include in your advertising campaigns.
A video and image platform, Instagram was purchased by Facebook, and for good reason. It has a high audience engagement rate among its half-billion monthly active users, higher than Facebook. Therefore, it is a good fit for companies with offerings that are visually attractive or that use appealing visual media in their advertising.
The user-base is most heavily represented in the 18 to 29 age group, with a slight tilt toward minorities and women. Instagram ads can be linked directly to your website for direct engagements with your offerings. While ads are priced roughly the same as Facebook’s, it offers better user engagement on ads and posts.
The tactical use of Instagram is straightforward, starting with identifying an audience of past engagers, then expanding to lookalike audiences using the platform’s algorithms. Custom images work better than stock photos, and a compelling ad design has a good chance of triggering impulse buying. Don’t forget your hashtags—they work better on Instagram than other platforms.
Twitter is a fixture for those who want to read or express opinions. Twitter has the benefit of helping you achieve your marketing goals organically, without paying for ads, by shaping your tweets to your target audience.
According to Twitter, 70 percent of its users buy from small- to medium-sized businesses, and the average Twitter user shops online almost seven times per month.
You can advertise on Twitter using promoted accounts, promoted trends, promoted tweets and website cards (an ad with text and an image or video that generates a click-thru to your website).
Tactically, your Twitter ads should contain visually compelling images and be highly targeted. Ads benefit from a “Shop now” call to action and direct user engagement. In fitting with the Twitter worldview, your ads and landing pages should be brief and to-the-point.
Marketers often think of Pinterest as Instagram for women, since its female user base exceeds 80 percent. It is an economical platform because it features high user engagement that is triggered by custom images of creative products. Promoted pins on Pinterest are less obtrusive than on some other platforms, and the primary demographic of millennial women don’t seem to be put off by the paid ads.
Pins are best promoted based on store visits or other engagements and placed in relevant Pinterest boards, making them easy to find by browsing or searching users. Pinterest rewards creativity, so let your juices flow when creating your ads. Your goal is make your promoted pin stand out among the hundreds a user will likely scan during a visit. It helps to use detailed descriptions for hashtags and keywords, focusing on trends and engaging with followers through repins. Click-thrus should land on pages specifically designed for Pinterest users, with plenty of visual interest and relevance.
Snapchat is a photo and video sharing platform in which shared content disappears a few moments after opened, although recipients can replay or screenshot them. Snaps can be enhanced with augmented-reality (AR) lenses that add dynamic special effects and sounds.
Snapchat has a daily market penetration of 41 percent among U.S. visitors in the 18 to 34 age range.
You can target this group with snap ads, sponsored lenses, Snapchat Discover (an expensive ad at the top of user app feeds), and location-specific sponsored local geofilters (static images) that users can overlay onto their snaps.
In general, your offering should appeal to a younger, hipper audience to realize the best ROI on snapchat. If you target middle-aged and older consumers, Snapchat is probably not your best bet. The unique nature of Snapchat calls for its own marketing strategy. Effective techniques include offering coupon codes, connecting with influencers to flog your product and building anticipation for an upcoming event.