If you’ve ever run an ad campaign on Facebook or Twitter, you know how complicated the process can feel once you get beyond the basics. Between selecting your objective, setting a budget, fine-tuning your audience targeting, testing, and measuring ROI, there’s a lot to do. (Frankly, that’s why we created our new two-click Facebook Ads tool.) Even more challenging is the fact that many big brands use very sophisticated techniques to manage multi-million-dollar spends—in other words, the competition is fierce.
As competitive as the social media landscape is, however, there are clear opportunities for success in generating visibility, engagement, and sales—the best of which come from a process of experimenting, learning, and iterating. You can get ahead by learning from the expert brand managers, marketers, and media buyers who have been exactly where you are now.
On this blog we’ve written a lot about how newbies can get started with social media advertising.. Have you got those techniques down? Great. Now it’s time to get more advanced. And what better way than by learning from the experts. Here are 5 advanced social media advertising strategies from some of the pros we trust.
1 – Consult multiple data sources to determine your ad campaign’s ROI
Tip from: Chelsea Hejny, content marketer at ShortStack
Now more than ever before, brands have the opportunity to drive real ROI with their social media advertising campaigns. With Facebook’s Custom Audience targeting feature, you can target your exact users—with messaging, for instance—to buy stuff that they’ve abandoned in their shopping carts.
For this reason, it’s important to assign a dollar value to the ROI generated from your ad campaigns. The problem, however, is that marketing attribution is subjective. As with calculating your credit score, you’ll want to consult multiple sources to make sure that come up with a number—perhaps an average, range, or median—that gives you a complete revenue picture.
“After setting up my conversion tracking pixel for one advertising partner, I was excited to finally know the monetary value of our ads,” says Hejny. “I would periodically check these reports on the platform and recall the conversion value being huge.”
Hejny recounts one instance in which her reporting threw her strategy off base. After running an ad for less than 48 hours, her advertising partner reported ROI gains of over $1,500. Suspicious that the number was too good to be true, she decided to do some research and realized that her attribution window was set too short.
“Once I readjusted the attribution window settings to just include clicks to the ad, the ‘website conversion value’ of my ad dropped to $30,” says Hejny. “Every platform, whether it be Google Analytics, Improvely, or Facebook, will track conversions differently. Some do it based on last click, some do it based on first click, and others through view-through conversions.”
It’s important to know the methodologies behind these calculations and to choose a number that reflects the ROI story that you’re looking to tell.
2 – Test multiple advertising channels to assess social’s unique strengths
Tip from: Alan Amerault, head of digital marketing for Cardinal Path
When designing your marketing campaigns, you need to figure out all the different ways that consumers are discovering and researching new products. Social media isn’t a closed system and your customer’s behavior doesn’t necessarily follow predictable patterns. Recognizing this helped Amerault drive donor connections for his nonprofit client base.
“For one nonprofit client, we use a multi-channel approach through search, display, and Facebook marketing,” says Amerault. “With Facebook in particular, we target individuals who have been to the client’s site without subscribing to the organization’s email list.”
Amerault and his team are also using social media advertising to build brand visibility and generate engagement among new follower bases of prospective donors.
“Social is actually performing better than search in this case,” says Amerault. “We’re able to tap into a very different user base based on interests and interactivity over what we are used to doing which is attract people based on what they’re looking for.”
By testing multiple advertising channels, you’ll develop a clear picture of how they all fit together. Before launching multiple ad campaigns, however, it’s important to craft a story around your target audience’s journey. Learn how they seek information, follow causes that they support, and make transaction decisions. With this vantage point—an understanding of how social media connects to other advertising channels—you’ll be well-positioned to maximize engagement opportunities.
“You always have to pick the right channel for the job,” says Amerault.
3 – Use social advertising to ask a very specific question
Tip from: Anita Newton, marketing advisor to Mighty Handle via The Lean Startup Conference
In 2014, Newton helped Mighty Handle, a consumer products company that makes it easier to carry heavy things, land a pilot with retail giant Walmart—an experience that Newton calls “the biggest opportunity of its startup life.”
For a successful launch, the Mighty Handle team needed to answer one specific question related to the product’s packaging: what look and feel would resonate most strongly with the company’s customer base?
With no market research budget, Newton turned to social media advertising as a low-cost way to answer this question. As she explains in her talk for The Lean Startup Conference, she conducted a series of small experiments on Facebook and YouTube to test advertising concepts among Walmart’s target customer base—suburban mothers.
Instead of measuring success in terms of conversions, she monitored engagement data. She found Facebook particularly helpful in eliminating the ‘observation effect’ of customers saying one thing but doing something entirely different.
This process helped Mighty Handle come up with a brand new packaging concept, which directly address the needs of a suburban mom audience.
4 – Uncover what you may not know
Tip from: Megan Light, social and affiliate marketing manager at Gravity Defyer
Success with social media advertising is often in the details. In addition to monitoring macro-level trends, it’s important to pay attention to what’s happening beneath the surface. When you see patterns, dig deeper to uncover an explanation for why you’re seeing what you’re seeing. This curiosity will help you find new areas of opportunity.
Start by challenging your assumptions and asking questions that could lead to optimizations for your audience. Take a look at what you’re already doing well and what your challenges might be. Tackle your problem areas, and amplify your strengths.
“We do weekly sponsored posts on Facebook based on our email campaigns for the week,” says Light. “The hurdles we hit are finding out which times are the best for our promotions, who we should target, and which deals will actually be successful.”
Fortunately, Light has the power to adjust every single aspect of her campaigns. Rather than letting her marketing challenges cause friction to her strategy, she tests her way to the answers that she needs.
“We adjust our targeting to find new, potential customers who resemble our customer base,” Light says. “We also experiment with age, keywords, and location. Our keywords can be anything from hobbies to conditions to competitors.”
Light and her team also boost Facebook posts at different times to determine when to run sponsored posts.
“We find that time differences can affect the success of our campaigns,” Light says.
When it comes to finding new opportunities with social media advertising, immerse yourself in the details. You’ll make yourself better in ways that you never would have imagined.
5 – Challenge your assumptions
As an early stage startup founder, Diana Melencio needs to be careful with where she invests her resources. Rather than deploying new initiatives in full, she’ll often explore new ideas through small, focused experiments.
One idea that she recently wanted to explore was how to price her product. She recently ran Facebook ads to A/B test two versions of her pricing page.
“Our revenue model was based on two streams: commission from items sold and our styling fee,” says Melencio for the WP Curve Blog. “The commissions were what really drove our plan, but we also felt strongly about charging for our service to weed out serious customers versus those that we using it simply because they could.”
As an advertising platform, Facebook is valuable to Melencio because of its rich demographic data. In search of her ‘ideal’ customer, she used a small ad campaign to determine which price points would resonate with different personas.
“We found that around same number of people clicked on both ads, but that only those in the $3.99 group were adventurous enough to complete the service request of our unknown service—because it was a nominal enough amount,” says Melencio.
With these findings, Melencio and her business partner have been able to create more focused language on their landing page. In fact, they learned that the issue they were facing was, in fact, not a pricing issue.
“It was an issue of our translating the value of our virtual service—a real-life top fashion stylist—in a time when the majority of people are used to getting things free online,” Melencio says.
Success with social media advertising will come from a willingness to learn. Instead of starting from scratch, pull inspiration from the marketers who have been exactly where you are now. Look to big brands, small ones, and the spectrum of companies in between. Test the strategies that you come across, iterate upon them, and make them your own.