Best Practices for Brands Doing Paid Social Media Advertising in 2023

Paid social media advertising should be a key part of any business strategy. Businesses can expand their reach to broad audiences, raise brand awareness, and convert sales at different levels of the sales funnel by engaging on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, Reddit, and LinkedIn. It’s no wonder that businesses are increasingly turning to paid social media advertising to reach their target audiences.

To help, we gathered three experts on paid social media to discuss the right ways to approach these challenges. You can watch the video here:



Prefer to read or scroll instead? No problem. We’ve summarized the discussion below.

Simply investing in ads on social media is no longer enough to guarantee success. To truly leverage the power of paid social media advertising, brands must adopt the best practices that drive engagement, maximize return on investment (ROI), and ultimately boost their bottom line.

So, what are the best practices when developing a paid social media strategy? From targeting to platform placement, to optimization and finding the correct tactics to hit your goals, we will explore the top strategies that leading social media buyers recommend for brands embarking on paid social media advertising campaigns.

Whether you’re a small startup looking to build brand awareness or an established company aiming to drive conversions, these best practices will help you optimize your ad campaigns and make the most out of your social media advertising budget.

What audiences should you target with paid social media ads?

Defining your target audience is the best place to start with your paid social plan. Luckily, most social media platforms allow you to get very granular with what audience you target. You can generally pick from options around demographics, interests, media consumed, brands followed and more. Plus you can do dynamic lists based on lookalikes or retargeting.

Retargeting can be effective and, for most brands, should generally be included in your buy. Retargeting is when you take audiences that visited your website or engaged with you before and then retarget that audience on social media as well. Retargeting is especially effective at driving lower funnel conversions, but it can help at all stages of the funnel.

While you can get a lot of success from targeting the highly specific audiences that social platforms offer, recent changes suggest broad targeting may be a better strategy. We’ve seen recently that broad targeting that lets the algorithm build around those who react has been lowering our overall costs.

This is in part because Meta algorithms have something called the “learning phase.” During this phase, the algorithm tries to find the best opportunity for your ads. Performance is less stable, and costs are high, but you can optimize your reach. Besides, you won’t need to be in the learning phase for long, especially with a larger audience.

So, both retargeting and broad targeting have recently been showing strong results. Deciding which approach to use depends on your brand and your goals.

Just as each brand is different, each social media platform is different. Instead of just looking at which platform is most popular, you should consider which platform best meets your marketing goals. It is also best practice to be on a few diverse platforms so you can leverage the different advantages and features.

For example, one of the hidden gems about Snapchat is its ability to use third-party targeting. Third-party targeting enables some more niche targeting that might suit your needs.

And while Meta has great detailed, interest-based targeting, sometimes LinkedIn’s more granular, job-market audience is most appropriate for recruitment, skills-targeting, and so on.

Another reason to diversify the platforms where you place your ads is you never know what might happen to a platform. For example, many agencies and social media buyers have moved away from Twitter lately after it sold to Elon Musk and everything else on that platform since then.

Alternatively, many social ad buyers have been drawn to Reddit recently. While it has had some recent unrest, the platform is constantly testing new features and is at the forefront of innovation in the ad space.

Should brands focus on growing brand awareness or driving traffic?

Two common reasons for paid social advertising are general brand awareness and driving traffic to a particular webpage or product. Each of these objectives are important but require an entirely different mindset and approach. Therefore, it can be hard to know which one to focus your ad efforts on.

To answer this question, it helps to think about the platforms first. Determine the most effective platform for each part of the sales funnel and go from there.

However, we generally recommend working on a healthy mix of both brand awareness and sales, particularly if your brand drives online sales. It can be hard to know what company you’re ordering from online these days, so people like to get to know your brand and build trust before purchasing anything on social media.

What platforms are best for building brand awareness?

The platform that is best for your brand will vary based on your identity and objectives. Meta is usually a strong platform for most brands, but there are a lot of factors that can impact the success.

For example, a home goods brand might do best on Pinterest because that is where the audience is. Alternatively, a brand trying to reach the Alphas or Gen Z might do best on TikTok and should avoid Facebook.

What platforms are best for targeting top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, and bottom of the funnel sales?

Again, the best platform to target will depend on your target audience, your product, your purchase journey, and your goals.

In general, Meta shows success targeting the lower funnel, but many platforms have shown success with the full funnel.

Why should you hire an ad manager instead of just boosting ads?

Paid social media advertising is easier than ever, with many platforms featuring an easy “boost” or “promote” button that automatically runs your ads for you.

However, using the built-in, automatic advertising features can leave a lot on the table. When you go the automatic route, you don’t have an ad manager to help optimize your campaigns and you pay more to get less.

Working with a professional social media buyer can help you gain finite control over your ads and really optimize your results. The “boost” button will limit you to only a few ad objectives. There are also typically limits on spending budgets and your campaigns’ start and end dates.

Furthermore, you tend to pay a higher CPM for less targeting with the automatic features. Working with a social media buyer can help you get better rates and stretch your advertising further.

We understand — hitting a “magic” button is just easier! But it is not a strategy. Instead, take advantage of all your data and optimize your social media ad campaigns by using a professional social media ad buyer, whether that’s an internal member of your team or with an agency like Ignite Social Media.

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