Social media advertising is a must if you’re looking to reach a new, targeted audience ASAP.
Like it or not, organic reach is getting increasingly hard to achieve: to be honest, the days of going viral without a little boost just might be over.
We totally get that it can be scary to move from an organic social strategy to spending (gulp) real money to achieve reach. Understanding all your options is vital to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck — and working towards the social media goals that matter to you and your brand.
That’s why we’ve put together this extremely comprehensive guide to explain how to use each unique type of social media advertising to achieve real business results. Read on to learn just how to make every dollar you spend advertising on social media count.
Bonus: Download a free guide to social advertising and learn the 5 steps to building effective campaigns. No tricks or boring tips—just simple, easy-to-follow instructions that really work.
What is social media advertising?
Social media advertising is a type of digital advertising. It refers to the practice of spending money to deliver content to a target audience on your preferred social media platform.
The number of people who see your social media ads is referred to as your “paid reach.” This is in contrast to your “organic reach,” which refers to people who view content distributed by the algorithm free of charge. And obviously, when you pay to get your content out there, you have a much higher chance of connecting with the right people.
That’s because advertising on social is a hyper-direct way to reach the audience you want. No need to cross your fingers or pray to the astrology gods that you’ll create a viral post: you can pay to make sure your amazing content gets some eyeballs on it.
Social advertising allows you to target brand-new customers or returning ones. (New friends! Hooray!) It’s also a chance to do some hands-on A/B testing.
The downside, obviously, is that it’ll cost you at least a few bucks… but all the social platforms offer really flexible rates to suit every type of budget. If you’ve got a fiver on hand, you’ve got everything you need to dabble in social media ads. (More on just how much social media advertising costs below!)
The 8 main types of social media advertising
All the major social networks offer advertising options, but that doesn’t mean you should use all of them.
When choosing where to place your ads, it’s helpful to know which networks are most popular with your target audience. Where is your target group most engaged, most concentrated and most accessible?
Targeting teens? TikTok is where to find them. Moms, meanwhile, love Facebook.
Try looking at which social networks perform well organically for your brand. Where does your content naturally strike a chord with fans? This is an obvious choice for your first social ad campaigns.
Once you have a sense of which social networks might be best for your business, let’s take a look at each network’s ad types.
Facebook ads help you achieve one of six broad types of campaign objectives:
Like Instagram, Facebook ads appear throughout the app, including in users’ feeds, Stories, Messenger, Marketplace, and more. They look similar to normal posts but always include a “sponsored” label to show they’re an ad. Facebook ads include more features than regular posts, like CTA buttons, links, and product catalogs.
With detailed targeting options for this huge pool of users, Facebook is a great platform to get started with social media advertising.
Here are the different styles of ads available as options on Facebook in 2022.
Image ads are Facebook’s most basic ad format. They let businesses use single images to promote their products, services, or brand. Image ads can be used across different ad types, placements, and aspect ratios.
Pro tip: Pay attention to image ad specs and ratios, so your product doesn’t get cut off or stretched.
Just like image ads, video ads on Facebook let businesses use a single video to showcase their products, services, or brand. They’re especially helpful for product demos, tutorials, and showcasing moving elements.
Collection ads are mobile window-shopping experiences that allow users to flick through your product lineup. They’re kind of like immersive carousels — just full-screen and more customizable. Users can purchase products directly from Collection ads.
Like Facebook, you can target your ideal viewer with custom targeting options. You can also create lookalike audiences and define your audience’s behaviors and activities, interests, and demographics.
Ads appear in users’ Feeds and Stories alongside content they follow organically. Instagram ads might also show up in Explore and the Instagram Shop browsing experience. Regardless of where they appear, all Instagram ads feature a “sponsored” icon and might include a call-to-action button, too.
Here are the different styles of Instagram ads you have to choose between.
Your Instagram photo or video will look like a regular Instagram post, except it will say “Sponsored” in the top left. Depending on your campaign objective, you may also be able to add a call-to-action button.
Instagram really wants Reels to take off, so their algorithm heavily favors video posts these days. Dropping a boosted Reel into the Insta-verse will probably get you a double dose of paid reach and organic reach.
Just like a traditional Reel, ad Reels loop and can be up to 30 seconds in length. Ad Reels can also receive comments, likes, shares and saves and appear everywhere regular Reels do (in-feed, on the Reels tab and in Explore).
This option allows you to advertise your Instagram Shop on the Instagram Shop tab homepage. Your hero image will appear as a tile among other shopping content. Users can click on your product to learn more on the product details page.
Formerly known as Promoted Tweets, Promoted Ads on Twitter look a lot like regular Tweets — they can be images, videos, carousels, moments or text-only ads. Advertisers pay to display their content to people who don’t already follow them on Twitter.
Like ordinary Tweets, they can be liked, retweeted and commented on. But they are labeled as an ad: they will always say “Promoted” in the lower left-hand corner.
Formerly known as Promoted Accounts, this type of Twitter ad allows you to promote your brand’s entire Twitter account. It targets users who don’t follow your brand and can help grow your business’s Twitter following.
Follower Ads are displayed in potential followers’ timelines. The ad will also show in the Who to Follow suggestions and search results.
Polls, hashtags, and more are all available for the discerning Twitter shopper. Branded hashtag ads, for instance, allow you to add a visual component, like an emoji, that automatically appears when someone uses your hashtag.
Snapchat ads can help you achieve three types of marketing objectives:
Awareness: Reach a large audience to increase awareness of your brand and showcase products and services
Consideration: Drive traffic to your website or app, increase engagement, and encourage app installs, video views, and lead generation.
Conversions: Drive website conversions or catalog sales.
Snapchat’s Instant Create service is a simplified way to get your image or video ad up in under five minutes. This is a quick and easy way to get started if you’ve got a simple advertising goal — for example, getting a Snapchatter to call up your pizza parlor.
For more in-depth advertising goals, there’s Advanced Create. This is for advertisers with more long-term or specific objectives and might need more control over budgets, bids, or optimization.
Some hot numbers for you: 18 to 24-year-olds are the largest age group that use Snapchat, followed by ages 25 to 34 and ages 13 to 17. So if your brand targets Gen Z audiences, Snapchat should definitely be on your radar.
Collection ads are used for ecommerce sales conversions. You must upload your product catalog to Snapchat Ads Manager to use this format. You can add it manually or connect to Shopify — or many other platforms — for live-syncing (recommended).
These ads showcase your products in a video or picture and allow you to feature 4 clickable product tiles along the bottom.
You can also create Dynamic Collection ads. Once you upload a product catalog and meet a few conditions with the Snap Pixel, Snapchat can automatically create dynamic product ads.
LinkedIn ads help your business with three types of marketing objectives:
Awareness: Create more awareness of your company or brand.
Consideration: Drive website visits, increase engagement, or encourage video views.
Conversions: Collect leads and drive website conversions.
Audience considerations: LinkedIn is much more business-oriented than the other social networks in this post. It offers targeting options based on professional qualifications like job title and seniority.
Audience considerations: LinkedIn is much more business-oriented than the other social networks in this post. It offers targeting options based on professional qualifications like job title and seniority.
These quick ads are unskippable and just six seconds long. They may play before, after, or during a video, much like the longer in-stream ads (above.) This is a great option if you’ve got something short and snappy to share.
In-feed video ads on YouTube involve a thumbnail of your video next to some text, enticing viewers to click to watch the video. They may appear next to videos, as part of search results, or on the YouTube homepage on mobile.
Make a snappy video and pay to get it into the streams of the people! Of course, you’ll have the option to target specific demographics, but ultimately, your success will come down to whether or not your video captures users’ attention.
Hashtags and challenges are the heart of TikTok. Join in by paying to get your branded challenge at the top of the trending pile. It’s engagement that goes beyond click-throughs — in fact, branded hashtag challenges have an average 8.5% engagement rate.
Ideally, your creative idea for a challenge will spark users to spread your brand’s vibe all over the TikTokosphere.
The infuriating truth for each platform is: it varies! Budgets can be set on all of these social media sites to suit your own financial needs… so you could spend $5 or $50,000.
Results, of course, will vary accordingly — but the point is, there’s an almost infinite spectrum of pricing.
That didn’t stop us from breaking it all down by platform, though, so read on if you need to hear this sentiment again in a more specific context.
There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to Facebook ad budgets. The cost of Facebook ads depends on several variable factors, including audience targeting, ad placement, campaign duration, the competitiveness of your industry, time of year, location, and time of day.
But one important takeaway: setting the right campaign objective is the most important thing you can do to control Facebook ad costs. (Getting this right will also help you achieve success in your goals.)
For example, on average, an “impressions” campaign objective costs $1.85 per click, while a campaign with a “conversions” objective costs $0.87 per click.
The cost of Instagram ads is highly dependent on a variety of factors – there is no average or benchmark price. Some cost factors include your target demographic, industry, or time of year.
The best way to evaluate your budget is to set up a draft campaign in Ads Manager and look for the Audience Definition and Estimated Daily Results modules. This will tell you if your budget settings will be sufficient to reach your desired audience within your desired duration.
Surprise, surprise: it depends! The cost of a LinkedIn ad will entirely depend on your specific campaign goals, your desired audience, and your ad format choice.
You start every campaign by placing a bid that suits your own budget. LinkedIn ads are then sold through an ad auction, where you’re in competition with everyone else angling to reach the same audience. The more popular the audience, the higher the price is going to get. The best way to get your cost down is to tweak your target audience.
There is no firm cost for a YouTube ad. We know that’s probably not the answer you want, but it’s true! So many factors come into play here that it’s impossible to even give a ballpark number. As YouTube itself says, “You’re in charge of how much you spend.”
You set a maximum cost-per-click you’re willing to pay, but your actual costs may even be lower, depending on how in-demand your desired audience or placement is.
There may not be a straight answer about how much TikTok ads cost, but there are some minimum budgets to work off of.
Since TikTok ads are based on a bidding model, daily budgets for campaigns are set at $50 USD.
Social media advertising examples to learn from
Okay, we know, we know, this has been a lot. But it’s time for a quick bit of inspo before we dive into some important tips.
This Gap ad on Facebook takes advantage of the carousel format to showcase one product in multiple colors. (And yet… we want to buy them all?)
Manufacturers of this bed cleverly targeted people listening to Chill Hop — perhaps an audience of people who love feeling sleepy and cozy and are abnormally into bedtime.
Take some inspiration here to think outside the box about your target audience. What kind of content might they be consuming?
On TikTok, Threadbeast promoted a video showcasing its subscription box product by shooting it in a very authentic, unboxing-video-style way that would blend in seamlessly with organic content… while still standing out with an intriguing call to action: “Who wants a mystery box?”
It’s #NationalMilkDay and we’re delivering positive energy all day with Milk Grams🥛 📲
Got Milk used promoted Tweets to share videos of special “Milk Gram” deliveries it made as part of a campaign. Twitter users could tag a friend who might get a special IRL surprise and find themselves in the next promoted video. The circle of life!
The takeaway? Think about how you can blend real-life experiences with digital ones to generate content and spark delight.
Best tips for social media advertising beginners
1. Know what business objective you’re trying to achieve
It’s no accident that we start each section of this guide by reviewing the business objectives each type of social media ad can help you achieve. It’s awfully hard to achieve your goals if you don’t know what your goals are in the first place.
Understanding your ultimate goal is critical. It ensures you choose the right social network to advertise on and find the right advertising solution within that platform. Your goal will even guide your creative strategy.
2. Know your target audience
The ability to micro-target your ad campaigns is one of the key benefits of social media advertising. That’s why we’ve listed some audience considerations for each of the social networks.
Keep in mind that they all offer quite specific ad targeting. Know exactly who you’re trying to reach to take maximum advantage of these targeting options. This ensures you get the best bang for your advertising buck.
After all, there’s no point in advertising to soccer moms in Florida if your audience is young male video gamers in New Jersey. Developing audience personas can help you understand exactly which audience segments to focus on.
3. Let your organic posts inform your ads
You’re likely already posting content on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram every day. Maybe LinkedIn and Snapchat, too.
Some of these posts will resonate with followers, while others won’t. Track which ones are being clicked, liked, shared and commented on. These high-performing messages make the best candidates for social ads.
If you’re branching out into a new network with your social media advertising, start small. Use what you’ve learned from your organic posts as a starting point. However, know that those lessons will not necessarily translate across social networks.
4. Pay for what matters: Impressions or engagement
To keep your budget under control, think about whether you want impressions or engagements.
In many cases, you’ll be paying by cost per thousand impressions (CPM) or cost per click (CPC). If you pay every time someone sees your ad (impressions), your message can cast a wide net. But if you’re paying for engagement, you only want people who are really interested in doing business with you to engage.
You don’t want to pay for engagements that are not relevant to your business goals. The wording of your ad should help people identify whether it’s for them.
Both engagement and impressions campaigns can be valuable for your business. You just need to choose the right one to align with your business goals so that you only pay for real business results.
Here’s some more information about which metrics to track to make the most of your social media marketing campaign.
That means most social media ads are viewed on mobile devices. Your mobile ads should be specifically designed for the small screen. Incorporate images that are easy to view on a pocket-sized device. (Unless, of course, you specifically choose desktop placement.)
If you have a brick-and-mortar business, you can use “geofencing” to target mobile users when they are in a specific zip code. This means they only see your ads when they are close enough to walk in your front door.
6. Test your ads to optimize performance
One of the great benefits of social ads is instant feedback. You can gauge the effectiveness of a sponsored post in minutes and follow up with advanced analytics reports.
The best practice is to test several ads with small audiences to determine what works best, then use the winning ad in the primary campaign.
Testing one ad against another to determine what works best and refine your strategy is known as A/B testing. It’s a critical part of your social media advertising efforts. We teach you how to do it in our guide to social media A/B testing.
7. Measure results — and report on them
Just as it’s important to know your goals before running an ad campaign, it’s important to measure results. This will let you know whether you’ve hit your targets. It shows you what worked and what didn’t so that you can improve going forward.
Measuring your results and having concrete data about the value your ads bring to the company (purchases, leads, and so on) is a key part of proving ROI.
And if you can prove that your ads are paying off, that will ensure you get the budget you need to continue your work.
The major social networks offer analytics to help you measure the results of ads. We’ve created in-depth guides on how to use them:
Social media advertising can help you reach a new, hyper-specific audience for a fairly low investment. Organic reach can only get you so far, and spending some cold hard cash can help your content receive the attention it deserves.
Social ads let you target your ideal audience based on their behaviors, interests, demographics, and more. You can tweak variables and experiment to see what gets you the most action — even if you only have a small amount to spend.
You also get tons of data to view after the fact, so you can see clearly what worked and what didn’t with your campaign.
The bottom line? Social media advertising is important because it can be highly effective, direct and designed to fit your budget. Let’s see a billboard do all that.
What is the most effective social media advertising?
So if “effective” means “reach the most people,” then Instagram is your answer… but that may be oversimplifying it.
The more complicated answer is: it depends. The most effective social media advertising for your brand may be totally different from mine. Your goals and your unique audience mix will determine the right platform for you.
For instance, if you make a tool for scheduling Twitter posts (ahem) and want to increase your sales, then advertising on Twitter will probably get you further than a Snapchat campaign.
Take a look deep inside, and then check out this social media advertising stats report. Then you’ll see the most effective social media advertising has been inside of you all along.
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