Social media advertising can be quite overwhelming, especially for smaller brands that have only dipped their toes into the pond. Everyone knows they should do it, but not everyone knows where to begin.

That’s why we wrote this manual to help you understand the most important mechanics, but also to help you manage your expectations.

Social media advertising allows optimization people in TV or print can only dream and this only at a fraction of the budget and effort.

So if you want to save a lot of money and avoid bad campaigns, we recommend reading this article and send it to everyone who has doubts about the effectiveness and importance of social advertising.

1. Don’t forget about your friends

The most fundamental question people ask about social media advertising is: how do I target my relevant audience?

The answer to that question is: what sort of data do you already have on your audience? In most case, the most relevant audience is the one linked to an email list of subscribers or a similar data file.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn allow you to upload batches of email addresses and target the social media accounts associated with it which by far the most efficient way to target your audience.

Important caveat here is that you’ll have more success with personal email addresses since most social media accounts are linked with personal emails and not work email.

Also, don’t be a dick and only upload email addresses you have obtained legally and with consent. While Europe is still in the process of fully enforcing GDPR, you don’t wanna get sued mismanaging personal data.

While there are other ways of targeting your audience, rule of thumb on social media is that almost no other method beats customer files.

2. Mirror mirror on the wall

Say you own a Border Collie training school, have an customer file of loyal Border Collie owners and want to reach new owners.

One way you could expand your audience would be to use the ‘interests interface’ and manually target people who are interested in ‘border collies’.

Olive & Luke, posing peacefully for an article about social media advertising

While you’ll definitely reach people interested in these good doggos, there’s no way of knowing whether these people are also interested in training Border Collies or dog competitions. You could narrow it down by adding ‘dog competitions’, but chances are high people who don’t post on Facebook often or Google much about dog competitions will be omitted.

A more efficient way to expand your audience with relevant new people is using lookalike audiences.

Lookalike audience are mirror audiences created using an existing audience and consist of people with traits and interests similar to your original audience.

This method is also much faster because it uses the power of algorithms to cross-reference different people and detect common traits and interests.

Or put differently, the technology of these ad platforms can find combinations and insights most people wouldn’t have thought of.

Sure, ‘Border Collie’ might be the most important common denominator, but the feature or trait that is unique to Border Collie owners that are interested in training schools and want to do competitions might be a clothing brand or newspaper or some other parameter most people wouldn’t think of.

In any case, the process of compiling a lookalike audience is quite simple:

  1. Upload a customer file or another audience (like website visitors) to your ads manager
  2. Select the size of the lookalike audience; the smaller the size the more accurate
  3. Let Facebook do its algorithimic mojo to compile an audience with features and interest similar to the one you uploaded
  4. ???
  5. Profit

3. A/B/C your X, Y and Z

Life would be so much easier for everyone if all brands possessed troves of customer files, but the reality is that most brands, especially smaller ones, don’t.

And understandably so, because building a relevant customer file takes time. Luckily, you don’t need to have a customer file to advertise effectively.

Thanks to the robust advertising tools of Facebook and its ilk you can reach the people you wanna reach quite easily. And it doesn’t even have to be expensive.

The only thing you need is the proper mind set.

You see, if you don’t have a customer file or any other data on your audience, the most important thing you should do is to to start testing.

Advertising in print usually means delivering your files and praying your campaign will be seen by the right people whereas on social you can A/B /C test your audience (X), creative (Y) , copy (Z) and then some.

Even if you don’t have three months or weeks to test, running split-tests during the first weeks of your campaign will also give you invaluable data that will save you a lot of money down the line.

This is a ridiculous basic tenet of social media advertising, but one that’s ignored too often. Many brands have no idea how much data they can gain and money they can save by running tests.

Sure, you’ll need to create some extra visuals and maybe translate extra copy, but we’re talking about split-testing different versions of the same creative and not two entirely different ones.

4. Tell me what you want, what you really really want

Wrong expectations can make good campaigns look bad and bad campaigns look better than they actually are.

That’s why it’s so important that everyone knows the campaign objective before the campaign is launched.

Not only to manage everyone’s expectations, but also because social ad platforms only allow you to pursue and optimise ads for one objective at a time.

Nothing stops you from splitting your budget over different objectives of course, but most brands with smaller budgets usually don’t have the luxury to run multiple campaigns.

Concretely, this means that an engagement campaign will be optimized towards people within your audiences who are more likely to show engagement (liking, commenting and sharing your posts) whereas a conversion campaign will be optimized towards people who have a higher likelihood of converting (buying something on your website).

Will a post with a good creative and snappy copy optimized for conversion not receive any likes then? Not necessarily, but if your goal is to get engagement there’s a much more efficient way to do it.

5. The best way to predict the future…is by relentlessly testing your ads

There are digital marketeers who will claim they can predict the outcome of a campaign.

And they’re probably right, but there’s not gonna be much predicting without data. The challenge often lies in properly capturing and using data.

The tools, twitches and knobs are readily available and allow you to instantly modify your campaign. If you could instantly replace or optimize a bad performing TV or print ad, you’d to this in a heartbeat, without hesitation. So there’s no excuse not to do this on social as well.

Following the steps in this article may seem straightforward, but you’d be surprised how many people forget or simply ignore them. 

It’s like skipping parts of the manual while assembling an IKEA bed because you tell yourself assembling a bed can’t be that difficult.

And while you might end up with a decent bed, you’ll regret ever skipping those steps when you start getting up every morning with pain in your back.

So if you don’t want lose sleep over your campaigns (or ill-constructed beds) you know what to do: RTFM 😉