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Social Media Advertising: A Beginner’s Guide to Paid Social

Everything You Need to Know to Get Started with Paid Social Media Ad Campaigns

Person holding up mobile phone showing social media apps

Social media advertising (also referred to as social network advertising, social media targeting, and social media marketing) is a term used to describe paid digital advertising that focuses on social media networks or platforms. 

Table of Contents


Social Media Advertising Basics

Social Media Advertising is More Than a Trend

Facebook Advertising Basics for Beginners

Should you Create a Snapchat Account for Your Business?

A Brief Look at Instagram Advertising

An Overview of LinkedIn Marketing Solutions

Using Pinterest Ads to Drive Sales

Social media advertising gives advertisers incredibly granular control over ad targeting to reach the audiences you want and avoid those that won’t convert. 

Topic One

Social Media Advertising Basics

With more than 4.5 billion mobile phone users worldwide and approximately 3.7 billion active mobile social media users globally, social media is on the move—literally. Social platforms are not constrained to our laptops, so why should advertising be?


The surge of mobile phone use for web browsing, shopping, and connecting with friends, has challenged advertisers to keep up with the latest trends and businesses to reimagine their marketing. Are you capitalizing on social media advertising, or are you floundering in a sea of too many options?

Let’s take a look at what you need to know about effective social media advertising strategies

Topic Two

Social Media Advertising is More Than a Trend

2019 was the first year that social media ad spend outperformed print advertising. Much of the growth in social media ad spend comes from small and medium-sized businesses investing in these digital ad channels. 

As of January 2021, the 6 most popular social networks worldwide are:

  1. Facebook
  2. YouTube
  3. WhatsApp
  4. Instagram
  5. Weixin/WeChat
  6. TikTok

Also making the top 20 list were: Reddit (an emerging platform for ads), Snapchat, Pinterest, and Twitter. 



Many businesses use multiple channels in their growth strategy, as well as a combination of organic posts and paid social media ads. Which social media platforms do you utilize for your digital advertising strategy

Social Media Advertising Engagement

How much do you know about your audience? 

Chances are you have a pretty good idea of who your customers are, but this doesn’t mean you know exactly how to reach them. That’s why companies advertise, after all. 

If you’re looking to add social media to your marketing strategy or need to figure out how to optimize your social media ads, you’ll need to consider which platform is best for your brand.

With a number of platforms to choose from, how can you find the right social network site to fit your ad strategy? 

When it comes to social media advertising, context is as—if not more—important than content. The same content that excels on Instagram is probably not going to drive the same response from consumers on Twitter.

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In a 2018 study about engagement with social media and advertising, researchers set out to learn more about how audiences engage with social media advertising among different platforms. They found that advertisers must adapt their content to the platform they're using or utilize those platforms that best match the goals and objectives of their ads.

“All in all, managers should understand that digital engagement is highly context specific and that each social media platform has strengths and weaknesses that must be considered before buying social media advertising.”

 Engagement with Social Media and Social Media Advertising: The Differentiating Role of Platform Type

This implies that smart advertisers need to think beyond just knowing your audience on social media and get to know your audience's engagement habits.

Quick Tips for Running Successful Paid Social Media Ad Campaigns

  • Understand your audience and what influences them to buy.
  • Follow best practice guides provided by each platform.
  • Anticipate how consumers interact with types of ads and social media platforms.
  • Test ad formats and creative to determine what works best. 
  • Analyze performance to see what is influencing your customer.
  • Don’t be scared of spending money for the results you want.

Tips adapted from Where Brands Go Wrong in Social Media Advertising


Topic Three

Facebook Advertising Basics for Beginners

Facebook ads were unveiled in 2007 as a platform to connect businesses with consumers using target advertising. Since then, Facebook has become a marketing powerhouse.

Think about this: 1.84 billion people use Facebook every day, and your customers are among them.

Facebook gives businesses 3 distinct channels for advertising efforts: 

  • Facebook Ads
  • Video Ads
  • Facebook Pages


Through a sophisticated set of insights and selections to narrow your audience, Facebook breaks down the advertising process into easily digestible bits. Facebook is an especially powerful tool for eCommerce advertising, especially those just getting off the ground.

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Challenges Using Facebook Ads

Facebook is a top pick for many advertisers, but using this platform does present some challenges to users.

The huge range of ad options can be overwhelming for those advertisers who might just be getting started with campaign initiatives. Beginners may find that having so many options for narrowing audiences and tracking outcomes confusing, if not completely overwhelming.


On top of that, businesses advertising on Facebook must pay close attention to Facebook ad policies, especially for ads that might toe Facebook’s classification restrictions for political/societal entities

Luckily, Facebook’s Ad Guide is comprehensive, and with enough research and practice even beginners will be able to take advantage of this powerful social media advertising tool.

How does Facebook Deliver Ads?

If Facebook’s process for how ads display to users is confusing to you, you’re not the only one. Facebook’s team recently answered the question: “How does Facebook deliver ads?” as part of an effort to demystify this process. Let’s take a look.

  1. Ads will show based on two main factors: audience targeting selected by you (the advertiser) and the results of Facebook’s ad auction

  2. Advertisers choose a target audience using Facebook’s targeting tools.

  3. Facebook’s system will gather ads that include the advertiser’s targeted audience. These ads advance to the auction stage.

  4. In the auction stage, Facebook selects top ads to show users based on total value score.


Topic Four

Should you Create a Snapchat Account for Your Business?

Snapchat might not be the first social media platform you think of for your advertising efforts, but it’s certainly a platform worth exploring. Snapchat reaches an average of 229 million users a day—that’s a lot of potential buying power!

snap ads

This platform is a great channel for diversifying your advertising strategy at a low expense. Snapchat even boasts that businesses can launch ad campaigns for as little as $5 a day.

With Snapchat ads, marketers can utilize the Instant Create and Advanced Create features to build eye-catching ads within the site’s ad manager. These features are helpful tools for less experienced advertisers to get their feet wet with ad creative.

Costs of Advertising on Snapchat

According to Snapchat, the “exact cost of advertising on Snapchat can fluctuate depending on a number of factors such as your selected advertiser objective, your selected budget, the duration of your campaign, your bid goal, and your bid amount.”

The minimum daily spend requirement is just $5 to begin delivering ads to your target audience.

Snapchat uses goal-based bidding, which allows advertisers to optimize their ads towards specific actions they believe a Snapchatter will take. Such actions might include downloading an app or watching a video. 

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Targeting Audiences on Snapchat

Do you want to find customers in a particular location, with specific interests, and part of a targeted demographic? Snapchat has you covered with these campaign optimization tools:

Capture snap target

Advertisers can use the Snap Pixel to measure the impact of their campaigns across devices. All you need to do is:

1. Create your Snap Pixel in the Ads Manager account.

2. Paste the Pixel code on your website.

3. Track Pixel data in your dashboard. 

Voila! Millions of Snapchat users are now just an ad campaign away.

Topic Five

A Brief Look at Instagram Advertising

Instagram may be owned by Facebook, but the platforms are far from the same. Instagram users tell stories through images, meaning that for businesses and advertisers, compelling creative rules the roost. 

However, Instagram ads are run through Facebook’s Ad Manager, so while your process for developing ad creative might look different, you don’t have to go through the trouble of relearning backend setup. 

Instagram gives businesses 5 distinct methods for advertising: 

  • Stories Ads
  • Photo Ads
  • Video Ads
  • Carousel Ads
  • Collection Ads
  • Ads in Explore

That’s quite a few options to choose from, making Instagram an appealing tool for testing ad creative.

Two people holding phones while on Instagram


Using Instagram Stories vs. Feed for Ads

Instagram provides two unique methods for delivering content: stories and feed. 

Instagram Stories launched in 2016. The content shows up full-screen on mobile devices and disappears after 24 hours. Instagram feed content launched years before in 2010. The content takes up a smaller proportion of the screen and permanently remains on an account unless deleted by the user. 


In an international survey conducted by Facebook IQ, users ages 13-55 from Brazil, Indonesia, the UK, and the US offered their insights on Instagram Stories vs. Instagram feed. According to the survey results, as of 2017 more than half of Instagram users globally view both stories and their feed daily. 

Facebook IQ chart

Respondents indicated that they are more likely to visit Stories to see live, unfiltered content that’s unique and feels exclusive. An example of this could be behind-the-scenes action at a big event. Users were more likely to use their feed to view a wide range of reasons, including to learn new information or discover products or brands. 

Based on this study, Instagram advertisers can take away that it's best to use feed content for informative posts and timeless content, and utilize stories to share exciting authentic-feel content.

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Instagram for eCommerce

Instagram is a very effective tool for eCommerce businesses and the platform offers functionalities to support online retailers. According to a survey from eMarketer, an estimated 75% of US-based respondents are using Instagram in their brand marketing efforts. 

According to research from VidMob, 6 in 10 consumers have followed a new brand based on seeing an eye-catching or interesting Instagram ad. Additionally, of a survey of 1,000 respondents between ages 16-45, one-third indicated purchasing a product directly from Instagram.

updates insta

In 2020, Instagram announced new Commerce Eligibility Requirements to expand Instagram Shopping access to more business types. 

“Any eligible business or creator account with at least one eligible product can use shopping tags to drive people to their website to make a purchase. US businesses that are part of our checkout test on Instagram can drive people to purchase directly in the app.”

 Instagram for Business Blog

Topic Six

An Overview of LinkedIn Marketing Solutions

LinkedIn boasts over 50 million company listings and 90 thousand school accounts. Around 690 million people use LinkedIn personal accounts from 200 countries worldwide.

LinkedIn Membership Map Numbers

This platform is unlike other social networking sites because it is intended for use in business and career networking. Whereas Facebook and Snapchat users are interested largely in entertainment value, LinkedIn users are all business (pun intended).

Advertisers on LinkedIn have the opportunity to take creative approaches that might not necessarily work on other social media platforms.

For example, in 2015, Mercedes-Benz took advantage of LinkedIn’s unique targeting capabilities to reach potential car buyers. By narrowing their audience to users who had recently recorded a promotion, Mercedes-Benz marketers used a personalized approach to warm their audience.

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LinkedIn Ads For B2B Marketing Success

LinkedIn’s platform has more focused use than platforms like Instagram or Facebook. Because of this, LinkedIn is especially well-suited for B2B relationship-building. The B2B buyer’s process tends to be a long, involved timeline compared to that of a typical eCommerce customer, and LinkedIn fosters relationships of trust and credibility.

An advantage of LinkedIn for B2B marketing success is that the information provided helps marketers easily find decision-makers by targeting campaigns to specific job titles/roles and behaviors.

Digital Trust Ranking 2020Source: Business Insider

In 2020, LinkedIn was rated #1 in the digital trust ranking according to Business Insider Intelligence. This results in your branded content on LinkedIn getting a vote of confidence because users have heavily curated their connections and follows to trusted sources.

LinkedIn has nurtured their Marketing Solutions processes to assist B2B marketers and make it easier to create a tailored buyer’s journey. 


Topic Seven

Using Pinterest Ads to Drive Sales

Pinterest is an image-sharing social media network with approximately 300 million active users. Users view images from crafts, home decor, recipes, and more and can “pin” these to personal boards. In many ways, Pinterest is an aspirational social media platform.

pin stats

With a whopping 85% of Pinterest users on the mobile app, this platform reaches audiences on web browsers and mobile devices. 

Pinterest for eCommerce 

Pinterest is an ideal platform for eCommerce ads. For one thing, over 80% of weekly users have made a purchase based on a pin they liked. 

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Shopify and Pinterest recently launched a new collaborative channel to help online retailers integrate their products into the Pinterest experience. Shopify merchants can turn existing products into Pins and add a shopping tab to their Pinterest profile. Talk about a seamless experience!

Pinterest Features for D2C eCommerce Success

Some other Pinterest features built to assist eCommerce success are:

  • Pinners can shop from a board.
  • Users can shop from a search.
  • Pinterest searches will bring up shoppable style guides with visual recommendations for home goods.
  • Verified Merchants will get a blue check on their profile and gain access to tools for high-intent shopping experiences. 
  • A scene-based complementary recommendation system called Complete The Look.


Shop the Look on Pinterest