The number one thing I’ve been asked about in 2015 is social media advertising. Why? Well, any business owner, in-house marketer etc that has their finger on the pulse tends to be aware of the fact that the social media marketing landscape has shifted in a big way in the past 2-3 years, with much more emphasis on the paid side of things.

That shift has rapidly advanced in the past 10 months, with each key platform offering new ad products (see Facebook’s new lead generating ads), units and options at an ear-shattering pace. I don’t know why I typed ‘ear-shattering’ there or what it even means, but I’m going to roll with it. For most businesses, social media advertising has a lot to offer, yet, I still speak to people that are hesitant to try it out, fully embrace it, or even consider that it should be a part of their digital marketing output.


Just last week I was at a ‘networking’ dinner and had a chat with the owner of small chain of coffee shops here in Edinburgh who was bemoaning the fact that their reach and interaction on Facebook had plummeted in the past six months (that’ll be the reach choke-hold in full-effect). This was in-turn leading to less people discovering his units via Facebook and then making their first visit (he ensures all staff ask how people found out about their shops). Coffee chap explained to me that he spends money on print ads and nowhere else and wasn’t convinced that any paid digital activity would be worthwhile.

Over a mildly satisfying plate of chicken served with other stuff, I managed to persuade the fellow to give some Facebook ads a shot with the aim of driving people to his door. He’ll be coming back to me with results soon. Where am I going with this? Well, I thought I’d share with you the key things I said to Mr Coffee in order to convince him that paid social would be worth a shot, and hopefully if you’re considering it then this may help you too.

You don’t need a fortune to give it a go…

As with many forms of advertising, people often think it’s going to cost them an arm-and-a-leg. One of the nice aspects of paid social is that a small budget can create a meaningful output. Here’s an example ad…

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 16.28.08

If I wanted to keep things local, I could target 100,000 people living in Edinburgh, between the ages of 18-55, with an interest in marketing (this could be extended to further relevant interests). If I decided to spend a max of £30 doing this over the course of seven days, Facebook estimates that I could reach 1,700 to 4,400 people per day.

Each click would cost 27 – 53p – this may actually be lower than that (or higher, but I’ve rarely found that to be the case). So, that £30 could send 111 relevant people to that article. Of course, I’d need to make sure I have a process in place for what happens once they land on that article inorder to create true and measurable value for the business. An example of this could be an attempt to get them to sign-up to my newsletter, however, ensuring that any visitor is relevant is a the first hurdle. That pricing is attractive as far as I’m concerned and you can take the data from a test such as this and decide whether to increase spend in the future. A word to the wise – use ads that drive people to your site or content, spending money to get new Likes (fans), followers etc is complete folly as far as I’m concerned.

No mega-bucks required! Start with small budgets and take it from there! 

PicMonkey Collage

It’s seriously flexible

The first point focusses on Facebook, however, each platform (for this purpose, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) has a number of targeting, budgeting and creative options. In the point above, I mentioned cost per click (CPC) – these fluctuate, and you really should be monitoring your ads on a daily basis to make sure you’re comfortable with the current cost (you can cap it too), however, you can pause you ads at any time. This is great if you are concerned about the cost or the return on that spend. Across the platforms you can tweak your variables to attempt to reduce that cost or increase your response, or simply decide to stop the ad entirely.

Mr Coffee from the start of this post told me he spends a lot of money on print ads. There’s zero flexibility there – you pay your money and then hope that people that read whatever the publication is actually see your ads and then act on them. With social ads, you have the flexibility to spend as and when you want, without front-loading your costs. Every platform works on a ‘pay as you play’ system.


The Yoga doesn’t stop there though, and another key advantage of social media advertising is the ability to get granular with your targeting. Each platform has a plethora of targeting options, from standard options such as geographic or demographic, to interest based all the way up to lifestyle based. Selling engagement rings? Why not target people who just said yes? Facebook can do that for you. It gets pretty creepy.

On Facebook and Twitter you can target people that interact or like/follow your competitors – tread carefully, but if you’re feeling ballsy, then this could be a great route. The ways in which to target people really are vast (want to hit people while they commute? You can!) and are improving all the time.

Advertising nowadays is all about being relevant to the consumer’s needs and their current context – social media ads allow you to live up to that mantra. 

It allows you to target people when they’re warm

No, I don’t mean while they are in the bath. Although if your targets have little regard for the safety of their mobile-devices then you may well be targeting them while they soak! Got an email database of your customers or perhaps people that have made an enquiry etc in the past? You can feed that list into Facebook and Twitter and as long as those email addresses match up to active Facebook or Twitter accounts, you can then serve them ads while they are on the social platform (and beyond with Facebook’s Audience Network).

Got a website? I really hope you didn’t say no to that question! If you responded in the affirmative, then you’ll be delighted to know that Facebook and Twitter allow you to target people that have previously visited your site. Warm, oh so warm.


In summary…

Why should you be at least giving social media advertising a shot?

  • 1 – It doesn’t have to cost you a fortune
  • 2 – It’s so flexible
  • 3 – It allows you to be relevant, within the right context and target warmer leads

Before this post ends, I’d like to add that you should be thinking about social media ads as part of your overall marketing strategy, making sure to truly define what their purpose is and what you will perceive as success. Your paid social activity must also be underpinned by excellent organic social media output.

If those reasons aren’t enough for you, then please feel free to give me a call on 0131 344 4599 (+44131 344 4599 from overseas) or email me and I’ll be more than happy to expand on these points and answer any questions you may have. Also feel free to leave a comment on this post (scroll down…) or tweet me @mike_mcgrail.

Watch my Turing Festival talk ‘Social Media, Pay to Play or Fade Away’ here.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d really appreciate it if you’d share it with your social media pals, you can do so with the buttons just at the end of the post! 

All images via Shutterstock.

Latest podcast

blog comments powered by Disqus

Get in touch