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The more social platforms your company is on, the more likely it’ll appear in search engine results. Search engines look at interactions on social media to determine authority and relevancy to your website and brand. Each platform – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest – is unique to its audience and advertising optionsChris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Social media advertising not only increases online visibility, but it also gathers important data to help tailor marketing strategies and tactics. Social analytics shows what posts best resonate with an audience by the number of clicks, rates of engagement, or other conversions.

The more social platforms your company is on, the more likely it'll appear in search engine results. Search engines look at interactions on social media to determine authority and relevancy to your website and brand. Each platform – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest – is unique to its audience and advertising options.

Before you start a paid social media campaign, you need to have a plan that best targets your audience and supports conversions. It's crucial to have an effective paid social strategy so your business reaps the benefits – it may be cool to have brand awareness, but it's more important to drive the bottom line.

Here are 10 questions you should be asking before you get started.

1. How should I get started? The first step is to connect your brand to the target audience and identify the platforms they use. This is important because every post needs to be relevant to your company. Agencies should recommend a strategy based on your objectives, industry and budget.

2. What platforms should I advertise on? This is dependent on several factors such as the type of industry, business objectives and target audience. You should determine whether your goal is to build brand awareness and loyalty, or to sell products and services. For example, LinkedIn is a great tool if you're a B2B company looking to network and Facebook is great platform if you're in a B2C space selling products and creating brand relationships.

3. How do you measure success? To determine the success of a campaign, key performance indicators are based on conversions, impressions, clicks, lead generation and referral traffic to your website. It is important to look at the quantity and quality of audience reach and engagement indicated by the number of followers, likes, shares, retweets, repins, etc. Ideally, you want these indicators to turn into conversions for the best return on investment.

4. How much do I have to spend? This depends on which social platform(s) you decide on using, geographic location, duration or ad placement and the number of people you are trying to reach. For example, Facebook and Twitter have options to limit maximum or total bids, or to set daily and lifetime budgets.

5. Will you use existing content, or create new content? There is nothing wrong with repurposing existing content, but an agency should always be crafting new information to post. Typically, you can use the same content across platforms, keeping in mind different character limitations. If you have the same followers on each platform, an agency should occasionally aim to produce unique content.

6. How does social CPC (cost-per-click) compare to traditional PPC (pay-per-click)? Paid search engine and social media ads differ in a number of ways. First, a target audience on search engines is intent-based and a social media audience is interest-based. Second, paid search ads have better targeting features than paid social media, although platforms such as Facebook is continuously improving by offering demographic, interests and behavior targeting. Agencies should recommend using a combination of paid search and social ads.

7. How could Facebook advertising work for my business? Facebook has created a number of paid opportunities and specific ad designs to reach a target audience based on the strategy of your business objectives. Status updates that are resonating with an organic base can be easily turned into an ad and distributed to reach users beyond your following. This can help with website conversions, page likes, app engagement and event responses. It's recommended that businesses use both News Feed and side ads as there tends to be a higher impressions and engagement rates when both types of ads are executed together.

8. How could sponsoring content on Twitter work for my business? Twitter offers a variety of ad formats and layouts to achieve your objectives, as well as targeting your audience by keywords, interests, location, gender, device and more. For example, if you want users to go to your website, the URL is included in the ad, while a code is placed on your website for tracking. Another popular advertising method is promoted tweets where businesses can advertise new or existing content that will only appear to the selected audience.

9. How could LinkedIn advertising work for my business? Businesses can post ads for as little as $10 with the option of cost-per-click, or per 1,000 impressions. An agency should target an audience by job title, job function, age, gender, company name, or even by industry and is best suited for B2B companies.

10. How will advertising on Pinterest work for my business? Similar to Facebook and Twitter, this platform uses hashtags and ads will appear in the home feed of users. However, businesses can only pay on a cost per impression structure, while a cost-per-click is still in beta. Unique to this site is the ability to pin pictures onto bulletin-like boards where any user can re-pin your content, or access websites linked to the ad.

Jennifer Osborne is a digital marketing expert. She is the President of Search Engine People Inc. (SEP), Canada's largest digital marketing firm, which has been on the PROFIT 100 ranking of Canada's Fastest Growing Companies for the past five consecutive years and named one of PROFIT Magazine's 50 Fastest Growing Companies in the Greater Toronto Area. Jennifer has been named as one of Canada's top women entrepreneurs.

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