How to align paid social creative with the user journey

It’s been a tricky 12 months for paid social marketers. Ongoing reductions in targeting options, increasing CPMs and iOS 14 have all had an impact, making life more difficult for brands and advertisers looking to stand out in a saturated newsfeed.

These challenges make it more and more important to invest in high-impact creative. Content that stops the scroll, grabs attention and – crucially – gets results, is the golden ticket for paid social in 2022. Quality content ensures that brands get noticed, and can be a real defining factor in a campaign’s success.

However, it’s not enough to produce one great piece of content and use it across all of your campaigns. It’s important to align your creative with the user journey, increasing user experience and helping to nudge those users further down the funnel. A poor experience at any part of the journey will affect the likelihood of the user moving down the funnel and becoming a loyal customer.

Not only will aligning your creative with each step of the user journey put you in the best position to drive action, it’ll also keep ad relevance high, which in turn can help keep your ad costs low. Ads that are more relevant can cost less and see more results.

What is the user journey?

Effective user journeys take users who are hearing about your brand for the first time and transport them through the funnel, through to the point where they become loyal, recurring customers – or even brand advocates. In order to achieve this milestone, it’s vital to ensure your creative aligns with each stage of the journey.

There are various different iterations of the user journey, but many paid social marketers focus on the following framework: Awareness, Consideration, Action. 

Awareness: Top of funnel activity, attracting new people who are currently unaware of your brand.
Consideration: Middle of funnel activity, focused around standing out among your competition so that new audience members remember you.
Action: Bottom of the funnel activity, compelling your audience to take action such as make a purchase.

Let’s take a look at the types of creative you should be using for each of these stages.

1. Awareness

When it comes to the awareness stage, you’ll likely be using broad targeting, with the aim to expose a wide audience of people to your brand and help keep filling up the funnel. (They call it prospecting for a reason!). These people will be unfamiliar to your brand, haven’t visited your website, and are interested in engaging, informative content.

At this stage, hero content is a great way to engage users. Video content is a perfect fit – if you don’t have the resource for video, at least animate your images to make them move. Side note – don’t worry about making your video slick and polished – lo-res, authentic content is ideal for social, and often performs better than over-produced videography.

Make sure that your content is adding value to the user experience. After all, you’re disrupting their time spent on social media, so you’ll need to educate, inform or entertain in order to make an impact. Keeping your creative in line with the platform is also crucial – do your research and see what other brands are doing, and always optimise for each platform and placement (square creative on an Instagram is a common error!).

Awareness content is all about growing familiarity, so that your lower funnel activity is more effective. Aim to establish an emotional connection with your audience and, most importantly, grab attention and stop the scroll. If you’ve got strong organic social content that has performed well, consider putting budget behind these posts as your top of funnel activity.

Example ad types: Brand Awareness Ads, Video View Ads, Reach Ads


2. Consideration

Moving down the funnel, consideration activity is targeted at people who are somewhat familiar with your brand – people who may have been to your site. These people know they have a need and are looking for someone to offer a solution.

In this stage of the funnel, you’ll want to use informative content that helps these users make a decision. Showcasing videos of your product in action, influencer and user-generated content can all help persuade the user that your brand is the right fit for them. Addressing the user’s pain points head on is an effective way to communicate and keep your ads hyper-relevant.

The consideration stage is also a great time to add in testimonials and customer reviews – if you’ve got five-star ratings, flaunt them. Users will likely be shopping around, so you want to paint your brand in the best light in order for them to pick you.

Ultimately, the goal is to convince the user that your brand can help the user service their needs. A great way to find angles for your consideration creative is to read through customer reviews and feedback, then reverse engineer their feedback into pain points that you can solve for prospective customers.

Example ad types: Traffic Ads, Lead Ads

happy beds consideration ad

3. Action

Time for the money maker. At this point you’re communicating to people who know your brand name, are likely to have visited site at least once and are closer to making a purchase decision.

At this point you’ll want to be direct – get straight to the point. It’s important to show your product’s price, and evoking a sense of urgency can help encourage users to take action now.

Many successful conversion ads include offers or incentives, such as new customer discounts or free shipping. Anything you can offer to reduce the barrier to purchase, the more likely you are to win that conversion.

It’s important to take into consideration the audience and their past behaviour – if you’re using retargeting activity make it dynamic and personal to the user. If the customer has already had an item in their basket, reference this directly to them in the ad copy.

Example ad types: Conversion Ads, Dynamic Catalogue Ads

bensons action ad

Remember, the user journey varies depending on the business. What works for one brand may not work for you. Before designing your creative, take the time to understand what you’re trying to achieve at each stage of the user journey – this will help you identify the kind of creative needed for each stage.

If you’d like to find out more about Paid Social, get in touch with the CreativeRace team for more tips and advice, as well an audit of your ad accounts.

About the author: Meg heads up the Paid Social team at CreativeRace and has over 11 years’ experience spanning both agency and in-house roles. Past clients include ASDA, TK Maxx and ScS.