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How do I create a paid social strategy?

When it comes to building a paid social strategy, there are a number of steps to take. Let’s dive in.

1. Define your objective

What do you want this paid social campaign/activity to do? It’s important to know what you actually want to achieve as it will affect your account structure, format options, targeting and creative. So choose carefully.

On social we can work to any object across the marketing funnel, from awareness through to conversion. In an ideal world your activity will span all three, but if budget is limited, focus on the area which is most important to you and make sure you are measuring this correctly. Below is by no means an exhaustive list but it’s a good starter for 10 when considering what you want to achieve.


2. Who is your target audience?

No, not everyone is your audience, even if you have a product that feels like it’s for everyone, you’ll still have an ideal customer. Advertising that targets everybody is called “spray and pray”. It’s possible to spray and pray on social ads, but it’s very expensive.

By defining your target audience, you’re able to be much smarter with your budget and will ultimately see better success as everything you do should have the audience in mind, from how to target them through to what creative will engage them.  It’s not revolution, but often people forget the basics.

Start with an audience portrait. Using the customer data you already have, conducting small surveys and using profiling tools such as Yougov. You’ll start to build a picture of who your audience is. To help build this start by trying to answer some questions:

  1. Who are they ( Age, gender, job, have children etc.)
  2. Geographical: regions and individual cities
  3. Motivations for buying: problems or needs
  4. What are the pain point or challenges they face? Are they time poor, money poor?
  5. What type of buyer are they? Do they do due diligence or are they an impulse buyer?

3. Which social platform shall I use?

Once you know your objective and your audience, you’ll be able to choose the right social media network for your marketing campaign. So many people feel that social media equals Facebook, and while in the large it’s usually the best platform as it has such a huge reach across the majority of people, and offers a wide range of objectives, your campaign could be better suited elsewhere. It’s about knowing your target audience and which platform aligns to them and your objective.

For more info on this see: Which is the best social media platform for marketing?

4. How can I target my audience?

Once you’ve decided which social platforms to use, you can explore the detailed audience targeting options available to you on that platform.

Why is targeting so important? Because you’ll see the most success if your ads are served to the relevant audience. Most platforms offer similar targeting options across:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Location
  • Language
  • Interests and behaviours
  • Device type, model, connection and carrier
  • Occupation
  • Lookalike audiences
  • Using CRM or 1st party data
  • Retargeting

Each platform also has its own nuance where you can target people. Below are some examples, it’s by no means an exhaustive list:

    • Facebook and Instagram: Relationship status, Life events
    • Pinterest: Keywords and phrases
    • Twitter: Followers, keywords and #, events
    • Linkedin: more detailed business such as job titles, company size, industry sector, seniority

5. How much budget?

It’s how long is a piece of string. You need to consider a couple of things, firstly as a business what can you realistically afford? How much are you spending on other channels? You should consider the size of your target audience. You also need to allow enough data for the algorithm to be able to work and be able to optimise. You also need to consider how many targeting options you’ve chosen as you don’t want to spread the budget to thin.

You’ll also need to research the cost of adverting in that platform, what is the average CPM. It’s all auction based and it’s dependent on a number of factors such as competition in the market, creative, how well are users receiving your creative as the platforms will penalise you if it’s getting negative responses. As a rule of thumb, think about what you want the outcome to be ie. x number of video views, x number of sales and work out what you need to spend to get there.

For more detail see: How much does it cost to run a paid social campaign?

6. Tracking, KPIs and measurement

Now that we’ve established our objective and who we are targeting, we need to ensure we have platform pixels in place to track our activity. You also need to decide what the KPI is – how are we measuring success? You should refer back to your objective as campaign goals here.

7. Creative

Consider this your shop window – why should customers come inside? Why should someone pick you over the competitor? It goes back to really understanding your customer – use your portrait to consider the message, what pain points can you help overcome? Make sure you are thinking about the platform and how your creative aligns aesthetically, stand out in a noisy space and relate to your target audience. Even with best structure in the world, if the creative isn’t right, you won’t see success.

Our top tips for creative success are:

    • Stories and reels – ensure creative aligns to these placements
    • Think Video and motion – to help your creative stand out
    • Think sound – having a catchy song or the latest music on your creative will help with performance and make it feel more authentic, especially on reels and TikTok
    • Break through the noise – you only have a short amount of time to get people’s attention and get your message across; remember, people haven’t asked for this content
    • Be relevant and relatable – we are all humans, so think about the content and brands you interact with, and why you do so
    • And most importantly have fun (within reason) it’s a social platform!

8. Structure

A good structure is needed to ensure that the algorithm can serve your ads correctly and efficiently. It’s also important for optimisations, so you can clearly understand performance and what is driving that.

In recent months we’ve found structure to be more important than ever, given the changes from Apple. Historically, a more granular campaign with lots of custom audiences would have been the ideal set-up. However, with lack of data visibility, this makes ad sets unable to leave the learning phase and ultimately causes volatile performance.

By merging similar audiences into one ad set, you should be able to collect more data, and improve performance.

We recently took over an account with a very granular setup, split out by age, gender, and interest. We restructured this in line with our new, best practises and saw the following results:

  • CPM decreased by 27% (even over the peak period of BF)
  • Cost per landing page view decreased 61%
  • CTR increased 71%
  • Sales and ROAS increased 600%

Feeding the algorithm more data is one of the most important things right now and you can still be clever with creative and learnings, but you just need to think about the structure in a more holistic way.

9. Optimisation

Now the real fun begins! There are a lot of factors that can influence the success of your ads. Seasonality, world events, time of day, competition entering and exiting the market, effective creative, social network changes, audience targeting, and of course, budget – these things can all cause fluctuation in your metrics.

Things to consider when looking at optimisations:

    • Auction overlap: Shows how often your ad set ended up in the same auction as another from the same account.
    • Audience saturation: Have you exhausted this audience, what’s the ratio between first time views
    • Auction competition: For example, a data point of 5% means that competition for that day is 5% higher than average for your selected time period. As a reference, a data point of 20% indicates high competition, while a data point of -20% indicates low competition. Data points between -20% and 20% should be considered stable.
    • Placement reports: Which placements are driving the most actions and efficiency, is this where you’re spending the correct budget?
    • Pull by day, day of week and monthly – what trends can we spot to help with planning and optimisations?
    • Look at your audiences and creative – which is working better
    • Looking at quality ranking:  Quality is measured using feedback on your ads and the post-click experience. Your ad is ranked against ads that competed for the same audience. It’s score on either below average, aver and above average
    • Look at engagement ranking:  A ranking of your ad’s expected engagement rate. Engagement includes all clicks, likes, comments and shares. Your ad is ranked against ads that competed for the same audience. It’s score on either below average, aver and above average
    • A ranking of your ad’s expected conversion rate. Your ad is ranked against ads with your optimisation goal that competed for the same audience. It’s score on either below average, aver and above average

10. Test, test and more testing

You can do this across several different facets, be that targeting, format or creative. You can’t say for sure what will and won’t work, as every business and audience is different. We believe everything should be tried and tested.

You need to make sure you follow a clear testing plan; people tend to want to test everything at once but with too many variables, how are you able to know what truly made the difference? It also comes back to your objective and making sure you know what you deem to be successful.

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