Social media is an excellent way to build relationships with your target audience and customers as well as amplify your marketing message. Paid options offered through a variety of social media platforms mean businesses now have the opportunity to be even more targeted with their social networking.

A recent survey by Vizu found three out of four advertisers surveyed used paid social media in their marketing strategies, and 64% of respondents planned to increase their paid social media investment during 2013.

Paid social media options include promoted posts and ads on Facebook, LinkedIn ads, promoted tweets on Twitter and sponsored blog posts.

How paid social media works

Facebook ads – can be used to promote a new business page, an event or to direct traffic to your website and boost sales. These can be targeted via location, demographics and even interests so you can ensure you’re reaching the right people. Ads are charged on a cost per click or impression basis.

Facebook promoted posts – appear higher in the news feed than organic posts, so that means more people will see your post. Use Facebook Insights to see what your followers respond to most. You set a budget for the lifetime of the post and Facebook will estimate how many people that will reach.

Twitter – promoted tweets can be used to gain more followers or direct followers to a sales page. They are charged on a cost per engagement basis, with engagement meaning a retweet, reply or a click on the link.

LinkedIn – ads are positioned on pages throughout LinkedIn, such as profile, home or search pages, with businesses using them to promote services and products. Again, you can target by location and demographics, plus title and industry. You pay for the clicks or impressions received.

Sponsored posts – many bloggers now offer sponsorship in the form of advertising, or product giveaways and reviews. If you know the blogger connects with your target market, these posts can be used to build your brand and direct traffic.

Pros of paying for social media

Paying for social media can get quicker results in the target market you’re looking for. It works well if you’re aiming for these objectives:

  • Starting conversations – paid social media can allow you to specifically target your potential customers and speed up the conversations you have with them online.

  • Lead generation – drive traffic to a specific platform or URL to build followers or entice customers with a special offer.

  • Brand awareness – Facebook and LinkedIn ads can both help with brand awareness because you can pin-point interested potential customers who want exactly what your business offers. This is a great strategy to build an audience initially or increase your market reach with a particular segment of the market.

  • Social media promotions – if you already have an active social media network, a paid promotion for a new marketing campaign or competition can really ramp up your results.

Cons of paying for social media

As the cost of paid social media is usually based on performance through click-throughs and engagement, it is fairly low risk, but there are some things to consider before jumping into a big commitment:

  • Alienating your networks – in the same way that we often find something else to do during ad breaks on television, paid ads on social media can make people switch off your brand. Make sure any social media advertising you do is part of an overall marketing strategy so the ads aren’t the only time your networks hear from you.

  • Hitting the wrong target – do your research before investing in any paid social media because even though the campaigns are measured on performance, if you get the target audience wrong it will be a waste of your time.

How to measure paid social media

Click-throughs, extra followers and engagement are often used to measure ROI of paid social media advertising, however other metrics also include sales and increased brand awareness within the target market.

Social media is here to stay, and more paid options will become available as these platforms find more ways to help you amplify your message.

Catriona Pollard
BY Catriona Pollard ON 16 May 2013
Director, CP Communications, which provides specialist PR and social media strategies that achieve positive media coverage, increased brand awareness and improved sales results.