Social Media Advertising: The Bigger Picture

The options and opportunities for self-serve social media advertising have grown rapidly in the past few years. Individuals and businesses alike now have access to social ad networks on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn. As shown in the revenue growth numbers below, advertisers are not shying away from this new advertising opportunity.

  • Facebook’s advertising revenue grew by 56% from $6.99 billion in 2013 to $10.93 billion in 2014 (source)
  • Twitter’s advertising revenue grew by 84% from $594.9 million in 2013 to $1,095 million in 2014 (source)
  • YouTube’s revenue grew by 51% to $5.6 billion in 2013 (source)
  • LinkedIn’s revenue grew by 45% from $1,529 million in 2013 to $2,219 million in 2014 (source)

With the low barrier to entry and abundance of DIY guides (“Top 10 Tips to Facebook Advertising,” “Ultimate Guide to Twitter Advertising,” “How-To Advertise on YouTube”), organizations may be tempted to launch a new social media advertising campaign themselves, to promote their businesses, products, or events.

If you are thinking about jumping in, I encourage you to pause, take a step back, and look at the bigger picture.

Oftentimes, DIY guides about social media advertising focus on tactics and fail to put campaigns in the context of a brand’s business objectives, target audience, and overall marketing strategy. These articles show you how to do it. The million dollar question is, WHY are you doing it?

Business Objectives

Before deciding whether or not to launch a social media advertising campaign, it is essential to define your brand’s business objectives. After defining the business objectives, you may discover that social media advertising is not be the best channel for achieving your objectives.

If, on the other hand, your clearly defined business objectives can be supported through social media advertising, it’s worth digging in. The next step is to consider which channels (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc. ) and ads are best suited to drive results. For example, if you want to generate business leads, you may decide to run a Twitter Leads campaign or a Facebook campaign that sends people to your website where they can submit a contact form.

How do you decide which channels and tactics are best suited to your objectives? The best place to start is with your customers/clients.

Target Audience

Understanding and defining your target audience is an important step in developing a social media ad campaign. Whether your target audience is well, or poorly, defined can determine the outcome of a campaign. For example, an audience may be defined by: age, location, gender, interest, and many other factors.

Social media ad targeting options have evolved tremendously. This can be great for the advertiser and at the same time, unnerving for social media users. The primary reason for setting targeting options is to ensure your ads are reaching a qualified audience. That is, people who are most likely to act upon your ads. This will help maximize the return on your investment.

In addition to understanding the basic demographic and psychographic targeting factors for your audience, it is also important to be aware of the audience’s state of mind when interacting with social media ads. Unlike search advertising where users are actively looking for the advertised product when your ad appears, social media advertisements are displayed to people who may not be prepared to buy or convert right away. These users are likely in an earlier stage of the consumer buying process:

  1. Problem/need recognition
  2. Information search
  3. Evaluation of alternatives
  4. Purchase decision
  5. Post-purchase behaviour(First introduced by Engel, Blackwell and Kollat)

Social media ads will likely reach users who are in stage 1, whereas search advertising ads tend to reach users who are in stage 2 or 3. Ad copy and design needs to be created accordingly. They need to appeal to users who may not yet be aware they have a problem or need for your product.

Overall Marketing Strategy

Social media advertising is a tool, not a strategy in and of itself.

It is important to consider the other pieces of your overall marketing strategy before launching a social media campaign. Are the other components of your marketing plan working well? Are they regularly monitored and measured? How will your social media ads fit with the other parts of the marketing effort? If your advertising is designed to drive traffic to your website or a specific landing page, it’s essential that destination offers users content that is consistent with the value proposition in the ad. The user experience must be excellent and each destination page should offer clear and measurable calls to action. There’s no point driving traffic to a front door that’s broken.

If the campaign’s objective is to generate sales leads, then the overall marketing strategy will need to consider how to move the leads through the buyer process. For example, with email campaigns, follow-up calls, free trials, etc.


Self serve social media advertising is widely accessible and it looks easy. However, driving results requires careful planning, clearly defined target audiences, objectives and ongoing monitoring, measuring, and adjusting.

We are able to cover only a snippet of what should be considered when developing advertising campaigns on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn. If you would like to discuss social media advertising opportunities for your project, feel free to contact us.

2 comments on “Social Media Advertising: The Bigger Picture

  1. Could you explain “destination offers users content that is consistent with the value proposition in the ad”?

    1. Hi Wang,

      Thanks for your question.

      For example, if an ad’s call to action is “sign up for our newsletter”, the landing page that the user sees after clicking on the ad should include a newsletter sign-up form or some other indication of how to sign up for the newsletter.

      This way, the landing page content is consistent with the user’s expectation when clicking on the ad.


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