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A Guide to Paid Social Advertising for Business


Introduction - Shifting Social Landscape

With over 2.9 billion projected users for 2020, social media is a great platform for businesses to reach a mass audience, attracting both existing and new customers. 

When social media first started having an impact, all a company needed to do was set up an account, post frequently and be ‘seen’. 

Fast forward to now and it’s much more than having a social presence; a business needs to create exciting content, engage with their audience, introduce messaging, groups, chatbots, the list goes on!

There are many obstacles that businesses will have to tackle in order to succeed on social platforms. While monitoring your analytics, you may have noticed that your organic reach is declining. The primary reason for this is… *dun dun dun* the dreaded ‘algorithm’.

Introduction - Algorithm Explained

You’ve probably heard the word ‘algorithm’ thrown around alot when talking about social media. Recently, there has been an influx of content (beware the fake news, guys) as more accounts pop up, meaning it’s too difficult to show users every single post from the people and companies they follow.

This is why the four major platforms - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn - are shifting towards a user-friendly feed, typically placing content from friends and family first, ultimately putting businesses at a disadvantage. 

In January 2018, Mark Zuckerberg made an announcement regarding Facebook’s algorithm:

“The first changes you'll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.

As we roll this out, you'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard -- it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

The main thing we know about the algorithm is that the more engagement you get and the more people appear to enjoy your posts, the higher your post will be shown in the News Feed. 

But what if your audience isn’t that engaged? Or what if your business has just ventured into social media marketing? That’s where paid social comes in.

Introduction - Paid Social

Paid social can be defined as an advert or sponsored post shown to social media users based on specific user demographics (age, gender, location, interests, etc). Based on your ad setup, you can pay per impression or by click.

While SMEs can succeed without sponsored posts, if you have the budget, you should definitely invest in social media advertising. Not only can you boost your reach to attract your existing audience as well as prospects, but there are many other objectives you can focus on to help you meet your business goals. From engagement to website traffic, conversions to remarketing, paid social is for advanced marketers that want to further their existing marketing strategy.

Facebook Advertising

From its initial origin of bringing college friends together, Facebook has transformed from just another social network to a powerful marketing platform for businesses.

In fact, 93% of marketers on the platform use Facebook advertising regularly!

So, why use Facebook Advertising?

Facebook is the biggest social media platform, with 2.23 billion unique users every month. A massive audience base comes with great potential to get your business seen. 

However, organic posts alone just won’t cut it nowadays, a study from Edgerank Checker found that from 2012 to 2014, the organic reach of a Facebook Page dropped from 16% to 6.5%. This decline in organic reach is continuing to drop, meaning it is essential to incorporate Facebook Advertising to boost your page posts as well as create dark posts (ads that don’t show up in your timeline).


When creating your ad, think about what you want to achieve. Facebook splits its objectives into the three stages of the buyer’s journey; Awareness, Consideration and Conversion. 

The Awareness objective can be used to spread the word about your brand and generate interest (top-funnel).

  • Brand Awareness
  • Reach

The Consideration objective gets people to find out more information about your company and its product/service (mid-funnel).

  • Traffic
  • App Installs
  • Engagement
  • Video Views
  • Lead Generation
  • Messages

The Conversion objective encourages people to actually purchase your product or service (bottom-funnel).

  • Conversions
  • Catalogue Sales
  • Store Visits

Putting these objectives into practice, if you want to focus on Brand Awareness then you might want to show your ad to the maximum amount of people as possible (Reach objective). On the other hand, if you want to try your hand at remarketing and re-engage previous buyers then you might use your Facebook Pixel data - more on this later - to drive conversions from people who already know, and love, your brand (Conversion objective). 


From September 2019, Facebook is making advertisers set budgets at the campaign level rather than the ad-set level. 

Campaign budget optimisation means that Facebook will be responsible to allocate budget across top-performing ad sets. You can, however, set minimum and maximum spend limits at the ad-set level. 

For your overall campaign budget, you can choose to spend a single amount daily or a total overall spend (lifetime). If you are creating an ad for a limited time offer or an upcoming event, you can schedule your ad to start and stop on a specific time and date.


Now it’s time to think about whom you want to target your ad to. You can segment your audience by location, age, gender, language and interests. There is also the option to exclude interest types in order to minimise any wasted ad spend.

If you’d rather target people who have already interacted with your business, you can use connection types to show ads to people that have engaged with your Page, app or Facebook events.

Alternatively, you can create custom or lookalike audiences based on other activity. For example, with custom audiences, you can add people from a customer file, website traffic (using Facebook Pixel), app activity, offline activity or Facebook/Instagram activity. Lookalike audiences are determined by Facebook and are people that closely resemble your existing page followers, so they may have an interest in your company’s product or service.

Once you are happy with your audience, you can give it a name and save it for future use - a helpful option if you have specific buyer personas in mind when creating your ads.


Facebook recommends automatic placements in which the social media platform will allocate your budget across multiple placements based on where your ads will perform best.

However, you can opt to edit placements in which you can choose from the following:

  • Facebook Feed
  • Facebook Right Column
  • Facebook Stories
  • Instagram
  • Audience Network
  • Messenger

In 2012, Facebook Inc. bought Instagram which means you can create an ad on Instagram through Facebook without actually having an Instagram account. But you can’t create an ad on the native Instagram app without having a Facebook Page - it’s crazy, we know! - but we’ll go into more detail about that later in this ebook. 


When creating your ad, you can choose to boost an existing post from your timeline or create a new ad. 

If you’re starting from scratch, there are a number of ad formats to consider such as video, image, carousel and much more, depending on which objective you choose at the start. 

PRO-TIP: Carousel ads are made up of a selection of up to 10 images, which can contain their own separate URL, encouraging users to scroll along to find out more information and interact with your brand. These types of ads have been found to reduce your Cost Per Acquisition by 30-50% and decrease Cost Per Click by 20-30%, according to Facebook Business.

Make your ad compelling to engage a prospective customer by adding a headline, description text, website URL and CTA. Facebook have strict advertising policies which you must take into consideration, including the amount of text in your images, any content that might be prohibited and restricted content - such as the sale of alcohol, supplements and weight loss products.

Once you have finished making your ad, it will be reviewed before appearing in your chosen placements. Facebook will look at your ad’s images/videos, text, targeting and positioning as well as your landing page. After this process, you will receive a notification to explain if your ad has been approved or not. If your advert has been disapproved wrongfully, you can appeal the decision via Ads Manager or the Help Centre.

A quick warning - if too many ads are disapproved, then you can risk having your whole ad account shut down by Facebook, so make sure to check each ad against Facebook’s policies before submitting it for review. 

Ads Manager

Don’t set it and forget it! You must constantly monitor your ads in order to avoid wasting your budget. Focus on your primary objective - which may be clicks, post engagement or conversions - and check the cost per goal against your ROI. If it costs £3.00 per conversion but the sale is worth £50.00, you can deduce that the ad is worthwhile.

Look further into your campaign to see how each ad-set is performing. Take into consideration the relevance score each ad has got. If there’s a poor performing ad not receiving any engagement or interaction, it would be smart to turn it off to give your best performing ad the additional budget.

Also, don’t forget to check out the frequency of each ad which will tell you, on average, how many times a user has seen that particular ad. After so many times, your audience will get sick of seeing the same ad and may hide it or even report it. An easy fix to beat ad fatigue is to extend your existing audience or change your ad up every so often to keep your content fresh.

Ad Transparency

One thing to note is that while you can target your ads to a specific audience, everyone can, in fact, see your business’ running ads. “What do you mean?!” I hear you exclaim. Well, in 2018, Facebook added a new tab on each Page named ‘Info and Ads’ to give transparency to its users. By clicking this tab, you can see any ads that a business is running at a given time. 

But don’t think of it as a bad thing. Ever wanted to see what your competitors are up to? Now you can get inspiration from other companies without hoping to pass the ad on your News Feed!

Facebook Pixel

Facebook Pixel is similar to Google Analytics in that you place a snippet of code onto your website in order to track user interaction. By implementing the Facebook Pixel, you will be able to create remarketing audiences and track conversions as a result of your ads - a great next step once you’re comfortable with basic Facebook ads.

Pixel Setup

It’s important not to overcomplicate the process while setting up your Facebook Pixel. If you’re comfortable editing the HTML on your website, give it a whirl. If you’d rather err on the side of caution, get your web developer to help you set it up. 

  1. Head over to Facebook Events Manager.
  2. Select Facebook Pixel which can work with either your website and/or mobile website.
  3. Give your Pixel a name (especially important if you manage several websites) and enter your site’s URL.
  4. Now the final step (yes final, it’s that easy!) is to add the Pixel’s code to your website. You can either manually install the code yourself, email instructions to a developer or if you’re using a partner platform, such as WordPress or Shopify, you will get different instructions which avoid editing the HTML of your website.

To check that the code is running correctly, we recommend downloading Facebook Pixel Helper from the Chrome web store which will enable you to check there are no errors.

PRO-TIP: If you use multiple analytic and tracking tools on your website, you can use Google Tag Manager to tidy up your header code. This is a tag management system and lets you place tags such as Facebook Pixel and Google Analytics into one container, then all you need to do is copy and paste your Tag Manager code onto your website, easy peasy!

Please be aware that normal Business Pages can only generate one Facebook Pixel, however, you can switch to Business Manager to create more. 

Using Pixel Data

Over time, the Facebook Pixel will fire whenever a visitor completes different actions on each page of your website. Some events it can track are:

  • Purchase
  • Lead
  • Add payment info
  • Add to cart
  • View content
  • Search
  • Subscribe

With this data, you can create custom audiences which will allow you to create ads with the conversion objective. You will be able to target people who have visited your website or even someone who has left something in their cart but not completed their purchase. 

“It costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing customer.”

Remarketing to people who already have shown an interest in your business is far easier than attracting a brand new customer who has never heard of your brand. With Facebook Pixel, you can target these loyal customers to keep them coming back time and time again. 

Instagram Advertising

Hands up who gets sick of the same old celebrity-endorsed ‘#ad’ posts on Instagram? (Yeah, we’re looking at you, Kim K and the Geordie Shore gang!) 

Before 2015, marketers had to rely on influencers to promote their product or service, hoping it would reach the right audience for their business. And while influencer marketing can have its perks, it can be extremely expensive, not ideal for a small business or start-up. But now, marketers have full control of their advertising on Instagram!

As this platform is best buddies with Facebook, you will need a Facebook Page to be able to create ads on Instagram. This will then allow you to create ads through the Ads Manager or via the native Instagram app - more details to come…!

With Instagram ads, you can overcome one of the most frustrating features of the platform - not being able to add a link to a post. Assigning Instagram ad spend to your monthly budget will allow you to take advantage of several CTAs such as ‘Book Now’, ‘Contact Us’, ‘Learn More’ and many more to drive traffic to an external link.

Need another reason to consider Instagram advertising? 72% of Instagram users say they have purchased a product they saw on the app. By making use of the Instagram Shoppable feature, e-commerce businesses can soar on this particular platform, raising brand awareness, inviting engagement and then making the desired conversion.

Business Profile

In order to be able to create ads, you must first switch your existing Instagram account to a business profile. To do this, you’ll need the Instagram mobile app, a Facebook Page already set up and a spare five minutes.

  1. Select the cog on your business’ profile to access your settings.
  2. Scroll down to ‘Account’ options and select ‘Switch to Business Profile’.
  3. You must have a Facebook page to connect with your Instagram. You can skip this initially but you will have to complete this stage at some point to complete the “switch”.
  4. Next, you must choose a category for your profile. There are numerous options that you can select from “Product/Service” to “Personal Blog”.
  5. Enter the contact details that you wish to be displayed on your profile - you must include at least one form of contact.
    6. Your business profile is successfully set up!

Not only will you be able to promote your posts using your business profile, but you will also be able to add contact buttons (email, call and directions) which are displayed under your bio, as well as gain access to your Instagram Insights.


As mentioned previously, Instagram ads are the only way to drive traffic to an external link via your posts.

There are fewer objectives to choose from with Instagram as opposed to Facebook - however, the following can all be integral in helping you reach your customers at different stages of the buyer’s journey:

Awareness Objective (top-funnel)

  • Brand Awareness
  • Reach

Consideration Objective (mid-funnel)

  • Traffic
  • App Installs
  • Engagement
  • Video Views

Conversion Objective (bottom-funnel)

  • Conversions


While Facebook has a selection of placements to choose from across its network, Instagram only has two ad placements which are:


This will just show as a normal post in your Instagram feed but will be differentiated with the label ‘sponsored’ below your business’ handle. 


When people tap through their Instagram Stories, your ad may appear in this placement. As there is a time limit for how long it is shown, users may hold to pause or swipe up to find out more information. Try out animations or videos to engage the customer and hold their interest.


If you’re running Facebook adverts at the same time as Instagram, we would recommend using Facebook Ads Manager to set up both. This means Facebook will automatically optimise the campaign, assigning a budget to whichever ads are performing best. 

However, if you would rather assign a specific budget to your Instagram advertising, you may prefer to ‘promote’ posts via the Instagram app. Alternatively, you can run Instagram-only placements via Facebook Ads Manager - set an ad up as usual: objective, schedule, budget, ad format, but change the ad placement to ‘Instagram’ only. 

Instagram Insights

After setting up your business profile, you will gain access to data that will shape your marketing strategy going forward. It will also help when it comes to planning your ads.

If a post is getting a lot of organic engagement, it’s worthwhile boosting it to show your content to a whole new audience that may be interested in your product or service.

After you have started running your campaign, it is important to analyse performance and make any tweaks to your ads if necessary. Consider a number of impressions, engagement and link clicks to see what content is successful with your target audience - if it’s doing well, plan to make more of it!

Twitter Advertising

On Twitter, over 500 million tweets are sent every day which averages out at 5,787 tweets per second! 

Twitter differs from the norm when it comes to algorithms, while they have the option of showing ‘top tweets’ (those that Twitter thinks you will like best), users can easily shift back to ‘latest tweets’, showing posts in chronological order.

While the algorithm may be in your favour if a user opts for the chronological feed, how can businesses be seen, and most importantly noticed, above all the noise?

Twitter Hours have their limitations nowadays. You might find some that work and that’s great, keep participating every week! But the majority of Twitter Hours will initially increase your reach as real engagement is hard to find in 2019.

You might opt instead to jump into trending topics and hashtags, but they may not be necessarily relevant or useful for your business.

If only there was another way… well, there’s always Twitter Advertising!

In 2018, Twitter recorded a 50% year-on-year increase in ad engagement plus a 14% decline in cost-per-engagement. If more people are interacting with sponsored posts and it’s cheaper to gain engagements, why wouldn’t you start now?

Introducing Promote Mode

Don’t know where to start with Twitter Advertising and don’t have time to get to grips with it? Twitter’s Promote Mode is an automated way to boost your posts on a monthly basis, without the need to create each ad, set budgets, etc. 

All you need to do is tweet as usual and Promote Mode will select several posts (usually the first tweets of the day) to promote to your chosen audience. Twitter states that:

“On average, accounts will reach 30,000 additional people and add 30 followers each month. Your performance may vary based on factors such as your account type, your targeting selection, and the type and frequency of your Tweets.”

A monthly subscription is currently £79 GBP per month, plus any applicable taxes, meaning the results might be worthwhile for your business.

This type of advertising is recommended for businesses with a small following that want to grow their audience. However, it is important to remember that you must tweet frequently in order to properly benefit from the automation.

Promote Mode Setup

It’s super simple and easy to set up Promote Mode and once you’ve initially selected your targeting based on interests or location, Twitter will do all of the rest for you!

  1. Log into your Twitter account on desktop and click on your logo in the top right-hand side to open a drop-down box and select ‘Promote Mode’.
  2. The first step is to select your country and timezone - at the moment, ads can only be created and shown to users in the United States, United Kingdom and Japan.
  3. With targeting you get the choice between interests or location, unfortunately, you can’t choose both.
  4. Next, you will be shown your choices to make sure you’re happy and you will be able to see the price of the plan.
  5. Finally, you will be asked to enter your business’ details plus your payment details for the monthly payment to be taken from.

Remember, you can pause Promote Mode or cancel your subscription at any time. However, you will still need to pay for the rest of the remaining billing cycle.

Quick Promote

Posted a tweet that is performing exceptionally well? High performing posts are the ones that are most likely to capture a prospect’s attention so it is worthwhile giving your tweet that little extra push to reach a brand new audience.

What is it? The clue is in the name… Quick Promote. It’s super ‘quick’ and easy to boost each tweet using this method, allowing you to take control of what is promoted, unlike Promote Mode.

  1. Click onto whichever tweet you wish to promote and select the analytics icon.
  2. When viewing your ‘Tweet Activity’, you will be given the option to ‘Promote your Tweet’.
  3. Select the location of the audience you wish to target.
  4. Assign a budget and you will be given an approximate number of impressions and engagements that you will achieve.
  5. Enter your payment details and confirm your spend.
  6. Your sponsored post has now been set up!

Objective-Based Campaigns

If Promote Mode and Quick Mode aren’t the right fit for your marketing strategy and you’d rather focus on a specific objective based on your business goals, then you can create an objective-based campaign instead.

Twitter’s Ad Manager is set up in the same way as Facebook Ad Manager; so if you’re comfortable with one, you’ll soon get the hang of the other one.


Think about what you want to achieve from your campaign. Have you just created a Twitter account? Then, you might want to focus on growing your followers or raising awareness. If you’ve already got an active and engaged audience then you might want to drive conversions or app installations.

You can choose from the following when creating your Twitter ad campaign:

  • Awareness
  • Followers
  • Tweet Engagements
  • Video Views
  • In-stream Video Views
  • Website Clicks or Conversions
  • App Installs
  • App Re-engagements


When setting your budget, you can opt for an evergreen campaign, ads that run continuously with a daily budget and no end date.

However, if you’re running a campaign for a specific event or timely offer, you can choose to schedule your ad to start and stop within a date. You may set a total budget for the entire campaign so that your advertising spend never exceeds this amount.

You can also choose to change the rate of ad delivery from standard to accelerated. If you need to quickly get your message out there, then accelerated delivery will show your ads as often as possible each day.


When choosing your audience with objective-based campaigns, there are a lot more options to choose from as opposed to Promote Mode and Quick Promote.

You can target a specific gender, age or location as you would expect. However, you can also define users by the platform they’re using, device model, carrier and OS version. 

An audience can also be created by events, behaviours and interests that a user has as well as follower look-alikes. For example, if you know your primary buyer persona is interested in, and most likely follows, local news outlets then you might choose to use follower look-alikes for BBC Look North, North East Times, etc. 


When it comes to physically setting up ads, you can select Tweets that you have already posted, essentially boosting them to a wider audience. 

Alternatively, you can create new tweets from scratch for the specific campaign, which will become dark posts (promoted-only tweets which won’t show in your timeline).

You should try to use 4-5 different creatives per campaign and use strong CTAs to drive your customer to perform a certain action such as ‘sign up’ or ‘visit our website’. Twitter recommends to avoid using hashtags or mentions so that your audience doesn’t click away from your post - your ad’s purpose is to give your business the spotlight, you don’t want to pass it over to someone else!

Twitter Ads Manager

Within your Twitter Ads Manager, you should be monitoring your current campaigns, making tweaks if necessary. 

You can filter metrics and add breakdowns to see specific data which will help to further target your future ads. For example, if a user is converting on desktop, but not so much on mobile, then you will want to assign more budget to people browsing on desktop to get ‘more bang for your buck’!

LinkedIn Advertising

If you’re a B2B company, you might have not seen the results you desired from a Facebook or Twitter campaign due to the segmenting options they have available. But there is a light at the end of this tunnel… LinkedIn advertising!

Still unsure? Let’s make the numbers talk for themselves. 71% of B2B marketers say LinkedIn is part of their advertising strategy

With over 260 million LinkedIn users logging in each month, this platform is a hive of business professionals waiting for you to reach out to. 


As of February 2019, LinkedIn has shifted towards an objective-based campaign creation experience, similar to the other major social media platforms.

Like Facebook’s Ad Manager, LinkedIn has split its objectives based on the buyer’s journey. You can choose from the following objectives:

Awareness (top-funnel)

  • Brand Awareness

Consideration (mid-funnel)

  • Website Visits
  • Engagement
  • Video Views

Conversions (bottom-funnel)

  • Lead Generation
  • Website Conversions
  • Job Applicants

Ad Formats

There are three main ad formats that you can choose from on LinkedIn based on your chosen objective which is: Sponsored Content, Sponsored InMail and Text Ads. 

  • Sponsored Content allows you to create an ad with a title, intro copy and display image. This can be helpful when raising awareness, generating leads or driving engagement with prospects. 
  • Sponsored InMail is a premium feature that allows you to send InMails on a wider spectrum rather than sending each person an InMail manually. You can add your sender name, subject line, body copy, CTA button and a banner ad to capture your prospect’s attention.
  • Lastly, Text Ads are the most simple and cheapest ads that LinkedIn currently offer. You can add a headline, image and description using 75 characters. The copy limitation on this ad format can make it trickier to get your message across, which means it might be easier to opt for Sponsored Content instead.


One of LinkedIn’s most powerful tools is how it can segment audiences during ad creation.

As usual, you can target specific languages and location. However, you can also go in-depth and highly focus upon individuals who have worked at a specific company or have ‘X’ years of experience within their industry.

Targeting by company, education level or job experience would be extremely helpful when advertising job vacancies and would allow you to attract just the right type of person you were looking for!


When assigning a budget, you can choose from setting a total budget or both a daily and total budget. 

You can then adjust your ad delivery - LinkedIn automatically sets ‘optimised traffic pacing’ as default which means your budget will be spent when members are active on the platform. 

However, you can choose ‘even pacing’ where your budget will be spent uniformly throughout your campaign’s start and end date. 

‘No pacing’ is similar to ‘accelerated’ ad delivery available on other platforms, in which your budget will be spent as quickly as possible. This is the best option if you have a time-sensitive post or a job vacancy that you want to push as much as you can, immediately. 

Campaign Manager

Once you’ve successfully set up your ad, you can head over to Campaign Manager to track performance and make any adjustments.

If you’ve set up a Text Ad, LinkedIn will have recommended creating several ads so that you can A/B test your creative. If you go into your analytics, you might see one particular ad that’s not performing as well as the rest. It’s important to make any tweaks as you go along and turn off any unsuccessful creatives to maximise the reach of your budget.


While you want to believe it or not, social media advertising or paid social is the way forward as algorithms make it more difficult to get your content shown to your audience. The era of paid social is here!

Whether you want to boost an existing post or run an entire marketing campaign behind the scenes as a dark post, it doesn’t have to be rocket science to implement social media advertising into your marketing strategy. It shouldn’t seem that scary after reading this ebook, right?

The majority of the four main social media platforms - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn - follow the same ad creation experience, meaning if you’re comfortable with one, you’ll be able to create ads across the board!

Define your objective, assign a budget, segment your audience then build your ad creative. Make sure to keep checking back on your analytics to make tweaks to your existing campaigns as well as help you to improve any future ads you may choose to run. 

Download and print our complete ebook to learn and improve your social media advertising skills.

A Guide to Paid Social Advertising for Business

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