Why pay to advertise on social media? The better question is — why aren’t you? Social media marketing is at an all-time high right now. Gone are the days to simply post and hope you engage your fan base. With all the conversations that happen on the platforms daily, brands need to start paying to be seen and heard.

With Facebook’s ever-changing News Feed algorithm, brands are having a harder time getting their posts viewed by fans. The new algorithm favors content that is timely and relevant. Posts that receive a lot of engagement or are considered higher quality, such as content from publications, will appear in a fan’s News Feed more frequently and for longer amounts of time. Therefore, brands need to seriously consider paying to promote their posts and using targeted ads to reach their intended audiences.

The same goes for Twitter! The “Twittersphere” is already very saturated with content. In fact, there’s an average of 500 million tweets per day. Brands cannot expect their tweet to reach a large audience when it can get swallowed up by the handful of other tweets that happen within the same second it’s posted. However, if a brand promotes a tweet or its account, the chances of their audience seeing them through all the clutter is greater.

And don’t forget about Pinterest and Instagram in the near future. Although the two platforms are relatively new to the advertising game and are still ironing out the details before they are open for everyone to use, brands should start to consider how they could use them when they are. This brings me to say, one of the most important aspects of social media advertising is to know which social media platforms your customers use and how they use each one. Before you even begin thinking about advertising, you need to know where your fans are and how you should be communicating with them there. For example, if you are trying to reach women and you have visually-pleasing content, Pinterest is your place. The platform is still predominately used by women. Also, if your brand is trying to reach a younger demographic, Facebook might not be the place to reach them. Younger audiences are starting to move away from the popular platform and, instead, are turning to photo-focused platforms Instagram and Snapchat. Trying to reach more of a B2B audience? Consider LinkedIn and Google Plus.

Here’s a great example of a successful Facebook advertising campaign from our client, Hudson & Marshall. The company is a home auction firm that specializes in selling foreclosures. M/C/C developed a campaign to achieve the company’s goal of expanding brand awareness by increasing the number of fans (or likes) on its Facebook page. Each week, M/C/C tested different advertisements based on targeted demographics to see which one performed the best and optimized accordingly. When M/C/C began the campaign, the page had approximately 1,050 likes. With much success, the page has grown to more than 7,500 likes to date, marking an increase of 614 percent over six months. Additionally, M/C/C strategically promoted posts throughout the campaign and saw an incredible success rate in boosting engagement! Before the campaign, there was an average post reach of 612 users on a weekly basis. To date, an average post reaches 34,048 weekly! This truly shows the power of social media advertising. The campaign not only increased the number of fans for Hudson & Marshall, but it also resulted in the fans directly liking, commenting and sharing the company’s content.

This infographic represents the success of the first phase of the Hudson & Marshall advertising campaign.

No matter what platform you are trying to use, the basics of strong social media advertising can be applied (with some minor tweaking) to all of them:

  1. Posting helpful content usually grabs the attention of the consumer better. This can be anything that helps the customer in the decision-making process, such as a special offer, how-to tips, customer testimonials or downloadable content.
  2. Promoting social media contests will garner more attention from fans and will help your contest gain more success.
  3. Using strong images is important because, more than likely, the image will catch the audience’s attention and then they will stay for the text. Try testing out different images and see which one gains the most clicks or engagement. Then, optimize your ads along the way so you know the images are really working.
  4. Target ads to reach different audience segments. Even if your brand can be applied to several different audiences, the same ads will probably not work for each. Tailor and customize your ads so they relate to that specific audience. For example, in the Hudson & Marshall campaign, we targeted ads to real estate agents, newlyweds, investors and home buyers so we could reach all segments of the home auctioning community.
  5. And always remember: quality over quantity. The ultimate goal is to reach the most relevant people, not the most people in general. It’s great if your ad reaches 5,000 people, but not if only 1,000 of them will actually have an interest in your brand and might engage with it.

Additionally, the cost of social media advertising is significantly less than traditional advertising. Each ad on social media can get down to a marginal amount. For example, the average Facebook ad is usually less than a dollar per like. Although you are targeting a more narrow audience, as opposed to running a television ad that can reach millions, you are reaching the niche audiences that your brand wants.

So as you decide whether or not to begin social media advertising for your brand, consider the perks of it – more visibility and higher fan engagement. Although social media is still free, the days of brands successfully engaging without advertising are numbered. Therefore, join the fun of promoting your brand on social media. I can guarantee you’ll start seeing results almost instantly because, in this game, winning plays happen in just seconds!

Previously published on The M/C/C Minute at www.mccom.com/blog. Tweet us — @mccPR!