Social Media Ads 101: Choosing The Right Platform for your Business

Social Media Ads 101: Choosing The Right Platform for your Business

Paid social strategies are not a one size fits all process with many steps. The first step is understanding each platform.

58.4 percent of the world’s total population uses social media. This is equivalent to 4.62 billion people and is a 10% lift year over year. This past year, an average of more than 1 million users began using social media per day. Now, as much as we love Mad Men, the area of traditional marketing is long gone and social media advertising has taken a deep-pocketed front-row seat. 

But you aren’t just reading this to understand how many people use social media. We’re here to tell you how social media advertising can be a game changer for your business or brand. Social media ads are the most effective way to get your business in front of the right audience through hyper-targeting and full-funnel marketing. When the right assets are paired with the right platform, there is no better way to generate leads and convert passive scrollers into loyal customers. 

What is social media advertising?

Social media advertising is a direct way to reach your targetted audience via most major social networks including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter, and more. Although these social platforms are at your disposal, it doesn’t mean you should use all of them in a paid (or organic) strategy. You want to find where your audience gathers and meet them where they are at. Why would a children’s clothing brand advertise on Discord? Those mommy bloggers are gathering on Pinterest, but it takes crucial social media listening to affirm this.

When starting or revamping your current social media ads strategy, it’s best to start with considering your top-performing organic channels. This is usually a good indication you’re in the right place. Find out where your content performs best and who exactly it’s resonating with before you go throwing down real money. 

Organic Social vs. Paid Social Ads

Paid social is much more targeted than getting your organic post to be seen by more eyes – it’s getting the right content in front of the right eyes. Paid advertising is much more specific and effective than a single organic post because you can discover new potential customers and meet them where they’re at in their buying journey. Not every social user will be ready for conversion and TOF social ads allow you to warm them up until they are ready to convert. The paid social game is pay to play, but being selective and strategic on where you spend those ad dollars is crucial.

Converting solely on organic content is a much slower process and its reach is getting more and more difficult. To put it frankly, the average reach of an organic Facebook post is only seen by 5.5% of a page’s followers. In plain numbers, if you have 10,000 followers, only 550 will be seeing your post, and the more followers you have the less likely they will be to see your content. Successful organic assets have to be expertly curated, with a singular caption that resonates with a wide audience to then be served to a community that arrives with high buying intent. Paid social ads can be evergreen content or highly specific and timely campaigns. Content can be sliced and diced as ad platforms have the ability to pair a variety of assets with a variety of captions to be shown to the exact user that will complete the action you want them to. Wish you could do that on an organic post, huh?

But we’re not here to hate on organic social media – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Here at NoGood, we often believe in an organic and paid social strategy that works hand-in-hand. Quality content will resonate no matter if there is ad spend behind it or not, but think of paid advertising as giving it the specificity it needs, instead of throwing things at a wall and seeing what sticks. Organic social builds community, and trust, and strengthens a brand while paid social targets customers ready to convert. 

So before you spend all your precious budget on platforms you think will serve your campaign needs, it’s important to understand the distinction between platforms, campaign goals, and ad types. Social media ads are not one size fits all and we’re here to point you in the right direction. In this guide, we’ll break down various types of social media channels to maximize your ad spend and meet your right audience where they are.  

Social Ads Best Practices

Before jumping into spending money on any social platform, it’s important to come in with the right mindset for your business needs and goals. Here are some things to consider before choosing where to spend your budget:

Choose the right platform:

Social media platforms are not one size fits all and depending on your audience, budget, phase of the funnel, and creative assets available, not every platform will suit your needs. Find where your targetted audience gathers and engage with them as a fellow user would. It’s important to come across natively in your ad content to build community trust and consumer loyalty.

Audience targeting:

To ensure you’re getting the most out of your ad spend, knowing exactly who you are targeting is crucial to social ad success. What’s the use in paying for ads and putting the effort into creation if it’s not going to be seen by the right people and lead to high-intent consumers? Targeting can go from extremely broad to exceptionally granular and lookalike and retargeting makes it even more specific. Developing audience personas will assist in building your target audience and the more you experiment you’ll receive valuable insights to optimize your audience and understand them even more.

Content testing:

We love an organic and paid strategy that works hand-in-hand. Your top-performing organic content is often a good indication that the content is resonating with your audience. Use this to inform your ad content and build your campaigns.

Taking a mobile-first approach:

More than 4.4 billion social media users access their favorite social media platforms through a mobile device. Your ads should be optimized for a mobile viewing experience over desktop. Use the space and consider it a full-screen experience specifically when it comes to Reels, Snapchat, TikToks, and Shorts.

Creating a comprehensive budget:

What are you optimizing for? Which part of the funnel are you focused on? Every platform has its hero ad types and each platform has a campaign type that excels even though they all offer all levels of the funnel. No budget should be split evenly amongst platforms, so experiment with the combination that will work best for your ROAS.

Creating a content strategy:

What is your creative team’s bandwidth? Where does your team excel? Meta’s ad types haven’t changed much over the years and many brands can still get away with a static post. In recent years, we’ve seen short-form videos take social media by storm and this directly applies to social ads. Know your team’s capabilities and bandwidth when requesting creative assets. Can you repurpose organic posts? Edit video directly on an ads platform? Evaluate your team’s strengths and do your best to remain native to each platform’s style.

Testing and experimentation:

Bold experimentation is our secret sauce to successful (and sustainable) growth marketing. Testing can take place across all areas of social ads including audience, graphics, placement, etc. You want a winning campaign strategy and sometimes one minor change can bring your ROAS through the roof. It’s easy to rely on a winning asset but even evergreen content will fatigue.

Know your campaign objective and what you are trying to achieve:

It’s hard to achieve results when you don’t know what your goal is in the first place. Understanding what your business objective is is critical in the short and long term. 

Measuring and reporting your analytics:

We are data-obsessed marketers and the data you receive from your ad results can inform your next campaign, tighten up your audience, and increase your ROAS. Analytics are your friend and will help you make the most out of your social efforts to optimize current campaigns and inform the future ad content and strategy.

tl;dr what we’ll be covering below:

  • Campaign Overview
  • TikTok Ads
  • Facebook Ads Manager
  • YouTube Ads
  • Twitter Ads
  • LinkedIn Ads
  • Pinterest Ads
  • Snapchat Ads

Campaign Overview:

When planning any paid social strategy, there are three campaign objectives in which almost every platform organizes its ads campaigns. These are Awareness, Consideration, and Conversion. If you need a brush-up, awareness is your Top of Funnel (TOF) campaign type that generates interest in your product or service. Marketers can increase brand awareness by telling people what makes their business valuable to them. Consideration or Middle of Funnel (MOF) is best for getting people to think about your brand and encouraging them to seek more information. The Bottom of Funnel or Conversion campaign type is to encourage people who are interested in your product or service to take action via an app download or purchase.

Within these three campaign types, various ad objectives will fall under these categories in which you will build your ad groups for targeting/retargeting and individual ad assets. Your advertising objective is what you want people to do when they see your ads, bringing it back to your company’s goals and specific OKRs in relation to your ad spend. Depending on the maturity of your brand, these goals will vary. Early stage brands will be focused on more TOF to bring about brand awareness while more legacy brands will be focused on more BOF conversion campaigns due to already being known entities.

These are just a few of the objectives campaigns can include:

  • Increase website traffic
  • Build brand awareness
  • Lead generation
  • Boost engagement to page or posts
  • Increase app installs
  • Increase conversions

TikTok Ads:

Entering the U.S. market in just 2016, TikTok has amassed over 1.2 billion users worldwide, with the vast majority between the ages of 18-24. Though TikTok enters the market with its entertaining and playful content, its advertising capabilities cannot be underestimated for DTC brands as well as B2B brands. In Q1 of 2022, TikTok reported the most profitable quarter of any app in existence at $840 billion in-app revenue. In comparison to its social media platform competitors, TikTok advertising still remains largely undersaturated by B2B brands which lend itself to a less competitive market and big returns.
Entering the U.S. market in just 2016, TikTok has amassed over 1.2 billion users worldwide, with the vast majority between the ages of 18-24. Though TikTok enters the market with its entertaining and playful content, its advertising capabilities cannot be underestimated for DTC brands as well as B2B brands. In Q1 of 2022, TikTok reported the most profitable quarter of any app in existence at $840 billion in-app revenue. In comparison to its social media platform competitors, TikTok advertising still remains largely undersaturated by B2B brands which lend itself to a less competitive market and big returns

TikTok launched its Business Center in 2020 and continues to roll out new ad optimizations and campaign types for businesses of all sizes and budgets. Any business account can run full-funnel campaigns via TikTok’s Ads Manager, but accounts that are considered “TikTok Partners” (brands that meet a minimum spend threshold) are paired with TikTok representatives that can assist in specific to TikTok ad types. With the help of their rep, managed brands can run additional campaigns including branded hashtag campaigns, brand takeovers, and branded effects. 

TikTok’s Ads Manager offers three levels of campaign types with several objectives to choose from below. 

**NoGood Tip: We’ve noticed that it takes a bit for the TikTok pixel to learn and become efficient for retargeting, therefore, begin with a TOF awareness campaign prior to working towards conversions.

Within the ad group creation, marketers can choose to target at a broad or granular level including choosing audiences that are interested in specific hashtags or that have completed certain actions (watched till the end, liked, commented, shared, followed, or viewed profile).

An ad format that is unique to TikTok is the ability to run Spark Ads. Spark Ads are assets that are posted organically first and then boosted within a campaign. Once the asset is posted organically, marketers can add an additional CTA linking to a landing page and push it out to their targeted and organic audience simultaneously.  

This is in opposition to a dark ad, which does not live on an account’s organic feed and only appears in front of the targeted audience. Dark Ads are a good option for accounts that do not have an organic TikTok presence or optimizing for lead gens, app installs, or other conversions. TikTok’s Sparked Ads have been so successful they drive a 43% higher conversion rate over Dark Ads which encourages accounts to build and maintain their organic presence while running social ads.

Facebook Ads Manager (Instagram lives here too):

77% of the world is on at least one Meta platform while 79% of their users are active at least once daily. Meta’s ads platform, Facebook Ads Manager, might be the OG of social advertising and comes in behind Google as the #2 digital ad seller in the US. Though iOS14 put a bit of a buzz kill on Facebook’s data tracking, marketers are still on trend to spend over $58 billion on Facebook advertising this year. 

Housed within Facebook Ads Manager is social operations for both Instagram and Facebook. Though Facebook has traditionally held Meta’s market share in digital advertising, Instagram is due to bring in 60.9% of total net ad revenue by 2023. 

As seen above, the Instagram audience is slightly younger than the Facebook audience. The Instagram audience has far more Gen Z users at 30.1% whereas Facebook’s younger audience comes in at 22.6%. 

So why use Facebook Ads? Facebook Ads are extremely versatile and offer up to 11 different variations you can use to solve a variety of business goals from driving traffic to your website to reaching people in your local area. 

After selecting your campaign type and what you chose to optimize for, there are a multitude of ad formats to compliment your campaign. Creative assets can be shared between a business’s Facebook and Instagram pages making it a quick process for marketers to build campaigns. Facebook offers photo ads, video ads, stories ads, carousel ads, slideshow ads, collection ads, messenger ads, and playable ads while Instagram’s ad types include Instagram Video Ads (the newly named IGTV format), Stories, Reels, Instagram Shopping, and Branded Content Ads when working with creators.

As of late, Instagram has rolled out and changed its features in a response to the success of TikTok, therefore the ad types and creative formats have also been quickly changing. Before launching an Instagram campaign, make sure you have the most updated aspect ratios, and character counts, and are familiar with the latest ad types. 

**NoGood Tip: We like to start with a TOF campaign with video creative. This way, even if the user doesn’t engage with the asset, they are still considered a video viewer and can later be retargeted

Twitter Ads:

When building a Twitter campaign, the three funnel objectives remain the same as Meta’s Ads Platform though underneath you will find eight different objectives unique to Twitter. 

Twitter ads are often seen as native in a user’s feed since their flagship ad format blends seamlessly into the feed (only marked as “promoted” to differentiate). Though this may be the most discreet ad format, Twitter offers several other ad types including Promoted and Follower, Amplify and Live, Takeover, and Featured Ads. 

**NoGood tip: Using 3+ ad formats increases campaign awareness by 20% and conversion intent by 7%

Read our comprehensive Twitter Ads Guide for more tactical strategies.

LinkedIn Ads:

73% of users trust LinkedIn over any other platform when it comes to protecting their privacy and data whereas Facebook was rated the least trusted social media platform in regards to privacy. Privacy is a concern among LinkedIn users due to its “professional” reputation among social networks. Used best in the B2B sector, LinkedIn is the best platform to get in front of specific industries, companies, or even people. As the largest platform for business-minded interactions, LinkedIn values professional connections for individuals while LinkedIn ads can drive traffic to your landing page, identify quality leads or potential employees, grow your page’s network and show your expertise through thought-leadership. 

As with the other social platforms we’ve examined, all three campaign objectives have a different core KPI which will determine how your funds are distributed. Unlike Meta’s Ads Manager, LinkedIn works off of a “second-price” auction model, meaning you only pay one cent higher than the next bidder. Advertisers can set their max bid and adjust the allocation as they see fit.

YouTube Ads:

70% of shoppers say they are open to learning about products from brands they see on YouTube and with over 2.5 billion monthly active users, YouTube ads are a massive opportunity to connect with audiences.

Users on YouTube can be targeted by channel, interests, search intent, placement, topic, location, age, and more, giving advertisers the ability to reach their target audience at an affordable rate. 

The reason why we mentioned YouTube ads being similar to paid search is that YouTube Ads are actually built on the Google Ads dashboard. If are you familiar with building Display or Search campaigns, you will already be familiar with the YouTube Ads interface. 

Instead of selecting a traditional campaign type, marketers select a campaign goal followed by an ad format.

Similar to TikTok, YouTube offers unique ad formats specific to its platform which include overlay ads, bumper ads, responsive video ads, and skippable or non-skippable in-stream ads. All of these ad types offer unique opportunities to showcase your product in use, target users as granular as a specific YouTube channel or keyword, and offer the opportunity to create and maintain connections through introductory ads and retargeting (especially if non-skippable).

With YouTube Shorts on the rise, we are looking forward to the advertising capabilities rolling out later this year and the value they can bring to a full-funnel YouTube strategy.

Pinterest Ads:

Pinterest is a visually-driven, board-centric platform used for creative exploration and expression. Though few last-touch conversions come from this platform, it is a powerful tool to leverage during the consideration phase. Due to its authentic and creative nature, traditional ads used on other platforms may not work as well on Pinterest. Social ads on this platform must feel authentic and organic in order to see results as they appear among a user’s search results. 

Pinterest offers three campaign types with limited options in objectives. 

Its audience targeting is similar to those of other platforms but we find it most similar to building a paid search campaign. Because Pinterest allows keyword targeting, we recommend leveraging Pinterest-provided resources including Pinterest Trends and Pinterest Predicts to help align your audience with the traffic Pinterest is reporting. 

For more on Pinterest Ads read our Complete Guide to Pinterest Marketing.

Snapchat Ads:

Introduced in 2014, Snapchat’s advertising was built for large companies with deep pockets. Today, Snapchat has made it simpler and more affordable for brands of all sizes and budgets. Though it may not be top of mind in the realm of social media, Snapchat has been steadily growing year after year and has even grown by 11.6% over the past 12 months.

Depending on your campaign goals, Snapchat offers various ad formats under Awareness, Consideration, and Conversion objectives. With as little as $5 per day, ad formats range from single images or videos to story ads, AR lenses, filters, and commercials up to 3 minutes long. 

Though we recommend beginning with top-of-funnel awareness campaigns on Snapchat to nurture your audience before retargeting those that have interacted with you in a consideration or conversion campaign. Retargeting on Snapchat is done through an Ad Engagement Audience which is a strategy that’s confined to actions taken only on Snapchat ads. This effectively helps move users down the funnel.  

It’s not one size fits all:

Though there is a multitude of social media platforms offering advertising services, not every platform will be right for your brand and audience. We recommend meeting your audience where they gather which you can find based on organic performance, social listening, and data-driven targeting. But even when running ads on social media, the goal is to continue to resonate with your targeted audience and continue building your brand community. Social proof and the use of UGC have become increasingly powerful as users prefer to hear about a product from a trusted source instead of an overly curated social campaign. Be sure to remain native to the platform you are advertising on and monitor engagement, interaction, and brand sentiment that builds community and successful social ad campaigns.

Maura Grace
Maura is a social media manager with diverse industry experience specifically rooted in the arts for some of New York’s most well-known theaters, top jazz musicians, arts management agencies, music and theatre non-profit organizations as well as luxury retail and private education.


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