This month the WPToronto East crew got together to discuss social media advertising. Facebook was (unsurprisingly) a big focus of the conversation, though we did touch on Pinterest and LinkedIn as well. Here’s a look at what we discussed.

Next month we’ll be talking about using WordPress to build landing pages, the destination of the ad campaigns you’re running. RSVP on Meetup.com!

Is Facebook different from other platforms? How are the platforms different?

Facebook: It covers a lot of things. Active usage across the globe, across many demographics. But discovery and search is weak. People use Facebook for different reasons. E.g. connecting via private or public groups. When it comes to advertising, though, FB dominates because of its reach.

Instagram: Limited features but very high engagement. It’s generally a younger demographic than Facebook.

Pinterest: Great for visual content. Converts well for products since there’s a clearer intent between “I like this thing” and “I want to buy this thing”. Smart tagging = discovery engine for visual content. Pay for promoted pins; either exposure (views) or clicks on links.

Twitter: “Public watercooler.” Effective for 1:1. It’s an open database to find and contact people. It’s also a support channel, and a place to discuss or follow live events. Users control their own experience based on who they follow. For social media ads, this can get you piggybacking on trending hashtags or events.

LinkedIn: Business people connecting with other business people in a professional setting. Try experimenting by placing an unexpected ad in a surprising context, e.g. promoting higher-end products to a professional audience. Ads on  LinkedIn are expensive but highly targeted.

How do you get started with social media advertising? How do you progress from beginner level to advanced?

Know what you want to do. Have a clear goal. X views? X clicks? There needs to be a solid metric you can measure.

Are you advertising for awareness (brand recognition), or are you advertising for action/intent (conversions)? Very different approaches with very different goals.

The less your ad appears like an ad, the better. It should fit the context of the platform it’s on. You’re participating on these social media platforms, not just promoting on them. Ad spend just “boosts” your visibility.

Set a small budget for your first ads. Test. Learn. Iterate. Example of testing: You try a few different images with different messages. Which one performs better?

Test and validate your assumptions. You probably think you know who you should be targeting and how you should be targeting them. You might be right, but you might also be wrong. Use ads to see what works.

Be consistent. Spend a regular amount of cash on advertising on a routine basis. Factor it in as an operating cost rather than a one-time expense.

Be relevant. The more relevant your ad is to the target audience, the better it will perform. Know who you want to reach, what they’re interested in, and why they’ll care about your ad.

Promote your best stuff. Throw money behind content and offers that have already proven their value.

For Facebook: You need to have strategy behind your advertising. Don’t just boost the post because FB recommends it. Define your target market first and know what you want them to do.

Have an ad that takes people away from FB? It will cost you more than an ad that keeps people on the platform. But there’s a surprising amount of things that you can do on FB – including capturing email addresses.

Word of warning: Boosting for masses doesn’t mean boosting for relevance. Don’t chase vanity reach #s. Tradeoff: Early days of a new business page? Boost to a wider target to get your foundation in place.

Cast out, see who bites, and target more people like them.

How do you approach lead gen with social media advertising?

There are some fundamental questions to answer:

  • Who’s your target market? Profile them. Know who they are, what they’re interested in.
  • What’s their pain? What problems are they having that your product or service solves?
  • What’s your offer? This should partially address your target market’s pain points. Your actual product or service is what solves their problems. (Difference between relief and a cure.)
  • What’s the benefit of the offer? Not just what it is, but what it does or how it helps or how it appeals to the target market. (E.g. “What is a milkshake?” Refreshing beverage vs. tasty treat.) Explain that benefit. Make it clear in your messaging.
  • What do they have to give in exchange? The more you ask for, the more valuable your offer needs to be.
  • Where do they hang out online? These are the networks, platforms, groups, etc… that you’ll be targeting with your ad campaigns.
  • What’s a lead worth to you? The more valuable a customer is, the more you should be willing to spend on acquiring them.
  • How do you define success? Set a goal. That might be a certain # of leads acquired or a # of people reached.

If you can’t answer these questions, that’s part of your strategy… e.g. learning who your winning target is.

Aside: Social media platforms like Facebook and Pinterest are great as a discovery tool. As a user you’ll find things you didn’t know you wanted, and as an advertiser, find audiences you didn’t know you needed.

Where should you focus with visual content? How do you share, where do you share?

Unanimous agreement: Instagram and Pinterest.

On Instagram: Post regularly. Do a search for related hashtags to help boost the visibility of your posts. Share your finished work and the behind-the-scenes progress pictures. (Instagram Stories are great for this.)

On Pinterest: Organize your work into boards, and participate on the platform by curating others’ pins as well.

What about collaboration and influencer programs?

Influencers are users with a large audience. They’re in demand from brands because they have reach and (supposedly) influence over their buying decisions. It’s celebrity endorsements for the 21st century. But now influencers are demanding more compensation that reflects the reach they have.

So what can you do? Brands are starting to approach “micro-influencers”, that is people with a smaller following on social media who don’t demand as much compensation for their posts.

Alternatively: Collaborate with other non-competing businesses who are chasing after the same audience that you are. Share each other’s content, create new content together, join forces and pool your resources for special campaigns. There’s tons of opportunity here.

Note: Disclosure requirements, especially in the US = you must disclose if content is paid for/sponsored. Generally speaking, it’s best to let the influencer do their thing.  Their audience is good at knowing when they’re being manipulated or micro-managed by a 3rd party marketing team.

Bottom line takeaways from today’s meetup?

Participate in social media, don’t just promote yourself.

Consistently add value in a way that fits the platform you’re on.

Use advertising to boost the best of what you produce, but have a clear plan (target + goals) in mind when you do.

Additional Resources

SM advertising platforms:

Finding influencers/collaborators:

General industry news:

Did we miss anything? Leave your thoughts and comments below!

Image credit: Shannon Kringen on Flickr