Social media advertising delivers targeted ads to users on social media platforms based on their online behaviors, interests, and demographics.
In this article, we discuss the advantages of social media advertising and the top platforms for running your ads.
Further reading: Need a primer on social media advertising first? Read our guide: The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media Advertising in 2023
In 2021, the global social media advertising market was worth $181.2 billion. By 2026, the market’s total value is expected to increase to $358 billion.
So, why is everyone jumping on the social media ads bandwagon?
Socials Help You Reach Targeted Audiences
One of the benefits of social media advertising is that you can target an audience based on age, interests, location, and behavior.
Think about this: people driving around town see billboard ads while people searching online for a keyword see paid search ads.
But with social ads, you define the parameters that fit your target audience.
This precision helps you optimize your ad budget and direct your resources toward the most relevant audience segments.
Plus, when you reach the right people with the right messages, you get higher conversion rates and better ROI on your advertising efforts.
Let’s see this in action in an Instagram case study. Luxury Escapes is an online travel agency that offers exclusive travel deals at affordable prices.
The company used Instagram Reels to showcase video clips of their unique travel destinations.
Using Instagram’s detailed targeting capabilities, their promotional content reached frequent travelers and luxury enthusiasts. In other words, people primed for upscale travel experiences.
Using Reels for its ads led to a 4.9-point increase in ad recall for the brand.
You can use similar filters on most social media platforms to reach your target audience.
Here’s a peek at what audience filters look like in Meta (where you set up Instagram Ads):
You can point your ad at people who fit a specific location, age, gender, demographic, interest category, behavior, and language.
You can even exclude people who don’t fit your criteria—something you can’t do with billboards or magazine ads.
Perhaps you’re a premium meat company that wants to use the criteria of men interested in BBQing, but you don’t want to include vegetarians. Social media ads let you apply that filter.
Key takeaway: The ability to specify your target audience ensures your messages get in front of the right people. This can lead to substantial cost savings and a significant boost in engagement.
Social Ads Can Be Cost-Effective
Another advantage of social media ads is that the platforms use smart algorithms to ensure that the right people see your ads. This delivers great value for your money.
Paid social ads are also cheaper than paid search.
The average cost-per-click (CPC) for Google Ads is between $1 and $2.
Image Source: Wordstream
On the other hand, the average CPC on social media platforms is much lower.
For Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, it’s 50 cents or less per click:
Image Source: WebFX
Maximizing the efficiency of every advertising dollar ensures your social media marketing campaigns reach a wider and more relevant audience.
Let’s look at a case study from Meta.
Lulus is a women’s fashion ecommerce company that wanted to attract new customers, increase online sales, and boost brand metrics.
It ran an initial A/B test that compared its dynamic ads for broad audiences against a Meta Advantage+ shopping campaign.
This campaign used Advantage+ catalog ads that automatically pulled items from the brand’s online catalog.
Lulus experienced a 29% decrease in cost per purchase and a 7.4% decrease in cost per impression.
Key takeaway: Diversified ad placements potentially reach wider audiences and optimize costs.
Socials Get Real-Time Feedback
One of the great advantages of social media advertising is that you get real-time feedback on your campaigns.
Immediate results allow quick adjustments, like updating the copy or swapping out the visual. You’re able to avoid ineffective ad spend and optimize ad performance.
In another Instagram case study, H&M wanted to impress young women with a new clothing line that included real and virtual reality pieces. It teamed up with Meta and a virtual influencer, Kuki (@kuki_ai), for an Instagram campaign.
The ads showed Kuki wearing H&M clothes in a digital fashion show.
It ran this ad for just ten days to see how people reacted.
When H&M mixed virtual content with their main video, eleven times more people remembered the ad and it cost less to get those results.
Plus, the 10-day timeframe let H&M see if its approach worked or if they needed to change things up.
Key takeaway: Timely analytics allow you to test innovative campaigns and quickly pivot if needed.
Social Ads Enhance Brand Awareness
How often do you purchase from a company you know nothing about?
Not very, right?
Brand awareness is how familiar consumers are with a company’s products or services.
It’s not just recognizing a logo or a tagline—it’s about the feelings, memories, and associations that come to mind when someone thinks of a brand.
RAIN Group, a sales training company, found that it takes an average of eight touchpoints to make a conversion.
The more top-of-mind your brand is through social media ads, the more likely it is consumers will choose your products or services over a competitor’s.
Subaru, for example, recognizes that its customers are usually pet owners. Its bigger vehicles with large trunks make it easy to transport dogs.
Leaning on this, the car company built marketing campaigns to connect with pet owners. In 2019, Subaru wanted to make October 22 a big day for dogs.
Subaru heightened brand awareness on Twitter through sneak peeks, innovative ad tools, collaborations with dog influencers, and prominent placement on the platform’s trending Explore tab.
The campaign worked:
- People viewed its main video over 10.2 million times
- Subaru had 23 times more brand mentions than usual on the day
- People loved it. The campaign got 100% positive feedback
Subaru used Twitter perfectly to share its love for pets and got everyone talking about it.
Key takeaway: An effective social ad campaign builds positive sentiment and reinforces brand identity to drive consumer engagement and create memorable touchpoints.
Social Ads Engage Through Various Formats
Social ads use formats like videos, images, carousels, and stories to capture the audience’s attention and convey a message.
Video content, for example, offers great results.
A report from HubSpot shows that 41% of marketers report a high ROI from video marketing.
So, if you find that your audience engages with your video content, experiment with video ads to capitalize on those potential returns.
Hyundai wanted to generate buzz for its new fully electric IONIQ 6 on TikTok, especially during the Super Bowl.
The brand mixed existing TV ads with fresh, TikTok-native content that used the platform’s unique features. Hyundai ran TopView ads, Auction, and Spark Ads, and used Pulse to target specific TikTok communities.
It also collaborated with TikTok creators like @oldgays, @monaswain, and @angryreactions to remix Hyundai’s content and add their unique twist.
A strategic blend of old and new marketing techniques resulted in a 13% boost in ad recall, 3.5% in brand awareness, and 2.5% in brand familiarity.
The cherry on top? Millions of views and thousands of engaged comments on their TikTok content.
Embracing rich media content, like Hyundai’s versatile campaign, allows brands to create deeper, more interactive connections with their audience.
Key takeaway: Striking visuals, interactive elements, and creative collaborations contribute to a memorable brand presence, increased visibility, and enriching user experience.
Social Ads Easily Track and Attribute Results
Platforms offer in-depth analytics that allow advertisers to track metrics like engagement, reach, clicks, and conversions.
Brands can then understand how well their campaigns work and pinpoint areas of improvement.
Attribution models also make it easier to trace a customer’s journey. Advertisers can see which touchpoints influenced a user’s decision to engage or purchase and get clarity on ROI.
This transparency helps you optimize strategies, allocate budgets, and refine targeting.
Here’s a scenario where Wendy’s ad tracking got a little complicated.
Wendy’s partnered with Grubhub to deliver orders to Grubhub app users.
Wendy’s wanted to run and track ads about the delivery service, but when a user clicked on the ad, it took them to Grubhub, not the Wendy’s website. That meant Wendy’s couldn’t track what users did after they clicked on the ad. Wendy’s had no idea how effective its ad campaigns were.
What a dilemma.
So Wendy’s used Facebook Collaborative Ads to partner with retailers on advertising campaigns and track their results.
Here’s what the ad looked like:
It featured a carousel of Wendy’s products with a link to order. The format allowed Wendy’s to direct users to Grubhub, then measure conversions like food orders and deliveries when people tapped “Order Now.”
Wendy’s targeted US adults aged 18–49 who were interested in fast food delivery and were recent customers. It broadcasted the ads on Instagram and Facebook.
The result: a 1.9 times increase in return on ad spend.
Key takeaway: Advanced tracking and attribution tools provide clarity on the effectiveness of social ads and empower brands to refine strategies.
You’re spoiled for choice with social media advertising. Each platform comes with its unique audiences and features.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular social media platforms for advertising.
Facebook is the world’s leading social networking platform. Advertising on Facebook lets you tap into a massive user base. This is ideal if you want extensive reach and diverse demographics.
Levi’s ran a video ad on Facebook. It looks like a regular post in the newsfeed and feels like a natural part of the experience on the platform.
There is a short description that tells users about the video. The call-to-action (CTA) button that tells viewers what to do next. In this case, “Learn more.”
Here’s what you should do for social ads on Facebook:
- Know your audience: Use powerful targeting options like age, location, and interests in Facebook ads. They’ll help you reach the right potential customers.
- Use high-quality visuals: Choose attention-grabbing visuals that reflect your brand and message.
- Craft compelling copy: Keep your ad copy short and use language that resonates with your target audience.
- Incorporate a CTA: Guide viewers on what to do next with a CTA that aligns with your campaign goal.
- Make it mobile friendly: 98.5% of Facebook’s users aged 18 and older access it through mobile devices like phones and tablets. Check that visuals and copy are clear and compelling on smaller screens.
Instagram is a visual-centric platform that’s great for storytelling through imagery and short videos.
Over half of Instagram’s user base is under 34.
Image Source: Statista
Here’s an ad for Clorox Canada that appeared on Instagram.
The video, with a catchy jingle, shows off the product’s benefits and how it fits into daily life. Compelling visuals increase the chances of viewers remembering the brand and its message.
Plus, it fits in with other Instagram posts.
Users can like, comment, and share the ad to boost its reach and engagement potential.
Need some guidance on Instagram ads? Follow these tips:
- Use Instagram Stories: Stories offer a unique way to connect with users in a more casual style than photos that appear in users’ Instagram grids.
- Repost User-Generated Content (UGC): Showcase real customers using your product. UGC feels authentic and can boost credibility. (Be polite and ask permission to use it.)
- Experiment with AR Filters: Custom augmented reality (AR) filters can offer interactive experiences and can become viral sensations if they resonate with users.
- Incorporate shopping tags: If you sell products, use Instagram’s Shop feature. This allows users to shop directly from your social media posts.
X (formerly Twitter)
Twitter (now X) has a fast-paced nature that makes it ideal for timely promotions, announcements, and direct engagements. Its real-time conversational nature fosters immediate interaction and visibility among a broad audience.
The platform’s limited-character format means that brands have to get straight to the point.
According to the Twitter Connect Playbook:
People come to Twitter to discover what’s happening—and when brands connect to what’s happening on Twitter, they see impressive results: +70% recall, +15% message association, +11% brand awareness, and +7% brand reference.
While this may have been true in 2020, the rebrand has taken its toll.
Pew Research reported that since Elon Musk’s takeover, most survey respondents had either taken a break or are far less active on the platform. Many say they may not be on the platform at all within the year.
Before investing in this platform for your social media ads, check if your audience still actively participates there.
Let’s take a look at the Algorand Foundation’s ad on X.
There’s a clear visual announcing that registration is open with a link to the website.
You can see that users have retweeted, liked, and replied to the ad, which amplifies its reach.
So, what works on X?
- Use relevant hashtags: Incorporate popular or brand-specific hashtags to enhance ad visibility. This way, your content resonates with a broader audience and taps into ongoing discussions.
- Engage promptly: X is real time, so responding quickly to comments or mentions boosts brand authenticity. Immediate engagement fosters trust and promotes more interactions.
- Experiment with visual content: While X is text-centric, using images or short videos will make your ad pop. A variety of content types can attract more attention.
LinkedIn is a professional networking platform where individuals and businesses connect. Its B2B (business-to-business) nature makes it a good place to target professionals and businesses.
There are 1.7 million decision-makers on LinkedIn. LinkedIn ads put your brand in front of them.
This might be the reason behind its much higher CPC than other social platforms—you’re engaging the people with power.
Plus, audiences on LinkedIn are 6x more likely to convert after they see an ad.
This ad from Agorapulse, for example, promotes a free comparison tool that helps its target audience figure out which social media management tool would work best for them.
The brand understands the professional mindset of LinkedIn users and addresses a common need or pain point. It focuses on helping users make an informed decision rather than pushing a product directly.
This approach helps to build trust in the brand.
TikTok is a social media platform centered around short, engaging video clips, often set to music. Its short-form format makes content easily digestible and shareable.
This ad from Adobe showcases quick editing transformations using Lightroom.The creative visuals are likely to attract TikTok’s young audience.
Keep these tips in mind for your TikTok ads:
- Embrace authenticity: TikTok users value raw, genuine content that makes a brand feel relatable. Rather than polished ads, aim for a more natural, on-the-go feel.
- Use music and sound: TikTok is rooted in music and sound. Incorporate trending songs or create your own jingles to boost engagement and virality.
- Engage with trends: Jump on popular challenges or trends to make your brand relevant to the TikTok community. This can also increase your chances of appearing in the “For You” feed.
- Keep it short and sweet: You can upload longer videos, but the magic of TikTok lies in quick, captivating content. Aim for 15-second clips to deliver your message.
YouTube is a video-sharing platform where users can upload, view, rate, share, and comment on videos. The platform is a mix of user-generated content, professional creators, music videos, and branded channels.
What makes YouTube so great?
Used by more than 2 billion people globally, YouTube caters to different demographics, interests, and niches. This allows advertisers to target specific audiences with tailored content.
Let’s look at this ad from Lays.
It’s super short and matches the brand’s fun image with engaging visuals and sound.
Plus, research shows that images of food stimulate hunger, which is better than a text-driven ad for a snack brand.
Some tips to make the most of your YouTube ads:
- Make the first few seconds count: Capture attention immediately with engaging visuals or statements to minimize skip rates.
- Use video SEO: Optimize your video titles, descriptions, and tags with relevant keywords. Optimization helps your ad reach the intended audience by making it discoverable through YouTube’s search and recommendation algorithms.
Ads can help you get results quickly. On social media, you can get those ads in front of a highly targeted audience.
But, juggling ads across different platforms can be incredibly time-consuming.
Social Poster gives you an easy way to draft, schedule, and post content on social media platforms without leaving the Semrush interface. Paired with analysis from Social Tracker, you have a full suite for managing and analyzing your social media advertising.