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Ian Blair

A Quick Guide to Maximizing Social Media Ads


One of the inescapable truths of all businesses is that they have to make money. The same is true of social networks, in order for them to provide a ‘free’ platform for users, they have to sell ads. This is something that often gets overlooked in the social media equation. Users have been somewhat spoilt by having free access to such services, and then when they move into monetization, people get upset.

However, the best thing about this is that those ads are available to you. Why’s that so good? This means social media networks have more data and information on users than any other resource in history.

A full 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years, with a large chunk of that coming from information logged on social networks. Everything you ‘Like’, everything you ‘re-tweet’ is stored, filed and categorized, which provides amazingly detailed insights into the interests and behaviours of people. There’s so much data that researchers have found that users’ social activity can reveal more about their psychological make up than their friends, their family, even their partner. When you consider that, you can start to imagine how powerful that same data might be in finding your ideal target audience. And that type of insight can be utilized by anyone.

Here’s one of the easiest ways to do it.

Facebook Advertising

Probably the key way brands can best utilise social media advertising is via Facebook. Why? Because everyone’s on Facebook. From children to adults, Facebook has the widest audience share, and likely the biggest potential to reach your target market. This, combined with very intelligent ad filtering options that can help hone and focus your message to the reach the right people at the right times, gives Facebook the leading edge in social ads. Facebook advertising is also incredibly user-friendly – much more so than it once was. And clearly many brands agree – Facebook recently announced it now has more than 2.5 million active advertisers on the platform.

To begin, click on the Facebook Ads link located on from the main drop-down menu on your Facebook page:

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Once clicked, you’ll be taken to the ad creation tool, which gives you a range of specific options, all optimized to achieve the chosen goal.

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Over time, Facebook has added a heap of new options to this list, making it easier to focus on exactly what you want to achieve. Once you’ve selected what you’re aiming for, you’ll go through to the engine room of Facebook ads, the audience selection process.

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The audience selection process allows a great amount of customization and targeting – including basic parameters such as location, age, gender and language. In location, Facebook recently added a new map functionality to enable you to see the potential reach zone of your targeting, as opposed to writing in location/s.

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You can choose to include or exclude any specific region, enabling you to narrow down your focus easily.

But the real power of Facebook ads is in interest and behavioural targeting, enabling you to reach very specific subsets based on audience behaviours.

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As you can see, you can focus on users who’ve shown specific interest in any of these major categories – when selected, each interest will expand to show a full list of related interests to narrow down your audience.

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But more than that, you can enter in any interest you like, including specific Facebook pages. For example, if I were selling dog toys in my local region, I might want to focus on people who were fans of ‘Pet Shop Bowl’ in my area, as I know they’re likely to already have an interest in dogs.

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The more you know your audience, the better you can target. Once you have selected an interest Facebook will find related qualifiers which may also fit what you’re looking for. The only restriction on using ‘Pages’ for this purpose is that not all Pages show up – they need to have around 10,000 ‘Page Likes’ to qualify.

To work out more specifically who you want to target, you can use Facebook Page Insights to get more data on the people currently interested in your page.

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You can also examine related Page likes by using Facebook’s Graph Search feature – when entering a search term such as ‘Pages Likes by people who Like [Your Page]’ it will return a listing of your followers interests.  The more data you can gather in this regard, the better, as the people who have bought from you previously are likely indicative of the audience you want to reach, so their interests and behaviours will be similar.

But that’s not all – in Behaviours, you can narrow down your audience even further based on how they access Facebook (mobile or desktop), how they engage with seasonal events, whether they’re frequent travellers, etc.

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The options available are astounding, there’s so much you can do to focus and hone your ads. You can even narrow it down to how they’re connected to your business – in ‘Connections’, you can choose to focus on people who Like your Page already, or aim for those who aren’t already connected to you.

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And this is before we even get into ‘Custom Audiences’ (based on your e-mail lists) and lookalike audiences, which you can build based on your e-mail lists (Facebook will look up your audience on Facebook, based on your uploaded e-mail contacts, then build a profile of your target market and generate a lookalike audience based on those traits).

The amount of customizable options in Facebook is truly overwhelming – it’s worth taking the time to learn the ins and outs and see what’s possible, and the best way to do just that is to try it out yourself and see what you come up with.

One important note – the budget for Facebook ads is whatever you want to spend. If you want to spend $5 per day, Facebook will show your ad to as many people as it can within the group you’ve specified for that price (ads are shown on an auction basis). If you want to spend $5,000 per day, you can do that. Facebook will use your parameters to guide when and where your ads are shown to maximise results. If you select $5 per day as your budget, you’ll never be charged more than that (though your ads will only have limited reach as a result).

Twitter Ads

Twitter has been working to improve its ad offering, with a range of new analytics tools and functions. Most notably, Twitter recently released a new analytics dashboard which gives you an overview of the interests and make up of your Twitter followers, based on their on-platform activity.

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Using this, you can create Twitter ads in much the same way you do on Facebook – in your main menu drop-down, select ‘Twitter Ads’ and away you go.

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Once you’re in the Twitter Ads dashboard, select the drop-down menu for ‘Create a New Campaign’ – this will give you a range of options for what you’re aiming to achieve.

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Once selected, you’ll be given a range of options on audience targeting, similar to Facebook.

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You put together your ad content, select your budget, the same as in Facebook, and there you are, you Twitter ad is set. How you choose which platforms to advertise on will be based on what your target audience use and what you’re aiming to achieve with each campaign.

Other Platforms

There’s really no limit to how you can reach people via social, the parameters and targeting options available are only limited to the data provided by each platform itself. If the majority of your target audience is on LinkedIn you can use LinkedIn’s ad options, which are similar to Facebook and Twitter, but more professionally focussed. You can have sponsored updates, which appear like regular LinkedIn updates, or sidebar ads. On Instagram, you can go through Facebook’s ad platform and use ‘Clicks to Website’ and ‘Mobile App Install’ campaigns to reach Instagram audiences. Pinterest ‘Promoted Pins’ will be more widely available soon. There’s a range of options for using paid advertising on the platforms which best suit your audience – the best way to learn them is to log on and have a look at what type of targeting and advanced options each platform delivers.

But remember, it’s in that more nuanced audience targeting where social platforms offer the most value. Clicking on ‘Boost Post’ on Facebook can be a good option, but if you do, make sure you also click through on the advanced targeting options to ensure you’re getting the most out of your ad delivery.

Share your tips below on using social ads

Ian Blair

BuildFire Co-Founder. I'm a digital marketer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart. I'm here to help businesses go mobile and build apps more efficiently than before.