Social Media Advertising: How To Get Started

Updated: March 17th, 2022

Different Types of Social Media Advertising

There are various different Social Media platforms available to you. Some may be more critical for your marketing efforts than others, however, it's important to have an understanding of what's out there and available to you.

Let's talk about a few of the main platforms and what makes them unique:

  • Facebook Advertising - more than 2 billion monthly users. Facebook is the best for lead generation + capturing email addresses for e-commerce businesses.
  • Instagram Advertising - approximately 500 million monthly users and has a higher audience engagement rate than any other platform. Instagram ads are best for linking to a product page or landing page and reaches the 18-29 age group most effectively.
  • Twitter Advertising- Small businesses typically use twitter ads to drive brand awareness, but the platform is meant more for organic engagement (and is not as heavily used for paid advertising)
  • Pinterest - 175 million monthly users and most effectively reaches the female audience. Pinterest is great for promoting products without "promoted". The promoted pins have a way of blending right in.
  • LinkedIn - 227 million monthly users and is geared towards the B2B market and generates the highest quality leads. Great platform for recruiters, high-end products and services that will help businesses.

Define Your Goal/Objective

Now that we've listed the platforms available for advertising, it's important to define a goal or objective you're looking to get out of your campaign.

Here are some of the different goals you may want to think about:

  1. Driving brand awareness
  2. Driving users to your website to gather information
  3. Increasing sales and getting your customer to take action

Before you invest time and money into your campaign, you may want to identify what it is that you're looking to gain out of your campaign.

From there, choose the platform that targets your audience best and start experimenting!

Segment your Audience

Rather than pushing paid content in front of random users, it's important to consider targeting and segmenting your audience so that your campaign performs well.

When running an ad campaign, choosing a social media platform is the first step in segmenting your audience. As we discussed earlier, each platform is unique in its own way and typically reaches a specific demographic (ie. age of users active on Instagram that are clicking on ads).

Additionally, when you pay for ads, almost every social media platform offers you the ability to filter your audience for things like:

  • Targeting users geographically
  • Targeting users based on their interests
  • Targeting users based on their behavior (ie. purchasing frequency)
  • Targeting users based on their demographic

Segmenting your audience will take some trial and error, so it's okay if it's not spot-on at first. You can always experiment with different platforms and filters until it feels right.

One great example is when Mack McConnel, founder of Taster's Club tailored messaging to specific audiences and saw their engagement increase dramatically:

With respect to growth we’ve found some success with paid advertising, social media, content marketing, and email.

Our general recommendation is to segment your audience and speak directly to their specific needs/interests. You might be surprised to learn that vodka aficionados are very different from whiskey connoisseurs in both language and behavior. Tailoring our message to specific audiences has dramatically increased engagement.

Some of the segments we have created include: club type (Ex: whiskey, vodka, rum, etc.), active members, past members, self-purchasers, gift givers, gift recipients, non-members, new members (first 45 days), and recently canceled members (last 7 days).

Customer segmentation is a huge advantage for us because it allows us to personalize our messaging to address the specific context and needs of an individual member.


Install the Facebook Pixel

If you plan to use Facebook ads now or in the future, installing the Facebook pixel is something you should do today.

Here's how it works:

The "pixel" is a code you can place on your website and collects data that helps with:

  • Tracking conversions from FB ads - you can view how customers engage with your website after seeing your ad
  • Building target and segmented audiences for future ads
  • Helps remarket to users that have been active or taken action on your website.

One of the major benefits is that the pixel allows you to get specific with retargeting efforts.

Have you ever had one of those moments where you added something to your cart and then later find an Ad for that exact product? The pixel does just that... and more.

To create and install a Facebook pixel, follow these steps.

Andy Hayes, founder of Plum Deluxe Tea talks about mastering FB ads and the Pixel:

However, the biggest bang for your buck will likely be mastering Facebook and it’s platform - which we all know is pay for play, so you’ll have to come up with a small amount of budget to start for marketing. We’ve spent countless hours (and paid numerous coaches) before we cracked the code that works for us on Facebook, but it is working really well for us now. Some of the most important things to know when it comes to FB Ads:

  • Start with retargeting (that’s showing ads to people who already know you but did not purchase). Master this - and start building information on your Facebook Pixel - before you do anything else
  • Once you have that down, try working with the 1% “Lookalike” audience to prospect for new customers. This may take awhile because your pixel audience is small, so try layering on interests - 1% Lookalike and your largest competitor, for example. Don’t use interest-only targeting until you master this.
  • Great photography and videography is key, as is smart copy. Research what’s out there in your industry and constantly test - what works for one company may not work for other people.
  • Make sure you have good offers. For example, we have a $5 trial for our subscription, which converts affordably - if we promoted our subscription with the standard $30 front charge, it wouldn’t be as cost-effective.


Hugh Rees talks about the importance of segmenting audiences through the Facebook Pixel, and gives us a few examples:

Using specific time windows helps break up specific messaging and really allows you to curate your message. For instance, building an audience based off people who have added to cart in the last 3 days, will be far more likely to buy than an audience that added to cart 14 days ago.

We build these Website Custom Audiences through the Facebook Pixel you have installed on your website. The Pixel tracks every action that a use can take on your website, be that viewing a product, adding a product to their cart, checking out and purchasing.

You can access your audiences from under the Assets menu in your business manager:


Here are some of our winning custom audiences:

  • Add to Cart 1-3 days.
  • Add to Cart 4-7 days
  • View Content 1-7 Days
  • Top 5% of Time Spent On Website
  • Facebook and Instagram Engagers over the last 14 days.
  • Top 75% of Video Views 7 Days
  • Email Subscribers
  • 2X View Content 1-7 Days (someone who has viewed 2 or more products)
  • Friends of Facebook Likers

Pro Tip - The jewel in the crown is, of course, previous purchasers. This is your highest value custom audience. It is much easier to sell to a previous customer than it is to someone who has not purchased off your before.

Take advantage of this and create an offer just for these VIPs!

Create Engaging Content

When it comes to the design of your ad, it's critical that you create engaging and fun content so that customers aren't just scrolling through.

Let's break down two of the most important pieces to consider when creating your ad:

  1. Engaging Ad Copy
  2. Engaging Ad Creative (the visuals)

Engaging Ad Copy

Good copywriting is essential for your campaign to perform well, so let's talk about what makes people click.

It's important to consider who you are writing for. If you have a good understanding of your audience, your messaging should reflect their interests, pain points, experiences, etc.

Here are a few tips to consider when writing your copy:

  • Make sure your CTA leads your customer to the goal you're trying to accomplish (maybe that's buying a specific product, or it's a landing page with giveaway entry criteria). Whatever it is, make sure it's clear and the user experience is easy.
  • Make sure the copy is simple and the important copy remains front of mind (ie. try not to overcomplicate by asking your customer to "read more")
  • Test your ad organically prior to promoting it. This can help you gauge whether you need to tweak the ad with different copy, headings etc.

Another big one to consider (specifically for Facebook ads) is mastering your headline. Chances are, customers will see your headline and immediately decide if they want to click or not.

Ronell Firouz, founder of Pilly Labs states that he's seen extreme swings in profitability by just changing up a few words or phrases on their ad headlines. For example,

Option 1: "Hangover Pill" Option 2: "Hate your Hangover?" ... much more enticing

Pro Tip from Hugh Rees - if you're stuck on an idea for content or headlines, head over to Answer The Public to get insights on a given topic. "Pure copywriting gold!"

Engaging Ad Visuals

Simply put, strong visual content leads people to buy your product

For example, tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than ones without images.

So... what makes a great Ad visual?

  • Consider having a single focal point on your image
  • Use images that evoke emotions from your audience - this is basic human psychology - people often buy based off emotion
  • Keep it simple - try not to overedit and make sure your image is easy to understand
  • Colors, colors, colors!. Make sure colors contrast and are consistent with your brand
  • Try to avoid negative (empty) space between words

Here's a great example of an effective and visually appealing Instagram ad. The colors contrast well, the clothing is arranged in an attractive pattern and there's a clear and simple CTA in the caption.


Understanding Costs and Returns

Creating engaging social media ads can be a big investment, so it's important to understand the costs, returns, and if it's worth it for your business.

Let's first talk through some of the common terms that you should be aware of when experimenting with ads:

  • ROAS (return on advertising spend): Revenue from Ad Campaign/Cost from Ad Campaign = ROAS. A great benchmark to consider for ROAS would be approx 4:1 or higher.
  • CAC (customer acquisition cost): Total expenses to acquire new customers/total number of customers acquired over a given time = CAC. Target CAC depends on the industry.
  • CPA (cost per action): Otherwise known as an affiliate or performance-based marketing tactic
  • CPM (cost per mile): Marketing term used to determine the price of 1,000 advertisement impressions on one webpage.

It's critical that throughout the process of experimenting with different ads, total spending is being monitored. It's easy to get carried away with the different platforms and tools available, and revenue coming in as a result of your ad campaigns should always be considered.

Look at the big picture in terms of the numbers and determine if what you're doing is working, worth it and scalable.

Humphrey Yang, founder of Craft Oak puts a few of these terms into perspective with his own business:

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Importance of A/B testing

A/B testing (otherwise known as split testing) allows you to test certain marketing materials with two different groups to gather reactions and analytics from each.

In the beginning, it's challenging to identify what works for your audience, which is why A/B testing should always be apart of your strategy from the start.

Here are some different elements you can test:

  • Messaging (length, style, emojis, etc)
  • Different headlines
  • CTA's and customer behavior there
  • Image vs Video
  • Hashtags
  • Much more!

A/B testing helps boost the overall performance of your ad and ensures your money is being put behind the right Ad.

For example, Eddie Huai, founder of Flyby ($200K/month) discusses the two most compelling pieces of information that A/B testing brought their business:

When I started on these platforms, I would spend around $15-30/day, A/B testing different audiences, age groups and days of the week using various photos/videos/phrases/creative. I would run them for about a week or two and then narrow it down based on performance.

We also use FB/IG Dynamic ads to retarget people who’ve visited our website. This feature is great because we can narrow down the audience based on the actions they’ve taken on our website.

We found two things that were really compelling and worked for us after testing:

  1. It’s all about the “source” of your ads

We found out that the source that’s displaying the ad is the most important, not the actual content. We can say how great our product is from our brand page, but it appears like an ad. Obviously, we’re going to say how great our product is.

So we started testing out paying third-party Facebook pages that already had millions of followers to write posts and run ads for us but in a very neutral way. We would then pay them, almost like an affiliate deal. Some asked for a flat fee while others required a small initial fee along with a % of every sale generated. The latter was definitely the most effective option as it allowed us to minimize any upfront risk in case the campaign didn’t perform well.

This acquisition strategy did 5-6X better in conversion and gave us a much lower customer acquisition cost (CAC), than if we said the same thing from our page. Because our product is skeptical by nature, and if we advertise it, it’s even more skeptical. The more we neutralize it and work with third-party trusted sources, the more social proof it gives our product.

  1. Steer people to your press articles

The second thing was directing people to our website, versus steering them to our press articles.

The latter performed much better, which seems counterintuitive because instead of directing people to the point of purchase, we’re sending them to an article and then hoping they’ll go to our website (which adds an extra layer in the funnel). But what we found out is that people need to trust this, and you need to lower the barrier of skepticism.

And so when they go to this article and see that Mashable tested this product and it has some real science behind, they then go to our website and are more likely to purchase.



As you can see, social media advertising is all about experimenting with different platforms and finding what works best for your business.

If you're in the getting started phase, consider setting a small budget aside to try new things and get familiar with the platforms - you'd be surprised where this might take you.

Join our community to learn more!

It's true - social media advertising can be a beast.

Now that platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are some of the most prevalent forms of marketing, new trends and updated algorithms seem to be changing daily.

The fundamentals, however, always remain the same and always work.

In this guide, we will discuss how to master the fundamentals of social media advertising

meet the author
Pat Walls

I'm Pat Walls and I created Starter Story - a website dedicated to helping people start businesses. We interview entrepreneurs from around the world about how they started and grew their businesses.