Businesses turn to social media to build a loyal audience they then leverage to boost sales and generate new leads.

Other than the considerable investment of time and resources required to make corporate social media initiatives succeed, social media costs nothing to use.

Hence, some businesses frown on paid social advertising – they prefer to build an audience organically, without the assistance of ad buys, even though these ad buys can be intrinsic to other aspects of a business’s marketing strategy.

Still, social media ads can offer a very targeted, strategic way to build an audience and reach people who might not otherwise be reached.

The challenge is evaluating whether social media advertising is right for your business and exploring alternatives.
 

Here are the key things you need to know as you decide whether you should invest in social media advertising:

 

1. Social media is so vast that it’s hard to stand out:

Major social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram expose their audience to such a huge amount of content that it’s a wonder any business can get noticed.

On a site like Facebook – which uses a complex algorithm to determine what postings pop up on users’ news feeds – you could be producing great content, but if the algorithm decides your content is not worthy of moving into your followers’ feeds, your efforts could be going to waste.

Similarly, Facebook moved away from brands and publishers being seen as often in their algorithm, making it a pay-for-play model.

Plus, supplying enough good content to keep algorithms “happy” can require substantial resources – perhaps more of a commitment than your business can handle.
 

2. Paid social advertising allows for powerful targeting and analysis:

All marketing is about getting exposure to the right people at the right time, and social media can sometimes stand in the way of that. While social media reaches a global audience, the audience you may want to reach is a local or regional audience, or a certain age range or gender demographic.

Paid social media ads can make a huge difference in this regard.

With paid social advertising, you have the ability to target your ads to a specific audience, to ramp up your messaging very quickly and effectively, and to use sophisticated analytics to carefully monitor and tweak your strategy in real time.
 

3. Paid ads aren’t always well-received on social media:

Consumer surveys have shown that many people can get annoyed by ads while surfing the web, and these same sentiments, unfortunately, extend to social media.

In fact, surveys suggest that a majority of social media users despise seeing ads in their feeds, and social media advertising is sometimes can be hard to demonstrate its effectiveness.

A Nielsen study showed that 84% of people trust recommendations from friends, family, colleagues over other forms of marketing (ads, social media ads, etc).
 

4. Paid ads on social media require a big investment:

Like all content on social media, paid social ads must contain content that will entice and engage your audience.

Hence, your business must be prepared to invest just as much time and resources into producing high-quality content for social media advertising as you do with all of your content marketing.

And more significantly, given that any business has a finite budget for marketing, any money and resources you allocate to paid ads on social media will inevitably mean a smaller pie for the rest of your marketing budget.

A study by Adobe saw that the cost of digital advertising is rising 5x faster than inflation in the US and 71% faster than the cost of TV ads. Of course, digital advertising is a combination of online advertising not just social, but that’s pretty revealing.

Pending which social platform you are advertising on and how well you target, the budget can quickly disappear, with minimal results to show if you do not keep adding to the paid social budget.
 

5. Your ad buys should be diverse, at least initially:

Just as you should never put all of your eggs in one basket, you want to diversify your ad buys and take full advantage of the huge range of options available to you on social media.

For example, on Facebook alone, you can buy ads that appear on users’ news feeds, on a right-hand bar, or on mobile devices only.

Mixing in various forms can be crucial to your budget and ad results. The good thing about platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook, is they continue to roll out new features and improve the effectiveness of their targeting.
 

6. Analytics is instrumental to the success of paid social media ads:

Paid advertising on social media can be effective if you’re able to target all the right people, and get them to respond in just the way that you want.

Unfortunately, the only way to know any of this is to commit to performing detailed analytics. Google Analytics is a great place to start – you’ll want to create customized URLs for each ad you release to track exactly who’s clicking on it and what the outcome of that click is (i.e. sale or no sale).

As you compile this information on a daily basis, trends will start to emerge that will help you decide how to adjust your paid media buying strategy.
 

Why Is Paid Social Getting More Expensive?

Honestly, the rising costs of advertising on social media should not really be a surprise. Initially, social media was looked at something good for brands to have, to build a following, and showcase some vanity metrics.

But now, it’s become the go-to outlets to connect with customers, prospects, and build a significant brand presence. More companies have recognized this and know its where their audiences are highly active.

  • More competition for social ad space and how targeted you are trying to be will drive the costs up.
  • There are fewer social media outlets that are worth advertising on, funneling most companies to focus there. Think of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.

 

Alternative and Complementary Solution

This is a great reason for you to invest in a social selling or employee advocacy strategy. And is why companies are looking to their workforce to help reach audiences, prospects, and customers.

Enabling your employees to share relevant company content and quality third-party industry content with their personal networks spreads the brand organically, drives web traffic, and helps boost leads and sales.

  • 98% of employees use at least one social media site for personal use, of which 50% are already posting about their company. (Weber Shandwick)
  • According to Kredible, on average, an employee advocacy program involving 1,000 active participants can generate $1,900,000 in advertising value.
  • Earned media (press, word-of-mouth, peer-to-peer referrals) drives 4x the brand lift as paid media. (Bazaar Voice)
  • An employee advocacy program costs 1/10 of paid advertising. (EveryoneSocial)

Now, this is not to say you need to entirely replace your paid social advertising efforts. Many times adopting employee advocacy can complement your brands’ current social media ad results.

But employee advocacy and social selling can reduce your need to spend on paid ads, generate ad value organically, and help your company find its voice while increasing your notice in the vast social media landscape.
 
Related: Learn how to be successful with build your own employee advocacy program. Download our complete guide here.
 

Final Thoughts

Every business is different and has different social media goals. Of course, your company 100% needs to be active and visible on major social platforms, or be left behind in the evolving digital age.

As you evaluate if and how you should consider social media advertising, it’s important to keep the following things in mind:

  • Be aware of the vastness of social media.
  • Consider the powerful targeting capabilities of paid ads.
  • But recognize that users tend to not like ads or trust it less.
  • Be prepared to invest sufficient resources and analytics into your strategy.
  • Remember to diversify your ad buys and test variations.
  • Keep in mind of the alternatives and compliments to your social media advertising with employee advocacy and social selling.

 

Wondering what well-known brands are utilizing employee advocacy and social selling along with their paid social advertising? Here are 10 employee advocacy examples.