Whether you like it or not, ads work. They’re the quickest, most effective way to get your brand and message out there. Ads can help to foster brand awareness, increase visibility, and increase potential sales leads, but with such a plethora of platforms available, where should you put your money, and how can you ensure the best return for your dollars?
Every brand is different, and every audience is different. Whether your goal is to convert existing leads, attract new audiences or capture a greater share of the market, we’ve broken down the wheres and whys so you don’t have to.
The key to any advertising strategy and maximizing return on investment (ROI) is ensuring you’re targeting the right people, in the right place, at the right time. Drilling down into your market segments can bring its own issues - too narrow and you won’t capture enough of an audience and too broad isn’t a smart use of your money either.
So the first step, as with any marketing program, should be environment scanning, competitor scanning, and some market research into trends and the types of ads audiences are responding to. One helpful tool to use for a combined competitor and ad trend research is the Facebook Ad Library. Searching in the library is easy and will help you see the types of ads that competitors have been running, how successful they were and how long they’ve been around.
Top tip: check out the impressions count and the date the ad was launched to see how successful the campaigns have been, this will give you some insight on the type of ads audiences are responding to. The more impressions, the larger the audience. The longer the time frame the ad’s been running, the more successful it’s been.
Advertising is roughly fifty percent art, and fifty percent science (or strategy). The art portion being the design elements of colour, tone, mood, and emotion, which require creativity and are very specific to your brand, your industry, and your customers. To understand what kind of words an imagery resonates with your customers, you can use a social analytics tool to track which posts and Ads get engagement (likes, shares, comments, etc.) and take inspiration from those, eliminating much of the guesswork.
Screenshot: Mandala Analytics
Any environment or audience scanning will also include taking a look at where your audience is online, which will help you narrow down the channels you want to use for your paid ads strategy. It stands to reason that, if people are following a brand on social media they might be pushed into purchasing by effective paid ad content. “By supplementing our highest priority content with paid dollars, we see organic and earned reach increase by 10 – 20x,” says Melissa Wisehart, managing director of digital strategy at Moore Communications Group.
Taking a look at the major hitters in terms of platforms is the surest way to make sure your investment is being used wisely. The question then becomes: do you bet it all on one horse or do you bet the field, with funds spread across multiple channels?
Once you’ve outlined the wheres of your paid ads strategy, it’s a good idea to zone in on the whys. What are your end goals for these paid ads? Are you looking to increase sales conversions? Are you looking for exposure? Answering these questions and defining your overall goals serves the twin aims of setting clear, achievable goals and setting targets you can benchmark and use in your evaluation stage after the campaign concludes, or after a set period of time.
Top tip: The old adage in Marketing is to set SMART goals, paid ads are no different. SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
So, with the wheres and the whys defined, we move onto the hows. How do you capture your audience's attention and ensure your ad budget is spent wisely?
Facebook “Facebook ranks at the top of the list for all age groups”, so making use of the Facebook Ads platform (which will also post to Instagram) is worthwhile for most brands.
Spending on Facebook Ads doesn’t have to be a big expense, setting small goals and running tests to see what works and what doesn’t is the mark of any good marketer. Setting a low budget of around $100-200 is a great way to start paid ads without breaking the bank. Depending on your brand and the products or services you offer, playing around with things like the age, location, cross-interests and even the gender of your intended ad audience can have a big impact on how effective your ad ultimately is.
For businesses that have an active Facebook or Instagram account, one of the best ways to zone in on your intended ad audience is by using Facebook Insights. This integrated tool inside Facebook’s Business Manager will tell you where your audience is, how old they are, their gender and even what time they’re online, allowing you to consolidate your ad spend on key target demographics and get the most bang for your buck!
Screenshot: Google search results
If you’re looking to invest in Search Ads, Display Ads and Youtube Ads then shifting your focus away from Facebook or allocating only a small portion of your budget to social media advertising is your best bet. Google Ads are one of the most effective paid advertising platforms thanks to the widespread use of Google and its associated products across the globe.
Calculating the ROI on Google Ad Spend does require a little bit of maths, but fortunately it’s not too tricky (and Google does it for you!). However, success as with anything in life, is subjective - even in business! Depending on what your company is selling and what overheads you have, how you judge the success of a campaign is going to be particular to your industry and your company goals. Service industries are more likely to favour leads and the broadening of their customer base while direct to consumer brands are more likely to be interested in units sold and conversions from the ads.
Google, like Facebook, has a variety of tools at your disposal. Using Google analytics can help you drill down into the geographical distribution, age, gender and even cross interests of your audiences. Using targeted information will allow you to zone in on your most popular products, make use of targeted keywords and see when your audience is most active in order to streamline your ad content creation and serve ads to leads most likely to convert.
Google’s handy free Conversion Tracking is the best way for you to see which ads are delivering the best results, allowing you to increase spending on more successful ads and reduce spending on those that aren’t delivering.
Another great feature you can use for Google Ads or even Facebook Ads is Google Trends. This tool will let you explore trends and hot news stories globally, making it easy for you to jump on a trend and use targeted advertising for a short time. Jumping on trends isn’t always possible, depending on your brand, products and overall marketing readiness and flexibility.
Being trendy and being a trendsetter are also two separate things that shouldn’t be confused. Jumping on a relevant trend is likely to bring short term results and new leads, but you’re banking on those leads expanding beyond your existing audience and integrating with it, which may not always be the case.
Twitter, once the social media powerhouse, now sees just a fraction of the daily users of social media giant Facebook, but one thing Twitter has always had going for it is immediacy and ease of use. When it comes to advertising, this is key. Users can share ads or marketing messages with a quick tap of the retweet button, meaning the message can be more widely disseminated to like-minded audiences much more readily than across the monolith that is Facebook.
Twitter Ads have the ability of being more flexible and subjective than Facebook or even Google Ads, thanks to the simple way they integrate with the user’s timeline, making them appear more organic than their counterparts. This might not seem like much of a consideration, but the method of delivery matters a lot! Twitter’s business centre reports that users spend 26% more time looking at ads on their platform than any other, the more time someone looks, the more likely they are to interact, and potentially convert.
Twitter’s other key selling point is the use of hashtags across the platform. While use of hashtags isn’t unique to Twitter (they’re also used heavily on Instagram and Facebook), the use of branded hashtags on Twitter can serve as a free advertising tool that perfectly complements your ad spend. Pairing the paid with the organic is what social media advertising is really all about, since without community there wouldn’t be anyone to sell to or to champion your brand and your products.
Overall, the best approach to increasing your paid advertising ROI is to apply tactics of environment scanning, competitor scanning and market research to create the best ads, served over the best channels to your audiences. Digital advertising exists in a crowded space, using tests to drill down on what works and what doesn’t will ultimately be the best way to determine your budget and ROI.