The art of social media advertising

Chapter 01: Introduction

Social media advertising is one of the most effective ways for small businesses to build brand awareness and grow their business. According to a study conducted by SproutSocial, 57.5% of people are more likely to buy from businesses they follow on social media channels.

Putting your ad campaign in front of the wrong people in the wrong channel is the best way to quickly drain your marketing budget. To advertise effectively, you'll need to know your target market, their mindset, where they hang out and what problems they need solved.

Advertising with social media is an art and having the right strategy in place will help you paint the picture that you want others to see.

In this guide you'll learn how to:

  • Identify and find your target market
  • Define your advertising objectives
  • Prepare your offer
  • Slect the right advertising channel
  • Create a starting budget

Chapter 02: Identifying your target market

It's important to focus on your target market. Social media advertising makes it possible to drill down to very specific characteristics, but you can't make the assumption that prospective clients are just like you. They don't necessarily have the same beliefs or hold the same values that you do, and they certainly don't make purchases for the same reasons.

If you don't already have a specific audience in mind, take some time to dive deep into demographics and psychographics before you launch your advertising campaign.

Finding your target market

Social media is a great channel for engaging with leads and clients and learning more about them. But, every social media network is different and people engage with them differently. There are a number of factors that you can take into consideration before you select a social media network to advertise on. Here are a few characteristics to take note of.


Facebook is the most popular social media network with more than 70% of online adults using it. It's highly likely your clients are on Facebook, but there's plenty of competition for their attention.


Twitter is typically used by younger tech-savvy individuals for technology, news, sports, marketing, journalism, and other informational topics. It's a fast-paced environment with the average lifespan of a tweet lasting 18 minutes.


Linkedin is great for businesses selling to other businesses as well as establishing partnership credibility and authority. B2B businesses that network, share insights on productivity, job hunting, and career or business advice do well on this network.


Pinterest is effective for businesses focused on categories like food or DIY. Images are key on this network.

Take your time to review the social media networks that you're considering advertising on and make sure your audience is there. Many networks have groups that are passionate about a topic, product, or service, so spending time with these groups is time well spent.

Once you've made a decision, start with 1 social media network and create a habit of posting consistently before adding another. Businesses that have social media account, but lack presence, may send the wrong message—like they're not serious about their business or they may have gone out of business.

Chapter 03: Understand the buyer's mindset

After you've identified the specific audience you'll target, take a moment to consider the path that your current clients take to buy your products or services.

Is there a pattern or flow? Does one process generally product more clients over another? If so, focus your advertising dollars on bringing more buyers through that sales process so you can quickly measure the return on investment (ROI).

To bring in more clients, you'll have to understand which stage of the buying process they're in. Prospective clients can be grouped into 5 different stages as demonstrated in the table below.

Understanding where your prospective clients are along the path to purchase helps you identify their pain points so you can help them move to the next step.

Chapter 04: Preparing your offer

Every advertising message that you share should be intentionally designed to move towards a defined outcome, ranging from brand awareness and sentiment, to conversion and support. To communicate effectively you need to understand the mindset of buyers and what you can offer to move them to the next step. Consider the questions in the chart below to define your advertising purpose.

When thinking about what you can use to help achieve your advertising objective, consider the flow of the messaging and content that you're delivering. Will you deliver a blog, ebook, discount or samples? How will you position them? In what sequence? Once you've developed the content that will help you move prospective clients to the next stage, it's time to start developing your ad.

Chapter 05: Painting the right picture

In social media advertising, you have less than a second to make a great first impression. People are scrolling through their feeds and won’t recognize you unless you have a great ad.

Start painting the right message by understanding the purpose for your ad. Do you want more people to like your social media page, visit your website, opt-in to an offer or share with a friend?

Ad components

Once you understand your purpose, make sure your ad has the following elements:

Clear call to action (CTA): Begin with the end in mind. Make sure you have a clear CTA on the ad you create. CTAs can be buttons or links depending on the social media network you're using.

Short and easy copy to read: People should be able to quickly understand what you're trying to say in 1-2 sentences.

Beautiful images: Make sure your images look realistic and are sized appropriately.

Correct links: Links should drive to what you promised in the ad.

Mobile-friendly: Make sure your ad looks great on mobile devices. The majority of social media users access their network via their mobile phone or tablet.

How to paint the right picture

To help you paint the right picture, follow these steps:

Step 1: Determine the objective of the ad.

Step 2: Choose a CTA. What do you want people to do when they see the ad?

Step 3: Describe the offer in 1-2 sentences.

Step 4: Choose an image for the ad that conveys the emotion you want people to feel when they see the ad.

Step 5: Check the final details:

  • The image size is correct
  • The link to the website or landing page you're usig is correct
  • The ad works and looks right on mobile devices
  • The ad copy is correct

Chapter 06: Selecting the right advertising channel

Saying the right thing at the right time is as important in marketing as it is in life. Say the wrong thing and you'll ruin your chances of making a new friend. In fact, they may even tell their friends about how awkward you are. However, saying the right thing at the right time helps build trust and earns you the right to share more information about your business.

Social media is an effective vehicle for building trust. The table below is a summary of methods that you can use to help buyers engage with your brand based on where they are in the buyer's journey. Specific details and examples follow.

Chapter 07: Reaching people at each stage of the buying process

Reaching unaware buyers

Because unaware people don't recognize that they have a problem, your goal at this stage is to help them become aware of the problem. Once they become aware of the problem, you'll be the first person they turn to for a solution.

In this stage, your goal is to build brand awareness by sharing real before-and-after pictures, stories, news, articles and statistics. The use of visuals, short copy, and links increase engagement.

Obviously, you can participate in groups, comment with solutions and simply be helpful, but that's your organic approach. Since this guide is about paid advertising, we'll keep our focus on ads.

In this Facebook ad example, The Rollins Advantage attempts to buld brand awareness by sharing helpful articles.

This ad includes:

  • Clear CTA: "READ MORE"
  • Short and easy-to-consume copy: It's clear that this ad includes 1,000 ideas for your next blog post
  • Beautiful images: The image displays someone who's frustrated with his blog
  • Correct links: Prospective clients are directed to the blog where there is a pop-up lead capture form upon exit
  • Mobile-friendly: The post displays nicely on mobile devices

Aware buyers

Because buyers are aware of the problem, but not actively seeking a solution you need to meet them where they are. Then you can provide content that helps them solve their problem, even if today's solution isn't your product or service. Perhaps, they'll be ready to purchase later.

This is where great content marketing comes into play. Your goal with someone who's aware of the problem is to establish trust. People buy from people they like and trust. When they trust you, they'll want to learn more about how you can help solve their problem.

Delivering advice by sharing a blog post or a lead magnet reminds them of the problem and suggests help. You can also share real before-and-after pictures, stories and giveaways. Your goal is to build trust and earn permission to market to them.

In this Twitter ad example, The Rollins Advantage attempts to establish trust by providing education. The ad targets small business owners who are unaware that most of the buying process is complete before a buyer talks to a sales representative.

This ad includes:

  • Clear CTA: "Learn More"
  • Short and easy to consume copy: It's clear that this ad includes 5 ways to capture leads
  • Beautiful images: The image shows content as part of the solution
  • Correct links: Prospective clients are directed to an educational series where there's a pop-up lead capture form upon exit
  • Mobile-friendly: The post displays nicely on mobile devices

Interested buyers

Interested buyers are aware of the problem and they're interested in solving it, but they may not be aware of your products and services. They're actively seeking a solution using online search and their personal network. Therefore, social media advertising may not be the most effective way to spend your advertising budget if you're seeking an immediate sale.

Social media advertising requires more of a long-term mindset. Because people aren't on social media with a mindset to buy, conversions aren't necessarily as quick as when people search Google. A long-term strategy includes creating content that's helpful, engaging, and valuable enough for them to exchange their contact information with you.

On social networking sites like Facebook, you can target certain behaviors, life events, and interests. This helps you create a compelling offer, like a VIP program, one-time discount, webinar, ebook or learning series that speak to your prosepctive client's current mindset.

In this Facebook ad example, The Rollins Advantage offers a free webinar that addresses the problem (content that doesn't convert). Prospective clients may not be aware that The Rollins Advantage is a marketing agency, but they may be interested in learning how to improve engagment with their content.

This ad includes:

  • Clear CTA: "Learn More"
  • Short and easy to consume copy: The copy poses a question and help to solve the problem
  • Beautiful images: The use of a computer with a mortar cap demonstrates that they will learn something
  • Correct links: Prospective clients are directed to sign up for the webinar
  • Mobile-friendly: The post displays nicely on mobile devices

Buyers who are evaluating

Because your prospective clients know who you are, it's likely that they're on your list. Email marketing is the cheapest way to continue staying top-of-mind. A weekly email with helpful tips and CTAs that encourages additional learning and engagement helps your brand stay relevant.

Retargeting using cookie-based technology to display your message as your prospective clients visit other sites and some social media networks is another option. You can retarget using AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, and more. Remember to tie your messaging to the landing page that established the cookie or garnered the opt-in. Retargeting acts like a reminder (or even a constant nag) to drive prospective clients back to your site.

This ad includes:

  • Clear CTA: "Watch More"
  • Short and easy to consume copy: It's clear that the replay is only available for a few days
  • Beautiful images: The use of the same image helps prospective clients recall the landing page and previous attempt to register
  • Correct links: Prospective clients are directed to the replay that houses an opt-in webform
  • Mobile-friendly: The post displays nicely on mobile devices

Reach clients

Delivering what you promised, when you promised and going above and beyond earns you loyal fans. Continue to share relevant content, product updates and upsell additional products and services. Email is the most cost-effective way of staying top of mind and there are software solutions that help you automate your messaging, like Keap. Of course, you can use social media ads as well.

Your messaging can include product updates, new products or services, special offers, helpful ways to use your products or services, testimonials, and more. Since every person is different, you should segment your list and test which messages garner more engagement. Continue to do more of what works and check ineffective items off your to-do list.

In this LinkedIn ad example, The Rollins Advantage targets current clients with an upsell to social media monitoring and is schedule to go out to clients at night.

This ad includes:

  • Clear CTA: "Click the image below to book now"
  • Short and easy to consume copy: Clients know they can get 30 minutes of social media monitoring time for free
  • Beautiful images: The use of someone spending time burning the midnight oil helps create empathy and ties to the timing of the ad
  • Correct links: Clients are directed to book now
  • Mobile-friendly: The post displays nicely on mobile devices

Chapter 08: Creating a starting budget

According to the Small business trends, social media makes up about 10% of marketing budgets, and that figure continues to rise. If you're new to social media, you'll need to find the right mix of advertising dollars and channels to achieve your objectives.

For example, if your marketing budget is $1,000/month, start by allocating $100 to social media advertising. Evaluate how much you're spending against the benefit you're receiving and adjust accordingly. Remember to include the cost of tools and services to get a complete picture.

Anything that costs money but doesn't contribute directly or indirectly to the bottom line in the form of efficiencies, insights, or meaningful outcomes should be a candidate for modification or elimination.

Evaluate and improve

Evaluating each ad campaign against its objectives is critical. Did the campaign perform above your expectations? If so, consider allocating more budget to it. If not, review the campaign to see where you can improve.

Got clicks? Check the following if you're getting clicks on your ads, but aren't converting to sales:

  • Broken links on landing pages
  • CTA, landing page messaging, images, buttons, and grammar
  • Pricing

Got impressions? Check the following if you're getting ad views (or impressions), but not enough clicks:

  • The audience that the ad is displaying to
  • CTA, ad copy, and images
  • Offer

You don't need to change the entire ad campaign. Sometimes, a small adjustment is all you need. Make the adjustment and evaluate for shifts in performance before making additional changes.

Chapter 09: Conclusion

An effective social media engagement strategy is one that aligns with your customers' mindset. Use the advertising channel that aligns with their mindset to meet prospects where they are in their buying journey so that you can paint the right message and share it at the perfect time.

Chapter 10: About the author

Tracie Rollins

Tracie Rollins helps small businesses succeed by educating and sharing innovative approaches to solve small business challenges. Tracie has nearly 2 decades of experience in training and curriculum design for large corporations, small businesses, and government agencies.

As an entrepreneur, Tracie has appeared on KTVK's Good Morning Arizona show, and has been featured in the Institute for Industrial Engineering magazine, Woman's World, Arizona Republic, and multiple local publications.