“Self-serve” digital advertising platforms from the likes of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google are an incredible way to scale your advertising budget to the most micro-targeted niche. They first started with Google, got a fresh and promising spin on Facebook and have now come to Twitter and LinkedIn. Each platform has its own quirks and benefits, but I think they are worth a serious look by any marketer. Why? They reach people where they spend the most time and attention and they work well for the spend.
Anyone who has at least ten bucks should at least consider giving them a shot. Often when you are new to the platform or a nonprofit, you can get free credit. In the past couple of months I’ve gotten credits through various sources and have run ads on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Self-serve ad platforms can seem needlessly complicated so in this “big idea” I’d like to give you a few pointers on making the biggest impact you can with a micro-budget.
Who should use self-serve digital advertising
Anyone who wants to raise his or her profile and/or make sales. The most obvious advertising is for a product or service, but you may also have a creative project that you want to start seeding visibility for. Or you might be a job-seeker — don’t discount a small spend to get a few more eyes on your resume. Creative uses of the self-serve platforms earn clicks after all.
How it works
Self-serve ad platforms on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google all work slightly differently, but they all are (for the most part) centered around a “pay-per-click” model in which you decide how much you are willing to spend on a click. That amount is your “bid,” and it influences whether or not your ad will be shown. Pay-per-click systems are a marketplace in which the value of keywords and the attention of certain users fluctuate over time. Most systems will offer you a “suggested bid” — and pushing your bid a few cents over the top of that limit is rarely a bad idea.
Why they are a great solution for small businesses and individuals
You only pay if your ad earns an action or a click. There’s no spending thousands of dollars on a banner ad takeover and finding it did nothing for sales.
The specific social networks:
Ads are comprised of: text with a small thumbnail image.
Demographic targeting: you can fine-tune by a number of demographic characteristics such as age, level of education and keywords. Select a bid (maximum you are willing to pay for a click).
My experience: I’ve run Facebook ad campaigns for years, and found them an awesome spend on a micro-budget. By far the most successful strategy is to bid for “likes,” which helps you build up an interested audience really fast. Another strategy that has worked well for me is email sign-ups. I love the Facebook platform for its demographic targeting most of all.
Tip: Facebook likes to tout that by insisting on “real names” it weeds out fake profiles. But all you have to do is run an ad and get a bunch of signup by individuals name “Senor Swanky” or “Captain Crankypants” before you realize there are tons of fake profiles on Facebook. By selecting minimum education of “college degree” you’ll weed out a lot of them.
Ads are comprised of: Promoted Tweets or your account. If you select promote tweets the system will highlight any one of five of your recent Tweets (though you can nix Tweets you don’t want to promote). Promoting either Tweets or your account should theoretically net you new followers and more engagement in your content.
Demographic targeting: No option to select demographic characteristics, though it sounds like Twitter may target the ads in some way.
My experience: this is a newer product and thus my experience is limited. I am running a promoted account campaign for a client and I have to say that I haven’t had the most phenomenal results yet. Because “Promoted Account” only shows your account name and nothing else, it’s probably best for folks who have a cool or descriptive account name. I don’t like that you can’t select the Tweets to promote as well. In all, I don’t think this platform has the kind of flexibility that will make it really powerful on a micro budget.
Demographic targeting: by geographical region, job function, title and more.
My experience: a brand new platform, and one I’m excited about. If your company is enterprise-focused or B-to-B, LinkedIn is obviously the place to advertise. Fine-grained control of targeting is wonderful as well. My problem is that I haven’t been able to come up with ads that score clicks yet. I think I need to do more fine-tuning of the offer.
Demographic targeting: Select keywords that users might be searching for.
My experience: I’ve seen the greatest success with Google Ads for promoting events, such as film festivals. With all of the press and advertising around a popular event, you can help cement the branding in people’s minds by a strategic spend on good keywords that are likely to bring people to your content. Though it’s not a platform I would use all the time, it’s definitely worth consideration for any micro-marketing plan.
Where to start
I would personally kick off with a Facebook ads campaign, adding other options as you consider the benefits to your business. Target, but don’t get too targeted, and monitor the performance of your ads in case you need to fine-tune either the bid or the offer.
What to do if you find your ads are not performing
If your ads are not getting clicked on, it can signal one of a number of problems. The most straightforward is that you have perhaps chosen too low of a bid. Raise your bid and see if that helps.
Another problem might involve your copy, or, perhaps more importantly, the picture that you use.
Finally, your ad might not be yielding the desired action (such as a sale). In that case, you should look at the offer. It may not be compelling enough.
Some of the very best social ad content:
- Offers something of value for free
- Requests a simple action like a “like” or follow or an email signup
Have you used self-serve social ad platforms successfully? How did you make it work?