50 social media advertising tips & best practices

The world of social media advertising, marketing, and total world domination is challenging. Everything is ever-changing, ever-growing, ever-evolving, and ever-improving. Our jobs get more engaging and more enjoyable by the day but, with that, they also grow more complicated. Our plates are full.

There’s so much to know, so much to adjust, so much to learn. Thankfully, there are also so many sources to help us along the way. So, here’s a look at 50 social media advertising tips, best practices, and advice to help you wade through the waters of excellent, awesome, and above-and-beyond marketing in 2019.

Social marketing strategy tips

Social Marketing Strategy

Let’s kick it off with the general, the non-platform-specific, the basic rules of social media advertising in 2019. Because we always need to place the building blocks, before we can create our masterpiece.

1. Think long-term strategy, not short-term gain. Of course, you have long- and short-term social media marketing goals but – and here’s the catch – some marketers tend to focus on the short-term because their employers (or freelance clients) want to see immediate results. We get it, but still, we’re going to push back and say that a well-planned social media campaign has staggered results: some will present themselves quickly but others won’t become evident until months (and, sometimes, years if we’re talking the big picture) down the road. 

2. Be picky. Think sustainable social channels, not EVERY social platform. The one thing we can say, for sure, about social media is that it’s ever-changing as soon as you’ve learned everything, there’s something new to learn. With that in mind, as you develop your social strategy, focus on the platforms you can run like a BOSS. It’s better to dominate a few, than to be mediocre at them all.

3. Even if you build it, they might not come. Even the greatest social media campaign won’t draw followers, if there are no followers to draw. Hard truth, marketing friends: You have to build your social following and, very preferably, build it where many millions of your target audience gather online. Consider, for example, that almost 1.5 billion people log into Facebook every day; you have a good chance to build a solid base there, if you take your time and put in the effort to grow a large, loyal, and engaged audience.

4. Research each platform. This advice never gets old: Know your platform. Know how ad types differ by platform. And, understand how each platform’s ad formats further your goals. For example, if you’re trying to squeeze leads into the next band of your sales funnel, a remarketing engagement campaign might do the trick. On the other hand, if you’re simply looking to extend brand awareness, then an impressions-based campaign might be more up your alley. So, where (which platform) is your audience more likely to engage? Or, where do they congregate in high numbers, so you have a better impressions pool? Know your platform.

5. Diversify across social platforms. (But not too many.)  David Christopher, Director of Marketing and Growth at Tailwind, said it best: “If I was going to point to a trend for 2018 it would be diversification of ad spend across networks. There’s so much money in Facebook advertising today that smart marketers are having to get extremely efficient to get results when targeting new prospects on the network. Any time a lot of money enters an auction you’re wise to enter other auctions where there’s less money sloshing around. I think in 2018 we’ll continue to see smart social marketers diversify and learn how to effectively spend ad dollars on other social networks like Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and even Reddit.”

6. Embrace your reviews and testimonials – the good AND the badEveryone reads reviews but, here’s the thing: If you have only positive reviews, everyone (or almost everyone) will doubt your reviews. There is no product, good, or service in the world than can thrill 100% of consumers, period. So, be honest with your reviews, recognize the good and, perhaps most importantly, respond to the bad. Acknowledge a negative experience, show a willingness to improve, and outline the steps you’ll take to move forward. This will engender trust in all of tomorrow’s customers who are reading your reviews today.

7. Have a comment conversation. We just mentioned this, but the two-way brand-consumer conversation extends beyond reviews: Respond to comments on your blog posts, Facebook posts, and Instagram photos. @ people back on Twitter. Encourage conversation and embrace pleasantries; they show the human side of your brand. And, if and when a negative experience comes up, always take the high road; respond, empathize, and strive to be better next time.

8. Your employees are a part of your social media presence. Notice how we didn’t even make this a suggestion? It’s a fact, plain and simple. In the words of  Katy LaLanne, Content Marketer at Sendible, “Every employee is their own brand but also an extension of your organization. As social culture in the workplace expands, I think we’ll see an increase in company-wide involvement and storytelling across social media in 2018. 64% of millennials believe that social media is one of the most effective channels for connecting with brands (Source: Microsoft) but messages are re-shared 24 times more frequently when they’re sent by employees instead of the brand itself.

“Trust between customers and brands is deepened when there is a face and a story behind a brand, which is often where influencer marketing comes into play. Don’t disregard influencer marketing opportunities, but look for leaders throughout your organization, from top to bottom, who can deepen trust with your audiences by educating and entertaining.” 

9. Avoid repetition. Be careful with automation. This is a two-fer tip, for sure, but that’s because we see repetition and automation as related, if not intertwined beasts. We’ll start by saying that there’s nothing wrong with some repetition and we love automation for certain things, but as successful and authentic marketers, we want to be careful not to automate everything or set our automation to tweet out the same thing, 12 different ways in two days. Remember, each social media platform has its own flavor

10. Jump into the world of remarketing. Ah, the power of suggestion. And re-suggestion. It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it? In essence, remarketing is the practice of marketing-again to consumers who have already had some sort of interaction with your brand. The key here, is cookies: If they’ve visited your website, seen a Google ad, or somehow seen or sought out your brand before, seeing it again on Facebook can be a powerful motivator to take a closer look. 

11. Make the consumer journey easy. It’s mind-boggling, how many brands make interested consumers jump through hoops to reach the object of their interest. (It’s not so surprising, how many of those consumers jump ship before they get there.) Don’t be that brand. If you’re marketing a sale, your ad should link directly to that sale. If you’re marketing a 25%-off-your-first-purchase coupon, then your ad should jump straight to the coupon code page (or 25% off confirmation page). Don’t make your consumers work for it.

12. Optimize your ads. Re-optimize them later. Then, optimize them again. The social world is always changing; best practices are constantly changing, too. As a successful, on-top-of-things kind of marketer, you must be sure to keep up with what works and what’s expected. That means, measuring your ad metrics/successes regularly, while also being sure to map your successes to new algorithms, parameters, and best practices within our industry.

13.  Always stay abreast of social media developments and current events. We often say that social media is always-changing, but what’s implied in that is that our knowledge is always-evolving. Follow social media news and trends in order to stay ahead of the curve, and don’t be afraid to try new things

Video marketing strategy tips

Video Marketing Strategy

Video is an ever-growing market segment we’re happy to embrace. It works – oh, so very well! So, here’s how to improve how it works for you.

14. Stick to the rule of “Design for sound off, delight with sound on”. Or, as we like to say, design your videos both for the people who will actually watch them, and for the people who will sneak-watch them (on mute) when they should be doing something else. That way, everyone’s happy. (Also, fun fact: About 85% of people watch video with the sound off.)

15. When it comes to video, short is still okay. True, we’ve seen a shift toward longer-form video, but there’s still power in short videos. After all, you have to capture interest first. Producing high-quality, extremely interesting short video is great practice for longer video AND, depending on the subject, can be just what the audience ordered. Because, did you know? Social media users are 40 times more likely to share video content over any other type.

16. Embrace live-stream videos. People love live-streaming. At least, they do for right now. But, as we all know, social media marketing is very much about the right now. Embrace Facebook Live and other live-streaming content, produce compelling video, and watch as your audience grows.

17. Study up on interactive broadcasting. If you think that standard live-streaming is popular, heads up for the next wave: interactive broadcasting, aka two-way live-streaming, which allows you to interact and chat with your followers. Agora is one channel leading the charge, integrating with existing apps and social media to connect you with your audience – and they with you – in real-time. 

18. Focus on video of the highest quality. Whether you’re talking live video or pre-filmed video, focus on creating the highest quality content in your market. Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner, Author, and CMO of The Social Media Hat, explains,“While video, particularly Live Video, will continue to increase in importance in the coming year, a key differentiator will be the creation of high-quality, relevant video. As the novelty of being able to “go live” from any device, anywhere, wears off, audiences will begin to tune out creators and broadcasts who share nothing more than their day-to-day activity. Stories, regardless of whether they’re shared on Snapchat, Messenger, Facebook, or Instagram, will follow suit.

“Simply put, as audiences become more inundated, businesses and marketers will have to become more skilled at creating truly valuable content. Therefore, I do expect the overall quality of video content to improve in 2018.”

Knowing your audience

Know Your Audience

Social media is nothing without the “social,” and that means people. That specifically means your audience, your followers, and your maybe-interested-possibly-future consumers. Do them a solid. 

19. Know your target audience. Whether you call them buyer personas, avatars, ideal customers, or some other term, the idea is the same: You must know your target/intended audience, so you can target the right people, on the right platforms, at the right time of day/week/customer journey. You also have to have the right message: What do they care about right now, and how can you speak to that? But, it all starts with your personas. 

20. Speak directly to your target audience.   Nate Elliott, Marketing Technology Advisor, says, “If you want to create messages that resonate with your audience, you need to know what they care about.” BOOM. Yes, sir, you are correct. Speak to your target audience and speak to the things they care about, if you want to connect with them.

21. Get personal. Make friends. These days, everyone likes a personable brand. Your followers want you to pull back the curtain and show them what happens behind-the-scenes. So, go ahead – curate photos of the office, film a day-in-the-life, write up a few (interesting) staff bios. Act like real people because, hey, you are!

22. Optimize your audience. One of the absolute, most wonderful aspects of marketing today is the ability to target your optimal audience. This is especially true if you have multiple locations or wildly varying products, but in general, the ability to target ads based on age, interest(s), language, gender, and other factors has proven wildly effective. 

23. Look to Generation Z. Think millennials are your biggest marketing target? Goldman Sachs thinks otherwise, concluding that Gen Z’ers are a valuable and upcoming market: The oldest have already reached their early-20s and are heading out into the job market. In other words, they’re gaining in buying power – and it’ll only grow larger in the next few years. Get in on the ground level.

24. Consider the consumers. What do they want?  We don’t say this as a marketing trope, but as a real-world exercise: What does your target audience care about, and how do those cares translate to wants? It matters because today’s consumers don’t trust traditional advertising channels: They want to see only what’s relevant to them, and they want that relevance to resonate with their personal experiences. Know their pain points and then, map your product or service to those pain points.

25. Get the consumer on board. And passionate. When you involve consumers in your product – when you invite them to help shape and mold what you do – you create an audience that loves your product and will act as natural brand ambassadors. As Jemima Gibbons, Social Media Strategist and author of Monkeys with Typewriters, explains, “In 2018, personalization and brand experience will have been taken to their logical extremes: consumers will have far more control over the relationship — in fact, brands will be paying them to advertise in their social ‘space’. Consumers will be involved more closely in product and service development, to the point of co-creation.”

26. Focus on meaningful relationships. Especially with influencers. You’ve heard the word “meaningful” a lot lately, often as related to Facebook interactions. Embrace it: The social world is getting deeper and meaningfulness is key. Meaningful is also ever more important for influencer marketing. 

According to Neal Schaffer, Social Media Strategist and the author of The Business of Influence,“The key trend for social media in 2018 will be influencer marketing. With the continued democratization of content publishing, traditional marketing channels have less influence while social media users and content creators have more. Anyone can yield influence and thus, as social media becomes more and more pay to play, every business needs to incorporate some type of influencer marketing strategy to become more effective in their 2018 marketing. The trend towards brands leveraging user-generated content is one example of this, and if you are going to curate content to represent your brand, why wouldn’t you use that of an influencer?”

27. Strive for real-time conversations and micro-moments with your audience. There is marketing magic in the off-the-cuff, live-streaming, in-the-moment kind of marketing your audience loves. “Personal, deeper connections between brands and social media users. Less automation and repetition, more real-time engagement and capitalisation on micro-moments with the aim to delight your social media followers. The popular adoption of live video and the Snapchat/Instagram Stories type of content will push marketers to create and publish content as they go,” explains Veronika Baranovska, Content Marketing Specialist at Sendible.

28. Consider your followers a focus group. Hey, want to know what people care about right this very second? Welcome to your very own, highly customized focus group: your current followers. (Hey, if they like you enough to follow you, they’re who you want to poll.) So, here’s the tip: When you’re trying to figure out what kind of content – question or photo? question with photo? photo of a question? – works best for your audience, harness your organic reach (aka “free” marketing stream) to track which types of content get the most likes, comments, shares, and other forms of engagement.

29. Facebook’s Life Events are a marketing gold mine. Granted, not everyone publishes Life Events but, those who do can represent a huge marketing opportunity. For example, if you market home staging, you may want to target users of a certain income bracket, who also indicate an upcoming move. If you market for a dating service, you can run ads for people who recently got out of a relationship. (Maybe set the first ad to run a few weeks after the breakup? It’s a delicate time.) 

Social media marketing metrics

Social Media Marketing Metrics

Metrics are the means by which we measure our successes and weigh our not-so-successful attempts. And, while it’s easy to think of metrics as frustrating (when they’re not showing in our favor), in reality, our insights, stats, and social metrics are nothing more than road signs pointing toward how we can do better tomorrow, based on what we know about today

30. Work it, baby work it. Metrics, that is. According to Katy Howell, CEO of Immediate Future, “Smarter use of metrics, better benchmarks, and increased social marketing skills will bring stronger performance marketing to social activation. The norm will be to gather key measures, evaluate, optimize, and drive social to deliver value goals. And it will raise the bar on social media, taking it out of the fluffy and making it integral to customer communication and experience.”

31. A/B test ad tweaks, new initiatives, and everything else. We haven’t met many A/B tests we didn’t love. That’s because they work: An A/B test can tell you which Facebook post will be more effective. They can demonstrate which image better resonates with an audience. They can show you how many contact form fields are just enough, but not too much. A/B tests can shine a light on all your burning marketing questions. Okay, not all but a lot.

32. But know that yesterday’s A/B test may be totally wrong for today. We know, we know – no huge revelation here. This is the exact point of A/B testing, right? To figure out which method works best. But, consider that the social landscape is constantly changing – for example, Facebook’s algorithm now boosts longer video – and that means that yesterday’s A/B test may no longer be indicative of today’s success. A/B test today, tomorrow, and the next day, and never rely on last week’s results.

33. When looking to indicators of success, analyze the paid and the organic. Often, we’re tempted to parse out our metrics: paid vs. organic, not paid combined with organic. But, at the end of the day, while paid vs. organic determines how consumers come to see our posts, it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) have much bearing on how they interact with your posts. So, consider both paid and organic insights when determining what works best for your brand. 

34. Back your expenditures with tried and true, proven social strategies. Because, here’s the deal: Social media has grown up. Employers get it. So now, instead of having to show off your social marketing knowledge with flashy new tactics, it’s ever more important to justify social media marketing budgets through results – through effective metrics, measurement of results, and fact-based predictions for the future.

35. Fear the drop-off. We’re talking ad drop-off, in which a consumer views your ad but fails to complete the desired CTA. In other words, they were interested enough to view and/or engage with your ad, but not sufficiently motivated to complete the required action. And that signals a problem: Anyone interested enough to watch a video or stop scrolling to read your ad, is someone who should convert. Tweak, tweak, tweak until your drop-off rate drops off. 

36. Focus on your main ad objective. Yes, yes, we know – some campaigns have multiple objectives. But, usually, there’s a primary objective – the one that works best or achieves the best results. For example, while your hotel may have the objective to build its list of local consumers/nearcationers while boosting occupancy for an upcoming holiday weekend, the latter is more pressing and therefore, likely primary. Once you reach 100% occupancy, your objective shifts to building your list of nearby vacationers. (Psst! Not sure which of your various objectives should be the primary? A/B test it: See which objective achieves the most measurable success.) 

37. Go local. If there’s a way for you to go local, then do it. Local Services Ads give you the power to harness local traffic and carve out a slice of the market your distant competitors can’t take away, so embrace your neighbors and go local with [some of] your advertising. 

38. Embrace mobile-first marketing but don’t ignore desktop users. We hear so much about mobile marketing today – “70% of searches are mobile! if you’re not marketing to mobile users, you’re not marketing!” – that it would almost be easy to forget that desktop users still exist, too. Don’t ignore them. After all, that 30% of millions (billions) of searches is still quite a lot of traffic.

Content marketing for social media

Content Marketing for Social Media

At the end of the day, your social media ads, marketing, and life’s blood depend on content. Whether it’s a sales website or a 12-minute video, your marketing always links to some form of content. Be sure it’s a great form.  

39. Content is, and likely forever will be, king. Content gives you something to talk about. It gives your audience something to bite into. As Dave Chaffey, CEO & Co-Founder of Smart Insights, says,“Content Marketing Strategy will be at the heart of effective social media marketing. You hear the HiPPOs say ‘We need a social media strategy,’ but actually what they want is a way of engaging different personas and it’s the content that fuels this and you need a strategy to compete now that everyone knows about the importance of quality content.” 

40. Create ALL the content. Do not stick to just one type of content: Write your blog posts and film your videos, but also create infographics, take (or purchase) spectacular photography, try your hand at cinemagraphs, and create every kind of content to appeal to every kind of consumer. 

41. Create content so good, they’d buy it. (But keep it free.) Obviously, next to no one pays for good content anymore. (Just ask the newspaper.) That’s not the point; the point is that you should never create content just to say you’ve created content. Craft content that digs deep, that inspires much, that entertains wholly. Create content that’s so incredibly good, so very valuable, that your consumers would pay for it – if people still paid for content. 

42. Don’t be egocentric or greedy. Nobody likes a credit-hog or, worse, a plagiarist. In the same breath, we should also mention that nobody gets away with credit-hogging or plagiarism anymore, either. The world is still small enough that someone will see something. So, give credit where credit is due. Credit your writers and photographers. Slap those Creative Commons licenses up, when necessary. Link back to your sources.

43. Storytelling is still the name of the game. No matter what kind of content you publish, there should always be a story behind it. Yes, even a singular still photo should tell a story. Take the wildly popular Humans of New York, which uses a poignant portrait to tell an even more poignant story. Just one look at the brand’s fierce following, and it’s clear that storytelling works, even for the most visual of brands. 

44. For the love of marketing, don’t skip the CTA. Every time we see an ad, a post, or anything without a call-to-action, it makes us want to weep. A strategically placed CTA points your followers in the right direction, showing them where to do what they already want to do. Without it, you’re just sending them down the information super highway with no signage whatsoever. Don’t be that marketer.

45. Get emotional. Marketing is definitely, absolutely, and quite positively the exact right time to get emotional. Your ads, your content, your everything should evoke emotion and incentivize action. Just think about the last viral video you ran across: The reason thousands (or millions) of people shared it, was because it made them feel something, whether it was nostalgia, outrage, or just your standard cute-kitten awwwww.

46. Be consistent. You’ve seen us say it five billion times, and you’re going to see it five-hundred-million more: Get on a consistent posting schedule and do not deviate (unless your A/B tests are telling you to). And remember, the best time to post on Instagram isn’t (necessarily) the same as the best time to post on Facebook. Finesse your consistency. 

47. Love the ephemeral. We know, we know – marketers have been hawking “evergreen content” almost since the dawn of online marketing, and now we dare mention the word ephemeral? Blasphemy! But, ‘tis true, dear marketers: The fear of missing out is strong with your audience, so you may see great success through the use of Snapchat, Instagram Stories, Facebook Stories, and other fleeting content that disappears within 24 hours of publication.

48. Creativity is not a formula. Once you hit on something that works, it’s too easy to replicate that success. Over and over and over again. Cue BOOOOREDOM. The truth is, your creative isn’t a formula or rule; it’s a way to reach your target audience. If one way didn’t work, why repeat it? In a social world where people can click “hide ad” because it’s repetitive, you do not want to repeat what’s not working. Vary your creative

49. Do it visually. Humans love visuals and, with just a bit of creativity, anything can be done visually. Think about National Geographic: While the brand is largely text-based – we can all agree that their articles are a form of long, in-depth content – how many times have you watched someone at the doctor’s office pick up a copy and merely flip through the photos? That’s because National Geographic knows that people love high-quality, spectacularly colorful, and unique visuals.

50. KISS. Keep it simple, marketers! A great rule of thumb is that your social marketing should be message intensive, not copy intensive. In other words, your ad should be a cohesive storytelling package: your imagery, graphics, and headline should do most of the heavy lifting.

There you have it: 50 of our favorite tips, tricks, and best practices. Now, you tell us – did we miss any of your favorites? What other social advertising advice and changes do you have your eye on for the second half of 2019?

Advertising is an effective strategy for increasing your social media visibility and growing your audience, but it’s not the only way. Install the Instagram follow button to make it easy for your visitors to follow you on Instagram from your blog or website with a single click. It’s easy to install – it takes mere minutes! – so what are you waiting for?

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ShareThis has unlocked the power of global digital behavior by synthesizing social share, interest, and intent data since 2007. Powered by consumer behavior on over three million global domains, ShareThis observes real-time actions from real people on real digital destinations.

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