Should you pay for social media advertising?

Social media advertising. Should you pay for it or not? That’s the question on every small business owner’s lips in 2018.

There was a time when an owner of a small biz wouldn’t have even dreamt of paying to advertise their content on social media. It would have been too big a risk. Like throwing their hard-earned coins down the drain without any promise of a return.

But cut to today and the game has changed completely. The use of social media is showing no signs of slowing down and the eternal avalanche of content has made the space increasingly competitive. Plus, with algorithms changing faster than Usain Bolt on roids, it appears that brands can no longer rely on organic traction alone when it comes to their social media.

The advantages of allocating spend towards social media advertising in 2018 have never been higher. But, like any sort of paid promotion, spending money on social media advertising doesn’t come without risks.

For these reasons, along with many others, it’s essential to consider both the pros and cons of social media advertising when putting together a successful marketing strategy to sell your product or service.

What is paid social media advertising?

As the name suggests, paid social media advertising is promotion across Facebook, Instagram and the like that you need to fork out for. Social media advertising takes many different forms across various social media platforms, so it’s important to understand which channel your customers will be using.

Despite most social media platforms offering some sort of paid advertising, Facebook unsurprisingly reigns supreme. The same way Google is synonymous with the term ‘search engine’; Facebook virtually equates ‘social media’, which is why it’s the most important platform to explore in regards to paid advertising.

That said – promotional opportunities across Twitter and LinkedIn are also worth investigating, depending on what you’re selling and whom you’re selling it to. But considering that when you advertise on Facebook, you’ll also be advertising on Insta – two birds, one stone!

The pros of paid social media advertising

It offers advanced targeting.

You can tap into Facebook’s vast data pool to reach relevant potential customers. This is because Facebook offers a range of paid promotional options, such as targeting ads based on metrics. These include geographic locations, age, gender, interests and behaviour (such as their shopping habits). By combining these metrics you can pinpoint your customer.

You can track the results easily.

Unlike many other forms of advertising, you can see exactly how many people you’ve reached and how they’ve responded. So, if you need to know numbers quickly to decide whether you can afford to continue your paid advertising for a particular campaign, you can easily see this in Facebook Ads Manager.

You control the budget.

One of the key advantages of paid social media advertising is that you’re completely in control of your spend. For example, if your ad’s doing well, you can easily and instantly increase the budget. And if it’s not performing? You can slow it down or stop it completely. It’s all up to you and your budget.

The cons of paid social media advertising

You can no longer rely solely on organic reach.

Because of the aforementioned changing algorithms of social media, organic reach is now more difficult than ever. This might mean that choosing to pay for social media advertising is now simply a no-brainer, but there might be instances when you can’t afford – or simply don’t want – to spend your hard-earned cash to essentially end up with a few more ‘likes’ or followers.

It can get expensive.

Although you can choose your budget, sometimes you need to invest a lot upfront to see a financial return. When you’re a small business owner or launching a brand, you might not be able to allocate the budget needed to see the sort of yield you’re looking for.

It’s difficult to know whether you can trust the results.

Facebook’s advertising includes ‘view through conversions’ – someone who sees your ad (but doesn’t click) and later converts on your website. We know Facebook tracks customers on most websites, so if they see a customer that they think is likely to convert, what’s from stopping them quickly showing that customer your ad to take the credit for the sale?

It’s clear that social media is here to stay, and the need to pay for your content, product or service to be seen or heard will most likely only increase. But, small business owners (or even larger business owners, for that matter) – think before you reach for your credit card.

In 2018, it’s more crucial than ever before to fully understand your market and the social media platforms your customers and potential customers are spending their time on. Once you’ve got this figured out, it’s a question of how much spend you’re willing to allocate on social media advertising, and the types of content you want to prioritise pushing.