The Ultimate Guide to Mastering the Basics of Effective Social Media Advertising

Discover what social media advertising is, why it's so important, and how to get started with your strategy.

Written by: Kristen Baker


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It's hard to imagine any company today could be successful and experience substantial growth without advertising their product or service and brand on social media.

Advertising is how businesses promote themselves and whatever it is they sell to their audience members — and with billions of people on social media, it's clear why businesses choose to advertise and promote themselves through this medium.

Social media advertising is a powerful marketing tactic that has the power to drive leads, boost revenue, increase brand awareness, and more. In this guide, we'll talk about why it's so effective, how to create a strategy for your business, and provide inspiration to help get you started.

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Now you might be wondering whether or not this type of advertising really works and if it's worth your time and monetary investment.

How effective is social media advertising?

Did you know there are over 2.38 billion monthly active users on Facebook? Or that there are over 500 million daily Instagram users?

And did you know 74% of global marketers already invest in social media marketing, which includes social advertising? Not to mention 70% of businesses say they generate leads on social media and 58% of marketers say social media has helped them boost their sales.

These are just some of the many stats related to social media advertising that prove its impact and importance among all types of businesses.

In addition to stats that support the effectiveness and impressive reach of social media advertising, this marketing tactic allows you to nurture your leads in real-time. You can communicate and engage with your followers and audience directly on the platform to nurture and build relationships with them.

The cherry on top? Social media advertising is more cost-effective than traditional advertising. With social media ads, you can easily set a budget and add to or remove from that set amount within the social platform you're using.

Now that you have a better understanding of the power of social media ads, let's cover the steps involved in making an advertisement on social for your business.

How to Create a Social Media Ad

Here are the major steps involved in creating a social media ad that you'll want to follow.

Use CRM and web analytics data to inform your ad campaigns and discover what ads are covering the most visitors into customers.

1. Think about your budget.

One of the most daunting things about social media advertising is determining your budget. That's because there are so many unique and flexible options on every social platforms for your ads and campaigns.

For example, if you're looking to run a social campaign on Facebook with the Facebook Ad Campaign tool, start by setting a budget. Then, Facebook will run your campaign for you and spend your budget as evenly as possible throughout your selected time period (or until your budget has been completely used). You can then leave your Facebook ad campaign as is or add more money to your budget to continue.

To help you plan your budget, be sure to align your marketing objectives with your social media advertising strategy. Consider the amount you're comfortable pulling out of the larger marketing strategy to put towards your social ads.

Use this paid advertising budget template to map out your costs before your launch your ads.

2. Choose which type of social media advertisement you'll run.

The landscape of paid social advertising is constantly changing; new technologies, channels, formats, and trends emerge every day.

That means there's no one-size-fits-all answer to which social channels you should advertise on. Ultimately, testing different channels is the best way to determine what works best for your business and audience.

Here are some of the most common types of social media platforms you can advertise through and which demographic of people you'll want to target through each:


About 69% of adults use Facebook — although 25-34-year-olds make up the greatest number of users on the platform, Facebook still has the widest age range of active users of any other platform. This includes teens and seniors — in fact, 62% of online seniors, ages 65+, are on Facebook.

Due to the fact Facebook ads allow you to reach audience members who haven't Liked your Page, you can see why the platform is such a popular one to advertise through — you reach the greatest population of audience members compared to other platforms by a landslide.


Instagram is ideal if you're targeting younger generations. That's because 75% of 18-24-year-olds use the platform and 57% of 25-29-year-olds use it. Meanwhile, only 8% of people over 65-years-old are on the platform.


Twitter is a good option if you're looking to target young to middle-aged adults with your social media ads. That's because 22% of adults in the U.S. use Twitter. 38% of users on the platform are between 18-29-years-old while 26% of users are between the pages of 30-49-years-old.


It's no secret LinkedIn is a professional network — meaning, you'll likely want to stick with more formal, business, and career-related advertisements on the platform. This also means the demographic on LinkedIn you'll want to target includes current or soon-to-be members of the workforce.

There are over 660 million LinkedIn users and 37% of adults in the U.S. between the ages of 30-49 use the platform. And in terms of students and college grads, 51% of U.S. college graduates are said to be on the platform.


Snapchat is a platform you'll want to advertise through if you're looking to target a young crowd. The platform has around 210 million daily active users — about 90% of Snapchat users are between 13-24-years-old. 

3. Make your ad relevant.

Your ads should be relevant to your target audience and customers. There are a few ways you can ensure this is the case.

Download free templates to easily organize your audience segments into buyer personas.

4. Design a beautiful, eye-catching ad.

On social media, it seems as though there's a never-ending amount of new visual content. So, how do you make your social media ads stand out?

Your ads need to be engaging, beautifully-designed, and eye-catching — they should make someone who's scrolling through their feed stop in their tracks and want to take a closer look at your content.

You also want your ad to look on-brand so your audience members can easily associate the ad with your business. (This will help you continue to build brand recognition, too.)

Here are some of the elements you'll want to think about when designing an effective social media ad that grabs the attention of your target audience:

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Font
  • Colors
  • Written content and messaging
  • CTA buttons

5. Write copy that converts.

Every word and character you include in your advertisements count. This is especially true of social media ads which often have word-count and text limitations.

So, to ensure your copy converts all while being straightforward, direct, and short, you should:

  • Be compelling
  • Communicate your value proposition clearly
  • Be actionable

And once you've created your social media ad, you'll want to make sure it's successful among your audience members — here's how to measure your ad's success.

6. Measure your ad's success.

With social media advertising comes a multitude of metrics you should monitor to determine the success of your work. It's vital you focus on the social media metrics that matter most to your campaigns and business when doing this.

To help get you started, here are three of the most commonly-monitored metrics related to social media advertising you might consider keeping a close eye on:

Click-Through Rate (CTR)

CTR is the number of clicks your ad has divided by the number of impressions it received (clicks/ impressions). The metric indicates the relevance of your content among your audience and the quality of that traffic.

Cost Per Conversion (CPC)

Every campaign should have one core conversion goal (signups, app install, downloads, visits to blog posts). To calculate CPC, divide the amount of money you have spent by the number of conversions that resulted. This gives you insight into whether your ads are profitable and helps you project your future ad spending.

Conversion Rate

The conversion rate of the number of visits to your landing page that result from your social media ads provides a good idea of the quality of the clicks you're receiving as well as the performance of your landing page. You can also benchmark your social ad traffic against the conversion rate of traffic from other sources.

Now let's review some examples of successful social media ads for a little inspiration.

1. Dollar Shave Club Facebook Ad

Dollar Shave Club is a company that’s all about minimalism, efficiency, and ease which is why this Facebook ad is straightforward and simplistic, making it on-brand. The images included provide a clear look into what customers can expect out of a membership and their products.

facebook ad example

Facebook is an ideal platform for sharing a generic ad like this one because of the wide pool of people who are active on the platform. After all, most adults — both male and female — shave and are therefore part of their target audience.

2. Dick's Sporting Goods Instagram Ad

Dick’s Sporting Goods’ Instagram ad is promoting a pair of Adidas sneakers. The ad includes a series of photos displaying the shoes and athletes wearing them before/ after and during the workouts.

example of instagram ad
The ad is well-planned because it doesn’t feel like an ad — the visually-pleasing post looks like one that a friend of yours would post on the platform. In other words, this ad doesn’t feel like a disruptive ad, yet it still grabs your attention.

3. Postmates Twitter Ad

Postmates’ Twitter ad includes a short blurb of text explaining the deal they’re offering — this was required of Postmates because the platform has a Tweet text limit. They also used emojis so the ad feels conversational and casual.

example of twitter ad
The ad also has an attention-grabbing photo sure to stop any hungry Twitter user in their tracks. They make it easy for leads to click on the CTA to download the Postmates app if they choose, or continue scrolling through their feed.

4. Workhuman LinkedIn Ad

Workhuman, a human resources company, advertises their business on LinkedIn. Due to the professional nature of LinkedIn, and the networking capabilities the platform has, it’s ideal for an HR firm to advertise their services, job openings, and more.

example of linkedin ad

The company created a sponsored ad on LinkedIn to promote their marketing job openings. The easy-to-understand ad caption, image, and CTA don’t feel disruptive or out of place on the professional network. And considering the frequency in which people log onto LinkedIn to identify job opportunities, it’s an ideal location for this type of advertisement.

5. Hopper Snapchat Ad

Hopper has a Snapchat ad that appears when users are looking through their newsfeeds. The ad works in the form of a multi-part Snapchat video — the video includes a woman describing how the airline flight price checking and booking site works.

snapchat ad example

She’s talking directly to the camera on her phone in a conversational tone that makes it feel as though you’re simply watching one of your friend’s Snapchat videos. At the end of her casual Snap video is a CTA that provides users the opportunity to head to the Hopper website or just continue working their way through their newsfeed, disruption-free.

example of a snapchat ad

Get Started With Social Media Advertising

The paid social advertising landscape is always evolving, to be a superstar paid marketer you need to be reactive to new channels, tactics and formats on an ongoing basis. Get started by planning your strategy so you can create your next social media ad. 

Editor's note: This post was originally published in May 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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