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A beginner’s guide to social media advertising

Learn some simple steps to getting started with social media advertising from Fin Wycherley, social media consultant and founder of Supersize Media.


Business.connected in partnership with Vodafone is an extensive online training programme that will help 150,000 small businesses boost their digital skills.  The free 12-month initiative - delivered exclusively online and consisting of workshops, webinars and e-learning modules - will empower businesses to kickstart digital change, adopt new technology, and stay safe online.

Fin Wycherley, social media consultant, business.connected adviser and founder of Supersize Media, sets out some simple steps to getting started with social media advertising.

Which social media ads to use?

Most small businesses and start-ups are careful about what type of marketing strategies they invest in. They have to be. There is no budget for mistakes.

In 2022, now that it’s almost impossible to get your key messages in front of your
target audience without an ads budget, the next question becomes which ads to use.

Search engine ads and social media ads: What’s the difference?

Basically, there are two types of ads:

  • Search engine ads that are based on the consumer’s intention

  • Social media ads that are based on the consumer’s previous activity

For example, if a person wants to buy luxury vegan candles, they will put the keywords into search-based platforms like Google, YouTube or Pinterest. These platforms provide content and ads based on what the person is looking for. The ads will make sure the message gets in front of the right people as soon as someone enters the relevant search terms.

However, achieving sales on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok is completely different because nobody goes on to those platforms looking for luxury vegan candles. Instead, the luxury vegan candle company will serve up ads to ideal customers based on their activities online.

In other words, if the target customer has:

  • been checking out luxury vegan candles on a range of websites, magazines, blogs and influencer profiles

  • visited the website before

  • signed up for the mailing list

  • bought from the site previously

then thanks to all the cookies following their every digital footstep, they’ll see ads relating to luxury vegan candles.

Which type of ads is the cheapest?

The cheapest and most effective way to get your business message in front of thousands of ideal clients is with Facebook and Instagram ads. LinkedIn, Twitter and TikTok ads are far more expensive and have fewer possibilities for such precise targeting.

For example, if you want to target all female lawyers who:

  • are aged 35–45

  • live within five miles of Bristol

  • have two children under five

  • read The Times and Marie Claire

  • love skiing in the Alps every year

you can serve ads to them for less than a fiver.

Boost post vs. Ads Manager

The biggest mistake small business owners make is to let the social media platform decide how their ads should operate. This is called the ‘boost post’ strategy and is the main way that platforms like Facebook make all their profits while small businesses often go bust.

Instead, you’ll find the smart money in Facebook’s Ads Manager, setting up Facebook and Instagram ads that have a range of objectives. In fact, there are 11 different types of ads to choose from.

Broadly speaking, you can then choose between:

  • awareness ads to let ideal clients know you exist

  • consideration ads to get ideal customers to take some kind of action, such as visiting your website, providing their email address, watching a video or downloading an app

  • conversion ads to secure purchases from highly targeted ‘warm’ prospects

Obviously, this is a beginner’s guide showing the basic principles involved in deciding on an advertising strategy. But as with everything, the devil is in the details.

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