Paid social 101: how to run social ads

Learn how to utilise this essential part of the marketing mix.

Just like having a website, a newsletter, or an SEO (search engine optimisation) strategy, social media represents a marketing channel. As is the case with most marketing channels, “free” will usually only take you so far.

It’s important to understand that paid and organic social media isn’t a matter of either-or. In fact, paid campaigns can support your organic social media efforts in the long-run.

This article aims to help by outlining 3 key benefits of using paid social media, guidance on when to put paid spend behind your content, as well as 5 tips to running a successful paid campaign.

3 key benefits of Paid Social Media content:

1. Paid social can generate guaranteed reach

Paid social media ensures that your campaigns get seen and increase your chances of winning your audience’s attention.

28% of consumers discover new products directly through social media, with that number skewing higher for 16-34s. Ads are an effective way to introduce your rugby club to a new audience as well as grab the attention of an existing audience without being restricted by an algorithm.

Where you want to ensure a larger audience see your content, for example to promote an Open Day you might be running at the club, consider putting some paid spend behind those posts.

2. Paid social allows you to target the most relevant individuals or groups

Social ads have incredibly advanced targeting capabilities. For example, you can set up campaigns to only serve followers of a specific income level or people living in a particular area (i.e. people within a certain proximity to your rugby club). You can likewise create campaigns that only target followers, previous customers or people who’ve bounced from your website.

Since you get to set the parameters of your ad targeting, you also benefit from making sure your ads are served to people that are most likely to click on them. (see an example from Facebook’s ad targeting options below).

Be sure to give thought to the audience you wish to target to ensure your spending efficiently on your social media channels.

3. Paid social gives you valuable insights about your target audience

Ad campaigns can provide you with first-hand insights that enable you to learn things like:

  • Which types of promotions result in the most engagement

  • What your social media audience looks like demographic-wise (see the example below from Facebook)

  • How your social ads perform versus your organic social

Testing the waters with paid social also means stepping up your social media reporting and can teach you more about your target audience. Even if you run a few one-off campaigns and don’t invest in paid social regularly, you can use these insights to inform your organic social strategy moving forward.

When is the right time to start with paid social media?

There is no correct answer here, but there are a few points to consider before diving into a paid campaign.

Before you start: Make sure you have an established following and understanding of the network you’re looking to run ads on. It can raise suspicion when an account runs ads but has a silent organic page. Having an established presence indicates that you’re a legitimate and appealing rugby club.

Where possible, you should align your social ad campaigns to bigger-picture club initiatives. Whether that’s the season launch, match ticket promotion or fundraising initiatives. The takeaway is that you should never run ads “just because”.

5 key tips to running a successful first campaign

Here are five must-dos when running a first-time paid campaign.

1.Pick the social platform(s) you’re going to prioritise

When it comes to figuring out the best social platform for your club, the first step is to prioritise what’s important to you. Is it expanding the audience you reach? Is it finding people to convert sales or some sort of user action? Is it about club awareness?

From there, it’s about determining which platform will give you the right exposure with the right audience. Is your content very visual so it lends itself to platforms like Instagram or TikTok? Is it focused on real-time events and would work well on Twitter? Or is your audience diverse and so needs a combination of platforms such as YouTube and LinkedIn?

As noted earlier, you should invest in social platforms that you’re familiar with and have an established audience on. We recommend sticking with a single platform initially (don’t try to do too much at once!), ideally where you’re achieving the most engagement from your followers.

2. Establish goals and desired outcomes for your paid campaigns

You need to decide on what you want the outcome or the goal to be prior to running your social ads. For instance, do you want to drive awareness of your club? Or drive ticket sales, or recruit volunteers?

On Facebook, for example, there are three objectives categories. They represent the stages that a customer is expected to pass through from being completely unaware of your brand, to being a loyal, repeat customer. It’s called the customer journey. Campaigns can focus on one stage of the journey, or make use of all three.

You’ll typically find these categories and stages referred to as awareness objectives, consideration objective and conversion objectives. Together, they make up the ‘full marketing funnel’.

  • Awareness - Objectives usually target reach, views or impressions, aiming to generate interest in your club.

  • Consideration - Objectives usually centre around engagement or interaction (traffic to site, app downloads, video views, registration), aiming to encourage customers into searching for more information.

  • Conversion - Objectives are about getting prospects to buy, purchase or sign up (ticket sales, membership sign-ups, club visits) and a common call to action? ‘Buy now’ or ‘Contact Us’.

See the options from Facebook and Instagram below.

Your goal will ultimately inspire your campaign and the type of content you create. Goal-setting also ensures that you’re tracking the right metrics and KPIs associated with your campaigns.

3. Set the right paid budget

Creating a budget for social media can be a challenge. How much your ads end up costing depends on quite a few variables, including the type of category you want to target, CPC (cost-per-click), necessary creatives, and how long you’re looking to run a campaign.

The scientific way to calculate a paid campaign budget is:

Size of the audience you want to reach
Number of times you want to reach them
Expected cost per action

This formula quickly becomes very complicated because of the number of moving parts. Which share of your audience is realistic to reach? How do you know how many times you need to reach them? How can you guess the cost per action when it depends other factors like the competition, the time of the campaign etc.

At this point, we’d recommend leaving the maths for when you have one or two campaigns under your belt to benchmark against. The priority should be getting used to how social media ads work, and what those variables are. So just dive in and experiment.

For those looking for a starting point, this is our recommendation:

  • If you need to bid for the budget internally within your club, position it as a pilot or test campaign.

  • Set a maximum budget – start with, for example: £100-£200 for the campaign

  • Run the campaign for a week and set a daily budget – for example £20 a day.

  • Make sure the bids are set up to be automated

  • Analyse the results and use this campaign as a benchmark.

  • Build from there.

4. Look for inspiration from successful campaigns

Researching how other companies and communities run their ads is an important piece of social 101. It’s important to look at both small companies as well as big brands so you can understand a breadth of capabilities within different budget limits.
You can look up businesses directly via the Facebook Ad Library (link here) or you can spend time on the platforms themselves browsing the various ads. Take note of what sort of creatives you like and the ones that grab your attention.

5. Make sure to look properly at the performance of your campaigns

There is lots of data you can pull from your paid social campaigns to understand performance and understanding the behaviours of your audience.
You can look at metrics from reach to engagement to conversions. Having a good understanding of what these metrics mean is essential to understanding how to optimise your campaigns in future. Some examples of metrics to look out for below:

  • Awareness: Reach, video views, impressions, website traffic, CPM (cost per thousand impressions)

  • Engagement: Likes, comments, shares, clicks, saves, retweets, mentions, profile visits, video view through rate

  • Conversion: website bounce rate, sign ups, downloads, cost per click (CPC), cost per acquisition (CPA)

Want more help and support? Speak to our expert V-Hub Business Advisers, who offer tailored guidance and support on a range of topics.

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