Social Media Advertising: what can we achieve thanks to it and how much does it cost?

Reklama w Social Media: do czego może służyć, ile kosztuje, jak ją rozliczać?

What is social media advertising?

Social media advertising simply means advertising activities carried out on social media platforms. It is accessing social media users by paying for having your contents displayed. To many companies and marketers, social media advertising equals Facebook ads and nothing else. Wrong! Almost all noteworthy social platforms have their own advertising systems – LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest. Naturally, each of them has its own style, characteristics, advantages and disadvantages. It is almost impossible to disregard social media in marketing plans. Facebook alone has 16 million users in Poland that can be easily reached.

Social media advertising almost always meets the criteria of “native” advertising. Usually, to the untrained eye, it is hard to tell it apart from the content they see “naturally”. For example, from liked fanpages or observed profiles. Legal and ethical aspects require all of the platforms to mark advertising content, meaning the content the displaying of which is paid by advertisers. In most social platforms these posts or entries have a small, discrete note such as e.g. “sponsored”.

As a matter of fact, the term “sponsorship” is often used interchangeably with “advertising” in the context of social platforms. Publishing any contents on the company’s profile results in it being naturally displayed (organic reach) to a group of users, but actual significant reach is obtained only by “sponsoring” the content, i.e. by paying the platform for displaying it to users who normally would not have the chance to come across it.

How does social media advertising differ from other forms of advertisement?

Firstly, recipients can interact with it, which is not possible in the case of e.g. TV or radio commercials. This means that such an advertisement can be criticised, which can be a nuisance for marketers in charge of the given brand’s sales activities -on social media platforms. Such an ad can also be liked and shared. The same rules apply as to the contents that are published by persons or companies who do not pay for advertising. Of course, this creates completely different challenges for advertisers. Criticism of an ad which is visible to other recipients, difficult and uncomfortable questions asked by sceptical clients and the problematic situations that follow, spam in the comments section – all of it is what companies running advertising activities on social platforms come across every day.

Secondly, social media usually offer a wider variety of available forms of advertising. You can choose the simplest, static forms of image+text, but other options include also videos, interactive forms (LeadAds on Facebook and LinkedIn), posts developing into a form of simple websites (Facebook Canvas) and many more. Creators of social media platforms are constantly experimenting by introducing new forms of ads (sometimes for a short time), which sometimes creates very interesting promoting opportunities. One example of such experiment was e.g. a “sponsored domain”, already withdrawn from Facebook. It was an ad allowing us to pay for additional views of posts that had links to our page, even if we were not their authors. Traditional media do not really stand a chance with such unconventional forms of marketing.

The range of available forms of advertising on social media can be seen as a huge advantage, but there are some downsides to it as well. From the practical point of view, too many forms often distract marketers from focusing on the wrong issues. Instead of thinking of an effective, interesting message which would implement the social media strategy, they get stuck by fiddling with various options and experiment to achieve e.g. a lower cost per click. They forget that social media advertising is just another form of the same thing – communicating with other human beings. It can be seen on the example of social media advertising trainings, which is much more often devoted to technical aspects than to strategy or creation.

Thirdly, social media ads are different from ads on other types of media because of how they can address recipients. Other media, e.g. vertical portals or printed magazines, have very limited targeting possibilities. Their publishers’ and advertisers’ knowledge on recipients is often very limited. The only thing they can usually be sure of is that they are interested in the subject – in an article, a whole website, a video. The power of social media ads is based on the fact that social media identifies its users and collects a lot of information about them. LinkedIn allows you to e.g. determine the target group using the knowledge the website has about the users’ job positions. For instance, it is easy to have the ad target managers of food companies that employ over 50 people. Facebook is the unprecedented leader in the field of creating targeting models based on behavioural analysis and profiling users. In Facebook advertising campaigns it is easy to determine which users are e.g. women aged 20-30 who shop on-line and at the same time are interested in nail care and modern dance.

What can you achieve with social media advertising?

The simplest answer is – the same as with advertising in any other high-impact medium! Social media offer great opportunities of reaching consumers and are great for supporting online sales, building brand awareness, and education. The most common uses of social media advertising reflect the aims defined by marketing departments. At the marketing level, these are usually:

  1. Building up reach and strengthening brand recognition, awareness of its initiatives, new products or offers.
  2. Encouraging users to maintain contact (lead generation) by directing them to landing pages with forms or directly collecting contacts in social media.
  3. Supporting sales in an online or offline shop by directing users to the shop, promoting special offers, new campaigns, remarketing.

But let’s face it – not all goals can be achieved with social media advertising. Despite the efforts and convincing sales presentations of players such as Facebook, it is still difficult to talk about generating visits to offline shops. The very nature and place of contact with social media advertising, for example, also mean that the effectiveness of such advertising in relation to fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) is generally much lower than, for example, point-of-sale promotion. Social media advertising, like advertising on TV or in similar channels, in these cases affects the consumer on a general level, increasing brand recognition, but fails to appeal to them in the moments when they are making a decision while shopping.

How to estimate a budget for social media advertising?

Unfortunately, there is no perfect recipe for this. Budgets used by Polish companies in social media vary from PLN zero to several hundred thousand per month. The most important thing is to match the budget with the goals that we want to achieve. If our goal is, for example, to gain 10 additional leads through a social media platform to people interested in car insurance – a few hundred PLN will probably be enough. However, if the goal is to build awareness of a new product among 3 million women, the media plan must include expenses of several dozen thousand Polish zloty on a monthly basis.

There are many myths associated with social media advertising expenses. For example, that advertising is so cheap that PLN 300-500 per month is enough. Unfortunately, that is not the case. For most companies, such expenses will not cause any significant change and will have no impact on sales results. Of course, advertising statistics will show, for example, reaching 50,000 people, but if we are talking about a company offering a popular product available offline, it is just a glimpse of the market, without a real impact on the awareness of the overwhelming majority of potential customers. In comparison, our agency spends min. PLN 2,000 per month on the promotion of its own content in social media. However, we are a specialist B2B company interested in reaching a small group of specialists. Most of our clients spend much more on advertising.

There is also a lot of misunderstanding of the mechanics of receiving sponsored content when advertising budgets are assumed. Most content on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter is consumed fleetingly, at an express pace imposed by the swipe of a thumb scrolling through the newsfeed. The assumption that a single display of a sponsored post on a phone screen causes some kind of revolution in the recipient’s consciousness is wrong. Aside from viewability, which is what the display reported to us by the advertising system actually means, a single impression is a split second, sometimes 1-2 seconds of contact, in most cases without remembering, without focus, and often without comprehending. So when planning your advertising budget you need to think about communication in a sequential way and accept the expense of repeated contact with increased frequency.

One-time expenses for social media advertising nominally do not seem high. For example, the cost of 1,000 displays on Facebook generally falls within the range of PLN 4 to 12. Thus, it may be said that reaching a single person is possible for approx. PLN 0.4-1.2. That might not be much, but if we want to build scale, the values multiply and become much greater. For example – the cost of reach promotion of 1 video post on Facebook ensuring 2-3 times reaching the group of approx. 1 million recipients in the Reach&Frequency model is approx. PLN 20,000 net. Such amounts are obviously still relatively low compared to the costs of advertising activities on TV or in the press. But from the point of view of budgets usually earmarked by Polish companies for social communication, it is unfortunately quite a lot.

Another essential issue related to advertising budgets is also optimisation of social media campaigns. It is often possible to achieve much better results with similar expenses.

How to account for social media advertising activities?

Social media advertising systems give the advertisers a wide range of numbers that illustrate the course of each campaign. That is, we have an ongoing overview of the number of displays, clicks, reactions, hides, views, fills, number of fans, etc. As with the multitude of forms of advertising, the scale of the available data can easily make assessing a campaign difficult. That is why, when thinking about planning and accounting for social media advertising, it is always best to start with marketing goals. On that basis you can determine the key indicators (KPIs) for advertising.

For example, if the marketing goal of a company is to increase brand awareness, the indicator characterising the effectiveness of ads may be the reach and frequency of contact achieved for a given budget. Other data, such as the number of page views, increased numbers of fans or followers, reactions or comments may give some idea of how ads are perceived, but they are not as directly related to the marketing goal as the achieved reach.

Many sites are trying to report metrics to advertisers that are closer to their actual goals than just clicks, reactions and number of displays. For example, Facebook has long had its Brand Lift indicator, which measures the estimated number of people who have remembered a sponsored post. At the same time, many services (including Facebook and Twitter) have long allowed the configuration and reporting of advertising campaigns optimised for conversions, i.e. specific actions performed by users on the advertiser’s website – e.g. ordering, adding to basket or providing contact information.

How to start social media advertising?

The best way to do this is by thinking about the goals you could pursue with social media channels and discussing it internally in your company. Think about the role these channels play in your company in general and try to define your expectations towards advertising in these media. The second step may be to contact a social media agency, e.g. one like ours ☺. Of course, we do not discourage you from experimenting on your own, but we will be happy to help you with planning activities, reasonable budgeting, defining KPIs and ways of evaluating campaigns.

Feel free to contact us!