Social media advertising in 2023 — strategies, platforms, costs, and benefits

A target audience member engages with social media advertising on her mobile phone.

Social media has permeated our lives with messaging, content, and connectivity in ways never before imagined. Today, 59% of the world population uses social media, with more than half of all people on at least one of several major platforms. However, 68% of users don’t think that brands are using engaging or interesting content when posting to social media channels.

That’s a lot of missed opportunities for businesses that could otherwise engage with their target audiences on one of the biggest digital marketing stages.

How brands engage with all those users also varies between organic content and paid social media posts. While both have their merits, organic content tends to be passive and less effective at engaging the right people at the right time. Paid advertising is more proactive and can be a lucrative part of your overall social media marketing strategy.

More than 90% of companies in the US are using social media as part of their marketing strategy, with a total spend of $56 billion expected in paid advertising. But it’s important to understand what all of that money is actually being spent on and how you can profit from using this digital marketing strategy.

There are many benefits to social media advertising or paid social. These benefits include increasing brand awareness, better ROI, and more overall social media engagement. This article will cover everything you need to know to implement a winning social media advertising strategy, including:

What is social media advertising?

Social media advertising is digital marketing that displays paid ads about products and services to users on specific social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s all about purchasing ad space to engage with specific target audiences where they’re spending their time. After all, the average consumer spends up to 147 minutes using social media each day.

Also known as paid social, social media advertising differentiates itself from other social media content because it is paid for specifically to receive exposure to certain target demographics. In contrast, organic social media marketing relies on posting to a brand’s page and then waiting for consumers to visit on their own and engage with the content.

Paid social is also different from paid search, though the two terms sound similar. Paid search refers to advertising dollars spent trying to present your ads on search engine results pages for a specific target audience. Social media advertising refers strictly to paid ads on social media networks.

You might be surprised just how impactful social media — and paid social in particular — is when it comes to marketing and sales. More than 75% of consumers have purchased products seen in social media posts. And the return on investment (ROI) for social media ads can be up to 300%. Tapping into paid social clearly helps your brand connect with customers.

More than 75% of consumers have purchased products seen in social media posts, and the return on investment can be up to 300%.

Social media advertising how-to

The trick is to understand how to navigate the various social media networks and develop a paid social strategy that works for your specific brand. As with other digital marketing strategies, it helps to start by defining or revisiting your target audience.

Consider which platforms your customers are likely to be using based on the demographic information you have in your buyer personas. There are plenty of statistics available about which platforms are used by which target audiences. For example, Pew Research has drilled down into which platforms are used the most — YouTube and Facebook — and which are most popular among different demographic groups. Then you can use the content you’ve already developed on the platforms where it would work best.

Budget is also an important factor. Each platform has its own cost breakdowns, and you’ll likely want to spread your funds across multiple platforms. Calculate the amount you spend per platform, per target audience, based on how much you’re willing to spend and what you anticipate your ROI to be.

Finally, there’s automation to consider. You can choose to manually post ads to more closely test and determine the best performers. Or you can opt to engage with ad management tools that will automate the process for you, which could be worthwhile given that the segment is expected to grow by 11.24% by 2027.

Social media advertising strategy

Now that we’ve listed some general considerations for how to put together a paid social strategy, let’s dive deeper into specific strategies to get the most from paid social.

1. Determine which products to feature

Paid ads can be a great way to introduce new products or features via social media. For companies with multiple product lines, the key is to decide which to focus on. Jumbling your messaging across different products can dilute your ROI and create confusion when it comes to a consumer and your CTA. After all, it usually takes seven to eight times for a consumer to see an ad before they start to recognize and act on it.

2. Gather information on your audience

As mentioned, the platform you target will depend on your audience. You’ll be able to tell who your audience is by collecting data about their behavior. You can gather this information a number of ways, including online forms, subscriptions, web traffic, and even social shares.

Understanding where and how people interact with your brand can help you get the most out of your advertising dollars. If you don’t already have one, consider adopting a software solution to manage your customer data, ideally one that operates in real time, such as Adobe Real-Time Customer Data Platform. That way, you can collect and analyze information about your target audiences and refine ad campaigns with a personalized touch to best appeal to them on the platforms where they spend their time.

3. Set specific goals

You’ll want to define what success looks like for your paid social campaigns. There are two main measures for this in the world of social media advertising — impressions and engagement. Impressions are the number of views your ad receives regardless of whether a viewer interacted with it. Engagement refers to a reader commenting, liking, sharing, or clicking on your ad.

Before you start an ad campaign, be clear on which of these metrics matters most to you. Then you can track your progress and refine your budget accordingly.

4. Optimize for mobile

More than half of the world’s internet traffic comes from mobile devices, and social media is along for the ride. An astounding 99% of users access social media from mobile, with 78% using their mobile devices exclusively.

Given this fact, and the bevy of tiny screen sizes and aspect ratios involved, it’s more important than ever to make sure your paid social is optimized for mobile. That means your ads will display well on devices of all shapes and sizes. Not only should they fit, but they also need to be easily readable and distinguishable with limited copy and clear branding.

They can also be well-timed for those users who are on the go. Many paid social platforms allow for geotargeting and geofencing when it comes to ads, so you’re top of mind at just the right time. You can serve up different content to different people in different areas, while also automatically advertising if they get close to one of your retail locations.

Social media advertising can benefit your overall marketing strategy. Paid social delivers high ROI and connects your brand with your target audience.

Examples of social media advertising

Let’s take a look at some examples of the different types of social media advertising.

Social media platforms

Broadly defined, a social media platform provides a service where users can message and interact with one another digitally. There are a handful of key players in this space, and it’s important to understand them as part of your social media advertising strategy.

Facebook has 2.93 billion active monthly users, with the majority being males between 25–34 years of age. The platform also remains overwhelmingly mobile-first, with 98% of accounts accessing it as a mobile website or application.

Nearly 25% of Americans use Twitter, and the platform has more than 429 million users worldwide. While few who tweet expect their posts to be seen, so-called lurkers follow accounts and use them as news feeds, making paid ads an effective way to be top of mind for them.

More than half of Instagram’s worldwide user base is 34 years old or younger, with the platform remaining markedly popular among teenagers. When it comes to content, Instagram is all about imagery — 71% of posts are photos, with the balance being video or a combination of the two.

LinkedIn is a more career-oriented platform, used mostly for networking, job-finding, and professional development. The demographic skews younger with 60% of users between the ages of 25-34.

SnapChat users remain predominantly young females between the ages of 18-24. Of the more than 330 million daily users on the platform, 26% are based in the United States.

Defining goals for your paid social media is crucial. By having clear KPIs in place, you can determine which advertising models and their associated costs will be worth your investment.

What does social media advertising cost?

The good news is that, for the most part, businesses can spend as much or as little as they want on paid social media.

Most models call on advertisers to pay per interaction type. Depending on your goals, this will help you develop an idea of the budget you’ll have to use. Options typically include cost per click, cost per impression, cost per conversion, and cost per view. While there’s no set amount, you’ll have to pay the minimum for each category in order to be competitive.

Defining goals for your paid social media is crucial. By having clear KPIs in place, you can determine which advertising models and their associated costs will be worth your investment.

The benefits of social media advertising

It can be hard to get organic social media in front of a specific target audience. That’s where paid social becomes so vital. It’s particularly useful for new and growing brands or those that are trying to capture new audience segments.

Social media advertising remains a cost-effective option — it’s easy to calculate the return on investment, especially when you have the right campaigns and measures in place. The result can be increased engagement across your social media channels and subsequently to your brand’s online properties.

Ads can bring viewers to your pages and entice them to explore your content in more detail. Content that provides value is often met with engagement such as shares and likes. Paid social ads are also effective because they seamlessly integrate into a user’s feed rather than interrupting their experience on the platform.

Social media advertising tools

With clear benefits to social media advertising, you’re probably wondering how to make paid social part of your overall marketing strategy. To begin, evaluate your current social media marketing strategy and set goals for what you’d like to achieve with paid social. Are you currently using social media, using organic social media marketing only, or attempting paid social but not yet seeing the ROI you want?

Adobe can help. We have a complete suite of products dedicated to supporting social media marketing efforts, including:

Maximize your brand awareness, marketing ROI, and overall customer engagement with a comprehensive social media advertising strategy powered by Adobe.