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Paid Social Ads: A Beginner's Guide Watch Overview

Paid Social Ads: A Beginner's Guide

The main social platforms hold vast amounts of data on individual users that mean ads can be targeted with a high level of precision, in turn making advertising on them potentially extremely effective and profitable.

But, given the number of different platforms and the differences between them, knowing where to start with paid social ads can be a little overwhelming.

The following post guides you through:

  • How to plan and execute an effective social media advertising campaign
  • How to place ads on the top social platforms—Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest

How to Plan and Execute an Effective Paid Social Ad Campaign

Decide on Your Goal

The first step of any ad campaign, whether on social media or elsewhere, is to know exactly what you’re trying to accomplish.

A couple of the most common goals would be to:

  • Attract new leads
  • Sell new products or services

Consider too what you’re willing to spend to achieve your goal.

So if your goal is to acquire new customers, what are you willing to spend to acquire each one (your customer acquisition cost)?

Similarly, if your goal is lead acquisition, what are you willing to pay per lead (your lead acquisition cost)?

And then there’s the timeframe in which you’re looking to turn a profit.

Some businesses will need to see a return right away, whereas others, such as those with a much longer lead time, won’t expect to see a return for several days, weeks or even months.

Determine Your Ideal Audience

In brief, who’s your ideal customer? Determining your customer avatar is one of the most important steps in any advertising campaign.

Whatever you sell, one thing is for sure—however useful, valuable and awe-inspiring it might be, it’s not going to appeal to everyone.

Look at your current customers. Consider which customers are your most enthusiastic buyers, those who become your biggest fans and those who buy more than anyone else. What commonalities do they have?

Consider factors including:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Interests
  • Lifestyle choices
  • Psychology
  • Employment
  • Income level
  • Geography

Conversely, consider those customers who have previously proved to be a bad fit. There’s likely around 20% of your customers who cause the vast majority of customer support issues and complaints.

Consider what they have in common too so that you can potentially exclude them from seeing your paid social ads.

Pick the Right Social Media Platform

You’ll find out below how to place paid ads on five of the top social media platforms, namely Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest.

But that doesn’t mean you should be using all of them at once.

A far more effective paid social strategy is to start small, placing ads on a single platform with an (initially) limited budget.

When just starting out with advertising on social media, start with a single platform and a small budget. Grow from there.Click To Tweet

Once you’ve mastered one and got it working profitably for you, you can then start to consider and explore other platforms.

So how do you decide which one is likely to work best for you?

This largely comes down to your budget, your goals and who you’re trying to reach.

For most businesses, Facebook or Instagram is likely to be the best option. The targeting capabilities are highly sophisticated, and nearly all businesses will find their ideal customers are on the platform.

However, if you’re purely B2B, you may find LinkedIn an equally good, or perhaps better, fit. Ad costs tend to be higher, but so does the quality of the leads you get from the platform, and as a result, in the end, lead and sale acquisition costs may well be lower.

Or if you have an ecommerce store selling physical products with customers that on the whole tend to be female, and relatively affluent, then Pinterest may prove to be the right option for you.

A rough guide to the demographics and total audience size (monthly active users, or MAU) of each platform is as follows:


Monthly active users: 2.912 billion

Demographics: most popular amongst men and women aged 35-44, with over 56.6% male (source).


Monthly active users: 2 billion

Demographics: around two-thirds of users are aged between 18 and 34, and around 15% aged 35-44. In other words, the audience tends to skew a little younger than Facebook (source).


Monthly active users: 310 million

Demographics: generally made up of relatively affluent working professionals, nearly 60% of LinkedIn’s users are aged between 25 and 34, with around 20% aged 18-24, and the other 20% mostly aged 35-54 (source).


Monthly active users: 330 million

Demographics: the majority of Twitter users are based in the US, with Japan the next biggest country. Nearly 40% of users are aged 25-34, with the remaining 60% mostly spread, relatively evenly, between the 18-24, 35-49 and 50+ age groups. Over 70% of users are male (source). Users tend to be more affluent and educated than users on say Facebook or Instagram.


Monthly active users: 430 million

Demographics: the majority of Pinterest users are female (77%), with the vast majority of users based in the US. Most are aged 25 to 34 (source). Pinterest users tend to be in ‘buying mode’, with 75% of them saying they’re ‘always shopping’ (source).

The Pew Research Center provides some data reflecting US adult users of each of the above five networks, adapted below:

Demographics of US adult users of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest from the Pew Research Center

Determine Your Message

When crafting your message, don’t forget AIDA — your message should provoke:

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action
When crafting effective messaging for an ad, remember AIDA. Your message should provoke: Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.Click To Tweet

What are the pain points that your product or service solves for people?

Be Patient

It’s rare for a paid social ad campaign to give you a slam dunk within the first few days.

The initial period usually involves collecting enough data to be able to then optimize that campaign—whether manually, or through the platform’s AI—based on what’s working and what isn’t.

Start with a low budget, and then increase that gradually as your start seeing positive results.

Aim to always let it run for at least 7 days. The first few days are unlikely to meet your cost acquisition goals, but after a while the numbers should begin to improve as more data is collected and it becomes clearer who your ad best resonates with..

Test and Tweak

Test and tweak your campaign over time to find out what works best for the audience you want to attract.

Small changes can mean big differences in the results you achieve. Look at what the data is telling you and make changes accordingly.

Small changes in ad campaigns can mean big differences in results. Test continuously to optimize your campaigns.Click To Tweet

Related: Paid Social Strategy: 5 Key Steps to Mastering Social Advertising

How to Place Paid Social Ads on the Top Platforms

1. Placing Ads on Facebook or Instagram

Sign into Ads Manager

Head to Meta’s Ads Manager - this is where you’ll place ads for both Facebook and/or Instagram.

Click to create a new campaign.

Choose a Campaign Objective

The first stage is to choose your objective, or what you’re hoping to achieve from your advertising.

Choose a campaign objective for your paid social ads on Meta

Meta provides potential objectives for the different stages in the customer journey — Awareness, Consideration and then Conversion.

The objectives most relevant to small businesses are:

  • Traffic—select this objective if you’re wanting to attract people to your website, an app or a Facebook event. Alternatively, this can be used to attract inbound calls.
  • Engagement—use if you aim to attract Page likes, responses to an event, or engagements with a post such as reacts, comments or shares.
  • Lead generation—get contact information from leads via forms, calls or chats.
  • Conversions—select this option to focus your ad on getting people to take action on your website, such as buying something or filling out a form.
  • Catalog sales—for ecommerce sites, designed for ads that feature products from your catalog.

The rest of the process may differ slightly depending on the selected objective. The following provides a broad overview.

Create Your Ad Set

Give your ad set a name, set a daily or lifetime budget, and set a start and optional end date.

Create your budget and schedule for your Meta ads

Select Your Audience

Define exactly who should see your advertising. Meta provide options including:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Language
  • Detailed lists of demographics, interests and behaviors

Create a new audience for your paid social ad on Meta

You can also use a saved audience, such as people who’ve taken a certain action previously or a lookalike audience.

Choose Where to Place Your Ad

Select the Manual placements option to choose exactly where to show your ads, including choosing whether they should show on Facebook and/or Instagram.

Choose placements for your ad on Meta

Meta provides a wide range of potential placements on the different platforms which can be adjusted as required.

Choose Your Ad Format

Ad formats on Meta include:

  • A single image or video, or slideshow of multiple images
  • A carousel of multiple images or videos the user can scroll through
  • A collection of items that opens into an immersive experience on mobile

Choose your ad format

Create Your Ad

Add the copy and media for your ad, and select the call to action along with other details as required such as (where relevant) where to send people when they click on the ad.

As you build your ad, you’ll see a preview on the right hand side.

Create your ad on Meta’s ad platform

Publish Your Ad

Finally, click to publish your ad.

Publish your ad on Meta

Add additional ads to your ad set as required to test how they each perform in order to optimize accordingly.

2. Placing Ads on LinkedIn

Sign into Campaign Manager

Start by signing into LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager, creating a free account first if required.

Choose Your Objective

The first step of any ad campaign is to know exactly what you're trying to accomplish. What is your goal?Click To Tweet

The first step of setting up a new campaign involves choosing an objective that best fits your goals.

Choose an objective for your LinkedIn ads campaign

The options available include:

  • Brand awareness
  • Website visits
  • Engagement
  • Video views
  • Lead generation
  • Website conversions
  • Job applicants

Build Your Audience

The next stage is to define who you want your ads to reach by building your audience.

Build an audience for your paid social ads on LinkedIn

Options include:

  • Location
  • Language
  • Attributes such as the company someone works for, age, gender, education, job position and years of experience, and someone’s interests

You can also base targeting on a list you’ve uploaded, on a lookalike of an existing audience, a retargeting audience, and more.

Choose Your Ad Format

Ad formats to choose from include:

  • Single image ad—a single image that shows up in the news feed
  • Carousel image ad—ads with two or more images that show up in the news feed
  • Video ad—an ad with a video to show in the news feed
  • Text ad—a text-based ad that shows in the right column or the top of the page on LinkedIn
  • Spotlight ad—a personalized ad that uses profile data, and can show anywhere on the platform
  • Message or conversation ad—delivered to the messaging inbox of your target audience
  • Event ad—an ad based on your LinkedIn Event to show in the news feed

Single image LinkedIn ad format

Select Placements

LinkedIn pre-selects the LinkedIn Audience Network option that means your ads will show on 3rd-party sites and apps.

LinkedIn ad placement options

You can choose to disable the option, or refine it by excluding either categories or a list of apps and sites where you don’t want your ads to show.

Set Your Budget and Schedule

Decide on a daily or lifetime budget (or both), the schedule for your ads, your optimization goal (based on your selected objective), and the bidding strategy you want to use.

Set the budget and schedule for your LinkedIn ads

Add Conversion Tracking

To be able to see the actions people take on your website after clicking or viewing your ad, you’ll need to add one or more conversions.

Add conversion tracking for your LinkedIn ads

Note that this relies on data from the Linked Insight Tag—here’s a full guide on how to install and use it, or watch the video for a summary:

Add Your Ads to the Campaign

Add your Linkedin Ads to the campaign

Click to add a new ad based on your chosen ad format. A preview of the ad will show on the right as you build it.

Save Your Billing Info

Finally, before launching your ad campaign on LinkedIn, add your billing information.

Add your billing info before launching your paid social ads campaign on LinkedIn

For the full guide on how to create paid ads on LinkedIn, click here.

3. Placing Ads on Twitter

The following provides a brief summary of how to use Twitter ads, see our full guide for more information.

Create an Ads Account

If you don’t already have an ad account, head to Twitter’s Business site, and click to create an ad.

Click to create a paid social ad on Twitter

You’ll be asked to sign into Twitter if you’re not already.

Then select your country and time zone.

Select country and time zone

Choose Your Objective

Click to create a campaign, and select your campaign objective. Most small businesses will select one of those highlighted below, namely:

  • Video views
  • Website traffic
  • Engagements
  • Followers

Set your campaign objective in Twitter Ads

Set Campaign Details

You’ll then need to set some details for your campaign as a whole, including the name, the daily budget, an optional total budget, a start time, and an optional end time.

Set the details for your paid social ad campaign on Twitter

Click Next to start setting up an ad group.

Set Ad Group Details

Each campaign can have one or more ad groups, and each ad group has its own settings such as budget, start and end times, and who you want to target with your ads.

Set details of the individual ad group in your Twitter campaign

This is also where you decide how your ads will be optimized, based on your campaign’s objective.

So if you chose Website traffic as the campaign’s objective, you can choose to optimize based on:

  • Site visits
  • Link clicks
  • Conversions

Choose how to optimize your Twitter ads campaign

Decide who you want to target your ads at based on:

  • Demographics—such as gender, age, location and language
  • Devices—including operating system, device model and carrier
  • Custom audiences—targeting people in a pre-created custom audience such as based on activity on your website or a list, and look-alikes of that audience
  • Other targeting features such as keywords they’ve shown an interest in on Twitter, look-alikes of an account’s followers, and general interests

Choose where to place ads on Twitter and whether to extend their reach via Twitter’s Audience Platform, which involves showing your ads on other apps users might use.

Finally, you choose which creatives to use for your ads, whether:

  • Organic Tweets—Tweets you’ve already published on your profile
  • Scheduled Tweets—Tweets you’ve scheduled to be published organically
  • Promoted-only Tweets—Tweets purely used for advertising

Their ad platform includes a Tweet composer facility to create the Tweets you want to use.

The Tweet composer facility on Twitter’s ad platform

To properly optimize your campaign, it’s best to add at least a couple of Tweets to your ad group so you can see how they each perform and adjust accordingly.

Launch Your Twitter Ads Campaign

Click Next, review all your settings, and launch your campaign.

Launch Twitter ads campaign

4. Placing Ads on Pinterest

Creating a Business Account

To run ads on Pinterest, you need to have a business account. That means either:

  • Creating a separate account under a different email (which you can then link to your personal Pinterest account if you have one)
  • Converting your personal account into a business account

Pinterest provides a guide on how to do the above here.

Once set up, log into your business account and click to create an ad from the menu.

Create an ad via Pinterest’s business hub

You can also click the button from the Pinterest Ads site.

Click to create a paid social ad on Pinterest

You’ll find that Pinterest offers two different tracks to creating an ad, one is the ‘Quick Promote’ track that starts with a Pin (similar to Facebook’s Boost Post ads), and the other that starts with selecting a campaign objective.

Let’s look at each in turn.

Quick Promote

First, select an existing Pin that you want to promote, or create a new one.

Start creating an ad on Pinterest by selecting a Pin to promote or create a new one

Second, fill in the details of the ad, including:

  • The destination URL
  • Your daily budget
  • How long you want the ad to run for (or choose to run it continuously)

Fill out the details of your Pinterest ad

By default, the Expanded targeting option is selected, which means that Pinterest will advertise to people it believes are interested in the topic of your ad, and to all ages and genders.

Uncheck it to be able to define your targeting manually.

Third, click to promote your Pin, including adding your billing information.

Click to promote your Pin

Target your ad on Pinterest


Creating an ad via the Campaign track starts with choosing one of the following campaign objectives:

  • Brand awareness
  • Video views
  • Consideration—pick this one to get visitors to your website
  • Conversions—optimized based on actions taken on your website
  • Catalog sales—promote the sale of products

Choose a campaign objective for your ads on Pinterest

Then set a daily or lifetime budget, and set whether the campaign should run continuously or on specific dates only.

Set the budget and schedule for your Pinterest campaign

Click Continue to create an ad group within the campaign, starting with the targeting details. These are a lot more detailed than on the Quick Promote track above.

First, select your targeting strategy, either to retarget people or find new customers, and then narrow down your targeting as required.

Set targeting details for your Pinterest ad campaign

This includes using audience lists, and targeting based on interests and keywords, demographics, and where your ads should be placed.

Finally, choose an optimization and delivery option, and add one or more Pins that you want to promote.

Finish setting up your ad group on Pinterest

To Conclude

With this comprehensive beginners guide to hand, you now know exactly how to approach paid social ads, including determining your objective, your ideal audience, and which social media platform to place ads on (at least initially!) and how to do so.

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Steve Shaw is the founder of EverywhereMarketer, and has ran online businesses for over 20 years, serving over 13,000 customers in 137 countries. EverywhereMarketer helps you grow online visibility, attract more customers and grow your business across multiple channels.

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