When done correctly, PPC (paid-per-click) advertising is a great way to supplement organic visits to your company’s website. While search engine advertising—think Google AdWords—is one of the most well-known forms of PPC advertising, social media PPC advertising is quickly becoming popular as well. Why? With social media PPC ads, marketers can target audiences using more than just keywords. It also presents more ways to engage with the user, besides the traditional “click” that leads to a landing page.

Learn more about how to become a PPC master in our whitepaper, “Introduction to 1:1 Marketing.” Get started by reading the basics below.

What’s social media PPC advertising?

Social media PPC advertising works a lot like search PPC advertising:

  • You create an ad for a social network, like Facebook.
  • You pay the social network a fee based on the individual number of clicks that ad receives.
  • Higher-quality ads generally get more visibility, which leads to more audience engagement at a lower cost.

The ads are located on the sides of the page, like Facebook sidebar ads. They can also take the form of sponsored content that appears in your feed, like promoted Tweets or Instagram pictures.

How are social media PPC ads different from search PPC ads?

The main difference between the two is the ways marketers can target audiences. Search PPC advertising works by matching keywords with search queries. For instance, a cutlery company might choose the keyword “knives” to incorporate into their text ads. These ads would then would appear at the top of search engine results for search queries like “kitchen knives,” “butter knives,” “bread knives,” etc.

Social media PPC advertising has more options when targeting potential customers. Marketers creating ads on Facebook can use:

  • Location, including city, state, country and ZIP code
  • Gender
  • Age, including “birthday targeting,” which “lets you create ads that are targeted to people who have a birthday in the next week. This helps you create highly relevant ads or highlight special discounts, offers or promotions that are available to people on their birthdays.”
  • Interests, like yoga or knitting
  • Behaviors, or reaching “your audience based on their digital activities, what devices they use, past or intended purchases, and travel.”
  • Education

Additionally, you can use social media PPC ads for purposes other than strict lead conversion. In fact, “social PPC has the ability to convert and sell like search PPC, but the conversion rates just aren’t going to be as robust,” writes Elizabeth Marsten for marketing news site ClickZ. The numbers you are going to see will be closer (but on average, better!) than display or content networks.”

What you lose in conversion rates, however, you gain in engagement. On social networks, people can like your posts, follow you on Twitter or re-Tweet you, re-post your photos on Instagram, re-pin you on Pinterest, and more. “A social engagement … could be someone sharing on their own personal profile to all of their friends what they have discovered,” writes Marsten. “It could be a comment left on your company page; there is a myriad of touchstones.”

Social media PPC also helps with branding and brand awareness. By interacting with people on various social networks, you’re increasing exposure early on in the buying cycle, or even before people are thinking about buying.

Creating a Successful Social Media PPC Ad

So, in the past we’ve come out staunchly against sidebar and banner ads. There’s pretty strong evidence that they just don’t get the results that would make them financially feasible. However, promoted content can produce good results. The key is, as always, crafting an engaging ad that resonates with your audience. It has a compelling headline or hook; it’s relevant to your audience. It may not even feel like an ad, like this video for Purina’s Friskies cat food:

It all goes back to creating high-quality content that your target audience will actually enjoy.

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