Your Definitive Guide to Paid Social Media Advertising: The Good the Bad and the Ugly, So You Can Get It Right

24/11/2021 | Company | 4 minutes

Love it or hate it, social media is where it’s at right now. If your business is not there, it’s not cutting through the noise. And this goes for you B2Bs, too. 

Be it Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn, paid social media advertising is one of the most effective ways to get you directly in front of your target audience. Unlike organic, you can be sure that you will be seen and specify which eyeballs you want on your brand. However, with great power comes great responsibility and believe us, we’ve seen it all: the good, the bad and the ugly. 

Let’s start with the ugly.

Let’s face it. We’re all working to figure out the magic formula to get our brands amplified among the masses. This takes a bit of trial and error, and the extremely bold but under-experienced are often prone to trying a few seriously ill-advised tactics. 

Give us an example, you say… Here are a few: 


Some marketers, or business owners dabbling in paid social, can take on a tone that’s intended to be kind of shocking and wow but really just comes across as aggressive. A prime example of this would be yelling. Copy such as “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? GET IT NOW!!!!!” Yelling does nothing but appears desperate. It also lacks appeal. It fails to connect emotionally with the audience. Rather than giving them a compelling reason to engage, it has the opposite effect. Yelling and aggressive tactics repel clicks. They don’t attract them.  

Tactless jokes

Even the big guns aren’t immune to falling on their face occasionally. Burger King, for example, once had a campaign that was promoting chef apprenticeships amongst women and used copy saying “women belong in the kitchen”. How anyone thought the internet would be cool with that comment is inconceivable to us, but it’s clear they were trying to be clever. Instead, they just pissed off a whole bunch of consumers and had to delete all related posts and engagements. 

United Colors of Benetton made a similar mistake, also a sexist one (perhaps this is a problem amongst teams lacking gender diversity). Theirs was a picture of three young boys in clothes that didn’t appear gendered at all, saying “no girls allowed”. Naturally, the internet responded, suggesting a boycott of the sexist brand. 

Why on Earth do brands go for these kinds of shock-joke tactics? Well, most of the time, they’re trying to be clever (yes, sadly). They have a lopsided team that doesn’t have the diversity to filter ideas through a range of different viewpoints. And they’re a bit lazy. These sorts of ideas usually come up quickly, and they think, “Ahah, that’s it!” without much forethought. 

So, what do we learn? 

Then, there’s just the plain old bad.

Bad paid social media advertising is not going to be as fun to read as the ugly, but somewhere between the good and bad is where most brands fit. The ugly is usually reserved for the overconfident. The bad is typically the unsure or directionless. 

The mistakes of the bad are more like: 

Using the wrong platform

While B2B brands can do well on Facebook, just like B2C can have a place on LinkedIn, every brand will have one or two platforms that are particularly well suited to reaching their ideal audience. If you’re spending money on paid advertising, you should also spend the time to research which platform is right. Extra time and care lead to better returns. Taking stabs in the dark is going to cost you time, money and brand reputation. 

Poorly targeted audience

Pushing your message to the wrong people is a surefire way to haemorrhage your ad budget with little to no effect. This happens when brands guess or don’t delve deep enough to learn about their customers, clients or consumers. This can come in two forms. 1) the personas being advertised to are not, in fact, the personas who align to the brand, or 2) the ad itself doesn’t align to the personas being targetted. Even if they’re right, the ad is not connecting with them. 

Unappealing copy

Some copy is just plain bad and some, as touched on above, totally misses the mark with the audience. This can be attributed to poor research, poor testing, or simply a lack of skills in the team writing the copy. The copy is what compels engagement. It needs to be expertly crafted to connect with the target audience, emotionally appealing to them to warrant action.   

Poor user experience

The process of engaging with an ad on social media goes something like this: the viewer sees an ad that looks relevant, it connects with them, prompts their action and keeps their interest from clicking on the ad all the way through to reaching a landing page and taking another step to enquire, leave information or whatever else the brand wants them to do. Securing that level of engagement requires a strong user experience. Unfortunately, many brands focus on the ad part of the paid social media campaign, and they fall down when it comes to capturing that lead. The experience on the landing page needs to be smooth, effortless and engaging, just as it was to engage with the initial ad. 

What can we learn from these? 

Research which platform will help you connect best to your audience. Research who exactly that audience is. Write multiple versions of your copy and test it. Analyse how different messages create a different reaction, learn from this, write it down, optimise it and continually iterate for improvements and insights. 

Finally, always remember that the ad is not the final step. Your landing page can make or break your campaign. Research, test and analyse its performance. Tweak it. Use tracking to see how it’s used and why people bounce off. This is where you get your ROI. Build it to be a lead generating machine. 

But what about the good?

Those who do well with paid social media learn the lessons of the bad and implement strong tactics to get the most out of their campaigns. Poor results are a result of poor planning. Where most campaigns fall down is in the preparation. If you don’t have clear goals, a solid, holistic view of who you’re trying to engage and how they like to be engaged, then you are going to have gaps in your plan. Gaps in a paid campaign lead to money leaks. 

Before you even think to select the platform, research your audience, write your copy and design your landing page, take the time first to write down your goals. 

All social media paid advertising campaigns should be seeking: 

Then, break these down. 

If you want more engagement on the social media platform you’re advertising on, what are you doing to keep them interested once they’ve followed you? How are you engaging with them to try and lead them to your website or to make an enquiry? What are the various actions that you could hope to get from your followers on social media? How do you get them to take those actions?

When you want them to engage with a particular ad, you need to know who “they” are. Not all of your social media followers or target audience will be right for every campaign, so what does this campaign need? Who is it trying to reach? How does it compel them to engage with it? What’s the value for the audience? 

Conversions we’ve discussed when talking about the landing page. Is the experience smooth and intuitive? How can it lead them naturally to take the actions you want them to take? Are there any barriers that you can remove? Are there lessons you can learn from those that bounce off? Are there commonalities between those that engage? What can you learn to improve those conversions? 

Finally, what will your team do once these leads are ready to buy from your brand? If this process moves them from an online to in-person interaction, is that smooth and comfortable? Does your sales team have KPIs to ensure that follow-ups are timely and that the user experience continues after the online process is over? What should those KPIs and next offline steps look like? 

Write a document detailing all of the above, answer those questions and then go through the mistakes in “the bad”. Once you have a detailed plan of who you’re trying to attract, what you’re trying to achieve and what your team has to do to achieve it, you can go through the practical steps: 

Paid advertising is hard. If you don’t have experts internally, it’s not something that an unskilled enthusiast should do. If you need help to get your message out and keep your ad budget under control, Urban Element has decades of experience, along with a diverse team of experts, to help you get the cut-through you desire. 

Contact us today to discuss your campaign. 

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