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The majority of businesses now accept that to reach their audience on certain social networks, paid-advertising is just par for the course. However, the way this aspect of “social” has evolved has left many brand managers feeling either:

  • frustrated (what? I have to pay to reach my fans? I just spent a whole load of cash acquiring them!)
  • sheepish (erm, well, yes… we paid to boost the views on that campaign as it wasn’t getting many)

Or most probably a bit of both.

Well, on point 1, you can’t change the past, but you can think carefully about your future acquisition strategy. However, on point 2, let’s take a more positive approach.Feet First consider two big challenges…

1. Paid media’s got a bad rep, and bit of previous

The general opinion of paid-for social media I hear is negative. I suppose that’s understandable, given some of the behaviours whispered around water-coolers:

  • brands buying Facebook fans, who’ll never have the slightest intention of making a purchase, to make their community look more popular.
  • brands buying YouTube views to appease the boss who came up with the idea for the video.
  • brands buying reviews from bloggers (in the press recently with the ASA and suggested in Oreo lick race-gate).

2. A lack of understanding

Social media can be perceived as a bit of a dark art by the rest of the business. Throw in some paid media support and it’s even more challenging for the majority to get their heads around. With so many different formats, nuances and factors to consider across different social networks, its hard enough for the social media team to keep up!

I regularly bang on about the need for internal education for senior stakeholders in using social media, but here’s an area where it’s particularly important. As soon as there’s an additional budget request, the scrutiny and questions will surely follow.

So – get on the front foot, ensure your approach is super-clear and show why, actually, social should be getting more of the media pie. Here are three thoughts…

i. Is there another way to crack this #nut?

Is paying for views on YouTube (for example) the best way to achieve your objective for this activity? With some well executed planning and targeting it might be absolutely right. But did you consider alternative approaches like forming a paid (transparent!) partnership with an established YouTuber? Is there a nice hybrid approach?

ii. True collaborative working

Social media is all about having a test and learn mentality. Hopefully you’re already thinking about trying different copy or images for your posts – A:B testing really. To do that with any scale, you’ll need some paid media support.

However, the team which creates all the social media content will often sit in Agency 1, and the team that pushes the button on paid media in Agency 2. Do they work seamlessly together? These teams need to be best friends, working in a completely collaborative approach, with the client at the centre.

iii. Let the data tell a story

There’s a danger with social media of getting utterly lost in reams of data points and comparisons, especially with paid media in the mix. So think about what “metrics language” the business understands, and what’s going to give you an actionable insight.

Website traffic and behaviour on site is a good example. Most people can get their head around a consumer clicking a link from a social media post, going to a website and then doing something (or not) on that website.  But are you taking that data set and comparing it with other paid digital channels? The clickthrough rate from your social platforms might cost 2x more than PPC, but if you find people spend 5x longer on the site and are 2x more likely to sign up for a newsletter… you’d probably put more eggs in the social media basket right? (I went all a bit social networky there with my use of 5x and 2x!)


The scope of paid social is the fastest growing area in our industry, with the likes of Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat coming up fast on the rails (well getting there) behind Faceboo, YouTube and Twitter. Are you testing paid media on Instagram or Pinterest? If so – how are you getting on?

We recently ran a related thread on our “Content distribution in a hyperconnected, digital world” LinkedIn group (follow the link to read more or join). A great point by Kristian Ward, which echoes my point above about education: “perception is that if you say have 10k likes on Facebook, those who don’t understand social think 10k people will all see your posts.”

Yep, there’s a way to go.

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