If you haven't jumped on the social PPC bandwagon yet, it's time you gave it some serious thought. While social PPC won't replace Google AdWords any time soon, it's become an effective source of incremental leads and sales for savvy businesses.
What follows are 17 keys to running successful social PPC campaigns. The first four apply to all social PPC, then we'll talk about keys to success for each major social PPC engine.
Social PPC Keys to Success
1. Identify Your Target Audience
In search, the target audience is "anyone who searches using my keywords." In social, much more thought must be put into the people and personas you'd like to reach. Are they consumers? Business owners? Teenagers? What do they like to do? Where do they work, shop, play?
Defining your audience is critical to success in social PPC.
2. Identify the Marketing Challenge That Paid Social Solves
Think about why you want to use paid social in the first place. Are you active organically in social media, but need a larger or more engaged audience? Are you struggling to reach a B2B audience because consumers also search on your keywords? Do you need awareness of your product, service, or company?
All of these can be great reasons to use paid social – the key is to think about what problem social PPC will solve for you.
3. Define Your Paid Social Strategy and Objectives
If you've done the first two steps, this will be easy.
If your audience is B2B decision makers, and your objective is lead generation, then you'll want to define your strategy and objectives as such. If your goal is audience growth, build that in to your strategy.
Mapping strategy out ahead of time sets you up for good results.
4. Segment Your Audience Based on How You'll be Posting
This is an overlooked and yet important part of social PPC setup.
It isn't unusual for advertisers to have multiple segments within their target audience. You might have different types of businesses that you want to reach, or you may be targeting both men and women, for example.
Look at your current social posts to see what audience they're intended to reach – and then set up your social PPC campaigns accordingly.
LinkedIn Keys to Success
5. Carefully Identify Your Target Companies and Job Levels
LinkedIn's targeting optionsare great for targeting individuals at specific companies and job levels; it's especially effective for B2B. But think carefully about how you want to target.
Do you want narrow targeting with specific job titles and companies, or do you want to cast a wider net and focus on categories rather than specifics?
Be especially careful about seniority targeting. If you need to reach decision-makers, you'll probably want to exclude entry level people. But be aware that the higher level you target, the higher your minimum CPC will be.
6. Be Ready to Pay $5+ Per Click
Speaking of minimum CPCs, LinkedIn's CPCs run much higher than other social PPC channels. The results are often worth it, but be prepared to pay $5 or more per click and optimize accordingly.
7. Use Sponsored Updates if Possible
LinkedIn Ads have two types of campaigns: sponsored ads and sponsored updates. In my experience, sponsored updates perform much better than sponsored ads. Sponsored updates show in a user's news feed, giving you premium placement.
If you're actively posting updates to LinkedIn, use sponsored updates whenever possible.
8. Segment Your Audience Based on How You'll be Posting
Think about how you'll be posting, and segment your audience accordingly. The LinkedIn user interface isn't very user-friendly, so it's more efficient to set up segmented campaigns at the outset.
Twitter Keys to Success
9. Carefully Identify Your Target Accounts or Keywords
Twitter Ads often feel familiar to those used to Google AdWords and Bing Ads, because you can target using keywords. You can also target individual user accounts. It's important to decide which option makes sense for you.
If you want to reach consumers, for example, make sure the keywords or accounts you target are focused on consumer content.
10. Use Images and Hashtags With Caution
It's important to note that Twitter Ads are a pay-per-engagement, not pay-per-click, program. You pay for anything that can be clicked (links, @ handles, hashtags, and images), as well as for each reply, follow, and retweet.
Twitter Ads are great for driving engagement and leads, but be aware that you'll pay for much more than just clicks to your website.
11. Test Lead Generation Cards
Twitter lead generation cardsenable advertisers to create a virtual "card" that attaches to a tweet. Users can take an action with one click, without leaving Twitter. The options for lead gen cards are nearly endless, and in my experience they perform very well.
12. Segment Your Audience Based on How You'll be Posting
You'll notice that segmentation is a theme here, because it's important. The Twitter Ads interface isn't much better than LinkedIn's, so it's easiest to think about targeting up front.
Facebook Keys to Success
13. Have at Least 1,000 Users in Your Custom Audience
Much has been said about Facebook custom audiences. They're a powerful way to reach specific users on Facebook.
Having a big enough audience is key to a successful campaign, though. We recently ran a test with about 150 users in a custom audience, and we got very few impressions and clicks. Hitting the minimum number of users is really important.
14. Use Sponsored Posts in Newsfeed When Possible
Similar to LinkedIn, Facebook offers both right-rail and sponsored post ads. Facebook has become so large that I'm not sure anyone looks at the right rail ads anymore – and they don't even show at all on most mobile devices. Make the most of your advertising efforts by using sponsored posts whenever possible.
15. Relentlessly Test Images
It's common advice for Facebook ads, and with good reason. The image is what really attracts the attention to your ad – the actual copy is almost irrelevant if you have a good image.
Aggressively test images to learn which ones work best.
16. Use Lookalike Segments
An added bonus of using custom audiences is the ability to build lookalike audiences. A lookalike audience is a larger audience that Facebook builds of users similar to your custom audience. You can further customize the lookalike audience with exclusions.
If you aren't getting the results you expected from custom audiences, try using a lookalike audience.
17. Use Custom Audiences to Build Lookalike Segments
I've heard from a number of people that they create custom audiences not for ad targeting, but for the sole purpose of creating lookalike audiences. This is a creative way to have both specific and broad reach.
Social PPC is becoming an important part of the online marketing toolbox. Use these tips the next time you launch a paid social campaign.
Optimising Digital Marketing Campaigns with Search, Social and Analytics
At SES London (9-11 Feb) you'll get an overview of the latest tools, tips, and tactics in Paid, Owned, Earned, Integrated Media and Business Intelligence to streamline your marketing campaigns in 2015. Register by 31 October to take advantage of Early Bird Rates.