In today's society where media consumption has become so fragmented, it's becoming increasingly important to recognize the role that media plays in the lives of your target audience and how they utilize media to engage with each other.
The role of social media continues to escalate. An ever increasing amount of the average person's daily life is spent engaging in social channels. If your brand is to truly connect with your target audience, you need to engage them in these social environments.
In addition to engaging your target audience within the various social channels, advertising to them in the social channels can be an efficient way to reinforce your brand messaging and drive sales or other goal conversions.
With budgets being tightened, this may not seem like a viable medium to be advertising in and instead you may be inclined to stick with what you know best. With smart research and resourceful planning, however, you can build a social media ad buy that's set up to succeed. Before jumping into a plan, take these simple steps that can help set you up for success.
1. Social Media Monitoring Tools
This may seem like an odd place to start, but it's actually a great place to begin to understand what social sites contain relevant conversations around your brand, your competitors, as well as other conversations that are relevant to your brand.
If you already have a paid tool, that's great, but you can also get some pretty good data from the various free social media monitoring tools that are available. Simply run searches on your brand, competitors, and other relevant keywords and compile a list of top domains for each set of keywords.
Go through the resulting domains and filter out any that aren't highly relevant or that you wouldn't want to have your ads displayed on due to internal policies. Take the resulting domains for each keyword category and set them aside.
2. Web Analytics
The next step is to look at the top referring sources in your web analytics tool. In this process, you'll want to key in on only social media sources that are driving visitors to your site. These could be anything from influential blogs to forums/message boards, Facebook, YouTube, etc.
Don't just look at which ones are referring the most visits, but also analyze the quality of the visitors that each source is driving. You can even drill down to see what pages within each source are driving the high quality visitors.
Once you've done your analysis, compile a list of high quality social media sources that are driving visitors to your site. Take this list and set it aside with the list that was compiled from the social media monitoring tool.
3. Other Key Social Media Sites
By now you've likely compiled a pretty good list of relevant sites, but you may have others that you know are relevant but aren't included in your list. These are likely sites that your company is already engaging in, but that aren't currently driving visitors to your site or showing up in the social media monitoring tools. Add these additional sites to your list.
4. DoubleClick Ad Planner
This is a great tool to continue your research and build out your social media advertising plan. To start, you can enter each of the domains from your list into the tool to see what types of advertising they accept and if the site is included in the Google Display Network. You can also see what other sites are visited by visitors who come to each of the sites in your list, which could help you find additional relevant social media sites.
In addition, consider entering your own site as well as your competitors to see if there are any social media sites that have a high affinity.
You should also use the other features of the tool to layer various audience criteria and filtering options to narrow your list or to find additional relevant social media sites.
Once you've finished your research using the DoubleClick Ad Planner, you should have a highly targeted list of domains. Some will be part of the Google Display Network while others won't.
5. Create and Run Your Social Media Ad Buy
If you're on a tight budget, you may want to start with those sites that are part of the Google Display Network so that you can take advantage of the capabilities of Google AdWords. The main reasons for this are:
- No minimum buys
- Buy on a CPC basis as opposed to a CPM
- Quickly and easily adjust the buy if certain sites are underperforming
- Target specific sections or URLs within the sites
- Use keywords to target only relevant content within the sites
- Content about your brand
- Content about your competitors
- Content relevant to your brand
Facebook may also be an ideal target for your social media ad buy and because of their low minimum spend requirements you can easily test advertising in Facebook even if you're on a tight budget.
Facebook also has some great targeting capabilities which allow you to really hone in on your target audience. If you're on a tight budget, make sure you exhaust the targeting capabilities to focus your ads as narrowly as possibly.
Monitor, Adjust, Optimize
Putting together the plan and launching the campaign is only the beginning. You'll need to closely monitor the performance of your campaign so that you can quickly adjust to optimize the performance of the campaign and allow for the best possible results. If this is done on a continuous basis, you'll be able to show incremental performance gains by optimizing or eliminating underperforming areas while further leveraging the areas that are performing well.
In order to do this properly, you'll need to make sure you've implemented proper tracking mechanisms so that you can not only track sales, leads, or other conversions that have taken place, but can also see how the visitors from the campaign navigate your site.
If you follow the steps included here and are diligent about optimizing the campaign, you'll be well on your way to succeeding in your social media ad buy, no matter how big or small your budget.