WordStream’s Larry Kim on how paid social ads can become your ‘unicorns’

Reporting live from Connect, our two-day search event in Miami, here’s the second in a series of posts summarising a few of our sessions, covering either organic engagement or paid search innovation.

Yesterday, we heard from the awesome Larry Kim from WordStream, the most influential PPC expert for three years in a row and a man who can rattle through 156 fascinating and incredibly helpful slides without taking a breath.

What’s the current landscape of PPC?

Well, it doesn’t look great. As Larry says, “We’ve had a good run. It’s been 15 years, but there are headwinds on the horizon.”

And those ‘headwinds’ are…

  1. Paid search CPCs are at an all time high, across Google and Bing.
  2. Certain verticals are insanely expensive.
  3. Mobile is responsible for 50%+ of all Google searches.
  4. There are fewer ad spots on mobile.
  5. Apps are stealing from desktop searches, people are just opening a Yelp-type app and searching within there.
  6. 95% of time online is spent consuming content, but only 5% are actually searching for it.

But there is a new power rising in PPC: social media ads.

Social media ads

PPC marketers should pay more attention to social ads. Don’t be sceptical about this, because we can move far beyond the ‘like campaigns’ from a few short years ago.

The key to future social ads success is to focus on ‘assisted conversion’; using paid social ads to indirectly assist organic posts.

Social ads do fantastically well. They allow you to build up and amplify your brand, and create demand for your products or services.

Here you need to create content and “amplify the crap out of this stuff” in a very cheap manner and target the right people who will consume it.

The other thing that social ads do fantastically well is they can convert visitors into customers really easily, because you can filter users into very accurate demographics and remarket to a very narrow segment of those people.

As Larry says, “when you get this working, it’s like printing money.” And here’s the major reason why you should be doing social media ads…

Big ad budgets are not required. You can do extremely well with paid social ads for $50 or less.

Social media ad tips

Be aware of Facebook’s relevancy score. The higher the post engagement of the thing you want to promote (minus negative engagement – hiding it, reporting it as spam), the higher your relevancy score, and the more often your post will show.

Incidentally, Twitter copied the above exact process with its ad campaigns, they just called it a ‘quality adjusted bid’. Of course both of these have ripped off Google’s ‘quality score’ anyway, so fair enough.

The key to you ads appearing often on social is getting high engagement and increasing your quality score.

In order to achieve this, you must only promote your best stuff. The top 1% – 2% of your content, as Larry describes it, “Your unicorns.”

unicorn gif

Because they’re so rare and wonderful.

One example from Larry is a tweet of his, sharing a blog post he wrote about Alphabet (the new parent company for Google). Although this initially got a low 2-3% engagement rate, Larry then promoted it to influencers who had used the #alphabet hashtag in the previous seven days.

The tweet then increased to a 27% engagement rate, generated 2,100 visits, 348 retweets. All of this using just $49.

The worst thing you can do is divide your social ads budget equally between every post and promote them all equally. Again, pick your unicorns. Also don’t try promoting something this month that didn’t work last month, it won’t work this time either.

How do you find your unicorns? Larry uses the following ‘pyramid’…

“This pyramid scheme won’t land you in prison.” In fact it will help you see which posts have worked organically, and it’s these ‘winners’ that you’ll promote on social channels. Like you’re ‘auditioning them’.

It’s easy to find which social posts are the best because Facebook and Twitter lets you see how well they’ve performed in their own respective analytics tools, easily accessible from your page’s menu.

Larry goes on to say that the biggest difference between using paid social and organic social is your own ‘pickiness’. Organic posts are you casting a wide net, whereas paid is you casting a narrow net, but hopefully vastly increasing your engagement.

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