social advertising

Social Advertising for Newbies (Here’s What Worked for Me)

Kate Jones

No, I am not a summer intern, trying my hand at corporate social media for the first time. Over the past four years I have been managing corporate social media accounts. Something I had not done, however, was dip my toe into the art of social advertising.

When my manager first broached the subject of giving social advertising a try, my mind raced with questions.

What is our goal?

What type of social advertising works best?

How do I target a specific audience?

What is this going to cost?

The summer of 2016 was my summer of testing social advertising. The series of social advertising tests we ran would shape our plan for 2017. It would impact whether we would use social advertising as part of our marketing strategy and help us understand how to budget.

 Here are the steps I took when diving into social advertising.

First up: Goals

As a marketer, I’m sure you can understand that our main goal was to gain quality leads. We wanted new contacts that would find the information we were offering useful.

It would be a win – win scenario. Our audience would gain information of interest to help them with their digital marketing. We would get their contact information to connect with them further.

Types of Social Advertising

We knew we wanted to focus on Twitter and LinkedIn, the social accounts we use most frequently to connect and engage with our audience.

I found the best way to get started was to sign into our social media accounts of choice and look around.

On Twitter and LinkedIn, the best advertising option for us turned out to be sponsored updates because we were focused on lead generation and not just brand awareness. We could prepare a post similar to your standard tweet or update, but we would pay to expand the target audience.

Based on our goal of gaining quality leads by sharing a popular resource, we liked the format of a typical post that included an image, text, and a link to the resource.

Here is one of the LinkedIn sponsored posts we tried out:

social advertising: Linkedin

We used the same type of format for our sponsored updates on Twitter as well:

social advertising: Twitter

Think about YOUR company goals and the type of social advertising that would help you achieve that goal.

After jumping into Twitter and LinkedIn and becoming familiar with their advertising options and metrics, I was brought to the targeting page. The target audience page was where we really needed to think about WHO we wanted to engage.


Both Twitter and LinkedIn provide a variety of fields to select and narrow down your target audience. They also provide you with an estimated target audience size based on your selections.

At Informz, most of our clients are associations and nonprofits. We were able to select the industry type as well as locations. The Greater Chicago and Washington D.C. area are large hubs for the association industry so we decided to start there.

We continued to play around with narrowing down our audience selections until we came up with a target audience size range we were happy with. If you’re not sure where to start with this, don’t worry – they’ll provide an ideal range for guidance!


Last up before we put the advertisements live was to select a budget. Both social platforms have you select a “bid” on the cost per click or cost per impressions (whichever best fits with your goals).

We selected a bid range we were comfortable with and based it off of cost per click, since our goal was to get people to click on the post and download a resource. If we were focused on brand awareness,  impressions would have been the better option.

Each system allowed us to set up a bid, budget, and a campaign start and end time. This worked out great for us to run mini-advertising campaigns to gain information on what works and what doesn’t. Once your overall budget or end date hits (whichever comes first) the campaign will end.

We ran a series of short, low-cost campaigns last summer from June-August with budgets between $100 and $200 for each campaign.


These mini-advertising campaigns allowed me to test out social advertising and learn what worked best for us.

We tried out various images and text on our most popular Informz resource of 2016, the Association Email Marketing Benchmark Report. We also tested out an event advertisement for a Chicago Lunch & Learn we were hosting.

Overall, we learned A LOT by running small, low-cost campaigns that helped us understand what worked well and what didn’t get much traction. We were able to examine the reporting in each system to see the impressions, clicks, social actions, and total engagement.

It was easy to check on the quality of the leads we received and calculate the conversion rates to understand if these advertisements were worth running. We were quite pleased with the results from the various campaigns we ran. There were 55 benchmark form fills from the social advertisements, 39 were net new subscribers. Our conversion costs were $29.32 on average, which is quite low for obtaining new subscribers.

So what did I learn after my summer of social advertising? Creating good looking social advertisements to gain quality leads is not as intimidating as I thought AND the results were very encouraging! If you’re interested in social advertising, definitely jump into your social accounts and try out a few tests to see what works for you.

Have you tried social advertising or are you an avid social advertiser? Let me know your experience and what has worked well or been a total fail for you in the comments!

Interested in more first-hand accounts of what we’ve learned along our marketing journey? Check them out here.

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About the Author
Kate Jones

As Digital Marketing Specialist at Informz, Kate manages the company website, social media strategy, press releases and marketing collateral. Outside of work you can find Kate chasing her toddler and dog and laughing at the chaos with her husband.