Insights / advertising

Paid Social: An Overview of Your Options

Now that we’ve convinced you that Paid Social deserves a spot in your digital budget, let’s look at what exactly you can do with those dollars. The information below was culled from each site’s own descriptions of its advertising options as of May 2015.

The Heavy Hitters

paid social facebook icon
  • “Boosted” posts: Most of the content you post to your brand page can be boosted to increase its reach and appear in more users’ feeds, though there are select types of content (such as photo albums) that aren’t eligible to be boosted.
  • Display ads: These appear on the right-hand sidebar of any Facebook page when viewed on a desktop, though they don’t have a home on the Facebook mobile app.
A significant advantage of Facebook’s ad platform is how much power it gives marketers to target specific audiences. With all the information Facebook gathers on its users, you can create unique and thorough cross-sections of your targets, customized to each post. It also offers you an impressive variety of analytics into both your organic and paid reach. Facebook also gives users significant control over what ads they see, allowing them to block or hide advertising content and give feedback about what ads they do and do not want to see.
Twitterpaid social twitter
  • Sponsored posts: Much like Facebook’s boost option, this keeps an individual Tweet visible in users’ Timelines for longer, and appears to both followers and non-followers of your account.
  • Sponsored trends: These trending topics, often associated with a hashtag, appear alongside the topics that are organically trending across Twitter.
  • Promoted accounts: If your goal is to build your follower base quickly, you can promote your account itself to make more users aware of it.
While many of the options on Twitter are similar to Facebook, including the ability to target specific audiences, its user experience is even more mobile-focused than its chief competitor, making it an attractive platform for brands looking to take advantage of the ever-growing move towards mobile.
LinkedInpaid social linkedin
  • Sponsored updates: Following the pattern of the other networks, this gives your individual updates an extra dose of reach.
  • Lead Accelerator: As a B2B-focused platform, LinkedIn offers this tool to not just increase reach, but nurture qualified leads and move them towards conversion. It also can integrate with existing marketing automation systems.
  • Display ads: Not only on-site, these ads can reach LinkedIn users elsewhere on the web.
  • Sponsored InMail: Pay for the privilege of appearing in the private message inboxes of targeted users.
  • Text ads: The simplest of LinkedIn’s options, this lets you choose between traditional Pay Per Click or Cost Per Impression models to best suit your budget.
LinkedIn’s advertising options are clearly designed with B2B companies in mind, positioning itself as a serious prospecting tool as much as an engagement-building platform. Its targeting tools gives you criteria you won’t find elsewhere, such as the ability to target users by seniority. Not just a social media site, LinkedIn also works as a recruiting and job posting marketplace; companies can promote content and open positions to the desired audience.
Google+paid social google plusJust one ad option, which they call +Post. This turns a Google+ update into a display ad of sorts, which then integrates across Google’s many products and properties, including YouTube, Search, and Hangouts. Users can interact with these ads the same way they would on the update itself, with comments and +1’s.
Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Google+ users (of which there are far fewer than those competitors boast) don’t pay nearly as much attention to their home feed, so its paid option isn’t about ranking your updates against other Google+ pages so much as spreading them across the rest of the web.
Tumblrpaid social tumblr
  • Sponsored posts: If you’ve read this far, you should have the idea of how these work by now.
  • Display ads: These appear in the sidebar of Tumblr’s desktop site, and unlike Facebook, also integrate into the mobile experience.
  • Yahoo! syndication: Tumblr takes advantage of its parent company to offer offsite reach.
For brands looking to reach the younger end of the Millennial spectrum, blogging site Tumblr is the new hot place to see and be seen, on desktop and on mobile. It’s a popular place to curate and share content (rather than every post being original), something marketers should keep in mind when choosing which content to sponsor.
Redditpaid social reddit
  • Sponsored Links: These posts are bare-bones (just a headline, thumbnail image, and a link) and designed to point users to a specific landing page.
  • Sponsored Text: Similar to links, a text ad also includes an embedded text box with a message of your choice to add more context to your campaign.
Reddit may not the most top-of-mind name in social media, but its 170 million active users are nothing to sneeze at. As a forum-based platform, Reddit encourages active discussion, even on its ads, though it does give you the ability to turn off the commenting option – and because Reddit users are largely anonymous, they may be less likely to censor themselves than elsewhere on the web. You can target each post to the Reddit frontpage or to a particular “subreddit” (topic page), as well as enable location-based targeting, which is turned off by default.

The Up-and-Comers

As of this writing, Pinterest and Instagram have both begun experimenting with limited promotion offers to select advertisers. Pinterest began with commissioned posts by “Pinfluencers,” and is culling a list of advertisers to begin using true promoted content, as is Instagram (a Facebook-owned company).

Snapchat entered the scene boldly in 2014 by asking brands for $750,000 a day for its new ads, and is targeting only “category leaders.” Meanwhile, contemporary competitor WhatsApp has taken a stance against advertising, saying their vision in starting the company was to “make something that wasn’t just another advertising clearinghouse.” Will they stick to this vision? Only time will tell.

As more emerging platforms seek out market share, the social media landscape will continue to evolve, challenging brands to evolve along with it. Selecting the most appropriate channels and types of ads will continue to be the key to reaching your desired audiences, driving engagement, and creating ROI from social.

Don’t miss the rest of our Paid Social series:

If you have other questions about paid social and what your business could expect to see from it, leave a comment, Tweet us @Mason_Inc, or call us at 203.393.1101.