How to Use Paid Social

by | Sep 5, 2019 | Education

Paid Social Feature Image

Paid Social is one of the most varied and adaptable channels in the modern marketers’ toolkit. When it comes to using it in your media mix, there are quite a few things to take into account.

Here, Hannah Wilson, one of our Account Managers, will take you through what you need to know about Paid Social to use it effectively.

What It Is

What Paid Social is 

Paid Social is a catchall term for ads that appear on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

They can appear in the feed as sponsored posts, as pre-roll, interspersed between stories and more.

Paid social is a must for modern brand because, put simply, it’s where the eyeballs are.

Here are few quick stats on social media usage from GlobalWebIndex:

+  98% of digital consumers use social media.

4 in 10 digital consumers use social media to research new brands and products.

2 hours and 22 minutes is the average time spent on social media per day.

But you probably don’t need statistics to convince you that social media is ubiquitous. The evidence is found in everyday life because these social platforms, in many ways, are what our lives revolve around. 

You may check Twitter for the latest news every morning. Catching up with friends is as easy as liking and commenting on Instagram posts. Your next job opportunity may come through LinkedIn.  We could go on and on.

When it comes to leveraging these platforms for advertising, here is a short list of some of the most popular social media platforms and their general strengths.

Facebook: great for general messaging and awareness. Facebook has a huge user base and incredible targeting capabilities.

Instagram: good for lifestyle brands and more aesthetically-focused messaging. Instagram is growing fast, is popular in younger demographics and has many of the same targeting capabilities as Facebook

LinkedIn: B2B advertising shines on LinkedIn. With its information on companies and job positions, it’s easy to be laser-focused on audiences likely to convert.

Pinterest: the hobby home of the internet, Pinterest is great for lifestyle brands and niche products that enjoy high engagement among a dedicated fanbase. 

Twitter: fast-moving yet very personal, Twitter is a unique mix of individual interaction and mass communication. 

When it comes to your brand, to be competitive you need a social media presence, both paid and organic.

Let’s explore how to fold it into your media mix. 

Funnel Fit

Paid Social’s funnel fit:

“What makes Paid Social unique among other channels is that it can fit fairly well in all stages of the marketing funnel,” says Hannah.

This is thanks to the robust targeting capabilities available to advertisers and the unique strengths of each platform.

But, she goes on to explain, “Overall, one factor to keep in mind is that these social media platforms want to keep users on their platform as long as possible.”

So, while there are great ways to use Paid Social for awareness and conversion initiatives, Paid Social really shines for engagement initiatives.


Paid Social is a fairly cheap way to get your message in front of a large captive audience. In other words, it has the potential to achieve higher reach than other channels. 

Thanks to the placement of most Paid Social ads (smack-dab in a larger feed of engaging content), you’re all but guaranteed a large number of eyeballs on your ads.


People stay on social media platforms for a long time. They’re designed to be addictive and they’re very effective at it. 

This has developed an environment where middle-funnel engagement initiatives can flourish. Keeping your brand top of mind and creating positive interactions with your audience is perhaps easiest with Paid Social, thanks in large part to the targeting and retargeting capabilities. 


Pinterest is introducing new conversion tools and Instagram shopping has been making big strides.

So, theoretically, one social platform could host the entire user journey from awareness to engagement to conversion. The term “Conversions” doesn’t always mean actually selling products, though. 

For your brand, it may mean web traffic, form fills or other goals. For initiatives like this, Hannah says Paid Social “is not necessarily as restrictive as you might think.”

Some social platforms allow you to track what your audience does after clicking your Paid Social ad, providing a deeper view of the user journey.


Paid Social’s strengths:

Accurate Targeting

Targeting data on social platforms tends to be very accurate. Paid Social combines the power of programmatic targeting with user-provided data.

“You know more about your audience and you can be more sure about the accuracy of what you know.” says Hannah.

An example is LinkedIn, where users voluntarily provide a lot of information on their careers and professional connections.

They want all that information to be accurate so they can properly leverage the features of LinkedIn. So, when you use Linkedin and target, for instance, CFOs in a certain geographic area, you know you’re going to hit them with your ads.

An Engaged, Captive Audience

As mentioned above, social media platforms cultivate highly engaged, captive audiences. “These audiences are what they sell to advertisers,” Hannah says.

With some savvy creative and smart targeting, it’s not difficult to amass a significant following of users that are interested in your brand, what you have to offer and what you have to say.


In an effort to keep users on their platform and to keep advertisers happy, social platforms are constantly updating their offerings. 

Sometimes it’s things like Facebook’s clear history update, which limits some targeting capability. Other times it’s new features like Pinterest’s new conversion tools we mentioned above.

For the most part, these updates and innovations are made with the end goal giving advertisers more options and capabilities. 

Watch Out For

Things to watch out for

Don’t Get Distracted by New Shiny Objects

Yes, these innovations can be exciting, but Hannah says, “Facebook might have a new ad unit and say all these awesome things about it, but it’s important to test and learn.

Depending on your strategy and objective, it may not fit. Take time to A/B test before going all in.” 

Don’t Blindly Trust the Algorithms

Don’t allow the social platforms’ algorithms dictate who is seeing your message. Hannah says, “The opportunity is to break out audiences into who is converting and where.”

So, break out your audiences as granularly as you can into separate segments. How social platforms usually word this is, tell us everyone you want to target and we’ll take care of it.

“Generally,” Hannah says, “we find it’s best to hedge your bets and have control.”

If you’d like to talk with us about how we do this, drop us a line and we’ll walk you through it.

Other Channels

How Paid Social works with other channels

Apply Audience Segment Insights to Other Channels

Breaking out your audience into different segments makes it much easier to identify and apply insights to other channels.

Hannah describes it well: “Say you’re seeing across the board that one audience is going through the funnel more efficiently. You can then design Paid Search strategy to that audience to align tactics across the funnel.”

First-Party Data Targeting

You can use Paid Social as a very effective retargeting tool using first-party data.

Say you have a list of emails from form-fills on your website driven by Display ads. You can upload this list and target a very specific audience based on that already highly-engaged audience. 

Reach and Impact

“Think about Paid Social as an awareness and engagement engine that drives people to your brand.” says Hannah.

This, in tandem with other channels, provides much more reach and impact. Paid Social gives an audience that’s already aware of your brand (thanks to other initiatives) a chance to engage and interact. 


Measuring success with Paid Social

Because it’s so versatile, understanding the results of your Paid Social campaign depends entirely on your objective and placement. Here are a few aspects to consider when measuring success with paid social.

Ultimately, all metrics revolve around understanding how people interact with your brand.


One of the easiest ways of measuring success is just watching the increase in page likes, post likes, shares and more. If you’re looking for engagement, this is a good starting point.


For conversion-focused campaigns on Facebook and Instagram, Cost per Acquisition (CPA) is pretty standard. It fits well with lower-funnel tactics and gives good insight into performance.


“Click-through rate can provide a clear perspective on how effective your creative is at driving landing page views.” Hannah says.

That said, we often find people don’t use CTR as well as they should. In general, you should use CTR as a gauge for success, not a KPI in itself.

Shane has a good breakdown of the nuances of CTR in his article: Does Click-Through Rate Matter? Yes, But You Might Be Using It Wrong. If you want to compare clicks across channels, Cost per click (CPC) is a better bet.

Which gets us to our main point when evaluating success in digital advertising. You cannot measure success effectively in silos. There is too much nuance. If you need to compare CTR between Paid Social and Display, you need an easy way to see them side by side. 

LumenAd is a platform designed to do exactly that. It brings all channels and data together for an apple-to-apples comparison across the entire ecosystem so you can accurately tell the story of campaign performance.

Schedule a demo today to find out how.

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