How to Run a Successful Social Media Ad Campaign

Posted Oct 7th, 2020 in Digital Marketing, Social Media

How to Run a Successful Social Media Ad Campaign

Year over year business owners are increasing the amount of money they spend on digital advertising including social media ad campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and more. To get the best results, business owners create a foundation of organic content, spend time engaging with their online audiences, and then supplement that with paid promotions such as social media ad campaigns. 

Here are some tips on how to build your first social media ad campaign.

Start with a Clear Goal

What do you want to achieve with your social media advertisement?

Are you trying to increase traffic to your website? Do you want to increase followers/likes?  Are you trying to sell something (i.e. tickets for an event, product)? 

Platforms often have suggestions for goals. For example, Facebook advertising categories include awareness, consideration or conversion.   You can learn more about Facebook ad goals/objectives here> - business objectives. 

A clear goal will help you,

  • Select the right text for your call-to-action button - learn more, buy now, subscribe, etc. 
  • Choose the right landing page. The landing page is where you send them to when they click on the call-to-action button.  For instance, it may be a product page (already created), a web page created specifically for a marketing campaign, or if you are selling a downloadable product or resource paper create a webpage that is dedicated just to that product offering.  Try to be as specific as possible to provide the easiest path possible for your visitor; which means, they will click on your ad and reach the intended goal in the least amount of steps.  
  • Determine your budget. Different call-to-actions have different costs-per-clicks. 

Steps to set up a Social Media Ad Flow ChartSet a budget

How much should you budget for your social media ads?

What to know when deciding on how much to spend on social media advertising?

  • Know your overall marketing budget
  • Refer to your ad goal to help determine your budget
  • Start low and test. Increase your budget for high performing ads.

Determine your overall marketing budget - It is recommended that you set aside a percentage of your overall financial budget for marketing.  When you are just starting out, either new to business or new to advertising; 5-8% of gross [1] (or expected) revenue is a good place to start. While these numbers include all marketing, digital marketing continues to rise in the highest percentage of ad spending across most industries.  There are benchmark budget amounts for some types of social media ads, including this one for Facebook.  This research can be used as a general guide when setting up your budget.   

Refer to your ad goal to help determine your budget - After selecting your ad goal, you should base your budget on this goal. However, you should always take into consideration secondary goals / objectives, as there can be positive outcomes from your ads that can boost the value of your ad. For example, if you want to sell a product, your goal is going to be focused on promoting that product, but you are also driving traffic to your website with the link that goes to the product page on your website which increases brand awareness. 

Start low and test. Increase your budget for high performing ads. A/B testing, which is also referred to as split testing, is a good way to see what ads have the greatest potential.   Start with a small budget for an ad, what is doing well, and then invest more in the ads that are working.

What is A/B testing?

Facebook allows you to do A/B testing which means you create two ads (A+B) which are only different by one part of the ad.  For example, you might have two ads with the same text, CTA button, and title, but the visual is different.  This way you can see what is working and what is not working. 

Most social media platforms will give you a range of people your ad might reach depending on the budget you set before you activate your ad. If you are new to social media advertising, this is a good feature to use to help you understand what you can get with the budget you set. Some platforms that offer this feature are Instagram and Facebook. 

Select your Audience

Whether you are developing an extensive ad campaign with multiple ads, or a single ad to promote your product or services, you need to have a clear understanding of who you want to click on your ad; this is your target audience.  Most social media platforms allow you to select from audiences based on the criteria you put in (i.e. location, age, interests).  Two other ways you can select your audiences are based on a person’s activity history.

Search History - the audience targeted is not based on a previous interaction with your brand

“YouTube Ads, custom intent audiences are made from broad-match related search terms people actually looked for on; they do not have to have any previous interaction with your brand.”  - 

Retargeting -the audience had a previous interaction with your brand.

This can be from a piece of code that tracks your website activity, such as the Facebook Pixel. The Pixel tracks your website activity which allows for Facebook ads to select these visitors to target them for specific ads.  There is a certain amount of traffic required before you can set up this type of ad. Another way is that you can upload an email list to Facebook who will then “identify users on that network who have those addresses and serve retargeting ads just to them.” 

Create your Ad

Choose the platform and then create your ad.  Your ad includes a headline, text, visual (video, graphic or photo), and call-to-action (button to click).  Make sure the visual and captions follow best practices and guidelines for your advertising platform and placement i.e. Facebook > desktop > newsfeed . For example, here is the Facebook Ads Guide

Here are some tips to help you make your ad stand out from your competition.
  • Make it memorable!
  • Think about how you want them to feel when they are using your product or service
  • Be imaginative - use visual imagery
  • Is there a snappy tagline you can use to grab their attention? This is your 'hook'
  • Use active verbs!
  • Be simple, be bold - Try primary colours
  • Can you offer an incentive?  Discount, giveaway, etc.
  • Include hashtags 
  • Use emotive language (i.e. emojis)
  • Video ads are popular!  
  • Look at other ads for inspiration - your direct competition and in other industries
  • Show and tell - offers the chance for your audience to see your product/service in action
  • Use an online graphic design tool to help!  Canva provides ad templates for all the popular social media platforms, as well as stock photos, graphic elements, and a variety of text fonts to help non-graphic designers create social media ads. 

Review & Update

Your digital platform provides analytics for you to review the success of your ad.   

Did you reach your goal?  Did it help you reach your business goals?  (i.e. sell tickets, sell product, download product, etc.).  What was the Return on Investment (ROI)  from your Ad? 

What is ROI? Return on Investment

Definition: To calculate ROI, take the revenue that resulted from your ads, subtract your overall costs, then divide by your overall costs: ROI = (Revenue - Cost of goods sold) / Cost of goods sold.  Ref:

For example, if you are promoting a $10 product (COG sold $5/unit), you invest $100 in Advertising, and you sell 50 units, your ROI 

ROI = Total Revenue $500 ($10 Sales x 50 units) - COG Sold ($250 product cost +$100 advertisement)/COG Sold ($250 product cost +$100 advertisement) | $150/$350 = 43% ROI

Take these insights, evaluate and update your future ads.  Digital platforms, audience interests, and your business is always evolving so advertising is an ongoing learning process. 

Key Takeaways on How to run a Social Media Ad

Remember to set clear goals, set aside a dedicated budget for advertising and select the right audience. Create engaging and memorable ad content while thinking of the journey of your visitor from the time they click your ad to reaching their goal. Make it easy for them!  Then finally, evaluate the results of your ad so you can learn for future success.


[1] While it is recommended to do your research for your particular industry, location, and size of business, there are some benchmarks to consider. BDC recommends 2-5% , while a study from Deloitte says that a company should consider putting aside 8%+ for marketing. 

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