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Not all small businesses should advertise on social, just because it’s easy to do so

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Many marketers and business owners turn to Facebook ads as one of their first paid-for marketing efforts. For a start, it’s much cheaper than TV or Out of Home advertising, it’s reasonably quick and easy to get started and the results are more immediate. But don’t be tempted too easily, though, as Paid Social can quickly get costly, both in terms of time and money. 

As ‘self serve’ platforms, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like are designed to be easy to set yourself up on. With just a few clicks, even the most inexperienced marketer can set up an advert and promote their product to a potential audience of 2.7 billion people. There are now several free websites you can use to get hold of royalty free imagery, and sites like Canva make it easier than ever to make ad creative from pre-existing templates. 

But don’t confuse low barriers to entry with good results. As organic reach has declined steadily, more brands than ever are now advertising on Social. It’s tricky at the best of times to get someone to stop and pause on your advert long enough to see what you’re selling, but harder still when you’re competing against brands from across the world. 

Recommendation: Invest time and effort in good quality creative that speaks to your target audience, rather than rushing to put something up that people will scroll straight past. Clever creative ideas and concise, compelling copy will go a long way to making your ads more engaging and far cheaper to serve.

Many people get excited with the sheer range of targeting options, placements and functionalities on Social ad platforms. But setting up several campaigns and tests with small budgets all over the place isn’t the best way to drive results. It would be better to take time familiarising yourself with the platform’s fundamentals, such as the best way to structure an ad account, and to create controlled tests, rather than taking a scattergun approach and testing everything at once. The small sums on mixed messaging, competing tests and the like soon add up.

Recommendation: Spend a little time at the outset setting up controlled tests with clear hypotheses, and revisit these at regular intervals while the ads are running. Take time to read free materials from Facebook Blueprint, AdEspresso and the like to avoid common (but expensive) pitfalls.

Advertising on Social can also be incredibly costly when the rest of your marketing funnel isn’t optimised. However engaging your creative is, if the website experience for your product or service is poor, customers won’t convert. You can drive excellent, in-market, quality traffic to a landing page that’s slow to load and be sure that no-one will go on to purchase.

Recommendation: Focus on a great customer experience from start to finish in order to make the most of any traffic that reaches your site, rather than spending big on driving lots of people to your site who won’t progress any further.

Like any other kind of direct response advertising, Paid Social can be quite addictive as it drives traffic immediately once the ad is set live. Whilst the ads are on, you can come to rely on a steady stream of traffic to your site. But when the ads are stopped or the budget runs out, so does the traffic. Focusing exclusively on direct response ads on Paid Social, without considering brand building ads or other channels, can make you incredibly reliant on the channel indefinitely. Without multi-channel activity that builds and bolsters your brand, website traffic and sales will stop as soon as you switch the ads off.

Recommendation: Paid advertising drives immediate results, but it’s not a replacement for an engaged, organic community of repeat customers. Consider it a way to amplify your offline and organic sales, rather than a replacement channel for them.

Even if you’re lucky enough to have built an engaged community on Social, remember that you don’t own those customers. During the US election last year, many advertisers had their accounts mistakenly paused or suspended without reason. 

Recommendation: Be sure to diversify the platforms and channels you promote your product on. Not only will this help to bolster your organic traffic and brand affinity, but it helps to make sure you aren’t caught out by platform changes in the future.



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