“Show me the money!” While this phrase was made famous by the movie Jerry Maguire, for marketers it can sometimes feel like that’s the mantra of social networks towards brands today. As social platforms continue to monetize their offerings and algorithms change, businesses looking to maximize their social media reach and results must look beyond organic opportunities to pay-to-play. Social media advertising can be a smart addition to any marketing mix, but it needs to be done strategically to avoid overspending on underwhelming results. Below are some best practices for creating a social media advertising strategy that works for your business.

1. Define your goals and budget. What do you hope to accomplish through social advertising? Do you want to generate more leads? Increase engagement? Push more traffic to your website? You can achieve all these things and more with social advertising, but it’s essential to determine what is most important to your business. Pick one goal to focus on and let that drive your strategy initially. You can branch out to include multiple goals, but keep in mind that you will need to have a separate strategy to suit each goal. Also take the time to set a budget for each goal or campaign that you have in mind. Social advertising can be very affordable, but it can also quickly get out of hand if you aren’t minding your spending.

2. Select platforms. Once you have a goal in place, focus on selecting social platforms that align with those goals. For B2B marketers, for example, LinkedIn may be the go-to platform for advertising, but don’t let that limit you in your selection process. Depending on your goal, industry, audience and a host of other factors, there may be a number of other platforms that make sense for your business. Take a look at your organic performance on each social platform you consider to get an idea of your existing traction on each. Also look at the demographics of each platform and whether your target audience consistently engages there.

3. Think targeting. Social ads don’t have to be all things to all people. Thanks to audience targeting, you can narrow your focus to a very specific segment of your audience. Targeting options vary by platform, but they all allow you great opportunities to hone your messaging and outreach, as well as experiment with what resonates the most with which groups within your overall audience. Keep in mind, however, that in order to start with even somewhat effective targeting, you will need to know some core demographics of your audience so you aren’t taking a total shot in the dark.

4. Look organic. There are some significant differences between paid and organic content – namely that you pay for one and don’t for the other. But when it comes time to create your ads, it’s important to take a take a page out of your organic content’s book. While there are several different types of social media ads, remember that people will see your ads in the exact places where they are seeing content from friends, family, colleagues and trusted brands they have chosen to follow. So, to get the most traction, your ads should blend in with this content. While they are still promotional, make them less obviously so. Use the same kinds of images they might see in organic content and offer helpful gated content in your ads instead of overtly promotional messages, for example.

Happy Marketing!