Are paid ads the be-all and end-all? There was a time when significant social media growth seemed near impossible without the ‘gentle’ nudge of paid ads. However, last year saw many brands take a step back from paid social advertising.
But is this set to change in 2023? In today’s blog, we’ll explore the ins and outs of paid ads and whether they are a necessity or “neither here nor there” in social media growth.
What Are Paid Ads?
First things first, what are paid ads? Paid advertising is a popular digital marketing model which involves a simple process: businesses bid in real-time to display their ads to online users across social media platforms, search engine results and external websites. Paid advertising is also referred to as PPC – which you will likely have heard of! PPC stands for pay-per-click advertising, and garnered its name through top-bidding companies paying for each click on their ad. However, it is worth noting that not all paid ads are PPC – this is simply the most widely known form.
Within the PPC bracket, there are two main targeting categories: search ads appear in response to a user searching for specific keywords or asking a question, whereas display ads are triggered by users’ demographic or past searches.
Paid Ads: A Timeline
So, when did it all start? Remember the good ol’ days when advertising solely existed in paper form? The concept of advertising dates back centuries, first rising in prominence in the industrial revolution, and developing tenfold since. Companies sought out prime advertising spots in newspapers, magazines – and even shop windows. This was soon upgraded to larger advertising locations such as billboards, not to mention the phenomenon of TV ads! The first UK television advert was broadcast on ITV in 1955, whilst the 1970s saw a significant ‘boom’ in television advertising.
Next, came the birth of the digital age. Online paid advertising stemmed from banner ads, which dominated the internet in the 90s. In 1996, Doubleclick provided advertisers with more data to analyse their ad performance, which led to the ‘cost per impression’ (a.k.a. pay-per-click!) model, which we’re all familiar with. This was preferable for companies, as they no longer had to pay a flat fee for the advertising space, and were, in fact, paying for direct results.
This revelation was swiftly followed by the birth of Paid Search Advertising in 1999. Search engine GoTo.com created an ‘auction system’ where advertisers bid on keywords, aiming to work wonders for their SEO. Google enhanced this process with their introduction of AdWords in 2000: a new and improved paid search system which ensured that top search results remained relevant for users.
In this day and age, social media platforms are central to all businesses’ digital marketing strategies. Facebook was the first to debut paid ads in 2006, and since then, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Tiktok have joined the fleet.
The Benefits of Paid Ads
Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the key benefits of paid ads for businesses. Frankly, if you want fast results, paid ads are for you. Many businesses find it difficult to establish a social media presence at the beginning of their journey. It’s certainly challenging to cut through the digital noise! Social media is an oversaturated market, and you are continuously competing with competitors’ content. Paid ads are a shortcut to reach your target audience, allowing you to increase your traffic, conversions and social media growth. However, PPC is generally regarded as a short-term fix – so don’t let it undermine your long-term social media and SEO strategy! It is no secret that social media ads are one of the most effective forms of paid ads, due to their ability for wide reach and instant impact.
Additionally, paid ads provide measurable results. Alongside your helpful social media metrics, you can also analyse data directly from your latest ads campaign. This data allows you to gauge how well each advert performed – and, more importantly, understand your audience and their behaviour across each social media platform. These insights will (hopefully!) lead to more carefully targeted, meaningful content in the future.
The Future of Paid Ads in Social Media
2022 was undoubtedly a year of economic struggle – which explains why some businesses opted out of the more expensive advertising options. However, 2023 is set to be transformative in the world of paid advertising, particularly in aiding social media growth.
Many industry experts are already weighing in on how the landscape of paid social will change in 2023. First, Tiktok will undoubtedly be taking centre stage (as if it hasn’t already!), and is predicted to draw in significant ad spend. Many businesses want to establish a presence on Tiktok: it’s the fastest-growing platform, after all! Moreover, TikTok is renowned as a cost-effective platform, as it revolves around user-generated content. Therefore, even amidst the current climate, businesses can budget for paid ad spend alongside their organic TikTok strategy.
Generally speaking, there are predictions which impact paid ads across all social media platforms. For example, advertising campaigns should centre around strong community engagement to increase social media growth. Many businesses make the mistake of forgetting that social media is, first and foremost, a social platform. It is crucial that you incorporate social media engagement into your paid ad strategy, thus maximising results. Users value genuine conversation, and authentic ads which connect with your customers are certainly the way to go! Our top tip? “Don’t make your ads look like ads!”. Or, at the very least, make it look as little like a spammy advert as possible. Whilst a classic ad may encourage clicks onto your social pages and website, users will only follow and engage with brands that they believe will add genuine value to their online (and offline) lives. Therefore, authenticity and engagement are both key.
As a social media agency, we are advocates for organic growth strategy. To put it bluntly: “been there, done that!”. From our wealth of experience, we can tell you that paid ads are certainly not necessary to grow your socials, yet they provide a much-needed helping hand for many brands looking for quick, short-term results. We won’t lie: organic growth is often a much slower and steadier process, yet it is certainly possible with a top social media strategy in place. Many businesses have built up a significant online following through organic growth alone. Plus, if you work with an agency like ours that specialises in search-first social media and viral marketing, this process could be a lot quicker than you think!
However, if you choose to go down the paid ads route, this is certainly nothing to sneer at! You just need to ensure that your adverts are targeted and up-to-date with the latest trends. More than ever, brands need their ads to stand out, and leading with a creator-first model to deliver authentic adverts that look and feel true to what consumers want is key to building a successful paid strategy in 2023.