Beginners Guide to Paid Social (social media advertising)

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

This guide looks to introduce start-ups and SME's to Social Media advertising through Facebook and Instagram from a high level, break down how it works and the various options you have available in the Facebook Business Manager platform.

What is paid social advertising?

Paid Social advertising allows you to create ad content and target relevant users on social media to build brand awareness, generate traffic and drive conversions.

Paid Social Process

How does it show your ads?

Facebook has over 2.3 billion monthly active users and Instagram has over 1 billion. Facebook Business Manager enables you to target these audiences. 

Paid Social ads mainly show in your feed and stories, and are integrated in a way to create a seamless social browsing experience.

Some people don’t realise that they are seeing ads every time they use the social network. The posts highlighted in green above are ads.

A combination of your targeting, ad creative and the Facebook algorithm determines who, when and where your ads will be shown.

How are you charged?

The majority of advertisers pay when a user clicks or views an ad, which is known as the Cost-Per-Click (CPC) or Cost-Per-1000-Impressions (CPM). 

The media spend for both Facebook and Instagram is paid directly to Facebook Business Manager, and it’s a large part of how Facebook generates its revenue.

It’s important to develop a strategy to minimise wastage in spend and maximise efficiency of your budget.

Paid vs organic social

Organic social refers to non-paid for posts on social media where you don’t pay for clicks or placements. The aim of organic posting is to grow your community and post engaging images / videos / stories / links to your followers for them to interact with. 

Paid social is when you use a social media ad engine, such as Facebook Business Manager or LinkedIn Ads, to target audiences with your content and pay for clicks / engagement. 

The aim of paid social ads are to drive conversions and new customer acquisition. There are various tactics that can be utilised to target customers at each stage of the customer journey.

Organic reach is on the decline

There are four paid social ad types

  1. Image Ads 

Whatever your business goals are, an image ad on Facebook or Instagram is a great way to increase awareness of who you are and what you do. An image ad gives you a clean, simple format to use with inspiring imagery and engaging copy. 

Facebook ads often run in people’s feed, right next to posts from their family and friends.

To get the maximum impact, ads should feel like a part of a person’s social fabric. The trick is to blend in with the tone (but stand out with the content!). 

Ad content must meet editorial guidelines and risk being disapproved if they violate any of those guidelines. 

Great for when you want to drive people to your site. 

2. Video Ads 

With the rise of cameras on phones, communicating with video has never been more relevant but attention spans have never been so short. With that in mind, it’s crucial that advertisers reflect the way people actually consume video – from bite-sized videos that they watch on the go, to longer video styles that they watch on the sofa. 

There are multiple placement options for video on Facebook and Instagram: 

  • Short videos and GIFs 

  • Vertical videos 

  • Instagram stories 

  • Carousel 

  • Collection 

  • In-stream video (long form) 

Great for increasing brand & product awareness

3. Dynamic Ads

Building awareness of your brand is important, but it’s equally important to target users when they want to know more or make a purchase. This is where dynamic ads shine. 

Facebook dynamic ads automatically show the relevant products to people who have already expressed interest on your website, in your app or elsewhere on the Internet.

Simply upload your product catalogue and set up your campaign once, and it will continue to work for as long as you want – finding the correct audience for each product, and always using up-to-date pricing and availability. 

Great for generating conversions

4. Lead Forms 

Lots of people want to hear from your business, but filling in forms can be difficult on mobile.

Facebook lead ads makes the lead generation process easy. People can simply tap your ad and a form pops up – it’s already pre-populated with their Facebook contact information and ready to be sent directly to you. 

With just a few taps they can get the information they want, and you generate a qualified lead for your business. 

Great for turning users into customers

Conversion Funnel


Drive new customer awareness through creative content.


  • Interest based - Facebook Business Manager finds people who have engaged with or posted about a subject, i.e. women’s luxury fashion.

  • Geographic - Targets people based on their location (country / city / within x miles of).

  • Demographic information - targets users based on their age, gender, languages, etc.

  • Lookalike - uses current customer data to find users with similar social media habits.


  • Brand recall - a user is able to recall seeing the ad and remembers the brand.

  • Page likes - a user likes / follows a brand’s social media page.

  • Content engagement - a user views a video and/or engages with the ad content.


Drive engagement with your established awareness audience.


  • Viewed a product - a user views a product but does not take action immediately.

  • Reads a blog post - a user reads a blog post on-site.

  • Searched on the site - a user uses the search bar on a brand’s website.

  • Signed up to the newsletter - a user signs up to the newsletter


  • Targeted traffic - a user sees the ad and then returns to the site.

  • Adds a product to basket - a user sees a product they’ve previously viewed and adds this product to their basket.

  • Content Engagement - the customer engages with the brand’s content further.


Convert engaged audiences who’ve visited the site.


  • Product viewers - a user has viewed a product or range, who we will then serve personalised ads.

  • Added a product to basket - a user added a product to their basket, but did not purchase.Abandoned a lead form (e.g. request a quote) - a user begins to fill out a lead form, but does not complete the process.


  • Sales - The user is retargeted with an ad and purchases (possibly using an incentive).

  • Completes a lead form - the user clicks an ad and completes the form (this usually includes an incentive in the ad e.g. ‘free trial’)


Retain people who have purchased products.


  • Cross-sell - campaigns that show products a user may be interested in (e.g. shoes for a dress).

  • Lapsed customers - people who haven’t purchased in a set period of time.


  • Sales - the user reengages with the brand and purchases a product.

  • Content engagement - the customer engages with the brand’s content further.

Key benefits of Paid Social

  • Targeted advertising - Reach your target audience based on the interests they have. 

  • Measurable - Paid Social advertising gives you quantifiable ROI, which allows you to see exactly what you are getting out of the ads. 

  • Scale - Grow your business online with more traffic and sales 

  • Speed - It’s possible to get your product or service in front of potential customers quickly. 

  • Retargeting - Send targeted and personalised ads to people who have interacted with your website from any channel.

  • Brand awareness - Get your brand and your message in front of new audiences and customers. 

Paid Social benefits to other channels

Improvement in secondary goals

An increase in traffic through Paid Social can have benefits to your overall marketing. For example, you may receive an increase in the number of mailing list subscribers, remarketing audience size and engagement.

Content amplification

Driving traffic to your content pieces, such as blog posts, will help to familiarise your brand with your target audience. This means that later when a user is in the market for what you sell, there’s a higher likelihood that they will click on your brand to purchase your products.

Increase in social proof

Driving traffic to your site through Paid Social can cause after effects such as social mentions, sharing links, etc, to your content pages. This all serves to send strong signals to Google that your page is very relevant to the topic at hand. This of course means a boost to your organic traffic!

Potential pitfalls of Paid Social


Social advertising platforms are like a good puzzle, they take minutes to learn the basics but years to become an expert. The best way to learn the platform is to actively run ads for your business, but unfortunately this process of learning from mistakes can be costly!

Creative investment

As Paid Social platforms mature, ads placed on these platforms have gradually become more sophisticated. To capture the attention of your target audience, ads need to be visually engaging (which requires creative time and cost investment). Failure to innovate can lead to low levels of engagement (particularly in crowded niches).


Depending on your competition and the industry you work in, Paid Social marketing can be very expensive. Some ad placements can be costly and it isn’t profitable for every business.

Time investment

One of the biggest factors in success for Paid Social is patience. The platform works best when you test every element of your ads (e.g. different colour scheme, copy variants, call to actions, etc). This requires time to get right, which may lead to some false conclusions if not managed correctly.


  1. Paid Social advertising allows you to create content and show it to relevant users online to build brand awareness, generate traffic and drive conversions.

  2. The 4 main advertising methods for campaigns

  • Image Ads 

  • Video Ads 

  • Dynamic Ads

  • Lead Forms

  1. Pros - it’s visual, brand building and easy to reach an audience that is interested in products like yours.

  2. Cons - the cost, time investment and expertise required to deliver the campaigns.

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Paid Social Terminology

Audiences are groups of people on Facebook and Instagram that you can target based on a number of parameters such as age, location, gender and interests.

Impressions are counted each time your ad is served on Facebook or Instagram and seen by your audience. 

CTR aka click-through-rate, measures how often people click your ad after it’s shown to them, which can help you to understand the effectiveness of your ad. CTR is calculated by clicks/impressions.

CPC aka cost per click, is the price you pay for each click. The price is dependant on how engaging an ad is to your target audiences (e.g. how many clicks, likes, shares your ad receives).

Conversion is when a visitor completes a desired goal after entering the website. This can be filling out a form or making a purchase.

ROAS return on advertising spend, is a KPI used to determine campaign effectiveness. ROAS is calculated by revenue/cost.

A ROAS higher than 1 means the campaign is generating more revenue than expenses.

Engagement is the number of likes, comments, shares, reactions and link clicks your ad receives.

Budget is the amount of spend that is assigned to a campaign. This can be set as daily (where it will spend the set amount each day) or lifetime (where the budget will be spent over a period of time defined by the advertiser).


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