Content marketing—creating and distributing relevant content to attract, acquire and engage your target audience—has become a popular marketing tactic over the past few years. But although most companies understand how to promote their content via their “owned” channels, such as their Facebook page, Twitter account or LinkedIn company page, many are missing out on the opportunity to get their content in front of a larger audience through paid social promotions.
For example, let’s say you’ve spent time and money developing a great new how-to video or article—how do you make sure people see it? Promoting it via Facebook Promoted Posts will put it front and center for your fans. Or what if you’ve received a positive write-up in your local paper? You can make sure your target customers see it by making a small Twitter ad buy targeted at local followers of that paper.
Positive product reviews, media coverage, blog posts and educational content like white papers and presentations can all have tremendous value for your business. Here are three paid social ad tools that can dramatically expand visibility for this content.
Facebook Promoted Posts
With Facebook Promoted Posts, businesses pay to have their regular posts appear higher (and more often) in the news feed, so there's a better chance their audience will see them.
“Most small-business owners don't realize the impact of just spending a little bit of money to promote posts,” says Anthony Kirlew, chief strategist at AKA Internet Marketing. “With all the noise in the Facebook news feeds as well as the EdgeRank factors, the message of most small-business Facebook pages is unseen. For a very small amount of money, companies can get the lift that leads to the exposure they are seeking on Facebook.”
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To promote a post on your page, simply create the post and click “Promote” at the bottom of the post. You’ll be prompted to select your audience—either people who like your page, or people who like your page and their friends—and to set a budget based on how many people you want to reach. Compelling graphics and headlines are important for driving maximum engagement with Promoted Posts, so even if you’re promoting someone else’s content (such as a story about your company in the local paper), consider including your own graphic and headline to make it pop.
Galen Ward, co-founder and CEO of real estate search engine Estately, used Facebook Promoted Posts to seed viral sharing of its fun blog post, "37 Things You Should Know Before Moving to Seattle.” Ward’s strategy was to go narrow with the post promotion, crafting a post that would appeal to Seattle sports fans, and then promoting it to people who have the Seahawks as one of their interests on Facebook.
According to Ward, the company spent just under $100 and got 8,500 Likes and tens of thousands of visitors to the website.
“We paid under $3 CPM and got around a 5 percent click-through rate—so for under $100 we got our post in front of over 30,000 people,” Ward says. “Without Facebook, it would have traveled through our limited networks, but with Facebook ads we got it in front of virtually every person who might be interested in it. And because the content was engaging and in front of the right people, it sparked a ton of viral sharing.”
Ward says they are now experimenting with spending $10 to $20 to promote each of their blog posts and will up the spend for posts that perform well.
Twitter Promoted Tweets
Twitter recently launched a self-service capability for Promoted Tweets, which are regular tweets that you pay to promote to more people. Twitter allows you to target people by geography, interest or gender, and you only pay when people click on, retweet, mark as favorite or reply to your tweet.
Twitter’s pricing system is based on bidding: You set the maximum amount you’re willing to spend per follow or click, and Twitter will give you suggestions for what you should bid to optimize your campaign. Twitter tools allow you to see how each of your tweets is performing; after a few days of running promoted tweets, check back in to gauge how the campaign is working and whether you need to adjust your bid.
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Online music publication Prefix Magazine used Promoted Tweets to increase brand awareness and drive more high-quality readers to its site, which saw an immediate 49 percent jump in visitor traffic from Twitter compared to the week before the Twitter ad campaign.
Daniel Rothamel, founder of artist management company Two Plus Media, offered free downloads of “The Wretched,” a mixtape by his client NomiS, via Promoted Tweets. The $50 campaign, which targeted users in the U.S. interested in Christian and Gospel music, resulted in 7,900 impressions and 105 engagements on the tweet.
"One of my biggest challenges with promoting new artists is cutting through the clutter to find the people who are already interested in the music my artists create,” Rothamel says. “Promoted Tweets helps me target these people more effectively, giving me a greater chance at successfully turning them into fans."
To get your content in front of a business audience, consider LinkedIn Ads, which run on prominent pages on the LinkedIn website. Ads consist of a headline, a description (up to 75 characters of text), your name or company name, a small image and a URL. You can specify which LinkedIn members view your ads by selecting targeted criteria such as job title, job function, industry, geography, age, gender, company name, company size or even by a particular LinkedIn Group (such as “Corporate Real Estate”). Similar to Twitter, you set a maximum budget and only pay for the clicks or impressions that you receive.
According to LinkedIn, the best-performing ads are relevant to the target audience and written with clear, compelling words. LinkedIn suggests that you highlight special offers, unique benefits, white papers, free trials or demos to get people’s attention, and include strong call-to-action phrases like Try, Download, Sign up or Request a Quote.
Internet marketing agency Cardinal Web Solutions used a LinkedIn ad featuring a company culture presentation to help generate interest in its job openings. According to founder and CEO Alex Membrillo, “The content included in the presentation has been very effective for attracting qualified candidates, and overall interest in our company has increased significantly.”
Marketing software company HubSpot is offering white papers and free educational resources via LinkedIn Ads to attract marketing professionals. The company says it first experimented with ad campaigns on social networks other than LinkedIn, but the campaigns did not yield satisfactory results.
"There's a lot of distraction on other social networks," said Dan Slagen, the company's head of paid marketing. "People are there for reasons besides improving their businesses, or networking with other professionals. We need to connect with B2B companies that are focused on lead generation, which means LinkedIn is the place for us.
According to Slagen, HubSpot’s LinkedIn Ads generate a click-through rate that is 60 percent higher than its average across other social networks, with much higher quality leads.
"There's no clutter on LinkedIn. Members are there to do business," he adds.
Ready to get started but still not sure which channel makes the most sense for you? Try this advice from HipLogiq CTO and cofounder Adam Root, who recommends small businesses consider all three networks, but use them for different purposes.
“My strategy is to use Twitter to gain new users, Facebook to build a community and LinkedIn to generate leads for the sales team,” says Root. “My logic in choosing this strategy is that Twitter is a good medium for targeting moments and encouraging action, Facebook is a great medium for building long-term relationships and LinkedIn is a business network with high-profile agencies in its user base that I’d want as customers.”
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