Ads are getting more intuitive for businesses with products. Social platforms like Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest now let you buy products without leaving the app. If your business is looking for ways to generate cash flow, social ads might be an untapped source.
This form of social advertising can be highly effective for some, and I've seen it work firsthand. My wife recently bought a swimsuit from an ad that appeared in her Instagram feed. She was able to go straight to the retailer, add the swimsuit to the cart and checkout as a guest, all in a few clicks on her phone. (I was both amazed and frightened at how easy and quick the entire process took.)
Unlike the traditional website ads we've grown accustomed to ignoring over the years, these native ads feel like part of the platform—the ad could easily be just another picture from a friend you'd scroll past.
As far as ways to generate to cash flow go, these types of native ads are much different than, say, search ads. Unlike search ads, there is (most likely) no intent to buy from the user. It's all discoverable. Instead of paying for a hyper-focused ad on a search result where there is often more competition among other companies, you can broaden your reach and focus on interests and demographics.
Another benefit of social ads is that they can live longer in their prospective ecosystems. For example, a buyable pin on Pinterest will last and could potentially be discovered until you take the pin down, even after you're done paying for exposure. The ad lives as long as people continue to share and like it. Contrast this to purchasing traditional impression-based or cost-per-click ads that vanish once you're done paying for views.
Ways to Generate Cash Flow on Social Media
Let's focus on three platforms that could create ways to generate potential cash flow for your business almost instantly by using social ads.
Facebook has many options for creating a buyable ad, from simply linking over to your product within the ad to actually uploading your product catalog. If you opt for the latter, this allows potential buyers to purchase your products directly through Facebook without leaving the website or app.
Instagram currently offers a couple of options for getting your products into their ecosystem.
For starters, you could create an ad—like the one that my wife clicked—by linking to the product page on your site. And if you're using Shopify or BigCommerce, Instagram also offers the ability to upload a product feed and tag products in photos.
When people click on these tags, they're shown detailed product information like the price and images of the tagged item. They can then click through to your website to purchase. (Instagram has the ad open in a web browser inside of the app, so it feels like the buyer is still on Instagram.)
Since Facebook owns Instagram, the image sharing social network is able to use Facebook's specific ad targeting options. As a result, you may be able to get your ad in front of a very targeted audience more likely to buy your product.
Furthermore, technology news outlet TechCrunch is reporting that Instagram has started rolling out the ability for users to store their credit cards on the platform—presumably another step in allowing users to buy products they discover without leaving the app.
Pinterest's Buyable Pins offer a native experience by letting you purchase items through Pinterest.
Sellers can upload data feeds to the social network. Then Pinterest automatically creates pins that allow people to purchase that item without having to leave Pinterest.
What's great about Pinterest ads is that people can save and share your pins after you're done paying for the ad exposure, which means that the ad could in theory continue to generate sales after the ad stops running.
Best Practices for Creating Social Ads
I think I've made a strong case for social ads as being one of the ways to generate cash flow for your business. If you're going to take the plunge and start using social ads, there are some other things you should know that could improve the success of your ads.
1. Have a mobile-optimized website.
If you don't have a mobile-optimized website yet, it's very hard to convert those ad clicks into sales.
According to Pinterest's current audience demographics, 80 percent of people use Pinterest on their mobile phone. If your website shopping cart doesn't have a great mobile experience, you could be wasting money on ads.
Want to see how your website looks on mobile devices? Google has some great tools to help you take steps to make your website mobile optimized.
2. Create as little friction as possible.
Remember my wife's experience purchasing clothing from an ad on Instagram? I think a major reason for the ad's success was how quick and seamless the process was. She was able to quickly see information about the product, add it to her cart and checkout as a guest in a matter of minutes.
Anything that gets in the way of a consumer buying your product is friction. Removing as much friction as possible can help improve the checkout experience for all visitors, not just those on mobile.
3. Create great visuals for your ads.
Social ads are not intent-based. That's why products that are visually interesting are some of the best ways to generate cash flow through social ads.
It's safe to say that visual ads (either images or video) that tell a story or have some lifestyle aspect work better than traditional product shots.
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