Marketing 10 min read

Social Advertising: What it is and Why it is Important

Gerd Altmann /

Gerd Altmann /

Main Social Advertising Takeaways:

  • Social advertising is the process of advertising on social media platforms.
  • Besides building awareness, companies use social media ads to generate leads and capture sales revenue.
  • Social advertising provides an excellent opportunity to drive engagement.
  • One primary reason companies invest in social media ads is their target audience option.
  • According to media formats, a social advertisement can include image ads, video ads, and carousel ads.
  • Some examples of top social media advertisements are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn ads.

Social advertising continues to grow at an accelerated rate. That’s not just a statement; it’s a fact. In 2019, spending on social advertising crossed the $100 billion mark — a 37 percent increase over the previous year.

What’s more, investment in this digital marketing type is expected to grow by 24. 5 percent annually. By 2023, businesses would have invested more than $242 billion in social media advertising.

To understand the recent interest in this vital modern marketing process, let’s begin with a quick introduction.

What is Social Advertising?

Social advertising is the process of advertising on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It involves creating and deploying clickable ads to reach the target audience on social networking sites, messaging app, or news feeds. Along with building awareness, companies use social media ads to generate leads and capture sales revenue. It also provides an excellent opportunity to drive engagement.

The first digital ad debuted on October 27th, 1994. It was an AT&T banner on what would become But the digital ad space has changed since then. And that’s partly due to the emergence of social platforms.

Shortly after Facebook’s ad deal with JP Morgan Chase in 2006, YouTube also introduced ads within its ecosystem.

By the time Snapchat introduced ads in 2014, paid social advertising was already a thing. The platforms’ business model involved attracting users to their site or apps and exposing them to targeted advertising.

So, what makes paid social advertising a worthwhile investment for businesses?

Why is Social Advertisement Important?

Stickers containing different social media logos on a wooden surface.
Tanja-Denise Schantz /

One primary reason companies invest in social media ads is their target audience option. Unlike traditional media, paid social advertising provides more targeting and insight. And that’s because users don’t just log into social platforms and browse. They also share their name, location, and interests, providing a vivid picture for marketers looking to target specific consumers.

Besides the target audience option, social media advertising offers the following benefits.

1. Access to Various Platforms

Social media advertising offers a high level of flexibility compared with other paid ad options.

For example, you could reach a middle-aged audience and older adults on Facebook. At the same time, Snapchat ads are seven times more efficient than TV ads at reaching Gen Z.

You can even select the platform based on the content type. For instance, Instagram and Pinterest are ideal for ads that rely on visual aesthetics. Meanwhile, LinkedIn is one of the top paid channels for B2B marketers.

Whatever your marketing goals might be, you’ll find a social media platform that supports them.

2. Provides Insight into Customer Preferences

A few years ago, brands could only target consumers based on basic demographics. These include age, gender, level of education, employment, and relationship status.

However, current social advertising targeting options are more specific.

For example, marketers can now identify a specific audience using their political party affiliation or hobbies. As you can imagine, such insight could enable effective targeting, resulting in higher sales.

According to a report, 37.9 percent of consumers reported that they’d made a purchase after viewing an online or social media ad.

3. In-Depth Analysis of Campaign

As in any other digital ads, social advertisement provides marketers with insight into how their ads performed. That way, they’ll know what to optimize for better performance.

According to a 2018 Sprout Social study77 percent of marketers use social media analytics to measure campaign performance.

Some metrics that you can collect within social platforms include unique impressions, frequency, and engagement rate. Other available data are:

  • Clickthrough rate (CTR)
  • Cost per thousand (CPM)
  • Cost per click (CPC)

You could go a step further by setting up your web analytics platform to collect data from the social ads. That way, you’ll know how many consumers followed through on your website.

4. High ROI

The return-on-investment on social media ads is unbeatable.

For example, the average CPC on Google Ads is $2.69 across all industries. Meanwhile, you could pay as little as $0.97 for a targeted boost post on Facebook. And that could make all the difference.

A few years ago, shoe retailer — Gravity Defyer — turned to Facebook to connect more with customers and increase awareness. Along with using the platform’s customer service portal, the company also posted organic content and leveraged paid services. And it paid off!

Shortly after adopting the strategy, Gravity Defyer reported an average of 450 percent ROI.

What are the Examples of Social Advertisement?

Examples of social advertisement can vary based on the media formats and social media platforms. According to the formats, social advertisements can include photo ads, video ads, story ads, slideshow ads, and carousel ads. However, some top social media advertisements are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn ads.

1. Facebook Ads

Facebook ads image shows a cursor hovering over Facebook image.
Simon Steinberger /

Facebook is one of the most popular platforms for social media advertising.

According to reports, Facebook accounts for more than 18 percent of the global mobile digital advertising. What’s more, 92 percent of social marketers advertise their products or services on this platform.

The three primary examples of social advertisements on Facebook include photo ads, video ads, and carousel ads.

Photo ads

As you may have guessed, photo ads involve posting a bright, catchy image to reach a target audience. And it works too!

According to Facebook’s data, a series of photo-only ads can outperform other ad formats in driving unique traffic.

Besides the photo, these ads type usually include 90 characters of text and 25-character headlines. Photo ads on Facebook also include a call-to-action button such as Shop Here or Download Here.

To create photo ads on the social media platform, consider using the Facebook Business Manager. Alternatively, you can promote a post with an image from your page.

Video Ads

Facebook offers various video ad options to marketers. These include short videos that auto play in user feeds and original 4-hours promoted videos for desktop.

There’s also the 360-degree video and video ads that play within other videos. Regardless of the video ad type, the goal is the same — engagement.

Facebook videos garner as much as 8 billion views per day. What’s more, mobile-first video ads make up more than 50 percent of Facebook’s video revenue.

Other examples of social advertising on Facebook include Stories, Carousel, Slideshow, Collection, and Messenger ads.

2. Twitter Ads

A smartphone that's displaying Twitter's login page.
Free-Photos /

Twitter is another excellent platform to advertise products and services. Like Facebook, Twitter ads work towards three primary business objectives. These are:

  • Maximizing reach
  • Connecting with the audience
  • Improving conversion

For these purposes, there are two essential ad formats — Twitter Promote and Twitter Ads.

Twitter Promote

Twitter Promote involves automatically promoting tweets to your specified audience.

Each day, the Twitter algorithm adds the first ten daily organic tweets that passed its quality filter to a Promoted Tweets campaign. It also prominently features the account to attract new followers.

According to Twitter, a promoted account will reach an average of 30,000 additional people monthly. You’ll also gain new follower that are interested in your brand.

Twitter Promote Mode costs $99 per month.

Twitter Ad Campaigns

The ad format begins with selecting a marketing objective that aligns with your business goals. For example, you could use a video to introduce a product or provide more information about a service.

Advertisers can also choose to promote organic tweets or create tweets specifically for social advertising.

3. Instagram Ads

Person holding an iPhone that's displaying Instagram's login page.
Solen Feyissa /

Brands rely on Instagram Ads to reach the Gen Z audience.

That’s because the Facebook-owned app is the most popular traditional social network among U.S. teens. According to Pew Research72 percent of United States teens say they use Instagram.

Instagram’s ad offering is similar to Facebook — Photo, Video, Carousel, and Collection. These look like a regular post but with an inscription that says “Sponsored” in the top right corner.

Other examples of social ads that are unique to the photo-sharing app include:

Instagram Stories Ads

Instagram Stories ads usually include photos or 120-second-long videos. The social ad format appears on a full screen between other people’s stories.

Like other ad formats on this list, Instagram Stories is a worthwhile investment. According to a survey, 62 percent of people say that they became more interested in a brand or product after seeing it in Stories.

Note: Adding interactive elements to your story ads can help deliver the best performance.

IGTV advertising

In 2018, Instagram introduced IGTV — a platform within the photo-sharing app that allows users to post long-form videos. However, marketers couldn’t advertise within IGTV videos until June 2020.

The video ads only appear when a user clicks over to IGTV from their feed. While the ads can be up to 15 seconds long, they must be mobile optimized (appear vertical).

Note that this feature is only available to specific Instagram account at this time. However, a full roll-out should occur in the coming year.

4. LinkedIn Ads

LinkedIn logo appearing next to a green plant with white flower.
inlytics | LinkedIn Analytics Tool /

LinkedIn is one of the most popular platforms for B2B marketers, and that’s not surprising. Lead conversion on the social networking platform is three times higher than other major platforms, including Google Ads.

Marketers can choose from several types of LinkedIn ads. These include Sponsored Content, Sponsored InMail, Text Ads, and Dynamic ads.

Sponsored Content

Brands use the Sponsored Content ads to place their products or service in front of a broader audience. It also provides an effective way to showcase a brand’s expertise in the users’ news feeds.

Sponsored Content ads usually consist of single images, videos, or carousels.

Sponsored InMail

Marketers use this LinkedIn ad option to get their message directly to a target audience. Think of Sponsored InMail as email marketing, except the messages go to inboxes on the social networking platform.

Also, only active LinkedIn users can receive ad messages on the platform. In other words, the Sponsored InMail doesn’t sit around for users that only use the platform occasionally.

Text Ads

As the name implies, text ads are small ad units that include a blurb of text and a thumbnail.

This ad format appears at the sidebar of the LinkedIn homepage when viewed on a desktop. As such, text ads don’t appear in the mobile or app version of the social networking platform.

Dynamic Ads

Dynamic ads automatically personalize the message for your prospect. The LinkedIn ad uses artificial intelligence to target users with their profile photo and address them by name.

Some Dynamic ad formats include job, follower, content, and company spotlight ads.

Final Word: Get the Most from Your Social Advertising Campaigns

There’s no denying that social media advertising is a useful marketing strategy. It’s why 72 percent of B2B marketers who use paid channels online use socials ads.

However, the strategy is only effective when you first create a master plan. And that begins with outlining your business goals for social advertising and selecting an ad plan that fits the goal.

You may also want to perform multiple tests to identify the best ad platform and format for your content. Besides, multiple a/b tests could help determine how much money is required to get the best results.

Finally, consider optimizing your content to fit prospective customers across multiple channels. Remember, content is king — whether on social platforms or websites.

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Media Planning

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