How to Boost Your Social Media Ad Performance

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  • 3/10/2020
    Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by an Instagram ad.
    We’ve all fallen victim to excellent social media ads at one point or another. Did you really need the $400 backpack that ads claim critics say is the best commuter bag for working millennial females ages 24-35 who enjoy hiking on weekends and never eat the crust on their pizzas? No, but you probably saw the hyper targeted ad for the brand pop up on your Instagram feed enough times that you finally pulled the trigger.
    Social media ads give  you the opportunity to hone in on new audiences that embody specific characteristics and speak directly to them. Consider this: 80 percent of users follow at least one brand account on Instagram, and 30% of this group have purchased a product they discovered on the ’Gram. With social ads, both B2B and B2C businesses can get their product in front of a targeted audience that’s more likely to buy. 
    You can use social media ads as part of your strategy to increase sales or just to build brand awareness and goodwill on a wider scale. There’s no “right” goal for social media ads, but when you decide to become the brand that targeted users see on their feed an estimated 600 times per day, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

    Recognizing effective social media ads

    A well-executed ad can be measured using several KPIs showing that the content is reaching the right audience at the right time. There’s no right answer as to which metrics you should be measuring. Different marketers will give you different answers, and ultimately only you know your product and/or business well enough to make the final call. 
    That being said, there are several different metrics you can consider depending on the type of campaign you’re running. For example:
    Running an Awareness campaign to grow brand awareness? Be sure to measure:
    • Reach: How many unique users saw your ad?
    • Engagement rate: Out of the number of people you reached, how many engaged with the ad in some way?
    • Shares and reposts: Did the audience find your ad valuable enough to amplify to their own network?
    • Website traffic (and sources): Did your website traffic spike during the time your ad was published? Check analytics - how much of your traffic can be attributed to social media?
    • Social listening: Are people hearing and talking about your brand online?
    Trying to increase sales with a Decision ad campaign driving leads or conversions? Keep track of:
    • Sales revenue: Are your ads driving higher sales?
    • Number of transactions: Are more people buying from you, indicating you’re reaching a wider qualified audience?
    • Conversion rate: Are users completing a desired action after seeing your ad?
    • Cost per conversion: How much money are you spending to drive one conversion? Is it worth the cost?
    Above all, remember friends don’t let friends report on impressions! 
    Impressions measure the overall number of times people saw your ad, including the people who saw it more than once. Impressions are a vanity metric, too. If your impressions are high and conversions are low, you have a poor performing ad on your hands, friend. 

    How to Create Social Media Ads

    Social media ads come with a lot of moving parts and details to keep track of. To help simplify, here are the top five things to double check when setting up your ads:

    URLs and UTMs

    Ensure you’re directing users to the correct URL. Your URL should include a UTM tracking parameter that adds specificity to your reporting in tools like Google Analytics.

    Creative boundaries

    Facebook and Instagram stipulate that any imagery or creative accompanying your ads should be only up to 20 percent text. FB and IG will reject your ad if the system detects too much text. Use minimal text in your ad creative and save your message for the copy.

    Ad Formatting

    Use handy tools like Facebook’s Creative Hub to review your ad’s formatting, graphics and copy and preview what it will look like in the wild. You can use the Creative Hub to collaborate with teammates and get a second pair of eyes on your ad to double check that it’s ready for its close up.


    Take a minute to review the audience you’re targeting with your ad. Do you know your audience inside and out? Will this ad reach them and resonate with them?


    Make sure there are no extra zeros in your budget by mistake! But also, ensure timing and budget are set correctly. Ads should run for at least five days before getting a good measure of their success. You could spend $500 on one day of ads, but it’s best to spread your budget out over a period of time. At the absolute minimum, spend $25 per day on each of your ads.

    Optimizing Poor-Performing Social Ads

    Your ads have been running for a few days, but after careful analysis, they aren’t performing the way you had hoped. What’s a marketer to do?
    If you’re working on Facebook ads, the best place to start is the Facebook Business Help Center. Facebook takes their ad platform very seriously and, similar to Google, provides consultants who can help you optimize your ads for better performance. However, don’t fidget with your ads too much! They are almost living, breathing things and they need time to grow and explore who they’re going to become. Try not to interrupt the learning phase!
    There are also a few things you can check on your own. These are the first things you should optimize when tweaking a poor-performing ad:


    Is your imagery showcasing what you’re trying to bring awareness to? Or showing what you’re trying to sell? Does it complement your message?


    Is it clear what action you want the user to take? Is your message well-stated, copyedited and easy to understand?


    Are the right people, the people most likely to convert on your ads, the ones seeing it? Make sure you’re targeting the ideal audience who will respond to your copy and creative. If in doubt, start wider, then narrow as you test campaigns.
    Make any adjustments, give it a few more days and then go back in and take a look at your ad performance. If it’s still not doing well, you can readjust, but keep in mind it might be time to pull the plug and start from scratch on a different ad concept.

    Optimizing Social Ads That Are Performing Well

    Scenario Two: Your ad is performing very well! Your cost per result is low, results are high and ad spend is on pace. Time to let it run its course and watch the sales revenue fall into your lap?
    Not quite. Now is the time to optimize your ad to take it from good to GREAT! This is an excellent opportunity to experiment and learn what your audience responds to. Start by taking your awesome ad and A/B testing it in a separate ad set or campaign, creating one or more new ads with one single element changed on each one.
    There are several elements you can play with:


    Post the same ad in a new spot. If it’s a single-image Facebook ad, try promoting it in Instagram’s feed or stories option. 

    Desired action

    You can also try changing the desired outcome of the ad. For example, if you’re running an ad to get people to like your Facebook page, you can try using a Messenger ad encouraging the audience to message you their questions about your business or services instead.

    Creative & copy

    Try a new type of ad that presents your message in a different format, like a carousel or video ad instead of a single-image ad. Consider also switching out a static image for a video ad. Or keep your imagery the same and adjust your ad headline or other copy.


    Try targeting a new audience with the same message. Do they respond better than your original targeted audience? Adjust who you reach and you’ll be testing your ad performance in front of a whole new audience.
    All that matters is that you only change one element of your ad. That way when one ad performs better than another, you can spot the one thing that made the difference.
    Once you’ve started A/B testing, you can move into the Campaign Budget Optimization (CBO) process. To start, create multiple ads to A/B test, put money behind them and let them run their course for a while before pitting them against each other in a mini knockout tournament. Take the highest performing ads and put the full weight of your budget behind them. Turn off your other, lower-performing ads. Continue this process until you have one ad to rule them all. 
    Remember, marketers should definitely A/B test more often than not, but it’s what you do with the results that’s most important. Use them strategically to learn the unique recipe for advertising success that works for your company.

    Social Media Ads: The Neverending Story

    Social media ads are a never ending process, which is great for social media managers’ job security, but terrible for our sanity. Just when you thought you’ve mastered the art of social media ads, they flip the script on you, adding a new type of ad or changing targeting and budget methods or...algorithms! Because the process is unending, you must always be learning.
    Keep on keepin’ on, marketers. With your knowledge of your audience, tried and tested ad strategies and your big beautiful brains, we have faith in your ability to create a paid social media campaign that sees success.
    Fill your social media advertising knowledge tank! Learn more about digital ads by subscribing to our email newsletter.
    About the author::Danyelle Kupfer is the Social Media Specialist at thunder::tech. She helps plan, execute and manage various clients’ social media accounts and thunder::tech marketing productions. She enjoys her dog, ice cream and loves dad jokes more than dads.
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