A Quick Guide to Paid Social That Won’t Break the Bank

By: Hayley Jennings

May 11, 2018

Though the initial appeal of social media for the C-suite may be that it’s seemingly free to use, as social media pros know, purchasing advertisements on social platforms can be one of the best ways to reach and target new audiences. But how can communicators convince their leadership to loosen the purse strings for paid social ads, especially in a smaller company with a tighter budget?

Karen Vega, senior director of social media measurement and paid media at Viacom, spoke about this very topic at the 2018 Social Shake-Up Show in Atlanta. Vega explained that content expectations from audiences vary by platform, so your approach should take into consideration not only which ads will be the most cost effective, but also what type of content will resonate most on each platform to ensure you get the most bang for your buck.

Here are Vega’s suggestions for how to strategize around each of the major social media platforms:


Your least expensive choice, but the one that will require the most audience testing to make sure you are cutting through the clutter—especially now that Facebook has changed its algorithm to favor posts of users’ friends and family over branded advertisements.

Vega referenced two 2016 studies that found that millennials mostly turn to Facebook as a cure for boredom, and as a way to discover what’s new inside of their social circle (whether it’s relevant to their interests or not). So the right ads on Facebook can lead to the most retention for the least amount of investment by your company. Test captions and subtitles on your photos and videos to determine what gets users to stop scrolling, and make sure to leverage mobile-first ads since most people access Facebook on their smart phones.


Ads within the Stories feature are rapidly becoming the way to go for brands on Instagram. Most users turn to Instagram to find aesthetically pleasing lifestyle content that helps them unwind, Vega said, so creating attractive and relaxing Stories can increase awareness and conversions around your company. And Instagram is relatively inexpensive, with costs-per-view (CPV) ranging from $0.02-$0.04.


One of the platforms with the most influence on consumers, according to Vega. Your best bet to gain attention on Twitter feeds is to include short-form video in your ads—just be sure they are formatted properly for the site. The studies Vega quoted found that most consumers use Twitter as a place to discover new things around their interests, so keep this in mind when researching your audience demographics.

CPV on Twitter varies per completed view of your videos, but costs-per-click (CPC) are only $0.30-$0.50. And since fewer brands are advertising on Twitter, your branded posts may stand out more.


LinkedIn has recently become one of the best of the social platforms for marketing when it comes to return on investment (ROI), according to a survey conducted by the Social Shake-Up Show prior to the event. Unfortunately, this means it has also become one of the most expensive platforms to advertise on because of the increased competition. It might be worth the investment, however—Vega says that LinkedIn can help to raise your brand’s awareness and influence with audiences.

Remember that most LinkedIn users access the site from desktop computers, so it’s important that ads are formatted this way (as opposed to optimized for mobile). And though LinkedIn is late to the video game, its new functionality that allows brands to run targeted video ad campaigns is proving more attractive for companies to invest their budget dollars.


If your target audience is the 18-24 age range, Snapchat may be the way to go—Vega explained that the platform reaches 41% of this audience. Keep in mind, though, that young people on Snapchat are looking for a very particular kind of content (mindless fun, according to Vega), so you must pre-plan your creative strategy to make sure you understand that content and what will work best with consumers. Short-form and entertaining video ads are your best bet.

In terms of dollars, Snapchat does not charge for CPC and CPV, but because of its Discover feature it is one of the best platform for audience conversion. So don’t write the Ghost off just yet.

Above all, Vega concluded, no matter what platform(s) you choose for your ads, they must be fun—a March 2018 Sprout Social survey found consumers engage with social ad content the most when it’s entertaining.

Follow Hayley: @that_hayley

At The Social Shake-Up