The ultra-competitive landscape across social media platforms has made paid social media advertising a necessity to stand out. With organic social media reach decreasing every day, businesses have no choice but to pay for ads just to keep abreast with industry standards.

In 2016, Marketing Land reported organic reach for Facebook Pages dropped by 52%. Depending on the amount of Followers on the page, organic reach can be as low at 2% (HubSpot). Essentially, the higher amount of Page Likes you have, the less organic reach you reach.

To put this in perspective, if it’s that difficult to reach people who have already expressed interest in a brand, imagine how difficult it is to reach new people who might not have heard of you. ***Hint: Quite difficult. Yup! You’ll likely end up having to pay for social media advertising and you should probably start looking into which platforms you might want to advertise on.

In this white paper, we’re going to review the key benefits and drawbacks of each platform, as well as cover some of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will better help you decide which platforms are best for your business goals. Before we get into that though, let’s make sure you understand exactly what paid social media advertising is.

No. 01

Organic Social Media vs. Paid Social Media

This might be obvious to some people, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to get confused between the two. Don’t worry if you do. That’s what we’re here for! In a nutshell, an organic social media post is any post that doesn’t have any dollar amount tied to its promotion. It’s a free post!

A paid social media post involves paying for your post to reach more people or being placed where it’s likely to be clicked. Below are some key indicators that a post has had spend put behind it.

Post says “Sponsored” – This is probably the easiest way to tell of a post is a paid ad. Legally, companies are required to indicate when a post is paid. To streamline the process, platforms automatically include the term “Sponsored” in all ads.

Post has a an additional call to action button that’s different than the standard “Like, Share, or Comment” sections. The ability to Like, Share or Comment on a post has become standard for all social media platforms. However, paid posts often allow additional capabilities or Call To Actions. Some Examples of this include buttons that say:

    • Shop Now
    • Sign Up
    • Contact Us
    • Get Directions
    • Learn More

Often times you can spot a boosted post because the engagement is significantly higher than other posts. There are some exceptions to this however. A post might also look that way because it was a highly engaging post that had the “viral” effect.

Now that you understand the difference between organic and paid posts, let’s take this to the next level.

No. 02

Examples of Social Media Advertising Goals for Your Business

Before focusing on which social channels make the most sense for your brand or business, it’s important to know your goals (email capture, direct purchase, site traffic, etc.).

Brand Awareness
The goal is to reach as many people as possible interested in your brand, and generate “buzz” or interest about services or products offered.

Email Capture
Often referred to as a “Lead Generation Campaign,” the objective is to grow an email subscriber list. This goal is popular for business-to-business campaigns and best used with retargeting efforts.

User Engagement
This goal is typically used to mimic the impression of a viral post. The objective is to generate as many comments, shares, and likes as possible.

Direct Purchase (also called “DR” or Direct Return)
The objective is to have the ads lead to a purchase of your products or service, and earn direct revenue.

Foot Traffic (local awareness)
This objective is typically for companies that decide to launch a campaign specifically for the purchase of driving users to their store. Certain platforms do have software in place to track these type of offline conversions.

Event Response
Typically used for driving attendees to a special event. The goal is to simply get as many people to attend the event as needed.

Website Traffic
As a cheaper alternative to direct conversion campaigns, the goal is to drive as much traffic to the website as possible. This practice is commonly associated with awareness campaigns and audience testing.

Increase Social Following
The purpose is to increase followers on the company’s respective social profile. New companies tend to implement these campaigns for the purpose of growing their followers to gain credibility.

Once you’ve decided which of the above goals best fits your campaign, it’s time to decide which KPIs you’ll be tracking to indicate success.

No. 03

Key Performance Indicators

The next step is to define the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that determine success of your goals.

Total Conversions
A conversion is any type of response that requires an action. It can be purchasing a product, filling out a webform or even booking an appointment. This is a number you’ll monitor for any type of Direct Return focused campaigns.

Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)
The amount it costs to complete a conversion. Also referred to as Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) or Cost Per Action.

Direct Conversion Value
The total amount of revenue caused by a direct click of your ad.

Assisted Conversion Value
The total amount of revenue that all of your ads have assisted. This includes a user served an impression without clicking the ad, or if the ad interaction is somewhere in the conversion path but outside the first or last click. This number especially is useful when assessing growth.

Return on Investment (ROI)
The return on your total investment. In most cases, this also includes the return on any separate management fees or wages paid. This number is often listed as a percentage, so a $2.50 return on every $1 spent is a 150% ROI.

Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)
The return on your ad budget only. This is also typically listed as a percentage.

Total Link Clicks
The total amount of link clicks on the link placed in your ad.

Cost Per Click (CPC)
The cost to acquire each click on your ad. The lower your cost per click, the better, especially if you’re goal is to drive a lot of traffic to your website or landing page.

Total Leads
This is typically an important metric for B2B acquisition campaigns, or any type of acquisition campaign that has a consultation or phone call prior to final purchase.

Cost Per Lead (CPL)
The amount it costs to acquire one lead or a user that is lower in the funnel, but not low enough to be considered a conversion yet. The higher your final conversion value, the higher cost per lead you can afford to pay.

Cost Per Impression (CPI)
This metric is based on the cost of a thousand impressions, and is often used to gage auction systems.

Click Through Rate (CTR)
The rate at which people click through your ads divided by impressions.

Similar to organic posts, most paid social media advertising still allow users to press like on the post, even if it’s a paid ad. If user engagement or brand awareness is your goal, then a high level of likes can be indicative of success.

A share is when any user decides to repost your ad or share it with their followers. Shares are one of the most powerful indications of success if you’re looking to gain more brand awareness.

This refers to comments left on your ad. This becomes particularly important if you’re doing a contest of some sort.

Followers / Subscribers
One of the most difficult obstacles new companies need to overcome is social proof. Consumers tend to judge credibility by follower counts, or if an account has been verified. If you’re a new e-commerce brand, you should look to grow your follower count. However, you should never buy Facebook Page Likes.

Other metrics to monitor include Bounce Rate, Average Session Duration, and Pages Per Session, which are all shared on Google Analytics.

No. 04

Platform Benefits & Drawbacks

The third step is to access each social platform’s features and drawbacks, and then choose the platform that best matches your goals and has the analytics for your KPIs.

Before getting into specific platforms, it’s important to mention that all social media advertising is primarily for the top of the sales funnel. Yes, all of these platforms can bring direct return, however, if you get in the habit of viewing them as solely a sales platform you will likely be disappointed (especially if you’re a new e-commerce brand). To put this in perspective, social media was originally designed for entertainment, meaning users don’t go on these platforms to shop. Unless you’re running a retargeting campaign, it’s likely the user hasn’t even heard of your brand. It is important to keep this in mind when setting expectations for your campaigns.

The key is to use these platforms in combination with other parts of a full sales funnel. Examples of other parts of a sales funnel include a Google AdWords campaign, an email drip campaign, and a fully optimized website.


As one of the most widely used advertising platforms, Facebook is often one of the first platforms that e-commerce brands use to advertise their business. With more than 1.5 billion users, Facebook is often seen as one of the easiest ways to reach new people.


  • The platform has a wide variety of optimizations you can use for your campaign goals. No matter your goal, Facebook has the ability to promote and track conversions.
  • With new analytics tools being added every day, Facebook allows you to collect valuable data that you can use to inform your future decisions.
  • If used correctly, it can bring direct return for brands.
  • Boosting capabilities allow brands to “trick” users into thinking the brand is popular.


  • Facebook is an incredibly saturated market, and is one of the most competitive ad platforms.
  • Attribution is difficult to track in Google Analytics, and often misses a lot of mobile attribution in Google Analytics due to cross-device impressions and conversions.


Owned by Facebook, Instagram has become a key advertising tool, especially for beauty and clothing brands. The platform now has over 400 million users.


  • Seamless integration with Facebook advertising.
  • Ads seem “stealthy” and often trick users into thinking it is a native post, thus increasing user engagement.
  • The new shoppable Instagram Ads make it easier for users to convert while looking at a brand profile.


  • Users typically do not want to click off to a website, and often visit the brand’s profile instead.
  • Ads can look out of place, as a lot of effort is put into content curation, and imagery. As a result, the platform does not often provide a lot of direct return.
  • Brands are often judged by their follower count, and overall presence on the platform.


As a platform with 328 million users, Twitter is still considered an industry leader for reaching new people. With a 140 character limit, the platform is often used for news, and creating viral content.


  • It’s a great way to create the “viral” effect. Getting a hashtag trending can be monumental in creating brand awareness, and overall lift for your brand.
  • Cost-per-click advertising is very low (due to the lifespan of a tweet being quite short).
  • Encourages user engagement, as users often share and retweet easily.
  • Targeting allows you to target those who follow your competitors.
  • Analytics have improved. For example, brands can now see how much a video users are watching.


  • 140 character limit can hinder the message used in a sponsored tweet.
  • The lifespan of a tweet is short. According to, the average lifespan of a tweet is just 18 minutes. This means that you would have to pay for multiple tweets to have any sort of significant impact.
  • Due to the fact that the platform is so quickly moving, the quality of the users can be low.
  • It is primarily only effective on mobile.


Originally used as an employment tool, LinkedIn has become known as the go-to marketing place for business professionals.


  • Ads can be very “stealthy,” and often blend in with native posts.
  • A great tool to reach CEOs, entrepreneurs, and executives.
  • Some people say that CPMs are lower than other platforms.
  • Platform still has one of the highest reach capabilities.
  • Users have a higher likelihood to click off Linkedln to visit to visit your website.


  • Low direct conversions.
  • Low amount of stylistic options for ads.
  • Primarily beneficial for B2B, and not e-commerce.
  • Higher Cost Per Click.


As one of the newer advertising platforms, Snapchat advertising is still not a widely used platform. However, the platform will likely look to broaden its advertising capabilities over the next few years. It is primarily only used for video ads at the moment, but geofilters are known to add a simple method for brand awareness on native posts.


  • Ads appear to be native, as users often think they’re still watching a friend’s snap.
  • Great for video ads (sound is on immediately, unlike other platforms).
  • Interest targeting can be more effective than other platforms, as channels can be opted into.


  • Tracking and attribution is minimal.
  • Ad inventory can be expensive (as the focus is on video).


Known as the platform for DIYers, Pinterest is the ideal platform for brands that provide tools or ingredients for users who like to make things.


  • A lot of keyword and interest based targeting is available.
  • Great for brands who offer any products used to make or build.
  • Easy to get Repins.


  • Attribution is difficult, and it cannot track conversions directly in the platform.
  • Creative is often difficult to make, as pins tend to be shaped like a tower.
  • Pinterest profile page must already have some following for the ads to be effective, therefore, you must plan ahead.


Reddit has been known as more of a community than an advertising platform for many years now, with the commenting system being one of the most abrasive online communities. However, more and more brands are at least testing out reddit ads to see if it will be viable if the appropriate subreddit is used.


  • CPMs are incredibly low as competition isn’t as high as other platforms.


  • Users are incredibly sensitive about their community, causing your ads to get a ton of negative comments. Choosing the correct subreddit is key to your campaign’s success.
  • Direct Return is not likely to happen. It’s more of a brand awareness or viral tool.


As you can see from all the platforms listed above, every form of paid social media advertising has its pros and cons. The key is to not rely solely on one platform, but to use a combination of platforms so that you can capitalize on the different strengths and weaknesses of each one.

At Hawke, we can help you establish a reasonable goal for your business as well as choose the correct platforms for your social media advertising plan in both the short term and the long term strategy. Our Media Buying Experts can then help you implement the campaign at the best possible optimization for your budget.

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