How to Avoid Marketing Heartbreak: A Guide to the Pay-To-Play Approach of Social Media Giants

February 19, 2018 Digital Media Solutions

On-Demand Webinar Overview

Social media has come a long way and plays an essential role in marketing for businesses large and small. But now, you will need a lot more than creativity to reach your audience on social media. In fact, top social sites are shifting toward the pay-to-play model more aggressively. Is your brand ready to adapt to the changes? Hosted by Director of Paid Media, Ross Bucholc, DMS gives you the inside scoop on the future of paid versus organic content. Learn how Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn have changed their paid media opportunities (and how to best position your brand to drive conversions). 

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Presented By

Ross Bucholc: Director of Paid Media @ DMS

Ross Bucholc is the Director of Paid Media at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), an industry leader in providing end-to-end customer acquisition solutions that help clients grow their businesses and realize their marketing goals. In this role, Ross oversees search, display, social, programmatic, mobile and affiliate programs servicing DMS clients across industries. The DMS Paid Media team focuses on customer-centric, real-time marketing using robust data from multiple sources to understand each customer’s journey and optimize campaign performance. Since its inception, DMS has evolved into a full-service performance marketing company that services firms within highly complex and competitive industries including mortgage, education, insurance, consumer brands, automotive, jobs and careers. DMS has achieved incredible year-over-year growth, which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.


Webinar transcript:

Melissa Piccinich: Hello and good afternoon. My name is Melissa Piccinich, and I would like to welcome you to the latest Digital Media Solutions webinar. I am the marketing manager here at Digital Media Solutions, DMS, and I would really like to welcome you today because I’m so excited to give this webinar with what’s been going on in social media. Today, we’re giving you the true inside scoop on how you can position your brand strategy just a bit differently to really play to the pay-to-play approach of social media giants like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
So, with the day after Valentine’s Day, I hope that you’re all still really feeling the love, but when it comes to social media, there’s plenty of love to go around. And unfortunately, if you don’t learn about the latest updates that are going on with paid social, you might end up heartbroken. No one wants to be ignored.
So, before I introduce our awesome presenter, Mr. Ross Bucholc, I just wanted to let everyone know that, today, we will be assuming a certain level of paid media proficiency overall as we present this topic. But don’t worry. If you hear any terms that you’re not familiar with, please feel free to submit a question for clarification, and I will either respond to you directly via the GoToWebinar chat tool or, if appropriate, I will interrupt the presentation for clarification.
So, quickly before we dive in, I just wanted to tell you a little bit more about Digital Media Solutions, more effectively known as DMS – or affectionately, the day after Valentine’s Day. So, DMS performance marketing solutions incorporate cutting-edge strategies, including emerging media and state-of-the-art technology, to produce targeted performance-based, cost-effective campaigns that support your acquisition and retention needs.
Here at DMS, we truly, relentlessly pursue perfection while providing scalable, repeatable, and of course, sustainable marketing programs. Here, we build our programs based on your desired outcome and measure performance only by results. We are truly results-driven. For lack of a better word, we are in love with results. And we help you visualize your victory with our performance marketing, our digital agency, and of course, our award-winning proprietary marketing technology.
The DMS Digital Agency is a full-service digital media agency, and it develops and optimizes integrated cross-channel marketing campaigns on behalf of our clients. We leverage decades of performance marketing expertise, and we deliver messages that resonate with a tightly defined audience to try to build brand awareness, boost engagement, and of course, drive conversions.
Here at DMS, we truly do do it all. So, we are excited, today, to take one piece of our puzzle and really dive into paid media but, more importantly, paid social media.
I am very proud to tell you a little bit more about our presenter today, Mr. Ross Bucholc, who has over a decade of experience in paid media. He is our director of paid media here at Digital Media Solutions, and he oversees paid media planning, execution, and optimization. In terms of everything from display, search, social, programmatic, mobile, affiliate programs, Ross really does it all. And his team here focuses on a consumer-centric, real-time marketing approach using robust data from multiple sources to understand each individual customer’s journey that, then, can optimize campaign performance.
I love when Ross gives webinars here because I truly think he is the best at what he does, and I think that you guys will love hearing some of his insights. But before we let Ross take over, I want you to meet our eligible platforms. So, the big boys in the room that you will hear from today, of course, will be the “King”, Facebook; our “Rising Star”, Instagram; the “Career-Focused,” LinkedIn; and the “Friend” that you sometimes forget is there and is just kind of hanging out in the background, Twitter. So, now that you know who our eligible platforms are, I’d like to introduce you and pass the mic over to Ross.
Ross Bucholc: Thank you very much, Melissa. So, I think, before we start, one of the key takeaways from this whole presentation is gonna be the importance of a good LinkedIn headshot. That headshot on that last slide is terrible. I gotta do something about that.
So, anyway, as we get into the meat and potatoes of the presentation here, I just wanna go through the agenda super quickly. So, I’m gonna hit on a few popular myths around social media marketing, then follow it up with some facts, how we approach paid social, and then go one by one through each of the channels, touching on some facts about each of them, and then following that up with what’s new on each of them. And then we’ll close it out with some final recommendations.
So, first up, this myth – and really all of these myths – are via Target Marketing Magazine. And to be perfectly honest, I think some of them are pretty crazy that these are even myths, but we’ll start with this one – that companies use either organic or paid social media but not both. Stunning. I don’t really believe this myth at all, but the fact is approximately 86 percent of marketers use both organic and paid tactics as part of their social media marketing strategy. So, in fact, it’s really rare for users not to be doing both together. So, myth busted.
Next up is paid social charges you to do what you can do for free already with organic posts. Now, this is one that I do actually buy as a myth, But I do not agree with it. So, only 2 percent of Facebook audience is reached via organic posts. And on top of that, only 10 percent of followers, on average, are reached by organic messages. And then, on average, we also see just way, way higher listing conversions from paid media compared to organic social media. So, myth, once again, busted.
And then pulling up the rear with our myths here is that audience growth is the most important method to track. Now, this is another one that’s mind-blowing to me. Coming from a performance marketing background, ultimately, always your goal is ultimate conversion. And then you kinda back into what secondary goals get you to that ultimate conversion. So, because of that, I’m stunned to see that 27 percent of marketers said audience growth was the most important metric to track. That was followed by 19 percent saying website clicks and 17 percent saying engagement.
Again, like I just said, it’s important to track all possible metrics and the lifts you see across other channels and even your other web properties as a result of all the work you do on social. But ultimately, your strategy, your optimization, it should all be based on what is ultimately resulting in conversions. So, if this myth is in fact true, I disagree with it for the aforementioned reasons.
All right, so moving right along. We’ve done a lot of myth-busting, so now we’re gonna roll into some facts. As you can see here, the top fact we have listed there is that paid social media ad spending in the US is projected to exceed $15 billion in 2018. That growth is expected to continue through 2019, as well, to $17 billion. And ultimately, for whatever reason, 2022 is where we capped the years and the spending. But supposedly, we’ll reach around $37 billion globally by 2022. So, it’s definitely a market that we see growing on a daily basis, and I could feel that here in the work that we do and the inflation we see in all the pricing. But ultimately, $37 billion by 2022 is a staggering number.
Also, just to close out those facts there, about 60 percent of marketers believe paid social is more effective than organic. And 45 percent of marketers plan to increase their paid social media budgets as they roll from 2017 into 2018. So, those numbers I just outlined really help reinforce the fact that we’re expecting to see some rapid growth over the next few years in this space.
So, now, we’ve gone through myths. We’ve hit you with some cold, hard facts. Now, I would like to get into the approach. So, we have a couple bullet points up here that are pretty basic. I’m just gonna add a little color around each of them. So, ultimately, before you even choose where you want to be live in regards to paid social, you need to know what you want, who you’re looking for, and then, ultimately later, use those two answers to get you to the platform that you should be live on.
So, taking a step back here to go through what you want, I mean, really what that means is determining your goals. Generally speaking, your end goal is very likely to be a conversion, and that’s what it should be, but secondary goals should be listing other metrics that you would expect to ultimately help lift those conversion totals down the line. So, really, just have a clear idea of what your goal is, and please tell me it’s not just to grow your audience.
Speaking of audience, that’s the other thing that you need to know going into the planning around your paid social strategy. So, it’s as simple as knowing your customer. Know who these people are so know the demographics, develop personas. This will help you determine what platform you want to be live on and also what kind of messaging will resonate best within that platform.
And then know where these people come from so geos. Know areas that have worked for you in the past. And I recommend starting off targeting those and then building from that when you’re happy with performance, kinda going out there and trying to penetrate new geo markets.
So, ultimately, what we’ve found is our best-performing social campaigns right out of the gate are those that are leveraging historic conversion data to determine all of these answers prior to launch. So, take a year’s worth, three years’, five years’ worth of conversion data, and it doesn’t even have to be from social media or paid search. I mean, go all in. Take all of your data and use that to kinda develop these personas and these audiences as well as determine geos that work and don’t work. And leverage all that right out of the gate to set yourself up for success immediately as opposed to kinda figuring out what works as you go and ultimately potentially getting off to a rough start.
And then, finally, we have the thing listed there. Melissa’s super quick on the mouse today, but the other I do just wanna mention is that just because there’s something new – a new, shiny platform – it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something that you need to gravitate to. Again, ultimately, you should be picking your engine based on how your demographic and how your audience fits into that particular network’s model.
So, with that, we’re gonna take a look at a chart here. And I just have a few call-outs around the numbers that we’re looking at here. So, all of this is percent of US adults who use each social media platform. And as you can see here, Facebook is still the most widely used social media platform in the US. Contrary to popular belief, it’s used more often by more aged demographic groups than any other. You hear a lot about how it’s waning in the earlier age groups, which is certainly true, but the numbers don’t lie. They’re still higher than any of the other platforms there. So, Facebook is still king, as it’s aptly named for this presentation.
Instagram is currently the fastest growing social platform and is second in percentage of US adults using it, behind only Facebook, who acquired Instagram back in 2012. So, “The Gram” is the one that’s pretty much blowing up, I’d say, most rapidly in the US. For those of you that don’t know and aren’t hip and cool, The Gram is just street slang for Instagram.
Next up, just speaking of LinkedIn – So, even though we’ve seen growth plateau a bit for LinkedIn, approximately 45 percent of US adult Internet users with an income higher than $75k annually are on LinkedIn. And in looking at this chart, I think interestingly enough, it’s the only channel where as you go up in age group, you don’t steadily see an upward hill. So, we actually see age 30 to 49 with the highest percentage of users. And then you see the rates start to drop again, so that does do a good job of kinda illustrating the type of audience that you’re going to find on LinkedIn. So, I just wanted to note that.
And Twitter, finally bringing up the rear, has not seen much recent growth in the US, but that could be because 79 percent of Twitter accounts are based outside the US. So, also something to keep in mind when you’re determining the audience that you wanna go after. Is it domestic or are you looking for international traffic as well?
So, with that, we are gonna roll into channel-specific highlights. And we’re gonna start with the King – Facebook. So, you see some facts listed here. Like I said, the general idea is to go through some generic facts about each of the platforms and then slide into what’s new in each of the platforms.
So, as you can see there, Facebook is expected to account for 23 percent of total US digital ad spending in 2018, which is a really, really large number. Also, predicted to take in $1.00 of every $10.00 spent on both digital and non-digital advertising combined. So, I mean, what that means to me is, pretty much, they’re taking in 10 percent of all advertising period, which is really crazy when you think about it.
Okay, so Facebook allows marketers to use both boosted posts and paid ads in addition to the organic offering. Some stats there – a $5.00 payment could boost your content’s reach by up to 1,000 views. And another fun little fact there is a recent study in 2017 saw that adding a call to action to your Facebook campaign’s paid ads increased click-through rate by almost 3 percent at 2.85.
The last thing we have noted here is if you want email addresses, you want Facebook. So, I’ve got something to add in regards to this as well. While I agree totally with that statement, I think something you need to consider about the email addresses that you’re getting are the level of quality of those email addresses. So, what we’re alluding to here, really, are lead ads, and ultimately, the lead ad is just a form within your ad on Facebook. It’ll pre-pop with your email address already in there, making it as easy as you clicking “submit” and you’ve just become a lead.
So, what we’ve seen with those is an influx of lead volume as a result of the lead ads, and ultimately, clients see high volume of leads, really efficient CPLs, and are super happy on the front end. But as we track those leads through Sparkroom, what we’re finding is that the conversion rates on those leads are super, super low.
So, knowing that, that’s fine, ultimately, if the lower CPL balances out the lower quality of the leads and net at the end your costs per whatever is the same or better than more typical Facebook ads. But that hasn’t been the case for the majority of clients that we work with and spoke with in regards to lead ads. Ultimately, the level of quality there is so low that when looking at costs per, the lead ads were coming in higher than other Facebook initiatives.
And on top of that, the other thing to consider is your team that’s working these leads. Whether it’s an admissions team or a call center, you’re wasting a lot of valuable time and resources, reaching out to leads that are super low-quality and were very likely never going to convert.
So, I know I got a tiny bit off track there, but again, if you want the email addresses, they’re there for the taking. And Facebook is, in fact, the place, but just be aware of the quality of those email addresses.
Melissa Piccinich: I’m gonna step in for a second and just remind everyone that when Ross mentions Sparkroom, that is our award-winning proprietary marketing technology. And our clients that use our technology are able to understand so much more of, really, what’s happening with their prospective client base because they’re not just throwing ads out there and using whatever internal system the platform is offering. They’re able to use our technology to really follow the data and see how the user journey is mapped. So, any time you hear Sparkroom, just keep in mind that is the proprietary technology used by Digital Media Solutions.
And I think it’s so interesting that Ross brought up that you really have to know the full picture, that even though Facebook is still king and I think will remain king for a while in the world of social media marketing, you have to know exactly what you’re looking and just diving into the platform and hoping for the best is never really going to allow you to hit your ROI and optimize your results.
So, my big question is – and I ask because I know Ross has an amazing relationship internally with them – is what happened with Facebook recently? We had a blogpost that came out in January because everyone was freaking out, at the new year, that Facebook was gonna have this massive change that would ultimately affect what they believed would be the business pages and businesses overall. So, Ross, tell me what did they do?
Ross Bucholc: Wow, what a transition into my “what’s new” slide. Okay, so what they did – Ultimately, what Facebook did was an algorithm update last month. It was launched in response to users being flooded with content that wasn’t personal. So, at least via Facebook, their stance was, as a result of this, they wanted to make organic posts from family and friends be more prominent and that you see more of those updates. And as a result, consequently, users would be less likely to see organic posts from brands, businesses, or publishers.
So – It’s interesting because it is still very new, the algorithm update. It only took place a few weeks ago, so we’re still short on learnings as to what the exact impact of this has been. But ultimately, no matter what the eventual impact is, I think there are some best practices that we should talk through in regards to organic posts because there’s still value in organic. Ultimately, a lot of businesses invested a lot of time and effort into organic. I mean, going back a few slides, 86 percent are doing both organic and paid, and those 14 percent that aren’t doing paid or very likely doing organic as well.
So, I don’t think organic is going to die as a result of this algorithm update. I do actually think it is going to improve user experience and keep users on Facebook longer as a result of not being flooded with as much organic nonsense really. So, I think your organic strategy, moving forward, should be to create meaningful interactions. And that’s actually a term that was used by Facebook in their post release, but what does that mean – meaningful interactions? Comments, shares, reactions will definitely help you see that ongoing organic success. 
So, some ideas to make your organic posts be more meaningful, I guess, are spark conversations, ask questions, have opinions. You should target your content to your target audience. Engage in Facebook groups that already have a following. And work with influencers that reach your target market. So, there are things you can do to make your organic posts resonate more.
And ultimately, really that’s what you probably should’ve been doing for years leading up to this. I mean, ultimately, everyone panicked and is gonna scramble as a result of this algorithm update, but really, this is just stuff that’s best practices that you should be doing as it is as opposed to just railing out organic posts every 15 minutes of the day that people are just scrolling through anyway. So, really, they’re kind of forcing advertisers’ hands to do what they should’ve been doing already in the past. So, ultimately, we’ll see what the impact of this algorithm update is.
Some expectations, I guess, on our end. I mean, the first time I read this, the first thing I thought was, all right, all of our paid media is gonna be inflated next year as a result of people shifting away from organic, realizing they’re not getting what they used to out of organic, and then ultimately ending up in paid. And that could still end up being the case. But we’re not seeing that immediate impact, at least yet.
The other expectation is that users are gonna boost organic posts more often. So, those are just a couple hypotheses. Again, time will tell, but ultimately, the algorithm update, I think the key takeaways are make your organic posts more engaging. Just make them interesting to the audience that you’re interested in ultimately having convert. And then, yeah, sure, boost your organic posts. See if that works and gets you the visibility that you’re looking for. And ultimately, if neither of those happen and you do end up rolling into paid media, give me a call and we’ll help you out.
Melissa Piccinich: That’s awesome. Please, call Ross with your questions. What I think is very interesting is that you can actually venture into the world of organic and use some of the tips that Ross outlined to keep your organic strategy working to boost the engagement and then determine if you want to still boost that post. You don’t have to determine if you wanna boost the post immediately when the post itself becomes live. So, you can become more comfortable with it at your own rate, and I think that that’s something important to remember with Facebook because the system is still very flexible.
So, kind of diving right into The Gram. I know that we’re all kind of big fans, here at DMS, of using Instagram, so Ross, tell me a little bit more about what is going on with our Rising Star.
Ross Bucholc: All right, the Rising Star, Instagram. So, as you can see there, Instagram now boasts more than 500 million monthly active users and commands one of the highest audience engagement rates in social media. The numbers we have are 58 percent higher than Facebook and 2,000 percent higher than Twitter. So, pretty stunning. And what’s even more stunning is only 36 percent of marketers actually use Instagram compared to the 93 percent of marketers who use Facebook. So, knowing all of the numbers that I just mentioned, it’s really alarming that we’re looking at 93 percent of marketers on Facebook and only 36 percent on Instagram.
As you can see there, it commands one of the highest audience engagement rates in social media. And in terms of advertising costs, definitely the same ballpark as Facebook so, just very generally speaking – I mean, super general because we’re not even going into a specific vertical – you’re talking about $5.00 CPMs. And while the price may be similar, most of these statistics are showing that Instagram, you squeeze a lot more out of the engagement and the posts on your ads more so than Facebook does. So, really interesting stuff there.
What’s new with Instagram? Last year, 2017, showed off the first ads inside Stories, taking up the screen and running between users’ posts, similar to but longer than the ads on Snapchat Stories. Instagram Stories let video run for 15 seconds and sponsored photos linger for 5 seconds, but the user does have the option to immediately skip that ad.
So, in regards to what’s new here, we thought it would be best to kinda talk through some best practices for these stories and these 15-second videos. So, whether you select photo or the video ad, be sure that the imagery is appealing, of course, when it stands alone. Structure ads as how-to content. So, guides or lists tend to work well and generally giving a few answers of the how-to and then, ultimately, putting a call to action to drive them to a landing page to get the rest of the answers. That tends to work really well. We’ve seen Instagram Story ads work best to share new products or new company initiatives with current customers.
And then, ultimately when we’re talking specifically about the videos, I think the key takeaway there is not to let your brand get lost in the video. So, the ways that we recommend doing that are overlaying your logo throughout the video. We recommend beginning the video by focusing on the product. We also recommend ending the video focusing on the product. And then in between, we’ve seen testimonials work really well so quick 2 to 3-second testimonials. Cycle through a few and then get to the closing that I just mentioned.
What I would add is throughout whatever you’re doing in those 15 seconds, would recommend subtitles so that those users that can’t currently listen to the video can at least read along. And with that, I would recommend using a very simple font that’s easy to read and minimal styling that just continued to make it better for the user to absorb the messaging and really make your name stand out.
Melissa Piccinich: That’s awesome, Ross. You know, what I think is really interesting is when Instagram first came on the scene, I think a lot of marketers were a little reluctant to wanna dive in to using the tool even organically because it didn’t allow you to immediately link to a landing page or to drive traffic to your website. And I think Instagram has done a great job in overcoming its own obstacles because, now, the ads very seamlessly push the user to a directed landing page or a website. And I know, at least me personally, I’ve fallen victim to buying many new items of clothing because of Instagram advertising. So, it’s certainly working on me.
But I think what’s important to remember and take away from what Ross was describing is Instagram will always be the king visual platform, and because of that, really pay attention to the aesthetic of your ads and make sure that your brand itself is not getting lost when you’re presenting your visual. So, you wanna make sure that the graphics that you have are very, very appealing and that they connect to your audience. But you also wanna make sure that your brand isn’t being overshadowed by any of those images.
And I think that that’s just important to remember that with Instagram, it is a great element to entice your audience to interact with you and to go deeper, but don’t forget to position yourself and continue to invest in your brand in that way.
So, now that we’ve spoken about Instagram a little bit, we’re gonna change gears. We’re gonna go over from what I consider the hyper-visual to something that’s a little bit more buttoned up. Ross, why don’t you tell me a little bit about the Career-Focused or LinkedIn?
Ross Bucholc: Yeah, so definitely a shift of gears here. LinkedIn – Now, the LinkedIn audience revolves primarily around the B2B market, definitely more popular amongst older and high-income users. So, 45 percent of US adult Internet users with an income higher than $75k annually are on LinkedIn. And what that means is it is more popular among this demographic than any of the other channels that we’re talking about today. So, 31 percent more popular than Instagram; Pinterest, 35 percent; and Twitter, 30 percent.
Also, an interesting fact, I thought 30 percent of marketers cite LinkedIn as their preferred social network. Kinda surprising to me but maybe, because they work in marketing, it’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. But I won’t get into that too much there.
And then, as you can see there – So, the ad offerings are pretty similar to Facebook and Instagram. I’d say they’re kind of a step behind in terms of when these offerings are released, but they are pretty much following suit with ad offerings. So, of course, you’ll have your standard text, image, and InMail and then soon-to-be video, which rolls, actually, into the next slide, which is what’s new in 2018 for LinkedIn.
So, last year, marketers started using LinkedIn’s non-platform native video to reach a wide audience in their own network organically. I think the combination of that increase in usage, as well as all of the other platforms that are seeing high levels of engagement with video, led to LinkedIn announcing video ads will be fully available in the first half of 2018, to all users. So, I think we are still a few months away. I think the last we had seen was Q2.
But just to give some background – So, in October of last year, they announced that they were testing video ads. They had a beta out with a limited number of advertisers with this plan in place to roll out the first half of 2018. Some of those beta users were Prudential Financial as well as Microsoft Canada so certainly big brands and, with those big brands, big budgets, which is also something to keep in mind.
So, anyway, we’re excited to see this roll out in Q2 of 2018. I mean, ultimately, as is the case with everything, testing is gonna be key here to determine performance. But we’re chomping at the bit to see those video ads released in 2018.
Just as an FYI, they will be available through the LinkedIn Campaign Manager and offer the same targeting, budgeting, and reporting tool options as all of the other ad entities.
Melissa Piccinich: I think it’s really interesting that LinkedIn is finally jumping on the bandwagon with video ads, and I think marketers across all industries are really embracing the future of video ads primarily because there’s so much that you can do to connect with your prospective target in a video when you’re appealing to multiple sense versus just a singular visual element.
But what is really interesting about LinkedIn is, stepping back to kind of what Ross mentioned in Instagram about using testimonials, I personally think that testimonials are an interesting way to position video ads on LinkedIn. And I see that many of you, who are attending today, are in the EDU vertical. And it would be very interesting to see how that could be positioned as you’re trying to entice more adult students to get their master’s or their doctorate because now, you’re actually hearing from someone who’s giving that personal testimonial and you can connect with them on a different level.
So, I’m very eager to see how LinkedIn continues to position the future of its video ads, and I think that in multiple verticals, you’re gonna be seeing a lot more come from them in that space. What do you think, Ross?
Ross Bucholc: Yeah, just to add on to that, I think it’s gonna be really interesting to see how videos resonate on LinkedIn, and again, I think it is – I mean, obviously, they’re testing and there are betas, but mainly, it’s in response to seeing Facebook videos resonating there, Instagram videos really working there as well. And the reason I say it’s interesting is because we’re talking about a different demographic. So, is it that video resonates with the younger generations that do skew more towards Instagram? Is it right for this audience? And again, I ultimately don’t know.
It’ll be testing and finding out whether or not it resonates, but that’s just an interesting question I guess I have in the back of my head as to whether or not we’ll see the same success with video that we’ve seen on some of these other platforms with LinkedIn, just knowing that the audience is so different.
Melissa Piccinich: Absolutely, absolutely. And I think, kind of transitioning, you see Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn – LinkedIn a little bit later than the rest of the game – but all three of those giants are trying to do more to reinvent their platforms and add more features. And I think that the one tool that’s kind of standing out as not making as many advances as quickly is the friends. Everyone has the friend that they forget is in the background. So, I’m gonna take this opportunity to transition and let Ross tell you a little bit more about what’s going on with one of the oldest social media platforms that we know of, Twitter.
Ross Bucholc: Yeah, so the steady friend a.k.a. red-headed stepchild, Twitter, is bringing up the rear both literally and figuratively. So, I’ll start with some fun facts about Twitter. And to be perfectly honest, I love Twitter as a platform. I love using Twitter. It’s probably my favorite social media platform, actually. The one thing I could say, personally, is that I’ve never clicked an ad on Twitter in my entire life, and I’ve probably had it since inception.
So, anyway, getting back to the fun facts here. As of the end of last year, this service averaged 330 million monthly active users so super, super high. Thirty-three percent of marketers cite Twitter as their preferred social network, so I guess I fall within that 33 percent.
And another fun fact, which I kinda found surprising, is ad cost has been steadily increasing over the last two years due to more marketers slowly taking advantage of the platform. I’d say if they are taking advantage of the platform, it is certainly slowly. And just generally speaking, I’d say it’s pretty underutilized for advertising. So maybe whereas, though the costs are rising there, you’re still looking at costs potentially lower than some of the other channels just because, ultimately, competition is what’s gonna dictate costs no matter what paid media channel we’re talking about.
And generally speaking, Twitter has a pretty negative stigma attached to it, so ultimately – as is the case with all of this stuff – I know I already kinda rained on the parade of lead ads on Facebook, but ultimately, our recommendation is to test and find out because just because I’m saying it, doesn’t mean that it should be taken in stone. I’ve been wrong before. It’s very, very infrequent but every once in a while. And ultimately, your business or your school may have a different audience than some of the audiences that I’ve tested these channels with, so ultimately, no matter how negative I am, I guess, about an aspect of one of the channels, you never know until you test and look at that conversion data and find out what your ultimate CPA is for that data.
Melissa Piccinich: That’s an excellent point, and from the marketing standpoint, I think, unfortunately, a lot of marketers are guilty of the bandwagon approach with Twitter in that someone says, “Oh, by the way, X, Y, and Z are on Twitter. We should be also.” And I think if you’re not taking enough time to really analyze the user base of Twitter and you’re blanketing similar ad copy and utility from other platforms and just hoping it’s going to work similarly on Twitter, you’re already starting behind because keep in mind, Twitter – and I’ll bring this up again because I was shocked at this stat – 79 percent of Twitter users are outside of the US.
So, you really want to first analyze the platform and analyze your audience before diving into advertising. And I think that Twitter’s still kind of treated as one of the originals, so it’s easy to assume that what works on one channel will also work with Twitter. But I think some of the nuances of Twitter are very important to consider early on. And hopefully, if that trend begins to increase among marketers, we can see some better progressions with Twitter as a system.
But I do know that Twitter finally did launch something pretty new for advertisers. So, Ross, what is the new thing going on with Twitter now?
Ross Bucholc: Right. So, maybe it’s Promote Mode that ultimately gets advertisers spending there and spending efficiently. So, Twitter Promote Mode grows your influence by automatically amplifying your message to a larger interested audience for a flat monthly fee. So, as you can see there, this “always on” solution is $99.00 a month, which I was stunned to hear how cheap it is, really. I mean, ultimately in the grand scheme of a monthly budget for paid media, $99.00, hopefully, is a drop in the bucket. So, for that reason, I think that just kinda further speaks to the importance of testing and finding out whether or not it’s working.
But anyway. So, what exactly it is is instead of managing individual Twitter ads, campaigns yourself, Promote Mode automates the promotion of your tweets and your account. So, you can access the dashboard in the Twitter app just like you can for everything else on your mobile device or on desktop.
Some things to consider about Promote Mode are it’s good to know that you can see your promoted reach is displayed along side your organic activity as well. So, right up front, it’s pretty much showing you what additional traffic you’re getting as a result of leveraging Promote Mode. And again, I think the biggest benefit here is it’s 99 bucks a month. It’s super cheap. If it doesn’t end up working, it’s $100.00. So, that was the what’s new with Twitter and what we found to ultimately be most interesting to promote for what’s new.
Melissa Piccinich: So, let’s hope that Twitter continues to try to catch up to what the progressions are of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. But overall – and this is where I love to just let Ross shine – what are your ultimate recommendations for just diving into paid social from any angle, no matter what the platform?
Ross Bucholc: Yeah. So, let’s wrap this up with some recommendations. So, I started this off, I think, talking a lot about this but defining your marketing objectives and conversion goals. I mean, yes, there are many, many secondary metrics that lead to your ultimate conversion, but you should be setting up goals around the ultimate conversion and working towards that. So, one important factor there is knowing what the ultimate conversion is, of course, and then backing out from that to where is the best platform to find people that are likely to convert.
And really, what that comes down to, I feel like, is targeting. So, again, I’ve already harped on it a little bit already, but I think most importantly is knowing who your target audience is. So, leverage your historic data. Every single new client we have, the first thing we ask about is historic data. We use that, again, to find these platforms that we think are gonna work best. We use that to define geos, and ultimately, I should add that we use that data to also determine areas where we shouldn’t be.
So, in the example of geos, a lot of times if we’re talking about an education client with a school, they’ll give us lead data for the past few years and, ideally, enrollment data as well. So, when we throw all of that enrollment and lead data on a map, of course, we’re looking for areas that drove high rates of enrollment and using those as our geo targets. 
But also, on the flip side, when you look at these maps, you see these pockets where a lot of leads are pouring in at a really efficient CPL, and on the front end, you’re thinking this is a great city or state or zip for us. But ultimately on the back end, if they’re not resulting in enrollments, you’re wasting your money. And you have this false belief that you’re doing really well in a particular area because you’re getting those leads and at a great CPL. But ultimately, if it’s not resulting in the conversion that you’re looking for, it should probably be added as a negative location to your program.
So, those types of things are really what we use to start off a program like this and make sure that we’re up and running most efficiently from the start instead of the flip side of having to learn this as we go. So, stress using historic data for both one and two – clearly defining your marketing objectives and conversion goals but also for your proper targeting.
I think that kinda rolls perfectly into the next point there. Pay attention to the elements and test your ads. So, while you’re developing this audience and, really, this persona that you’re going after using all of the data outlined in those first two bullets, you can then further leverage that down the line when you’re ready to launch to write effective ad copy. So, knowing that audience and that persona will also help you write headlines, use graphics that fit your audience properly, write better ad copy, and then link to a landing page that ultimately carries all of that messaging through to the landing page.
And also, while we’re on that note, I mean, test as well. I think that’s kind of a no-brainer, but we love testing here, both ad copy and landing pages. You should be testing regularly. Again, getting back to Facebook leads one last time, I’ve seen it not work for many, many, many, many clients. But then there’s that one where it did work well. And I think a lot of it had to do with how their call centers are set up and how they work the leads and stressing keeping their admissions team busy and that they see these leads pouring in. Even if there are a lot of unqualified leads, it keeps them working the phone and keeps them motivated.
So, test, like I said, ad copy. Test different headlines. Test different imagery and ad copy. The one thing I would stress, though, is don’t be testing too many elements at the same time. So, if you start rolling out different headlines and graphics, you’re not gonna know whether it’s the headline or the graphic, ultimately, that’s driving the lift in performance. So, while we recommend regular testing, try and temper your testing to one element of the ad at a time.
Next up, I feel like is another no-brainer – retargeting. So, someone’s hit your homepage. Someone’s submitted a lead. We need to be remarketing or retargeting to these users that you’ve already invested money in to get them familiar with your brand and to your page or to submit a lead and ultimately not end up converting. So, whatever channel – and I honestly recommend all when it comes to remarketing and retargeting – hit them from every angle.
I mean, we don’t have anything in here about email but same thing. Get them through paid search. Customer match on Google and the Gmail ads via Customer Match on Google. Hit them with an email and retarget and remarket to them via these social networks as well. Really, there’s no wrong channel, I feel like, to remarket or retarget to a user on.
And then finally, know when to hire an expert. So, if all of this has been very overwhelming to you or maybe you didn’t understand a lot of what I was just talking through, that’s great for me because, ultimately, that means you need to come talk to us and hire us. So, on that note, I’ll hand it back to Melissa.
Melissa Piccinich: I think it’s great that Ross reminds all of us to touch on that we may have not mentioned email here, but social is just one part of the process as is email. So, in order to really understand your user journey, often someone is not just clicking in one place and immediately converting and becoming a sale. And we really believe, here, in last-click attribution and understanding exactly how someone journeys to become a conversion, to become a sale with your brand. And that means using paid social, using organic social, using email targeting, and really understanding what your full approach is. And I’m so happy that he reminds us all of that.
So, we do have a few minutes remaining, so I just wanted to let everyone know that I have some questions here that I want us to address. If by any chance I don’t get to everyone’s questions, we will be reaching out to anyone who does not have their question answered now via email because I am an equal opportunist and wanna make sure everyone is getting the information they need from us.
So, starting with the first question I have that came in – and I can sense a little bit of trepidation in this one, so I wanted to make sure we got this question answered. Regarding Facebook – and it’s kind of a two-part question – So, one, if I invested most of my time in posting organic content, what are my first steps in modifying my approach based on the new algorithm that you described?
Ross Bucholc: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s pretty sure, just do organic better. I mean, look, I’m not inferring that everyone out here is not doing it well, but ultimately, the whole purpose of this update, at least from Facebook’s end – and I always take it with a grain of salt because I feel like every update – Facebook, Google – any of these things make is to make more money for them.
And I guess that’s a pretty negative way to look at updates, but Facebook’s saying that this is to better the user experience, which of course, would then keep users on Facebook for longer. So, knowing that and with that, like they said, I mean, make your stuff more engaging to keep those users on Facebook longer.
So, I don’t think, by any means, clients or businesses should be looking to just totally drop organic and run with their money out to paid. I mean, keep trying to make organic work. You’ve very likely invested a lot of time and effort into it, and maybe it wasn’t all the way right and it’s small tweaks that can make it all the way right. But be one of those 86 percent of advertisers on Facebook that are doing both organic and paid.
But at the very least, yeah, try and make organic work first. And then ultimately, as a result of this algorithm update if you’re not seeing what you were seeing previously or determine that it’s not “working,” then yeah, then look to boost or potentially roll into paid.
Melissa Piccinich: Okay. So, if someone’s prepared to fully roll into paid on Facebook for the first time, what are some of the best practices that we recommend, that we’re using with our clients now that are advertising on Facebook in any way?
Ross Bucholc: Yeah. I mean, I hate to beat a dead horse here, but it’s just using historic data. The most successful campaigns from the launch – We leverage historic data to build a look-a-like and go after users that are similar to the users that have already converted for you in the past. So, yeah, it’s all about the data.
Melissa Piccinich: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. So, we’re gonna switch gears a little bit. I’m really interested in this question because I wasn’t prepared for it. So, LinkedIn – in your opinion since LinkedIn is clearly kind of playing catch up to the other giants, what are some of the areas within LinkedIn that have the highest potential for traction within paid media?
Ross Bucholc: Yeah, so I think the answer to that question is it depends. And I hate to be wishy-washy, but really, it depends on what your goals are. So, there are a lot of different offerings on LinkedIn. They have the InMail, which is practically an email offering. Text ads would be the one where I’d say I don’t think you’re gonna get much out of it, but test it and maybe you will. I think some of the best areas for opportunity on LinkedIn are, yeah, just testing image ads. We’ll see what happens when this video stuff comes out. And again, just knowing the audience that’s on LinkedIn and whether or not it’s gonna be a fit for you moving forward.
Another thing, just as a quick side note, that is really interesting – Of course, you can target businesses on LinkedIn, so if a client or a school knows that they get a lot of customers or students from a particular business or they have a good partnership with them, that’s another area where we’ve seen some success there is targeting actual business people in a particular location.
Melissa Piccinich: That actually flows really well into the next question. So, the question I have here is related to audience segments. So, this attendee wanted you to define a little bit more “look-a-like” audiences. But I’m also gonna have you add what should marketers be targeting. Should people just be targeting by state or in understanding look-a-like audiences, does that mean where your customers live or does it go far beyond that in the world of paid social?
Ross Bucholc: Okay, yeah, so I think we’re talking about two different things. So, the look-a-like is what Facebook determines based on email addresses and all other information that you upload around conversion data. So, the more, the merrier there, as a side note, so it doesn’t just have to be email addresses, names, addresses, all that good stuff. And then Facebook’s using all of that data to go out and find similar users.
In regards to the other part of that question with the geos, here at DMS, we’re never recommending a national campaign, a state campaign, or a city campaign. We’re zips all the way. It’s by far the most efficient way to target in regards to geos. I’ve previously mentioned that scenario where you think an area’s working really well because there are a lot of leads coming in, but ultimately when you look on the back end at the ultimate conversion and you see none, you find out that you had a loser on your hands. And there are those “losers” or pockets within each of the aforementioned national, state, city radius targeting.
There’s always that other side of 8 Mile that doesn’t really fit your demographic within each of those. So, even if it is one square mile, that’s one square mile’s worth of spend and daily budget that you’re throwing away as a result of being lazy. I mean, for lack of a better word, really, it’s certainly easy enough to, at the zip code level, go through and set your geo targeting. So, whenever that’s a possibility to use zip code targeting on a channel, I highly, highly, highly recommend it. And like I said, you’ll never hear us come out with a recommendation that is not zip code targeting.
Melissa Piccinich: That’s great. I love when you’re so specific. I can often never get Ross to change his mind once he is resolute –
Ross Bucholc: – To a fault.
Melissa Piccinich: – on giving a recommendation. So, listen to him in that if you’re casting your net too wide, the number of the leads you are getting is never going to really match the quality, so really consider changing your approach to apply zip code targeting versus more of the state- and city-wide targeting.
And this question is – It may be our last question, but I feel like most marketers are thinking about it because of the recent popularity and changes. But video ads are now everywhere and we heard that in your presentation. So, if someone is interested in doing more in video ads, whether it’s on Facebook or Instagram, what are your recommendations for video ads? Are there any key elements of a video ad that you’ve seen working more than others?
Ross Bucholc: Yeah, I think I started to touch on this when we were talking about The Gram, possibly. But yeah, so our ideal videos or what we’ve seen work best have been testimonials, like I mentioned, with multiple real consumers or students so people that match your actual audience, giving the testimonials. With those testimonials, I think they tend to resonate more if you actually have a name tied to that person. And if they’re from a particular area that you’re looking to target, throw in their city and state that they’re from. 
Okay, so in short, open with a focus on your brand. Throughout the 15-second video, a few testimonials with subtitles showing what exactly the person is saying. Close with the brand. And potentially, as you fade out, maybe a logo or something like that. But keep things interesting and engaging. It’s easy to lose interest, and I think that’s what switching through multiple testimonials does. You’re only getting two, three seconds of one person and then it’s on to the next one. And I think that helps keep people watching the video for the entire 15 seconds.
Melissa Piccinich: Ross, I know that Facebook owns Instagram, so do you recommend that video ads be used identically on both channels because of that reason?
Ross Bucholc: I don’t know. I think you need to test because, ultimately, we’re talking about Instagram being, for lack of a better word, a little more artsy-fartsy, so I think you could get away with, on Facebook, being a little more boring, for lack of a better word, and not being as outside of the box so more buttoned up, I guess. And then, as you roll onto Instagram, I think you need to step up the artsy-fartsy-ness a little bit more to make sure you are –
I mean, that’s why people are staying on Instagram for longer and engaging longer than all of the other channels. It’s because it’s stuff on there that interests them and keeps them on Instagram for longer. So, knowing that, make sure whatever you’re doing on Instagram is doing the same.
Melissa Piccinich: And if the term artsy-fartsy doesn’t get you in the romantic mood, I don’t know what will. So, we are over our time for today. I just wanna thank everyone again for joining us in our webinar. If you have any additional questions about paid social or paid media in general, please reach out to us at [email protected] 
And if you are as enamored with our paid media director as we are here, Ross has an awesome blog coming out today about the marriage of keywords and ad copy to make it all work. And I think that understanding keyword and ad copy and the relationship those two things have, that works in all elements of paid media and not just paid social. But it’s a great place for you to start. We hope to see you again very, very soon and thank you again for joining us with How to Avoid Marketing Heartbreak – A Guide to the Pay-to-Play Approach of Social Media Giants.
Ross Bucholc: Bye, all.

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Digital Media Solutions

Founded by a team of lifelong athletes, Digital Media Solutions (DMS) is an industry leader in providing end-to-end customer acquisition solutions that help clients win in their business ventures and realize their marketing goals. The company’s set of proprietary assets and capabilities in the world of performance marketing and marketing technology allow clients to meticulously target and acquire the right customers. DMS relentlessly pursues flawless execution for top brands within highly complex and competitive industries including mortgage, education, insurance, consumer brands, careers and automotive.

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