Social Media Advertising Explained - Everything You Need to Know About Social Media Ads
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Social Media Advertising Explained - Everything You Need to Know About Social Media Ads

Laura Burducel
Laura Burducel

Table of Contents

When it comes to digital marketing, social media platforms are the key. Besides presenting your products through organic posts, sometimes you have to admit they need a little push.

Developing social media ad campaigns can help your brand’s sales skyrocket. Since your business’ progress is your main goal, you need to try out every strategy to succeed.

Social media advertising is one of the most influential and quickest ways to reach a new, targeted audience.

We are going to show you everything you need to know about social media advertising to improve your marketing game. Let’s dive in!

Social media advertising in a nutshell

  1. Why run social media ads?
  2. How to establish your social media ads’ goals
  3. Facebook advertising
  4. Instagram advertising
  5. Twitter advertising
  6. LinkedIn advertising
  7. YouTube advertising
  8. TikTok advertising
  9. 5 tips for improving your social media advertising
  10. The benefits of social media advertising
  11. Organic social media vs. paid social media

1. Why run social media ads?

Many marketers who are at the beginning of their careers may be wondering why they should use ads when they can attract customers through the free content they create.

Even if this is a legit question, through ads campaigns you will have the chance to reach a wider audience who will probably turn into prospective clients.

Overtime, organic reach has declined, compared to paid ads. That is why, your brand and products could increase brand awareness when they appear in users’ feeds more often.

Social media ads are a great way to speed up your organic presence. Organic content and paid content should be friends, not enemies. Think of how social advertising can supplement and boost your organic content.

Then consider which are the social media platforms that attract more leads and invest in ads campaigns there to empower your brand’s growth.

2. How to establish your social media ads’ goals

When posting ads on social media, it is clear that the main goal is to increase sales. However, depending on your business’ objectives, you may have other adjacent missions to fulfill.

Every social media channel offers you the chance to increase your goals through ads. The main types of goals which suit any ads campaign, disregarding the platforms, are the following:

  • Generating leads - Through ads on social media you direct traffic to your website and transform your leads into prospective clients.
  • Raise conversion - You can increase the number of sales if you invite people to visit your website.
  • Increase brand awareness - More and more users will learn about your brand if your ads on social media will be innovative enough to make them all stare.

3. Facebook advertising

With 2.93 billion monthly active users, Facebook is by far the most popular social media platform and the oldest one among the frequently used, giving marketers the opportunity to reach anyone virtually.

This is a photo of facebook-monthly-active-users

Apart from its vast audience, Facebook is heavily visual, which is basically the go-to reason for choosing a platform to place your media ads.

However, in the last months, engagement and reach on Facebook have decreased. Still, marketers continue to invest in social media ads on this platform.


Facebook is that it is popular across diverse demographics - from teenagers to parents, almost anyone has an active Facebook account.

This is a picture of facebook-advertising-audience-profile

Socialinsider’s latest social media ads study revealed how Facebook advertising is priced. The average cost per click, also known as CPC, for Facebook ads is $0.49.

Click-through rate, also known as CTR, is a strong indicator of how likely you’ll get the results wanted from a social media ad campaign, and Facebook still has the highest CTR of 3.06% on average, as our study suggested.

  • Facebook ad formats

Facebook ads come in a great variety. You can promote your page, your posts, or your website.

This is an image of facebook-reach

This social media platform offers several ad formats:

  • Image ads are the basic type of Facebook ad and can be used in multiple ad types, aspect ratios, and placements. Although they’re convenient because they can be easy to create and are a great choice for almost any stage of your funnel, images are also limiting, as you only have one shot to spread your message across.
  • Video ads drive high engagement and can be used by any company that wants to connect with their audiences. However, Facebook video ads are harder to make and require more resources than images.
  • Slideshow ads are a combination of three to 10 images or a single video that plays in a slideshow. They’re an excellent option for those who don’t feel comfortable with making videos, but still want to transmit a greater message.
  • Stories ads are placed in Facebook stories and can be displayed as ad images, videos, or carousels. However, Facebook ads reach more people when shared in the feed, but they’re still a good option to experiment with.
  • Instant Experience ads are fullscreen experiences that open after someone taps your ad on a mobile device.
  • Carousel ads are a selection of images and videos, each with its own headline, description, and link, which are posted in bulk. These are a great choice if you want to present a range of products from the same collection.
  • Collection ads feature multiple products and opens as an Instant Experience ad. These work best if you have a big online shop.

4. Instagram advertising

Instagram has 1,44 billion monthly active users, being the 4th most active social media platform. This is the online place where all youngsters find out about their favorite brands’ campaigns.

This is a picture of instagram-advertising-audience-profile

According to Instagram, 90% percent of Instagram users follow at least one business on the platform, and 50% percent declare that their interest in a business rises when they see their social ads on Instagram.

As one of the most visual social platforms out there, Instagram users consume content in large quantities. And this is just one of the reasons why Instagram is ideal for placing media ads.

As a heavy image and video orientated platform, sellers who manage to incorporate visuals into their social media ads perform better on this platform.


Instagram's user base is mostly formed of millennials, Gen Zs, Gen Xers, and most popular among females and minorities.


Like in Facebook's case, you can target your ideal viewer by choosing between several targeting options, such as demographics, life events, interests, behaviors, and connections.

The before-mentioned Socialinsider study shows that with Instagram it’s best to place your ads on the feed, which is the preferred placement for brands’ Instagram ads.


  • Instagram ad formats

Instagram ads mirror Facebook ads types, namely photo, video, carousel, and collection.

This is a picture of instagram-advertising-reach

You can create social media ads for Instagram Feed, Instagram Stories, and even Reels.

  • Images are the most common type of Instagram ad and can appear in the square, landscape, or vertical format.
  • Videos can appear in the square or landscape format (except for Instagram Stories) and are a great option if you want to get creative with your ads.
  • Carousels can be displayed in the square format or vertical format on feed and Stories and allows brands to showcase multiple images or videos in one single ad.
  • Instagram Stories can support the same media you use in other placements but it’s recommended to use a fullscreen vertical asset in Stories ads.
  • Instagram Shop are ads displayed as single-images, carousels, or collection formats.

5. Twitter advertising

With more than ​​486.0 million monthly active users worldwide, Twitter still remains one of the leading social networks worldwide.

Twitter is an effective marketing platform, especially for breaking news, and serves as a channel to connect its users with niche and mainstream influencers.

This is an image of twitter-daily-active-users

This social media channel offers a variety of attractive social media ads options. Mainly, Twitter ads are used to grow brand awareness and promote products for direct conversion.


Since Twitter is the social network that allows its users to share 280-character messages (called Tweets), the most common Twitter ads you'll see on the platform are cards that have under 100 characters and display rich media.

Brands can create paid social media ads on Twitter in two different ways:

  • Twitter Promote tells the Twitter algorithm to promote your Tweets to a specific audience. It also promotes your account to attract new followers, but only if you pass the Twitter quality filter. You can choose interests or location, but you can't choose which Tweets to promote.
  • Twitter Ad Campaigns can help you set business objectives. You can either promote current organic Tweets or create new ones, specifically as Twitter ads.
  • Twitter ad formats

Just like Facebook and Instagram, Twitter can support a variety of ad formats:

  • Image ads allow brands to showcase their product/service with a single photo.
  • Video ads can drive people to a website, app, or simply to engage with your brand’s message.
  • Carousel ads give advertisers up to six swipeable images or videos to showcase multiple products or promotions in the same ad.
  • Moment ads allow you to create a collection of Tweets to tell an engaging story that goes beyond the default 280 characters.
  • Text ads are simple content pieces that allow you to expand the reach of your Tweets beyond your followers to your desired target audience.

6. LinkedIn advertising

With over 849,6 million members in over 200 countries worldwide and more than 57 million company users, LinkedIn is more than a social network for hiring and recruiting.

This is an image of linkedin-advertising-audience-profile

LinkedIn managed to stand out from the crowd due to its professional nature. Unlike other social platforms, people come to LinkedIn for one thing: to connect and grow a professional network.

This is an image of linkedin-advertising-reach

This social platform offers advertising solutions for those looking to reach a corporate audience with B2B marketing.


  • LinkedIn ad formats

There are three types of social media ads on LinkedIn:

  • Sponsored content appears on users' feeds with the scope of getting it in front of a bigger audience. Sponsored advertising content on LinkedIn can be images, videos, or carousel ads. LinkedIn recommends using shorter headlines, larger images, and clear CTAs to get better engagement.
  • Sponsored InMail is a sponsored message that goes directly to users' LinkedIn inboxes. These messages are received only when a user is active, so make sure to create compelling messages that your audience would connect with.
  • Text ads are small ad units showcased at the top and the right of the LinkedIn desktop feed. You can also add thumbnail images of 50x50 pixels.

7. YouTube advertising

With 2.47 billion users worldwide, YouTube is undeniably the biggest video social platform out there.

This is a picture of youtube-advertising-audience

With YouTube ads, you can reach potential customers and have them take action when they watch or search for videos on the platform.

  • YouTube ad formats

Below are the main types of social ads on YouTube:

  • Skippable in-stream ads automatically pop up before, during, or after other videos on YouTube. Users have the opportunity to skip these ads after 5 seconds, but the recommended video length is usually 30 seconds. About 76% of viewers skip those ads by default, so make sure you get your message across during those first non-skippable 5 seconds of the ad.
  • Non-skippable in-stream ads will play either at the beginning, mid-point, or end of a video and are usually 15 seconds long. These social media ads can't be skipped, so make sure you make the best out of them or pair them with great audio in case your viewer is looking away.
  • Video discovery ads appear on the right-hand sidebar, next to related YouTube videos on desktop, or on the mobile homepage. These YouTube ads usually have catchy thumbnails and short descriptions inviting people to watch the video.
  • Non-video ads are YouTube ads options for marketers who don't have a budget for video ads. These appear either on the right-hand sidebar (with an image and a short text) or floating on top of a monetized YouTube video.

This is a picture of youtube-global-advertising-audience

8. TikTok advertising

TikTok is one of the newest social platforms, with more than 1 billion monthly active users. It offers many creative opportunities for social media advertising due to its increased popularity.

This is a picture of tiktok-advertising-audience-profile

TikTok is a great advertising opportunity for brands relevant to the young community that want to experiment with fun and creative content on their platform.


  • TikTok ad formats

This social media network offers the following forms of paid ads:

  • In-feed images or videos show up on a users' "For You" page and look like regular user-generated content. They are usually 9 seconds long and include the brand's profile name and a CTA button.
  • Brand takeovers are large-format ads that appear when a user opens TikTok but are limited to one advertiser per day.
  • Hashtag challenges are campaigns that create viral content by uploading videos with dances or challenges, encouraging users to replicate them on their page.
  • Branded lenses allow brands to create different filters that TikTok users can add to their content, similar to Instagram and Snapchat.
  • Custom influencer packages are paid partnerships between brands and trending TikTokers who create sponsored content on their page.

This is a photo of tiktok-advertising-audience

9. 5 tips for improving your social media advertising

Now that we've walked through the most popular platforms' advertising options, it's time to discuss some tips for improving your social media advertising strategy.

Here are 5 tips that could help you change your marketing strategy:

  • Establish your brand’s goals

If you want to go places, it is hard to do it without a map and a destination. Fix your goals and make up a step-by-step plan.

Otherwise, it's hard to achieve your goals if you haven’t set ones.

Before starting your social media advertising journey, make sure to understand your business values to be able to establish objectives that are in accordance with its ideology.

By doing that, you will choose the right social network for your brand to advertise on.

  • Learn about your target audience

Every marketer knows that each social media platform has specific audience considerations to look upon before starting advertising.

Every platform offers specific ad targeting.

Knowing your target audience and understanding its needs is one of the key steps to taking your social media ads campaigns to the next level.

Understand who your buyer persona is, what are their preferences, when are they more active on social media and what are their main interests.

This way, you will know exactly what strategy to apply to make them fall in love with your products and services, finding them indispensable.

  • Get insights from your organic content

Organic content has helped your brand flourish so far, but now it’s time to do more.

When designing your paid content, it is important to follow the patterns you used for your organic posts. This way, you will make sure your audience will recognize your style and will be more tempted to click the ad.

If you change the way you market your products, organic vs paid content, users will notice and they generally like consistency.

In case video content worked better for your brand when using organic posts, then it is time to use to implement video ads.

Depending on the social media platform you use for advertising, you may need to implement different types of ads.

Be careful what your audience on every social media channel likes and try to satisfy their needs differently.

Focus on the organic content that resonates best with your audience because these posts make the best candidates for social ads.

  • Test your social media ads

Social media advertising is not easy. It's a challenging process that requires a lot of research, but also trial and error situations until you figure out what works best for you.

Being patient and determined will really help. Trust us.

First, it is better if you test your ads on social media. The good part about marketing advertising campaigns is that you get instant feedback.

That will help you learn what works and what doesn’t for your brand. You can track the effectiveness of your paid social media campaigns with an analytics tool, like Socialinsider.

One of the best practices is to test several social media ad formats with small audiences and see which ones perform better.

  • Measure your social media ads results and report on them

After you are done with all the sweating and the hard work, it is time to look at the results.

Tracking your social ads results on a regular basis and reporting on them is just as important as knowing your business goals.

This way, you will know if you acquired your goal and learn what you can do to improve your campaign in the future.Measuring the results of your social media paid ads and see what value they bring to your business is essential for measuring your social media ROI.

10. The benefits of social media advertising

When you struggle a lot to reach your goal, you wouldn’t want to learn that you have wasted your money.

Investing in ads on social media is an incredible idea if you learn to do it properly. Otherwise, if the results obtained are not the ones you have expected, then you need to reassess your technique.

Since every marketer is keen on learning about the benefits of ads campaigns before starting, maybe this list below will help you.

  • Ads are not disruptive - More often than not, social media ads and organic posts look just the same. This way, they won’t disrupt users’ activity on social media. Ads on social platforms need to be discreet, without flashing colorful price tags in their audience’ face.
    Otherwise, the results won’t be the ones expected at the end of the ads campaign.
  • They come in different formats - The great advantage about them is that they exist in a variety of formats, depending on the type of content you like to create most and the social media platform you are promoting it.
  • Ads allow you to target your audience - All social media users tend to share data about their preferences in the online world. That is why you granular targeting is available when developing ads campaigns.
  • They raise brand awareness - Following the pattern of organic posts, but being more powerful, ads on social media reach more people. That is how they manage to increase brand awareness, since more and more people learn about your brand.
  • Ads increase engagement - An effective ad campaign can increase a lot of social metrics, and one of the most important ones is engagement. More users will be able to interact with your ads, since they will appear in more feeds.
  • They are cost-effective - With the money spent on your ads campaigns on social media you can also target your competitor’s audience, having even a larger audience yourself.

11. Organic social media vs. paid social media

Most marketers learn that the first difference between organic social media and paid social media is that the second one requires an amount of money.

However, not everything boils down to money. The important thing here is to make things work for your brand so that you increase brand awareness, raise engagement, have a bigger audience, generate leads and sales.

We think that organic vs. paid social media are interdependent. If you have great organic content that has already brought you amazing results, you just have to boost them through an ad campaign to increase your metrics even more.

The lucky combo for any brand would be organic AND paid social media marketing to boost your chances to reach your goals.

When you find a pattern in your organic posts that already attracts your followers, it is better if you preserve it for your paid campaign as well. Your audience likes consistency because your brand will be easy to recognize.

Advantages for organic content

Organic content helps you establish strong connections with your community, provides longer-lasting results, helps you determine your brand personality and voice and drives traffic to your website.

Advantages for paid content

Paid content increases brand awareness, engagement and reach, offers you faster results, helps you boost organic content, offers social media analytics and allows you to target your audience.

When it comes to these two types of social media content, it is best for you to learn how to combine both of them to obtain top results and greater progress.

Final thoughts

Social media advertising has become a matter of "when" not "if" for brands.

If you want to deliver consistent, scalable, quality leads and customers, you need to start thinking of your media advertising strategy.

Whether we like it or not, organic content doesn't offer marketers the guarantee that it will reach the target audience.

But social advertising does.

With this beginner's guide, I hope I have given you a better idea of what media ads are, what the main advertising channels offer, and some tips on how to improve your social advertising strategy.

Laura Burducel

Laura Burducel

Content Writer @Socialinsider

I may not be the best writer, but I'm a constant writer. A focused learner born to tell stories to win over readers' hearts.

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