Marketing | 10 MIN READ

How to Advertise on Social Media: The Complete Guide

Advertising on social media is a huge industry in itself, and the spend grows with each passing month. Social media platforms themselves are constantly changing and evolving, not only in terms of the websites and apps, but in the way that advertisers can use them. There’s always another new, innovative social media platform just around the corner, so it’s really worth getting up to speed on what’s going on with the current Big Five. After all, if you want to advertise on social, you need to know which platform fits your needs the best.

Facebook image


The social network with over a billion users started to monetise through advertising back in 2005, but no one could have predicted the current levels of success. The results smashed the projections for the second quarter, and as a result share prices shot up. But why is Facebook so successful?

That’s mainly down to the fact that it’s constantly evolving, staying at the cutting edge of technology, and giving the advertisers what they want. What started as a fairly basic native advertising system has now become one of the most complex, flexible, yet simple to use ad platforms available.

First, there’s the sheer number of options. Anything from a sponsored post to an ad on the sidebar. You can upload images, use a carousel system for multiple offers, or make the most of the video capability. Then there’s the more advanced features they’ve been adding recently, like 360 photos and videos, and also live streams. They’re even going to start selling inventory within live streams, so ads will show in the middle of the live videos, just like a more traditional ad break.

Then there’s the analytics and programmatic system. It’s amazingly complex behind the scenes, but also incredibly user friendly. If you run a campaign, you can be hyper specific with your targeting. Someone actually managed to target his roommate with a really specific personal ad, but of course you can choose a wider demographic and display your ad to millions. There’s also the option to post to a wider network outside of the Facebook site, if you want even more exposure. Then, when your campaign is running you get access to the analytics. With this you can get a more general overview, or you can drill down into things like gender, age groups and location to see how your ad is performing with specific audiences.

If you have any interest in advertising on social media, Facebook is a great place to start. With its massive audience, easy-to-use platform, solid analytics and wide variety of options, Facebook is great for any advertiser regardless of the aim of the campaign or the intended audience. However, the one slight weakness is that it isn’t as great for business to business advertising. It was built specifically as a personal social network, so if you want to advertise to other businesses, it’s worth exploring other options.

Will it work for you?

It really depends what you’re aiming for. Pushing an ad campaign on Facebook is guaranteed to result in increased traffic, but it’s the quality of traffic that’s the vital thing here. Here at BannerFlow, we experimented with some sponsored content and Facebook ads, and managed to grow our traffic and increase engagement. In terms of actual conversions, it was relatively low, but this was to be expected as we are a business to business company. Facebook marketing for us is more about brand awareness.

Whether it will work for you is another matter. You can guarantee increased traffic, but whether it converts depends on what you’re offering, and what counts as a conversion for you. If you’re targeting the public, and you’re a clothing brand or a ticket seller, then Facebook is a great advertising tool, and should offer you a great return on investment (ROI). If you’re a business to business company, or have a niche product, the ROI may well be very low. The key is to try with a small budget first, and track performance. If it works, scale it up. If not, try something else.

Twitter image


Whereas Facebook is surpassing all expectations, Twitter is struggling a little. Growth stalled in early 2016, and some are even expecting the revenues to fall. This follows a tough year overall for the platform, with Twitter still trying to figure out how best to deal with abuse, along with user levels stalling.

Twitter have been keen to identify the causes of the issues, and have started to take a more hard-line approach with abusers, but what about the advertising? As a platform, it has 313 million monthly active users, so the size of the audience isn’t the problem. You can post videos, pictures, and gifs too, so the ads themselves can accommodate quite a lot in terms of creativity. They appear as standard tweets as well, so in terms of user experience, the ads don’t interrupt anything. However, the simple fact is that companies aren’t seeing enough of an ROI.

There are so many possible reasons for this. First is that the ads simply don’t stand out that much, and can get lost in the user’s timeline. They may ‘view’ it, as in scroll past, but might not ever actually see it. Also, the targeting and analytics weren’t as strong as on Facebook, although that’s something they’re constantly working on.

There’s also the fact that you’re relatively limited in what you can expect from a Twitter user. It’s unlikely that they’re going to buy anything directly from a tweet, so you need to either guide them to a website, or simply use the platform for a different type of advertising, namely gaining followers/awareness. For this purpose, it can be really effective, and from there you can build a highly engaged group of followers.

Spotify are great on Twitter, and a fine example of how to really get the most out of the platform with a less direct form of advertising. Their focus is simply engaging their audience. This creates a lot of good will, and people are then more likely to tell friends about the positive experience, so they still get the exposure without spending a huge chunk of their advertising budget.

If you want to use Twitter for advertising, think about how it fits with your brand or company. Are you looking to connect with people on an individual basis? Do you want to spread awareness of your brand? Then it could be the right fit for you.

Will it work for you?

Even though spend on Twitter advertising is stalling, it’s still incredibly popular. Again, BannerFlow had a sponsored campaign on Twitter, and the reach was incredible. The ads got in front of over 2 million people, and 11,000 were actually engaged.

Impressions can be a little misleading though. The ad was served to over 2 million timelines, but there’s no way to tell with people saw it or idly scrolled by. On the other hand, it was great at getting the BannerFlow brand out there, and we grew our follower count. So the ROI was poor in terms of lead generation, but in terms of brand awareness it was good.

Whether it will work for you is all down to the aim of your campaign. If you just want engagement and to increase awareness of your own business, Twitter will work for you. If you’re looking to actually convert users into customers, there are better options out there.

Linkedin image


LinkedIn, like Facebook, is having some real success in its social media advertising strategy. The revenue from ads rose 29% in the first quarter of this year, and now sits at at over $150 million. Also like Facebook, the platform for advertisers is full of options, and extremely clever. They’ve recently started to allow video content too.

The options in terms of ad placement are fairly standard, as you can either advertise to the right with a more traditional banner type ad, or you can sponsor posts and updates which will appear in the user’s feed. The latter are proving to be really successful, and certainly responsible in part for the big uptake in revenues.

The programmatic system on LinkedIn is fantastic too, allowing for really specific targeting. Here’s where the platform starts to deviate from Facebook a little more too, as you can get more specific with job roles and work related interests, as this is the kind of personal info that LinkedIn is based on.

Earlier we mentioned that Facebook wasn’t quite as effective in terms of business to business advertising, and this is exactly where LinkedIn excels. The entire social network is based around your work profile and professional network, so if you want to target a specific industry or job role with one of your ads, all you need to do is select that option.

LinkedIn advertising looks like it’s going from strength to strength, and it’s not really in direct competition with any of the other social networks as it’s a bit of a different beast. If you’re looking to do some business to business advertising, LinkedIn is absolutely the way to go.

Will it work for you?

If you’re marketing business to business, LinkedIn is a great option. Here at BannerFlow we sell business to business, and using this social media platform was by far the most effective way to reach and engage our audience. The number of leads generated is consistently higher than any of the other platforms we use, and although the cost per conversion is relatively high, we’re also building our follower base and growing our brand recognition with each passing campaign.

Fundamentally, if you’re going business to business, LinkedIn is almost certainly the right choice for you. You just need to get your target audience right.

Instagram image


Owned by Facebook, Instagram has also been a huge hit with advertisers all over the world. With access to more than 500 million engaged users, it’s easy to see why. The photography based social network has given advertisers a great variety of options on how to set up their campaigns to, with image, video and also carousel type ads.

A quick look at the case studies shows what kinds of brands are using it, and the results they’re seeing. The ads themselves are native, of course, and usually have a simple call to action along with the image or video. The key with advertising on Instagram is to create a beautiful, compelling ad, that stands out in the feed.

The only real drawback is that you are quite limited as to what you can do with your ad, compared to something like Facebook, so it probably works best as a supporting social media advertising strategy, rather than using it as your sole avenue to reach your audience. It’s great for personal engagement though, so if you think you have something that fits, it’s definitely worth a try.

Will it work for you?

Instagram invariably works best for food and fashion websites. Anything where the image is fundamental to the product also works well on this platform. It’s also great for more general engagement, and giving people more of a ‘behind the scenes’ peek at your company, if you’re not really trying to sell anything through there.

We use Instagram precisely for this purpose. Instead of trying to sell our product there, which wouldn’t work as it’s SaaS (software as a service), we post photos from around the office, and of our events. It still engages the audience, and gets our brand out there, but we don’t allocate any budget to Instagram as the ROI for us would be so low.

If you have a product that really suits visual advertising, Instagram can serve as a great place to advertise, but should probably still be as an addition to your main marketing strategy.

SnapChat image


Now we come to the new kid on the block. With over 100 million daily users, the potential audience is huge, if not quite as big as some of the others. The age demographic is ideal though, as a majority of these users are in the 18-24 bracket, who are notoriously difficult to reach.

There are a number of ways to advertise here too, from geographically targeted snaps to sponsored ‘lenses’ (things like the ubiquitous face swap), so you need to think how this would suit your own brand. Take Gatorade as an example. They created their very own lens, which imitated the famous Gatorade Dunk, where at the end of a sports game the drink gets poured over the head of the coach. It was massive, and was seen over 165 million times.

This is a platform for brands to show their fun, more human side. It just takes one great idea to generate amazing levels of engagement, which surpasses most other platforms as it’s so direct and interactive. It’s just a case of whether this fits in with the aim of your ad campaign. If it does, it’s a great place to advertise, as it’s still relatively novel and unsaturated, and the audience is engaged.

The only real difficulty with Snapchat at the moment is measuring ROI, but that’s something the company are working on with their ‘Snapchat to Store’ product, which will be launched in the future.

Will it work for you?

This is more difficult to predict. We haven’t really explored this platform yet, and neither have many other brands. The ones that have been using it do have a clear strategy, and have been seeing great results. It’s clear that there’s huge potential there, and most of it is still untapped as brands are figuring it out.

It’s clear already that with the right idea, you can get huge amounts of people to engage with your brand. Whether it can convert this into leads and sales remains to be seen, to an extent, but it’s certainly a platform worth looking into if you want to get your brand name out there, particularly to the under 25s.


Advertising on social media is going from strength to strength. Every platform is constantly evolving, such as Bannerflow, and updating their systems to make everything easier and more efficient for the advertisers. They’re all, apart from Twitter, experiencing massive growth too. The question for you really isn’t whether to incorporate social media advertising into your strategy, but rather which option to go for, and that really depends on your goals. Have a look at what fits in best with the rest of your display ad strategy, and analyse your intended audience. Once you’ve done the research, it should be clear which options to go for, and from there you can kick start your social media advertising campaigns, and reach a whole new demographic.


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