The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Paid Social Media Ads – Part 2

This is part two of a series for people just beginning with social media ads. If you missed the first part and you’re just getting started with social ads, I encourage you to go back and check that out first.


There are several different social media ad types on the various platforms. In this article we will cover the major ones you most likely will utilize as a beginner:

single image ads, carousel ads & video/slideshow ads.

Also, for the purposes of this beginner’s guide, we’re going to assume that you are not split testing anything in your ads as this article is more focused on simply what your choices are when creating an ad.

Standard/Single Image ads

Platform Availability: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram

These are the most common social media ads consisting of one image, one set of copy and one link to an external URL.

These are no longer the ideal format in terms of engagement, but they are good when you have just a simple message to get across and you want to get it live in a hurry.

Even though the example image about was a Facebook image ad, these are available on all platforms.

Carousel Ads

Platform Availability: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest & Twitter (less common)

These types of ads can have up to ten different ‘cards’ with their own images and links under one set of ad copy. You can also use separate videos for your carousel ads on certain platforms like Instagram but you will need to make sure you are using the right balance of video content if you do this or you will overwhelm your viewer.

Also, be aware that even though Facebook allows up to ten cards on their carousel ads, certain social media marketing software, such as Adespresso, will only give you a maximum of five card options instead of all ten.

These ads are great for engagement, storytelling, listing a series of features or benefits and pushing people to either separate or the same external URL. They are also ideal for saving budget and not competing with yourself for the ad space in the ads auction.

For example, if a marketer for a training company, has five classes in June, she wouldn’t want to make five separate ads for each class as that would be a lot of ad spend and each of those ads would not only compete in the auction space with other companies but also with itself.

Unless she needs specific audience targeting (e.g.: one class is about engineering while another is about basket weaving, etc) she instead would make one carousel ad using one card for each class that directs people to that specific course page on the website.

Video Ads/Slideshow Ads

Platform Availability: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest (less common)

This ad format is similar to the standard/single image ads except instead of a still image, this uses either a video or a slideshow.

Note: technically, slideshow ads are a bit different but since the basic function is the same, we will group this in here.  

The biggest thing to note in terms of doing a video or slideshow ad is that for best results – and to even to be allowed to be placed on certain platforms at all – your videos MUST be short.

The maximum video length can be no longer than 120 seconds for most platforms but for best results, your video should never be longer than 5 – 15 seconds. If you have a video longer than that, best practice is to put it on YouTube and push people there with an external link in a different ad type.

A basic rule of thumb is that nearly no one will watch a video on the internet that is longer than 4 minutes – even on YouTube.  No one is trying to watch your shaky cam epic saga on the internet.

Recommended video formats are .mp4 and .mov. for most platforms but you’ll definitely want to refer to the specific platform’s specifications before you make your video ad.

Other Social Media Ad Types Available:

Aside from those listed, there are other ad types to try out. Some of them are as follows:

  • Instagram & Facebook Stories ads
  • Instagram & Facebook Stories video ads
  • Facebook Lead Ads
  • Pinterest Rich Pins
  • Facebook Boosted Posts

For further details on each ad type, you can simply Google them and get details.

Also, you will note that LinkedIn is not included in this list or anywhere else in this article. This is due to the fact that LinkedIn ad formats are usually not recommended by anyone due to the extremely high CPC (cost per click) and CPM (cost per mille – the cost per 1000 views) on LinkedIn and the poor returns that LinkedIn’s ‘InMail’ usually receives.

No one wants your spam emails (InMail) or your tiny little ads on LinkedIn, especially at what those people are charging. Paid LinkedIn ads are usually not recommended by most social media marketers – especially me. They might work for some people but I’ve worked in several different industries (yes, including high ticket B2B) and I’ve never seen one example where it would be my go to.

Which Channel Should I Use For My Ad?

This part will help you get a better idea as to when to use which social media platform for your ad. This information is based on results I’ve seen personally from doing social ads for years and general best practices.  

Facebook:

This is your bread and butter channel. Nearly 100% of all paid social advertising will either be strictly Facebook or will have some type of facebook component. When you place a Facebook ad, depending on your ad format, you also get placements on Instagram and the Facebook Audience network (similar to Google Display advertising only using facebook’s partner network of sites and apps instead of Google’s).

This channel is right for nearly 100% of ads.

Twitter:

Great for impressions but not so much for clicks/engagement. If you have an awareness campaign or something to just put out for general awareness, twitter may be a channel you want to consider. Also, with Twitter’s character count limit, your messaging on this channel should be as short as possible

Instagram (only) & Pinterest:

Instagram and Pinterest skews to a far much younger demographic and there are more women on these channels the others. They are highly engaged and are far more informal than an audience you’d find on other channels. If you have a message with striking visuals or imagery, Instagram and Pinterest are the way to go for general awareness.

Since these channels are by nature designed for creating awareness and keeping people on their platforms, these are best for awareness campaigns but not designed to push people to external links.

The Bottom Line

In the next installment, we’ll have the conclusion to this guide. That will deal with paid vs. organic social media and when to use either and it will briefly touch on ad targeting options and techniques.

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