Social media can be a tricky beast to master – its ever-evolving nature means that yesterday’s hot growth hacks are today’s hot air. Luckily, there are some evergreen best practices that always perform because they’re based on the central pillars of the medium’s mechanics or are concepts that weather the storm of changes.
Here are the five we suggest you keep returning to as your guide whenever you get lost in the staggering array of options available to you.
1. Use Your Pixel
This is a data war – and you need the right tools for the job. You need to understand your audience – both from a targeting perspective but also in how you judge their value and the success of your marketing efforts.
Many of the platforms employ some form of audience tracking and attribution – even newer mediums with fresher commercial offerings are quickly offering a more mature set of tools to better understand the impact of your advertising. Tiktok recently expanded its pixel to enable multi-session tracking, bringing it in line with Facebook.
And Facebook is still the gold standard of audience tracking with the Facebook Pixel. This tool allows you to capture the profiles of audiences that visit your site for retargeting. You can also use those profiles to build Lookalike audiences so you can reach similar potential customers that share common traits with your current buyers, noticing and building on common connections far beyond the ability of human insight.
It’s not just targeting that’s enhanced through the pixel though. This tool also allows you to follow those that engage with your adverts so you better understand whether your messaging led to a meaningful conversion on your website, such as add-to-cart, purchase or a newsletter sign-up. The pixel is able to understand the behaviour of its users beyond the abilities of Google Analytics and so gives you a more accurate appreciation of the effectiveness of your social advertising to help argue for budgets or appraise its real value.
iOS 14 changes have hurt the performance of the pixel but it still remains a strong part of your arsenal for improving paid performance.
2. Test Creatives Often
Staying on iOS 14 – you may have heard a little something on the provocatively named ‘cookie apocalypse’. Recent changes on Apple devices have made it more difficult for this powerful pixel to take as much information from you as it used to, which slightly hampers targeting. What this does achieve though is to emphasise the real greatest ad performance differentiator – your creative.
For years, a large number of social media buyers have been masking the impact of bad creative with the marginal gains from good targeting, supported by the ability of your social channels to hand hold you through that.
With the impact of targeting diminished a little, that means we’re going to start to see more radical differences in the performance of good creative practice and bad.
Get in early and start truly learning about the impact of good headlines, good copy, good calls to action and good visuals. You should be aiming to have three ad variations for each delivery – utilising tools like Facebook’s text variation to dynamically test all your combinations to learn what works best. Regularly aim to then rotate out your worst-performing creative to have a system that reduces burn and allows the kind of creative iteration that keeps messaging fresh.
Use your design resource and trial vertical, square, landscape – trial video, animation, UGC. The only way to truly find out what your audience best responds to is to iterate, innovate and continually experiment.
3. Use Broad Targeting
This is going to feel a little counterintuitive but stick with me on this one. Social media has built its reputation on ultra-specific targeting – being able to narrow down your potential audience to a very granular level to best find those people who are most likely to purchase from you. So why would you take that away?
Simply put – because it’s better at it than you are. The algorithms in most of the main social media platforms are now so proficient that you’re more likely to get in the way than help support. Machine learning is now much faster than you and has access to more points of information to be able to notice the micro-connections and similarities between your ideal audiences – to the point that all you need to do is point it at the right information, rather than have to help it learn how to process it.
There are some caveats. The first is that it needs to understand the right criteria for success – so if you’ve a campaign based on a low/early signal such as website traffic or reach – the algorithm won’t have enough to really qualify what the right audience is for you. You want it to track a more meaningful action – such as add-to-cart or purchase.
The second is that it needs to be able to build enough data to execute this properly – too little data to work from and it won’t have enough to build connections and learn correctly. To this degree, if you’re only set to spend a small amount on your advertising, you’ll need to assist it more and be more specific. The more money you spend, the more data the algorithm will have to work through, the more accurate it will be.
Generally though, we commonly see the best return on investment on e-commerce activity comes from broad targeting with as few qualifiers as possible (age or location restrictions) and set against a meaningful and high quality action, such as a purchase.
4. Diversify Your Channels
I’m sure you’ve had this moment. You’ve had some high performing ads that have been returning nicely for you – reaching the right people and converting at an effective rate. Suddenly a platform change throws all your results, or an account gets banned without cause or your market becomes more active and prices start fluctuating wildly. You’re in a tough position because all your incoming traffic and purchases are driven from that one channel.
Just like investing, it’s important to diversify to reduce risk and to spread your returns to keep a steady and more secure pipeline – but there’s also the chance that you could be receiving even greater returns from other channels that aren’t as widely used.
A great many DTC or eCommerce companies are having huge success on discovery platforms powered by vertical video such as TikTok and Snapchat and enjoying the benefits from early trialling. You should keep an eye on where your audience is spending their time, whether they’re making sharp shifts on to alternate platforms and if there’s an opportunity to take advantage of the very cheap audiences on offer from these emerging markets.
The most commonly used advertising platforms for social media are Facebook and Instagram – you should consider whether Snapchat, Tiktok, Pinterest, Twitter or Youtube could also be a strong channel for you to deliver both awareness and sales.
5. User Generated Content
We mentioned UGC earlier and this ties in with diversifying your channels. If you are going to use these vertical video native apps – or even if you want to test more creative on Instagram – you’re likely to come across user generated content as a way to deliver messaging to your audiences.
The term is used to cover the practice of acquiring content from your audience but is also now used to cover the creative aesthetic of some of the advertising. It means to intentionally make your advertising look more native to the app you’re delivering it into or to use the creators and personalities native to it. By applying the style of the users who shoot their own footage, often in selfie style and direct to camera – you’re less likely to receive that rebound effect of people dismissing commercial content and feeling sold to.
Facebook’s Brand Collabs manager and TIkTok’s Creator Marketplace give you access to people who know the app, know the audience, know the trends and are apt at turning around content requests quickly to help support your UGC approach if you’re keen to take a step forward.
This is especially important for a platform like TikTok which has a more unique inner culture that tends to quickly adapt and change. With trends changing by the week, it’s difficult for brands to stay relevant without spending every day on the platform – this is where these creator platforms prove their value and worth.
If you’re looking for support and a high performing paid social strategy, you can reach out firstname.lastname@example.org or use our contact form here.