social media ads for ecommerce

Introduction To Social Media Ads For Ecommerce Brands

AJ Saunders profile picture

By on 22 Feb 23 | Filed: Social Media

I'm a former ecommerce founder turned growth agency owner. When not helping our clients grow, I enjoy automating my home, dogs, and architecture.

An ocean of new customers lives on social media. And while it might be harder than ever to reach them organically, you can run adverts. In this introduction to social media ads for ecommerce brands, we’ll cover the basics to get you started.


As we’ve previously covered the basics of organic social media marketing, it’s worth looking at advertising options on these platforms. Most of our ecommerce clients benefit from having a social media marketing plan that blends organic and paid tactics.


If you haven’t run an advert on Facebook or don’t know you can buy sponsor pins on Pinterest, this article will help you. You might have tried running paid social campaigns before and didn’t get the results you wanted. Don’t worry, we have a few tips for you as well.



What’s Paid Social?

Every time you log on to any social media platform, you’ll see multiple ads. Facebook has them, as does TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, et al. It’s how they keep the lights on and maintain a free-to-use service.


These ads can be a cost-effective way to reach new customers, increase brand awareness, and interact with your current followers. Typically, you’ll pay per interaction (i.e. clicking on a button to visit a web page or sending the brand a message) or per 1,000 impressions.


You can start testing paid social from as little as $1 per day and scale from there. Like any other marketing channel, it’s all about test and measure.



Why Use Social Media Ads For Ecommerce?

We’re using social media more than ever. Many don’t venture outside of Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube when looking for information online; unless they really have to.


Many ecommerce brands, especially those selling direct to consumers (D2C), throw a lot of their marketing budget into paid social to generate revenue over pay-per-click or SEO. 


There are many reasons to use social media ads for your ecommerce brand, such as they are highly targeted, easy to scale depending on the budget, and can help grow a brand’s organic followers.


It all sounds great so far. But there are a few things to be mindful of.



Common Mistakes Many Brands Make With Paid Social

By far, the two biggest mistakes brands make are not setting KPIs and a strategy before testing the waters. Instead, they go all in on paid social and wonder where the money went for the poor results they got.


You can’t spend your way to profitable customers. However, you can spend your way out of business! We’ve seen this more times than we care to count!


It doesn’t matter if you have $1 or $1,000 to spend on social ads per day, you need a plan and KPIs to measure if it’s an effective use of your cash. 


It can be as simple as knowing the profit margin on a particular item as this becomes your maximum budget. You can then set up limits to ensure you don’t exceed this amount and make a loss.


You might have a comprehensive ecommerce marketing plan and budget that allows you to spend an amount on social media across paid and organic tactics. Again, you’ll be operating on an assumption of how much the return will be (commonly known as the Return On Ad Spend or ROAS).


So be smart, put a plan in place, and measure your results. Using this data, you can tweak your campaigns to ensure they produce a healthy ROAS.



What Platforms Can You Advertise On?

There are a ton of social platforms that all offer some sort of advertising option. The major social networks are:



If you’re going to incorporate paid social into your marketing mix, it’s critical you go where your ideal customer hangs out.


For example, if you want to target divorced women in their 60s, Facebook or YouTube will be your best option. They aren’t on TikTok or Reddit, so you’d waste your budget if you decided to run adverts on these platforms.


If you’re trying to reach 20-somethings who are in fashion and drinking, TikTok and Snapchat will be your best bet. Most of this demographic aren’t using Facebook or Twitter much, preferring to endlessly scroll on TikTok.


If you’re unsure what platform to use and can’t hire an agency, either ask your current clients what social networks they use or run a series of test campaigns, each with a $10 budget.


Meta Adverts (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp)

Facebook ads dashboard paid social


With 1.6 billion people active on Facebook and Instagram, you can easily reach new customers with Meta advertising. They offer several types of advertising options that help you reach your goals.


Meta allows you to target a really narrow group of people or everyone in a certain location. So, it’s as broad or focused as you want. 


If you set the targeting to narrow, the platform will encourage you to go a little broader. Usually, you can ignore this as Meta wants you to spend more money with them and not convert the small group of people who are excited by your products.


You can run various image or video ad types and use Canva (images) or (product videos) to build your creative assets.



There are plenty of options to promote your ecommerce brand on Facebook, including:



The options for ads on Instagram might be simpler but are just as effective. You can place ads in the feed and in stories.



In some countries, Meta has started to experiment with ads in WhatsApp. And while it’s early days, for us marketers, it’s an exciting development.



Twitter Adverts

twitter ads manager paid social


Hundreds of millions of people across the globe are active on Twitter. It’s a completely different beast from Meta. Many Twitter users aren’t active on Facebook, so it’s worth including the platform in your paid social campaigns.


There are a few kinds of ads on Twitter, including Promoted Ads, Follower Ads, and Trend Takeover. Having these different types of ads allow you to reach different goals.


Many think of Twitter as being only a text-based platform. However, you can run image and video creatives. We encourage brands to try different types of media as they can help to stop the user from scrolling, creating a greater chance of interaction.



TikTok Adverts

TIKTOK Campaign paid social


Not a day goes by without someone mentioning TikTok ads. Many brands have moved there, ditching Meta and Twitter in the process. So, it’s worth considering how to add TikTok to your paid social strategy.


TikTok offers three types of ecommerce specific adverts: Video Shopping Ads, Catalog Listing Ads, and LIVE Shopping Ads. These are superb for driving revenue.


On top of these ecommerce ad types, you can use the TikTok Promote tool to grow your following and reach more people. As with other social networks, you don’t need a large following to drive revenue using adverts.


The best TikTok creatives are short, fun, and engaging. They don’t overly promote a product. Instead, they use a story that encourages viewers to explore the product in more detail by clicking through to your ecommerce store.



Pinterest Adverts

Pinterest ad paid social


Pinterest might not be as sexy as TikTok, but it has a user base of over 400 million people. Users collect and share images, making it ideal for many ecommerce brands. Pinterest advertising has a lot of options specifically for driving online product sales.


What’s great about Pinterest is they blend adverts into the feed, so they don’t completely disrupt the user. Instead, they provide a more immersive experience.


Pinterest allows you to promote your brand using image or video ads. So you can test different creatives and see which ad type helps you reach your goal.



YouTube Adverts

youtube ads paid social


YouTube is both a social platform and the world’s second-biggest search engine. And while technically, you could argue it fits under the general PPC banner, it’s worth considering it as its own advertising platform.


YouTube offers several types of video ads, including:


Compared to other social platforms, YouTube ads are highly affordable and effective for many ecommerce brands. Again, we encourage our clients to test YouTube ads and see if they can drive more revenue using them.



Snapchat Adverts

snapchat business manager paid social


If you’re trying to reach a younger demographic, Snapchat is an excellent place to advertise. Snapchat ads are 10-second full-screen vertical videos that show up in between watching friends’ stories. People can swipe up to interact with your ad.


You, as the advertiser, can set the swipe up to link to a website, have them watch a longer video, read an article, or install an app. To run ads on Snapchat, you need a budget of at least $5 per day. Unlike other platforms that charge per action, you pay per 1,000 views.


There’s a built-in editor that makes creating video ads easy. Of course, you could use Shopify and Snapchat work in partnership making it easy for shop owners to advertise on the platform.



Should You Work With An Agency Or Freelancer To Run Paid Social Campaigns?

While we are an ecommerce marketing agency that offers social media advertising, organic social media, and many other services, our best advice is to start by testing some ideas yourself with a small budget.


You’ll learn the basics that will properly prepare you for working with a freelance ads manager or agency.


Of course, you won’t have the experience or knowledge an agency or freelancer offers. But it’s critical you understand how paid social works before deciding to invest in it. You can’t hand over a bag of money and expect miracles!


You should be able to find an affordable freelancer on Upwork or LinkedIn, who can help you set up or tweak campaigns and ensure you gather enough data to know if paid social is profitable for your ecommerce brand.


Agencies are superb if you need to buy a package of services, such as marketing strategyemail, and social (organic and paid). They will provide you with a comprehensive joined-up plan and then execute on it.



Organic vs Paid Social: Which Is Better?

Many ecommerce founders get stuck in the trap of believing it’s a matter of organic vs paid social. To compete in today’s market, you need both. They each help you achieve a different goal.


Organic social is a great way to keep connected with customers. You might see a small amount of growth each month. However, it’s great for awareness.


Paid social allows you to reach new customers, remind previous website visitors of your products, and reconnect with followers who might have missed seeing a post or two.


So rather than seeing it as a battle between them, it’s best to understand how they work together to ensure you can reach as many people in your target market as possible.


It’s also worth considering how paid and organic social works with SEO to provide a joined up marketing experience.



Measuring The Impact Of Your Social Advertising Campaigns

I’m a big believer in picking between 1 and 3 metrics (or KPIs) to measure and define what success looks like before spending a cent. Most ecommerce founders don’t start with a clear goal and end up confused, having spent thousands.


There are 101 metrics you could measure, including:


If you’re starting with $100, you’ll need to be smart with how you define success. You could need 5 new customers, each spending an average of $150 for the campaign to be profitable. However, gaining 100 new followers for $100 could be a successful campaign.


By having clarity on how and what to measure, you’ll be quickly able to tell if it’s money well spent or not. You won’t get to the end and wonder what happened. 


Once you have an assumption, it’s worth testing it and seeing if market conditions match your expectations. Just, don’t measure every metric you can!



Where To Start With Social Media Ads For Ecommerce Brands?

Before you spend a cent on social media ads for your ecommerce brand, ask your customers where they spend time online. From there, pick one platform to spend money on to promote your ecommerce brand.


Don’t start running ads with an unlimited budget or without targeting the right demographics. Instead, try $5 or $10 per day and give yourself $100 to play with. Test different ideas and see what results you can get.


It’s far better to blow $100 on paid social and learn what not to do than make a $10,000 mistake because you didn’t set a limit or believed a flashy sales pitch. Again, marketing is test and measure!


As you learn more about paid social tactics, you can either run them in-house, use a freelancer, or hire an ecommerce marketing agency.

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