North Wales Management School - Wrexham University

The importance of social media advertising

Posted on: March 7, 2022
Close up of hands using a smartphone with icons of likes hovering above to indicate social media use

If a business needs to reach a new target audience quickly, advertising on social media is one of the most effective ways to do so. It’s one of the cheapest, too.

Think about the cool kitchen gadget you bought after seeing an advert on Facebook, or the clothes you impulse-bought after seeing ads on Instagram. You saw those online ads because you’re among their products’ target demographic – and clearly, the advertising strategy worked.

This is because social media adverts make good use of the personal data we give apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to show us brands, products and services that we’re most likely to want or enjoy. And in terms of pricing, social media adverts will cost a business less than more traditional methods like print advertising, radio advertising, or outdoor advertising such as billboards.

Why advertising is important

If a business has something to sell, they will need to advertise. Potential customers or clients can’t buy a product or service if they don’t know it exists.

Plus, advertising plays an important role in building brand awareness and can even help a business to retain existing customers. 

In an increasingly online world, digital advertising should be a fundamental strand of an organisation’s marketing strategy to ensure they remain competitive in their market – and stand out.

Online advertising formats 

Online ads can take many forms. For example, a digital ad campaign could include:

  • Google Ads: Advertisers bid to display their ads in Google search results and on websites, mobile apps, and videos, and pay for this service under a pay-per-click (PPC) pricing model. They’re essentially a form of pull advertising, and grant advertisers access to display ads on the Google Display Network (GDN), a collection of more than two million websites that reach more than 90% of the world’s internet users.
  • Display ads: If Google Ads are a form of pull advertising, display ads are a form of push advertising, with advertisers typically paying on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis to attract people to their sites or other digital platforms. For example, a visually appealing banner ad may be displayed in search results to entice users to the advertiser’s landing page where they’ll be encouraged to take some sort of action, such as making a purchase.
  • Pop-up ads: Pop-ups are a well-known form of online advertising. They typically involve a small window of text and/or graphics popping up in the foreground of the webpage you’re viewing. A business can pay to display an advert on a relevant website – for example, a travel agent may want to display a pop-up advert on a travel blog – or more commonly, you’ll see these on the brand’s website as a way to help convert browsers into buyers.

There are a lot of options for online advertising, whether it be on other websites, within search results, or between video clips. This is because many digital businesses generate their revenue through selling advertising, subscriptions, or both.

For example, an online newspaper may sell monthly subscriptions so users can access news content, or they’ll sell advertising so that their readership can access the content for free. And some will do a mixture of both, perhaps offering exclusive content to subscribers and then earning money on their freely available news by selling advertising on those pages.

Social media advertising options

A brand’s advertising strategy should almost definitely include social media advertising – what better way to ensure an advert is seen than displaying it on the mobile phones of a target customer base?

Like online advertising more generally, there are different types of social media advertising. Ads can be purchased directly from social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or TikTok, or a business can hire an advertising agency to do this on their behalf. There are also various products on the market that will automate the process. 

As part of the process, ads can be created to focus on reaching specific target audiences. For example, a business may want to target a particular age group, gender, or region. Customisable options in social media ads mean they can be set to target both wide and narrow specifications – whether that’s everyone in the United Kingdom, or a certain age bracket in one particular area.

Businesses could also solicit endorsements or ‘advertorials’ from popular social media influencers. An influencer with a lot of online clout in fashion could help to sell clothing. This influencer might receive some products free of charge, and would then wear and talk about the clothing to their followers online. 

However, it’s worth noting that this is an evolving form of advertising, and the Advertising Standards Authority has recently published advice about the topic of social media ads.

One guide to how different generations use social media says that if a business wants to reach a Gen Z audience, TikTok is a good bet – and an advert will need to be in the form of a short video clip. Meanwhile, to target Gen X, Facebook is likely the most appropriate platform.

As for costs, the price will vary depending on a number of factors, including the social media platform used, the target audience, and the industry a business is in. 

Keep on top of social media advertising

As social media grows and changes, so too does social media advertising. You can stay ahead of the curve with North Wales Management School’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) Marketing, which is ideal for working professionals looking to enhance their career prospects with a deeper understanding of marketing.

Whether you already work in the advertising industry or you’re looking to make a change, the flexible MBA degree is 100% online, and you can study any time, anywhere, and on any device.