The Only Paid Social Guide You Need + Expert Tips

Josh Pheneger

Seven in ten Americans will log into a social media platform today, with the average user accessing nearly 7 social media platforms every month.

As organic social reach has become frustrating, marketers turn to paid social to get their desired reach. With billions of dollars invested in paid social ads, the social media advertising ecosystem is buzzing with opportunities. 

This guide explores paid social advertising, what it is, why it’s important, and breaks down each social advertising platform so you can see what opportunities are available.

📈 Paid social by the numbers 📉

    • US social ad spending grew by at least 20% almost every year since 2008.
    • US social ad spending is projected to reach $82.23 billion by 2025. 
    • YoY growth is slower for every platform except Meta. The US digital ad market will have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.0% through 2025, while social’s CAGR is expected to be 7.5%.
    • In 2023, social video will account for most social ad spending.
    • Social video ads will reach $34.95 billion this year

Source: eMarketer: Q2 2023 Paid Social Forecast and Trends

Table of Contents

Advertisers use paid social to increase followers, engagements, clicks, and views through precise audience targeting based on demographic, location, interests, and more.

🤔 How does paid social complement an organic social strategy?
“When done well, paid social media advertising can definitely boost the engagement your business receives. Sponsored posts can lead to new followers who can then be nurtured through the business’s organic content. An effective content strategy uses both paid and organic content to build trust, break into a variety of demographics, and establish consistency in the viewers’ minds. The more they see the product, the more likely they are to make a purchase over time.”
–Sarah Lasko, Freelance Social Media Strategist 

Understanding audience behavior and personas is key to creating targeted campaigns and content appealing to your audience, which can increase engagement and brand awareness. 

Also, an audience analysis can help you identify common behavior patterns so you can determine what time your target audience is most active, what content they engage with the most, and what devices they use.

Audience-First Paid Social Media Advertising

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Why Paid Social Advertising?

Organic social posts can only take you so far, with only 0.07% of a page’s fans engaging with the average organic post.

Paid social can complement your organic social media efforts, boosting your posts to target audiences beyond your usual reach, as around 4.48 billion people use social media daily.

Here are a few more benefits of paid social advertising:

1. Deeper Audience Insights

Social media reporting helps you identify key insights about your audience’s demographics, interests, and behaviors. 

All social platforms have built-in metrics, and some social media schedulers, like Buffer, take it a step further by including more information, allowing you to compare results across channels. 

Meta Business Suite will show you

  • Your ad account’s cross-platform spend.
  • Post engagement for organic and boosted posts, including likes and comments.
  • Demographic and geographic summaries of people who like your page and follow your Instagram business profile. 
  • The overall performance of your Facebook and Instagram accounts, like reach trends.

This way, you can see how your paid and organic posts perform so you can refine your targeting strategies, invest in the platforms that work best for your business, and tailor your content to match. 

2. Better Audience Targeting

With social ads, you can target very specific audiences to match your customer profiles. 

Example: Suppose you run a fashion boutique specializing in trendy streetwear for young adults. With paid social ads, you can target individuals aged 18-30, living in urban areas, and interested in fashion, streetwear, and urban culture.

Rather than casting a wide net and hoping to attract customers, paid social advertising enables you to narrow your targeting and focus on those most likely to engage with your brand. These filters can lead to more specific messaging so you not only reach a large audience, but you reach a large audience most likely to engage with your brand.

👀 Take a look at how specific you can target with Meta Business Suite.

3. Extended Audience Reach

Organic reach is limited, and with tricky social media algorithms changing constantly, paid social guarantees you’ll reach the audiences you set up to target.

This also means you can reach audiences who don’t normally see your posts, further increasing your odds of attracting potential customers. 

Consider that two-thirds of consumers use social media as a part of their shopping strategy, and around a third of shoppers turn to social media influencers to learn about products. Using paid social allows you to tap into these consumer behaviors and position your brand in front of new audiences ready to purchase.

What Are the Best Platforms for Paid Social Media Advertising?

There’s no right answer to this since it’s not about what network is “best.” Different social media networks attract different demographics, and it’s all about knowing your target audience, where they hang out, and how to reach them. 

When determining the best platform for your social media advertising, consider your campaign goals in addition to your target audience. If you want to target homebuyers (typically between the ages of 35-44), advertising on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube makes sense. 

Or, if you’re promoting beauty products for older women, your campaign goal might be to increase brand awareness and engagement, and Facebook and Instagram would be smart platforms to leverage. 

The best platform is the one that yields the best results for your business, increasing the odds of engagement, conversions, and sales. Then, you can launch a paid social strategy that targets the right people at the right time.

Choosing the right campaign for your business is difficult, so we’re breaking it down platform by platform to show you the pros and cons of each. 

Data-first marketing should drive your paid social strategy because you can use it to make informed decisions based on real insights and measure your progress with real goals. 

As you research each platform, align your goals with your target audience. 

Example: If your goal is to increase brand awareness among young professionals, platforms like LinkedIn and Instagram may be better suited due to how popular they are among this demographic. 

1. Meta: Facebook Advertising

Facebook remains the largest social media platform among consumers and marketers and accounts for most of Meta’s ad revenue compared to Instagram (58% to 41.5% of $121.9 billion).

Although Gen Z flocked to TikTok, Meta is still projected to have 71.3% of the paid social spending market by 2025, compared to the 18.1% TikTok will have.

Also, Meta rolled out Advantage+ Shopping Campaigns (ASC+), which continues to intrigue advertisers. ASC+ uses machine learning to help advertisers reach valuable audiences in less setup time. 

Facebook Advertising Pros:

  1. Facebook has a massive user base (2.99 billion), allowing you to reach a large and diverse audience.
  2. Facebook offers various ad formats for creative and engaging advertisements, including images, videos, carousels, and slideshows.
  3. Facebook provides very detailed insights and analytics about ad performance, helping you measure the effectiveness of your campaigns and make data-driven decisions.
  4.  As Meta owns Facebook and Instagram, you can easily extend your advertising reach to Instagram users through Meta’s ad platform.

Facebook Advertising Cons:

  1. With numerous advertisers competing for users’ attention, the Facebook platform can become saturated, making it challenging to stand out.
  2. Facebook has faced privacy controversies, which may affect users’ trust and willingness to engage with ads on the platform.
  3. As more businesses utilize Facebook advertising, the competition can drive up the cost of ads, making it more expensive to reach your target audience.
  4. Facebook regularly updates its algorithms, which can impact the organic reach of your posts and the effectiveness of your advertising campaigns.

⚡ eMarketer predicts four straight years of modest advertising growth for Facebook, growing at a 3.5% compound annual growth rate through 2025.

2: Meta: Instagram Advertising

Millennials used to dominate Instagram, but recently, the demographic flipped to mostly Gen-Zers, though both generations account for two-thirds of their base.

Also, Meta doubled down on its Reels strategy to compete with TikTok, which is paying off. Carousel ad interactions fell 41.5% in 2022, while Reel ads interactions rose 92.4%.

As it revamps its social shopping strategy, Instagram is slowly becoming an e-commerce hub. 

Instagram Advertising Pros:

  1. The best platform for e-commerce because of its multiple shopping functionalities, including Buy buttons, Instagram checkout, product tags, and shoppable posts. 
  2. Instagram is a visually-oriented platform, perfect for showcasing e-commerce products.
  3. Many influencers utilize Instagram, providing another great opportunity for brands to advertise. 
  4. As Meta owns Instagram, advertisers can use Facebook’s advertising tools and data to optimize Instagram campaigns.

Instagram Advertising Cons:

  1. The CTA can be hard to spot.
  2. The only clickable link available is in the bio section or through paid advertising features like Instagram Shopping or Stories Swipe-Up, which may restrict the direct traffic-driving capabilities of ads.

✨ Shoppable Instagram Reels offer a new way to get discovered. ✨

As short-form videos take off, Instagram Reels offer a way to showcase your products. Instagram Reels are now shoppable, which means businesses can tag the product with a purchase link. 

3: TikTok Advertising

Despite talks of bans, advertisers are still cheerful about TikTok, as spending was up 11% YoY in March.

TikTok also introduced Smart Performance Campaigns, an end-to-end automation campaign similar to Facebook’s ASC+. Tinuiti found these to be 26% more efficient for brands on a CPA (cost per acquisition) basis.

Also, TikTok Shop offers an e-commerce solution for businesses. Influencers and businesses can showcase and sell products in-app through live shopping, shoppable videos, and its product showcase.

TikTok Advertising Pros:

  1. TikTok’s algorithm and user behavior make viral content easier.
  2. TikTok’s new Search Ads Toggle feature has been shown to increase conversion rates by 70%.
  3. TikTok’s emphasis on short-form, user-generated content encourages creativity and authenticity.
  4. Similar to Instagram, TikTok has a thriving influencer community.
  5. TikTok is maturing its business model, including more advanced ads and CRM integrations.

TikTok Advertising Cons:

  1. While TikTok has a broad user base, it tends to attract a younger demographic. 
  2. Users can skip ads on TikTok.
  3. TikTok’s trends move fast, so you need to design new content frequently to stay relevant.
  4. Bans in states like Montana could make geotargeting audiences in those states difficult.

4: YouTube Advertising

As social media preference shifts toward video content, YouTube is increasingly more popular among younger generations. YouTube Shorts has over 30 billion user engagements every day.

For advertisers, YouTube teems with opportunities, holding steady with $30 billion in ad revenue.

YouTube Advertising Pros:

  1. YouTube offers various formats like skippable, non-skippable, bumper, and more, allowing for flexible advertising.
  2. YouTube is the second-largest search engine and third most visited website worldwide.
  3. Video content on YouTube encourages higher viewer engagement.
  4. YouTube can boost SEO traffic through quality content and backlinks you can add to your profile description.

YouTube Advertising Cons:

  1. Strict social media restrictions for brands to follow. 
  2. Skippable ads, YouTube ad blockers, and YouTube Premium allow viewers to skip after a few seconds or block ads entirely, which can reduce ad exposure.
  3. High-quality video production can be expensive.

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5: LinkedIn Advertising

LinkedIn continues to boast record revenue and user growth due to the initial surge during the pandemic and the shifting job market.

Although LinkedIn ads only take in around $3.95 billion in ad revenue, professional millennials dominate LinkedIn, making it perfect for brands targeting this demographic.

LinkedIn Advertising Pros:

  1. LinkedIn provides access to a professional user base, ideal for B2B marketing and targeting specific industries or job titles.
  2. LinkedIn supports various content formats, including articles, videos, and SlideShare presentations, enabling businesses to share in-depth and informative content.
  3. LinkedIn is great for networking, building relationships, and generating quality leads.
  4. LinkedIn provides opportunities to publish industry insights and participate in professional discussions.

LinkedIn Advertising Cons:

  1. LinkedIn has a large user base but may not reach the same level of engagement or offer the same extensive audience reach as platforms like Facebook or Instagram.
  2. LinkedIn users may focus more on professional networking and content consumption than actively engaging with ads, resulting in lower engagement rates.
  3. LinkedIn offers fewer ad formats than other platforms.

6. Pinterest Advertising

Pinterest has always taken a smaller piece of the paid social advertising pie, with only $3,005.0 million in ad revenue worldwide, but it has come a long way in the last year.

Following in the footsteps of other large social media networks, Pinterest plans to incorporate AI into its platform to become a “digital bazaar.” They want users to come to the platform for inspiration, trend discovery, and make purchases without leaving the app.

📍Pinterest: A one-stop shop for brands?
“We want to connect users to the full-funnel experience where they can go from inspiration to consideration to action in the same place.”
–Bill Ready, Pinterest CEO

Also, in Q1 2023, Pinterest partnered with Conde Nast and launched Pinterest Academy so advertisers could create better Pins, improve targeting, and measure campaign success. 

These changes show Pinterest is focused on attracting advertisers and improving content in the coming years, making it a potentially fruitful brand advertising avenue. 

Pinterest Advertising Pros:

  1. Pinterest is showing a big interest in advertising in the coming year, with the introduction of Pinterest Academy, its partnership with Conde Nast, and its want to become a digital consumer bazaar.
  2. Pins on Pinterest have a longer lifespan than other social media posts, providing extended visibility and potential for engagement.
  3. Pinterest is known for its inspirational content, ideal for fashion, home decor, food, and travel brands.
  4. Although it has skewed towards a female demographic, more and more males are joining the platform.

💡 Pinterest is one of the most shopping-focused social networks, as 45% of users have a household income of $100,000

Pinterest Advertising Cons:

  1. Users on Pinterest are more likely to save and browse content rather than actively engage through comments or shares.
  2. If your brand does not rely heavily on visuals or struggles to create high-quality images, Pinterest may not be as effective for your advertising efforts.
  3. While Pinterest is great for generating brand awareness and interest, the conversion cycle can be longer than other platforms, requiring multiple touchpoints to drive conversions.

7. Snapchat Advertising

Snapchat is a known spot for trendspotting and learning what younger demographics want from brands. It’s also still popular amongst the younger generation but lost its spot to TikTok as the go-to social network.

With ad sales falling, Snapchat announced new AI-driven ads to help connect users with partners relevant to their interests. 

For example, if a Snapchat user asked where to have dinner, My AI (the name for the feature) could return a sponsored ad by a local restaurant. It’s still in the early experimental phases but could change the user ad experience. 

Snapchat Advertising Pros:

  1. My AI offers significant advertising opportunities for brands. 
  2. Snapchat offers unique and interactive ad formats, such as lenses, filters, and augmented reality experiences, allowing brands to create engaging and memorable ad campaigns.
  3. The platform allows for precise geolocation targeting, enabling brands to reach specific local audiences or target users attending specific events.
  4. Snapchat’s Discover and Stories sections allow brands to showcase their content and reach a larger audience.
  5. Snapchat is designed for vertical video viewing, which aligns with the mobile viewing habits of users and can enhance the user experience.

Snapchat Advertising Cons:

  1. Snapchat doesn’t have the same reach level as other social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram, limiting the potential audience for your ads.
  2. Snapchat’s audience is predominantly young.

8. Twitter Advertising

It’s certainly been an interesting ride for Twitter this year. But despite its challenges, it’s a platform that seems insistent on staying around.

Post-Musk takeover, eMarketer slashed its original ad revenue forecast for 2023 by about 37% from the previous forecast. 

Twitter Advertising Pros:

  1. Twitter ads offer feature-rich options to segment audiences according to keywords, common interests, and more.
  2. You can create custom CRM lists for more accurate audience targeting.
  3. Ads can appear in search results, profiles, and timelines and match readers’ interests.
  4. Users can promote trends to show up in the trending box.

Twitter Advertising Cons:

  1. More and more users are leaving Twitter and flocking to other apps. Meta even plans to have a Twitter-like app come out in June.
  2. Twitter engagement is dependent on the news cycle.
  3. Many brand advertisers won’t return to their pre-Musk spending levels.
  4. Twitter engagement on brand posts is extremely low, only 0.009%.

Now that you know what each social media platform offers, let’s look at some paid social advertising tips.

So you’ve created your first ad and are now wondering how to optimize it. Below are some strategies I’ve found helpful in my time working on social media campaigns.

1. Research to find your target audience

With paid social, you want to spend your money on the people interested in your product and most likely to convert. 

You first want to gather demographic information about your audience utilizing insights from existing accounts. With Facebook’s Audience Insights, you can see age and gender breakdowns, education levels, job titles, relationship statuses, and more.

With KORTX Intelligence, we build a detailed profile of your target audience using thousands of user attributes like their online behavior, preferences, and insights into their life. 

❓ How does KORTX Intelligence help identify audiences for paid social advertising campaigns? ❓
“Our KORTX Intelligence research provides a wealth of data points about how specific audience personas spend time on social media platforms and details about demographics, shopping habits, and even device usage. More often than not, we discover that these insights lead to new social media strategies and untapped opportunities. It’s important to look beyond Meta as the default option and really dig into where brands can impact all social platforms.”
–Corey Rice, Director of Strategy, KORTX

Then, you can find out which social networks your audience prefers. Tools like can help you analyze which platforms to use depending on your audience. Enter a hashtag, and Keyhole will provide demographic information about how various markets use social networks.

You can also analyze your competitor’s content strategy to inform your own. Tools like Buzzsumo’s Content Analysis tab will analyze the top shared content across social networks in your industry. Look for patterns and take notes. What content formats do these audiences prefer? What social channels work best for your competitors? 

Based on your research, you should be able to narrow your target audience down to a specific demographic. From here, you can tailor your marketing efforts, so your ad spend goes as far as possible.

2. Find inspiration from other advertisers

When you’re getting started, look at what ads are running best. Researching competing ads, preferably direct competitors, can offer inspiration for your own paid social campaigns.

You can find past Facebook and Instagram advertisements through the Facebook Ad Library.

TikTok also has a Creative Center or Top Ads, so you can see the most successful ads on the platform, though you can’t search for specific businesses.

3. Take time for your strategy to work

It may be tempting to check in on your ad after one day and make hasty adjustments but paid social media strategies take time. Ad networks like Facebook can take at least a week to optimize your campaign. 

I suggest waiting at least a month without interference, giving the ad network time to learn what’s working, what’s not, and how to adjust accordingly. 

4. Build many creative options

Dynamic ad creative, offered by platforms like Facebook, allows for testing multiple variations of copy, headlines, and visuals to optimize performance and automate the selection of the most effective combinations.

When you’re unsure which media or ad parts resonate with your audiences, dynamic creative will mix and match them in new ways to improve your ad performance. 

Example: A clothing retailer can use dynamic ad creative with Facebook. Facebook will take the different combinations of product images, headlines, and CTAs and test them against the audience you set. Then, it will automatically select and display the winning variations for different audience segments, resulting in better goal outcomes.

An example of selecting multiple creative images for a campaign.

Ad platforms were built to help you optimize your ads, so let the ads platform do its thing while your campaign runs.

🤔 How often should you update or change your ads?
A general rule of thumb is to switch out creatives every 4-6 weeks based on their performance, avoiding unnecessary changes to highly successful ones while addressing underperforming ones earlier. 

5. Don’t just throw money at a campaign

It may be tempting to grab an image, jot some copy down, put it into a social ads platform, and let it do its thing, but you need to do so strategically.

Consider the goals of the campaign. Do you want to increase brand awareness, drive website traffic, or generate conversions? Clearly defining your objectives will help shape your targeting, messaging, and overall campaign strategy.

Being realistic about return on investment (ROI) is also important. Paid social advertising can yield impressive results, but it’s not an instant guarantee of success. It takes time to optimize campaigns, test different approaches, and fine-tune targeting to achieve optimal performance. 

Set realistic expectations and understand that not every campaign will deliver immediate results.

📏 What metrics do you use to measure a paid social campaign?
Paid social advertising offers various ad objectives that cater to different campaign goals. Whether you aim to increase video views, drive traffic, or generate conversions, you can select the appropriate ad objective, such as cost per video view, cost per landing page view, or cost per conversion.

6. Make it, and don’t be afraid to break it

Don’t be afraid to break the mold and experiment with your paid social campaigns. Running campaigns takes time and offers a valuable learning experience to determine what strategies and approaches work best for your brand. 

Let a campaign run for at least a month without making any major adjustments in the initial week (or even the first few days).

Even if things appear discouraging initially, resist the urge to intervene too soon and allow your campaign to gather valuable data and insights.

Social media is the loud teenager of digital advertising. We all spend a lot of our time on it, it’s constantly growing, and it’s one of the best connection points from brands to people.

Each platform serves a distinct purpose and can reach a different audience while giving you the flexibility to reach a wide range of customers you otherwise wouldn’t have through display or CTV advertising. 

Social media marketing also offers a full-funnel approach, as you can hit different funnel parts in your campaigns.

Example: Let’s say we’re using Facebook and want also to use Instagram to target basketball shoes for high school students and their parents. We can set up creatives like videos, static images, and copy. We can build out a broad campaign speaking to new, existing, and past customers to get as many eyes on it as possible. Then, we can retarget this through a traffic campaign to drive them to the website, take that data, and retarget them again with a conversion campaign.

We can also build out lookalike audiences using First-Party data by uploading a CRM list or through website events. Each campaign is built off the one prior, and you have the flexibility to adjust the budget, update objectives, and overall creative freedom. 

Social ads blend into a feed and don’t interrupt the user experience like other advertising forms. It offers another opportunity to catch audiences wherever they hang out and target them at any point in their customer journey.

❓ How will a possible TikTok ban interfere with social media marketing?
“A TikTok ban is not likely, but it could mean big changes for marketers if it does occur. Marketers should already start to reuse TikTok videos on other platforms like Facebook, Instagram (especially through Reels), and YouTube (especially YouTube Shorts), that way, they’re prepared in case of a possible ban. There are other ways to market without TikTok, but it’ll be a big hit for brands who’ve relied on it as their only strategy.”
–Kate Meda, Copywriter, KORTX

Amplifying Your Paid Social Strategy

Whether it’s capturing the attention of Gen Z on Instagram or reaching older demographics on Facebook and LinkedIn, paid social advertising offers a versatile and impactful approach to connecting with consumers.

As social media continues to evolve, brands should consider adding a paid social media strategy to complement other tactics. A good strategy can help you reach audiences you’ve never seen before. 

📲 Watch your social media presence grow

Lean on our team’s expertise to generate new business through your paid social strategy.

Contact Us Today!

Josh Pheneger is an Account Strategist at KORTX. He likes to play golf, explore the city, and spend time in coffee shops.

Josh Pheneger

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