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March 22, 2017
Social Media  |  8 min read

5 Social Media Ad Mistakes You Need to Fix Today

According to a recent Manta poll, 38 percent of small business owners spend marketing dollars on promoted posts or social media advertising, but almost half (48 percent) feel they aren’t getting a positive return on investment from those ads. 

It seems that small business owners feel pressure to reach customers online, but they struggle to get the results they want. It’s an understandable dilemma. After all, customers expect businesses to have an online presence (the days of looking for a local business in the yellow pages are long gone) and social media platforms offer a prime opportunity to build a relationship with customers. But without a clear strategy, it’s difficult to reach the right audience with the right message, even if you pay for promoted posts.

If you’re in this camp, you might feel stuck—you need to be on social media, but you feel like it’s a waste of money! Don’t worry. All is not lost. You might need to reevaluate your social media marketing strategy. Start by troubleshooting these common problems. 

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1. You don’t know your audience

Have you defined your target customer? How old are they? Where do they live? What social media platforms do they use most? What problems do they have that you’re trying to solve? If you haven’t answered some basic questions for yourself about who buys your products or services—and why—then you’re hobbling your efforts from the get-go. 

You can’t start posting ads on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn and hope they reach the right person. You need to know who is likely to respond to what you have to offer and put your ads in front of those people specifically. The beauty of social media ads is that you can do just that, so it’s worth putting some time into defining your audience.

2. You haven’t set clear business goals

Do you know why you’re posting ads or promoting posts on social media? Setting clear and specific business goals for each ad campaign is key to your success with social media marketing. Instead of “get more business,” think of goals like “build awareness of my business with customers in my neighborhood” or “drive new traffic to my business website.” Goals that are too broad or vague make it hard to design your ad, and even more difficult to tell if it’s having the desired effect. 

Here’s a list of some goals you might want to achieve with social media marketing:

  • Building awareness of your business
  • Getting feedback or suggestions from customers
  • Having customers review your business or recommend it to others
  • Promoting sales, specials or seasonal events
  • Driving more traffic to your website
  • Generating phone calls to your business
  • Collecting email addresses for your email marketing

3. You’re not tracking your results

Not every social media ad is successful, and that’s OK! You just need to make sure you know which ads perform well and which ones don’t. Then apply those lessons to your next campaign. But you can’t learn much if you’re not tracking the results of your ads. Most platforms collect that information for you. For example, in Facebook Ads there is a reporting function that shows information on your individual ads, ad sets, and even whole campaigns. You can customize these reports to include metrics like ad reach, impressions, clicks, conversions, and more. 

You can also use UTMs—a short string of letters and numbers at the end of a URL—to tell how much of your website traffic is coming from a specific ad. Google’s free UTM builder allows you to create custom URLs that will indicate the source of the click. For example, you might use “Facebook” in the campaign source field; then, paste your custom URL in your ad for customers to click on. The UTM will show up in your website analytics, so you can see how many visits came from this ad on Facebook. (Pro tip: You can use UTMs in all your social media posts, not just your ads.)

4. You don’t know what to track

So, you have tracking set up on all your ads. Now, how do you interpret the results? The metrics you track most closely will depend on your business goals. That said, just about everyone should be concerned with the difference between who viewed an ad and who actually interacted with the ad—you need clicks, not just views. If lots of people are seeing your ad but not clicking on it or reacting to it, it’s not working very well. As a rule of thumb, if 2 percent to 5 percent of people who see your ad click on it, it’s performing well. If that number is less than 1 percent, it’s time to reevaluate.

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Clicks aren’t the only metric to look at. Engagement matters as well. If an ad gets lots of comments, shares and reactions, that’s a positive sign. Even if those customers don’t convert right away, they might come back to purchase later after seeing another social media post. That’s an important point to keep in mind: Not every customer is ready to purchase on day one. When you evaluate ad performance, look at a 28-day window of activity. Some customers need time to think over a purchase, and you want to capture them in your reporting.

5. Your message isn’t working

If you’re not getting good results, it could be that your message just isn’t speaking to your audience. How do you fix that? Test, test, and test some more! When you design your ads, think about your target audience and your business goals first. Then, brainstorm a few different options. You’ll then test these different options by creating different ad sets that mix and match the elements you’ve created. One might test out the same copy with different images, while another might test two different offers with the same image. The winning version should rise to the top over time in your metrics reporting.

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Ivy Lamb is the content editor for Manta, where she writes and curates content aimed at helping small business owners succeed on their own terms. Manta strives to provide the marketing tools and educational resources business owners need to stand out, connect with customers and grow.


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