This is a guest post from Brian Hong at Infintech Designs.

Every day, millions of consumers use social media to find new products and services. According to eMarketer’s, U.S. Social Trends for 2016, marketers are spending more money than ever before on social advertising, with $13.4 billion expected to be spent in 2016 on social advertising. This is an increase of 100% in just two years.

Advertising is changing fast, and marketers are getting on board. If you want to get ahead of the game, it is important that you learn how to use your social advertising budget wisely. Whether that's a thorough blogging strategy or an aggressive email marketing campaign, social advertising should be part of your marketing program. 

Brands Don't Make Friends

Let’s face it, for businesses there is really no such thing as social media. All of your interactions with consumers are basically advertising. Brands don't make "friends" on social media—they make leads and influencers.

If you want consumers to connect with your messages, you have to spend money in order to be seen. You don’t only want results, you also want a strategy that you will be able to keep up with budget-wise. Once you understand these facts, you can start to design a strategy that will work in the best interest of your brand.

Here are the 10 top practices for successful social advertising that you can use to drive better results.

  1. Make a budget. The first step to ensuring your success with social advertising is to make a budget. The days of getting free targeted traffic from social media are over. Figure out how much it will cost to reach your target audience, and then determine the strategy needed to do it.
  2. Stay on brand. With so much content being posted daily to social media, it can be tempting to simply ride the next trend wave. However, if those trends can’t be adapted to have any tangible benefits for your business, it is best to avoid getting caught up.
  3. Social advertising isn’t a separate strategy. Don’t think of social media as separate from your overall online marketing strategy. In fact, you should use your social advertising campaign to redirect social media users to resources on your website or to get people on the phone and into your business.
  4. Measure and assign goals. Regardless of how you plan to use social advertising to benefit your business, you need to have measurable goals that you can use to evaluate your success. (Hint: "Getting more followers" isn't a measure of success with social advertising). You need to have an analytics set-up that includes attribution modelling.
  5. Choose the right platforms. Using social advertising to promote your business doesn't mean that you should advertise on every social media site. As a part of the planning stage for your campaign, you need to figure out which sites your target audience uses and focus on those sites. For example, if you have a B2B audience, advertising on LinkedIn might be a good option. However, if you are trying to find customers for your craft supply company, Pinterest might be a better option for social advertising. However, since Facebook accounted for 75% of social advertising spending on social networks in 2014, it might be a good idea to start there.
  6. Test, test, test. I can't express enough how important it is to test your social ads. You should always create multiple versions of every ad by including different copy and images so that you can see what works best.
  7. Be upfront. If there are costs involved to take advantage of the offer that you are promoting or your users have to take additional steps before they can gain access to what you are offering, let them know. There is no point in wasting users’ valuable time and your ad budget because your offer seems like a bait and switch.
  8. Use video. Digital video is red hot right now and ads with video have been proven to drive higher engagement rates than ads that do not feature video. Video is a great way to catch your audience's attention. However, your videos must be creative and offer value in order to reap these benefits.
  9. Utilize targeting options. With social advertising, you have the ability to not only target your ads to specific demographics, you can also target users by location, device, and platform. If you want to get the most from your ad spend, you need to focus only on those users that are the most likely to be responsive to your messages.
  10. Choose only the winners. As your campaign develops, you’ll be able see which ads perform the best. It doesn’t make sense to keep promoting under performing ads. Reallocate your budget periodically to ensure that you are only spending money on the ads that are working.

Social advertising is a full time job for most businesses. Therefore, it is probably best to hire someone to manage your strategy for you. There are so many tasks that need to be performed daily, it is not something that most experts would recommend small businesses do on their own.

One thing that you will probably also need to get used to as you develop your strategy is the fact that every business is unique. There simply isn’t any one-size-fits-all approach to social advertising that will work for every business.

In addition, since the most popular social media site are always changing and adding new products and services, you will need to keep up with these developments to ensure that you are always making the most of your social advertising budget.

I hope the info above provided you with some valuable ideas to help you craft a successful social advertising strategy. What challenges does your business face when it comes to social media?