Building the Perfect Social Advertising Campaign

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This is a guest post by Andrew Choco of Directive Consulting

According to a 2015 Pew Research study, 65% of Americans currently use social media, and that percentage has been increasing steadily over the past 10 years. This provides marketers with a giant opportunity to project their brand on a platform that’s regularly accessed by two thirds of the country’s population. There are many different platforms for social advertising, and today I’m going to go over five in particular:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • AdRoll
  • Linkedin

I’ll give you the best practices for building and running the perfect social advertising campaign across these five platforms.

Defining the Audience

The first step to running a successful social advertising campaign is defining your audience. Your ad creative and copy doesn’t matter if you haven’t done the proper target audience research. What we do at Directive Consulting is create a general broad audience that we believe encapsulates our target demographics (we call this our Broad Digital Marketers reach, and on Facebook it includes around 4.5 million users). From there, we narrow down our audiences based on the specific ads or articles we’re promoting. For example, we created a specific Ecommerce/SEO related audience for our most recent blog post on what to ask when hiring an Ecommerce SEO expert. This narrowed down audience consisted of 240,000, which is still a broad reach, but much more specific than our original audience of 4.5 million. Layering your audiences is key to generating engagement throughout all of your social campaigns.

There are a few key differences for running a campaign across each social media platform, so I’ll dive into each one in more depth.


According to eMarketer, in 2014, 64.5% of all social network ad spending went to Facebook. They are by and large the most popular social platform across marketers. Facebook gives you a fairly large reach for a minimal cost (some campaigns run as low as $1 per day), but the audience tends to be less qualified than Twitter or Linkedin. However, there are some industries that thrive on Facebook, specifically Ecommerce. The ability to use dynamic product ads is a key part to retargeting on Facebook.

Different Campaign Options on Facebook:

  • Boost your posts
  • Promote your page
  • Send people to your website
  • Increase conversions on your website
  • Get installs of your app
  • Increase engagement on your app
  • Reach people near your business
  • Raise attendance at your event
  • Get people to claim your offer
  • Get video views
  • Collect leads for your business
  • Increase brand awareness

Best Practices

  • Engaging and Eye Popping Ad Creatives: Facebook’s format puts the ad creative first, with a large image
  • Pixel Tracking: Facebook has a pixel (a small snippet of code) that you can add to the header of each of your website pages. This tracks users who visit your page while logged into Facebook (either through clicking your Facebook ad, or simply because most of us are constantly logged into Facebook). This allows for retargeting as well as conversion tracking and is a must on Facebook ads in order to track your ROI of the campaign.
  • Video: Facebook’s (fairly) new video platform is a great way to generate engagement with Facebook users. The autoplay feature instantly separates it from the other statuses and photos that clutter the Newsfeed. Facebook also has detailed tracking and retargeting that you can do based on how much of the video a Facebook user watched.
  • Custom Audiences: Facebook allows you to create a custom audience by uploading a .csv file of email lists, phone numbers or importing a customer list from MailChimp. If you’re running a special promotion, synchronize a Facebook campaign with an email blast to reach your customers across two different platforms.
  • Lookalike Audiences: This goes hand-in-hand with custom audiences. If you’ve uploaded a list of 1,000 emails to create a custom audience, you can create a “lookalike audience.” Facebook generates a much broader group of Facebook users to target whose profiles align with the profiles in your uploaded email list.
  • A/B Test: Facebook allows you to upload six images for each ad at no extra cost. Use this to A/B test. See which images perform better and then optimize by changing the ad copy!
  • Call-To-Action (CTA): A CTA is a button that tells people what exactly you want them to do. Some options include, “Learn More,” “Shop Now,” or “Contact Us.”

Facebook Ad Guidelines

  • Image Size: This depends on the kind of campaign you’re running, but the standard size is 1,200 x 628 pixels.
  • Image ratio: 1:9:1
  • Text: 90 Characters
  • Headline: 25 Characters
  • Link Description: 30 Characters
  • Text in Image: No more than 20%


According to Larry Kim, “The average Instagram engagement rate for brands was 58x higher than on Facebook.” The acquisition of Instagram by Facebook in 2012 now allows us to seamlessly integrate Instagram with our current Facebook ad campaign. It acts as just another placement, and you don’t even need to have an Instagram account to run ads. However, we recommend you create and connect your Instagram account to your Facebook ads account so you’ll be able to respond to comments, create a following and customize exactly how your profile looks.

Best Practices (These will be all similar to Facebook because you use the same platform)

  • Short Concise Text: On Facebook you get your text, headline and link description to convey your message, but on Instagram, you only get a caption. Make sure your copy is short and sweet.

Instagram Ad Guidelines

  • Image Size: 1080 x 1080 pixels
  • Image ratio: 1:1
  • Caption: Text only, 125 Characters
  • Text in Image: No more than 20%


Twitter is one of, if not the most, fast paced social media platforms, with over 500 million tweets posted per day. Much like Facebook, Twitter ads can have a huge reach for minimal cost, as low as just $1 a day. Another cool thing about Twitter is you only get charged for website clicks, so you can make build brand awareness through impressions for literally nothing! Our current campaign has generated over 8,173 at a CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions) of $0.86.

Twitter is the hub of technical expertise, and many thought leaders have established a strong following on the platform. In our experience, more technical and in depth articles perform really well on Twitter, so keep that in mind when choosing content to promote.

Different Campaign Options on Twitter:

  • Followers
  • Website clicks or conversions
  • Tweet engagements
  • App installs or re-engagements
  • Leads on Twitter
  • Video views

Best Practices

  • Twitter Cards: Recently Twitter introduced Twitter Cards, a new way to generate engagement by highlighting a large image rather than just 140 characters of text. You can use these cards for different objectives, including lead generation, website clicks and app installs. Much like Facebook, using an image that is well branded and eye-catching will result in higher engagement.
  • Conversion Tracking: Again similar to Facebook, Twitter has a snippet of code you can install on pages as well as page events to track exactly which ads are leading to conversions.
  • Tailored Audiences: This feature allows you to re-target specific Twitter users based on their activity on your website. Are people signing up for your email list but not signing up for a free consultation? Promote a specific consultation ad targeted directly at these people.
  • Video: Video is another great medium for Twitter, and can stand out from the standard text only or image ads. Twitter also offers an auto-play feature, so if the first few seconds of your video are engaging, people are more likely to stick around for the whole thing.
  • Mobile Friendly: Preview your ads across all devices, not just desktop. The majority of social media browsing is done on mobile, so you want to make sure your images and headlines are optimized.

Twitter Card Guidelines

  • Image Size: 800 x 320 pixels
  • Headline: 70 Characters
  • Tweet: 140 Characters


AdRoll is essential for retargeting across a number of different platforms. They work with the largest ad exchanges, which means your ads are going to displayed on a number of different websites. These are the ads you see on the side/top of web pages you visit, like the one below.

AdRoll works by tracking website visitors with a cookie that then retargets them later on when they visit other websites that allow for display advertising. It usually takes more than one interaction to complete a sale or get a lead, so retargeting with AdRoll is essential for getting those extra points of contact in even when visitors leave your website.

Best Practices

Segment Audiences: While retargeting everyone seems like a great idea, you can get even more specific re-targeting by segmenting audiences based on specific pages they’ve visited. If you’re in Ecommerce and someone visited their “cart” but didn’t check out, hit those specific people with an ad as a nice reminder that their purchase isn’t completed.

Conversion Tracking: Know exactly which ads are leading to different conversion points on your website. AdRoll does a great job of walking you through the setup and implementation of the tracking code.  

Concise Ad Copy: Unlike the other social media platforms, you don’t get to add a caption or headline to your ad. Make sure you include a clear message in your actual ad image that entices people to click.

Call-to-Action: Even though the whole ad is going to be clickable, including a CTA that stands out is a great way to increase engagement.

AdRoll Ad Guidelines

There are six different sizes that work for AdRoll:

  • 300 x 250 pixels
  • 728 x 90 pixels
  • 160 x 600 pixels
  • 320 x 50 pixels
  • 970 x 250 pixels
  • 300 x 600 pixels

Other requirements:

  • Ads must have a border
  • File size must be under 50 kb
  • Ads can’t animate for more than 30 seconds

For a full disclosure of the creative guidelines, look here.


Linkedin is by far the most limited advertising platform when it comes to social media. Though limited, it can still be a great tool for B2B marketing, as well as targeting the “higher-ups” in the company. There are a few things to know before diving into Linkedin Advertising.

Linkedin still requires you to manage ads through a personal account. If you work at an agency this can be annoying because you’ll have to pass around the login information for whoever’s account is being used as the advertising account. You can still manage multiple accounts and add different billing information for each one, but they have yet to offer a business manager option like Facebook.

Different Campaign Options on Linkedin:

  • Text ad: This appears in the right side of the feed and the goal is impressions
  • Sponsored Updates: This appears in the main feed and is geared more towards engagements (clicks, shares, likes)

Best Practices

  • Google UTMs: Linkedin has not yet added a tracking pixel to their advertising platform, so creating a custom Google URL is a great way to track exactly which ads are leading to conversions.
  • Using Sponsored Updates to Drive Website Clicks: As mentioned above, the standard “text ad” is a great way to show off your business, but it’s not great when it comes to generating website clicks and engagement. Using this campaign objective to sponsor a link directly to a landing page or homepage is a great way to increase engagement and ultimately conversions.
  • Target Decision Makers: The most common audience you’ll find on Linkedin is higher-ups. This includes CEOs, CMOs, CTOs and CFOs. Create ads and promote content that is designed for these specific job titles.
  • Join and Engage in Groups: Another great way to engage on Linkedin is by joining a group specific to your industry. By commenting and answering questions, you can establish yourself as a thought leader. When it comes time to promote a new piece of content, you can then target that specific group.

Linkedin Ad Guidelines

Sponsored Update

  • Image Size: 1200 x 627 pixels
  • Main Feed Text: 150 Characters
  • Title: 70 Characters
  • Description Text: 100 Characters

Text Ads

  • Image Size: 50 x 50 pixels
  • Headline: 25 Characters
  • Description: 75 Characters


Social campaigns can take a lot of work, but they are essential for building brand awareness and getting people to engage with your content. Each platform has its unique quirks that take some getting used to, but leveraging each one correctly will result in high reach for even small budgets. Let me know in the comments which social media platform is your favorite for advertising and which strategies have worked for you!

Andrew Choco

Andrew Choco is a creative and innovative marketing enthusiast who specializes in social media marketing, SEO and content creation. When he isn't driving website conversions, he loves going to concerts, complaining about the Seattle Mariners and travelling.