Why social media advertising matters and why you should care

First in a five-part series on social media marketing for startups.


When people talk about social media marketing, they often start by talking about the features and benefits—such as what kind of ads you can run, how you can target people and how you can use your own earned data.

While this stuff is very important (and we will discuss in depth later in this series), I feel like it skips the most critical step, which is having the right understanding, acceptance, mindset and strategy.

Without these fundamentals, the tactics and tricks of social marketing can’t be properly executed.

By understanding, I refer to an intuitive understanding of how customers consume content today and how that content can drive an action. Our consumer behaviour has changed so much and so quickly, that many people are still stuck focusing on mental models of customer behaviour that no longer exist.

By acceptance, I mean a true acknowledgement that these changes have happened and that the old behaviours (mainly relating to the “captivity” of the audience) are not coming back. This gives the marketer the permission to do what needs to be done, free from past ways of doing things.

By mindset, I’m suggesting that there are mental models, disciplined thinking and frames of mind that will determine success or failure long before a campaign is executed.

Finally, by strategy, I’m referring to a social- and mobile-first strategy that’s rooted in a deep understanding of what makes content social and how the algorithm rewards social content.

What marketers need to understand

Let’s start at the beginning.

Here’s the truth:

A huge amount of our daily life is digital.

A huge amount of our digital time is mobile.

A huge amount of our mobile time is social.

As marketers, we have to understand this stuff really well.

What that means is is that if you target a B2C clientele, and you want to be where they’re at, you need to have a big presence on social. Even many B2B clients need to be on social.

If you have a digital conversion that can be reliably tracked back to a specific ad, you need to be on social.

If you market to a digital native customer, not only do you need to be on social, but you had better figure out how to speak their language, both visually and literally. And that refers to most brands as 41% of the world’s population is under 25 and digitally native!

Historically, marketers have failed to understand and acknowledge the change in consumer behaviours and have clung to old ways that worked so well for so long. They’ve looked at social media as a distribution channel, used to amplify traditional advertisements to gain reach and frequency.

Customers consume a huge amount of micro-content every day, more than 300 feet of timeline per day. They almost never stop scrolling—slowing their thumbs just long enough to determine if there’s something for them and committing only a few seconds before moving on.

By not recognizing this change, marketers have failed to capitalize on what makes social powerful, including:

  • One-to-one messaging: Start to think about getting specific content to specific groups, based on where they are in the buyer journey. It’s hard to do that with one television ad or a hero video, which requires always-on creative.
  • Performance: When people talk about performance marketing, particularly compared to brand marketing, they mean the ability to use tracking technology to tie a sale back to a specific ad. This allows us to dump the ads that aren’t working and double down on the ones that are killing it. You can only do that if you’re measuring properly.
  • Targeting: Facebook/Instagram is the largest database of humanity ever assembled and it gives advertisers the ability to really drill down on the specific customer they want to reach. I like to think about Venn diagrams and target people who like X, Y and In doing this, you can improve your marketing efficiency by reducing the waste that’s so inherent in traditional advertising.
  • Sequencing: You can also start to think about the order of messaging that you want a customer to receive. This can be very effective, especially compared to showing basically the same ad over and over. As you gain more info on the user, you can customize which creative they see automatically.
  • Data: Not only does Facebook/Instagram have the most consumer data in the world, it also allows advertisers to bring their own customer data to the platform. By uploading email lists, Facebook will match emails to Facebook accounts and allow you to serve ads to your own customers OR find more customers that most resemble your existing client base.

Only recently, as part of the content revolution, have advertisers started to understand the channel strategy specific to social media in general and to each social media platform specifically.

In this series, we will explore all the aforementioned topics and show you how to take that mindset and turn it into revenue!

Even though there’s tons of money being spent on social media, very few brands are assessing the opportunity properly and taking advantage of the areas of marketing leverage. This provides a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs and small- and medium-sized businesses to compete against incumbents.

Additional resources

Next in this series

In the next article in this series (coming soon), we’ll look at how to design performance campaigns for social media.