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Social Media Advertising: Everything You Need To Know

Jamie Landry
February 20, 2024
Last Updated On
social media advertising guide blog header

Social media advertising is often a crucial part of a comprehensive marketing strategy. No matter which goal you’re trying to achieve, knowing where to start with social media advertising can be daunting — but there’s no reason to fear. Defining your social media ad strategy is an easier feat with a strong organic strategy and clearly defined goals. 

In this blog, we will cover: 

  • What is social media advertising?
  • If running ads is worth it.
  • The different types of ads and how they vary by platform.
  • Social media ad examples.
  • How you can create your own ads.
  • Tips for creating great ads.

What Is Social Media Advertising?

Social media advertising involves leveraging different social media platforms to promote your business, products and services to a target audience. Social media ads are powerful marketing tools that offer sophisticated targeting options based on the users, demographics, interests and even behaviors (like a user visiting a related brand profile) that you wish to target. 

Social media ads can take different forms, like sponsored posts, Stories, interactive ads and influencer partnerships. Paid social ads are often highly effective since audiences are ultra-engaged and marketers can reach consumers directly while having the ability to track and analyze ads in real-time. 

Is Running Social Media Ads “Worth It”?

Running social media ads is widely considered worth the investment, especially given the weight social media has on digital content marketing efforts. Managing social media ads can be a full-time job for today’s marketers — social advertising involves constant monitoring, optimization and content creation, which requires an immense amount of organization and creativity, in addition to a robust understanding of budgets. However, the benefits outweigh the costs. 

Since social media advertising offers precise targeting capabilities, brands can put their budget behind a hyper-specific audience. Organic content is essential to paid marketing and while organic content can be created with a specific audience or buyer persona in mind, paid ads give you peace of mind that you’re reaching your target demographic with precision. 

This targeted approach often leads to better customer response and engagement rates and more effective conversion strategies than traditional advertising methods. Additionally, the analytics these platforms provide let you adapt your strategy quickly, which helps make sure your efforts are effective and cost-efficient. For businesses with goals surrounding increasing visibility and engagement on social media, the commitment to running social media ads is a strategic move that can yield substantial returns.

The Different Types of Social Media Ads by Platform (And How Much They Cost)

Social media advertising presents a diverse opportunity to reach users on different social media platforms. From visually-driven Instagram to conversational-centric X or Threads, different types of social ads let you tailor your paid tactics to audiences who often engage differently on various platforms.

TikTok Ads

Advertising campaigns on TikTok are a great way to leverage entertaining content and the immense popularity of TikTok. TikTok’s ad tools are great for harnessing the power of viral trends, user engagement and short-form video, making it a potent space to authentically connect with your audience. 

  • Image Ads: Image Ads are static images with text, featuring a brand name. These ads are perfect to showcase a strong visual with a corresponding CTA — it's important to note that these are only available via the Global App Bundle, which also places your ad on other ByteDance platforms like CapCut.
  • Video Ads: Video Ads on TikTok let you use 30-second video snippets to share a dynamic, visual ad. Video Ads are a great way to repurpose impactful snippets of hi-fi videos, leverage influential partnerships or show your product in action with a compelling CTA to drive website traffic, conversions or profile visits.
  • Spark Ads: Spark Ads are a native form of advertising that lets you leverage existing organic posts — and UGC creators.    
  • Playable Ads: Playable Ads are perfect for specific types of industries, like gaming or apps that let the user interact and play a small snippet of the game before downloading or purchasing. 
  • Collection Ads: These ads showcase a series of products in a catalog format, enabling users to browse and interact with a collection of items directly within the TikTok platform.
  • Carousel Ads: Carousel Ads let businesses display a series of images or videos in a single ad with their own link, which provides different visual ways to reach your audience.
  • LIVE Shopping Ads: Live Shopping Ads give users the opportunity to shop products directly from a live shopping experience. 
  • Product Shopping Ads: These ads directly integrate with a brand's product catalog to display relevant products, offering users a seamless shopping experience by allowing them to explore and purchase products without leaving the TikTok app.

TikTok ads vary in cost — their ad system gives marketers the freedom to play around with different budgets. You can also adjust your budget at any time, so you can start small and increase your budget as you discover what works best for your brand.

Instagram Ads

Once again, Instagram is ripe for compelling visuals and dynamic videos — and this extends to their ad formats, too. Here are the different types of ads available on Instagram. 

  • Photo Ads: Photo Ads on Instagram are a classic and straightforward way to display your brand's products or services. These high-quality, visually appealing images fit seamlessly into the user's feed, offering a non-intrusive advertising experience.
  • Video Ads: Video Ads on Instagram allow brands to tell their story more deeply. Ranging from short clips to longer content up to 60 seconds, these ads can be highly engaging and are ideal for capturing users' attention as they scroll through their feeds.
  • Story Ads: Instagram Story Ads appear between Instagram Stories and offer a full-screen, immersive experience. They're a great way to connect with users in a more personal and engaging way, with the option to include interactive elements like polls and swipe-up links. 
  • Messenger Ads: Messenger Ads are a great way to reach your audience through direct messages. You can initiate conversations and target users. Users have started engaging with each other through direct messages, making this a great way to capitalize on a trending form of communication on social media. 
  • Carousel Ads: Carousel Ads on Instagram allow users to swipe through a series of images or videos in a single ad. This format is perfect for showcasing multiple products or telling a brand story in a more comprehensive way.
  • Slide Show Ads: Slide Show Ads are a simple yet effective way to use motion, sound, and text to convey your message. These ads create a video-like experience from a series of still images, ideal for brands with limited video resources.
  • Collection Ads: Collection Ads combine videos or images with product catalogs, allowing users to browse and purchase products directly from the ad. This format is particularly useful for e-commerce brands looking to drive sales.
  • Playable Ads: Playable Ads offer an interactive experience, allowing users to engage with a mini version of a game or an interactive demo before downloading an app. They are an innovative way to increase user engagement and app installs.

Instagram also lets you set as little — or as much budget as you want. The more spend you put behind your sponsored post, the more reach you will obtain. Brands should consider the aim of their ad and how much reach they’d like to aim for when determining the appropriate amount to spend on Instagram promotion.

Facebook Ads

Despite the surge in popularity of social media sites like TikTok and Instagram, Facebook still boasts over 3 billion active users each month, making this a great platform to reach a diverse audience, especially users aged 25-34 and 35-44 who make up 23.6% and 18.4% of Facebook users, respectively. These are the types of ads you can purchase on Facebook.

  • Image Ads: Image Ads use compelling visuals to convey your message and in are ideal for driving brand awareness and attracting attention to specific products or services.
  • Video Ads: Video Ads can show your brand or product in action — these range from short, attention-grabbing clips to longer, more immersive experiences.
  • Carousel Ads: Carousel Ads let you combine photos, video, and even product catalogs, which are great options for educating your audience and encouraging conversions.  
  • Instagram Experience Ads: No, it’s not a mistake — Instagram Experience Ads on Facebook offer a full-screen experience for users who’ve interacted with your Instagram ads. These are meant to encourage deeper brand interaction. 
  • Collection Ads: Collection Ads, similar to Carousel Ads, combine images, videos and product catalogs to encourage their audience to discover your product and purchase directly from your brand.

Facebook, like Instagram, is owned by Meta and uses the same budget system for various ads. Social teams can set a budget as low as $1 (with an unlimited ceiling), which is helpful to eventually scale up ad spend in pursuit of various goals. 

YouTube Ads

YouTube, the world's largest video platform, offers a range of dynamic ad formats to help brands connect with their audience. YouTube ads are designed to capture viewers’ attention, whether they're actively watching videos or browsing through content. These are the different types of YouTube ads available.

  • Skippable In-Stream Ads: Skippable In-Stream Ads appear before, during or after other videos on YouTube. These can be skipped after 5 seconds. These ads are a flexible option for brands that allow viewers to choose whether to watch the ad in full or skip it.
  • Non-Skippable In-Stream Ads: Non-Skippable In-Stream Ads last up to 15 seconds and can’t be skipped by the viewer. These ads are ideal to deliver a concise, impactful message to a captive audience.
  • In-Feed Video Ads: In-feed videos appear in YouTube search results in either related videos or the homepage. These are a great option to reach users without alienating them with unskippable ads, allowing users to scroll their chosen page while the ad plays. 
  • Bumper Ads: Bumper Ads are short, non-skippable video ads up to 6 seconds long. They play before, during, or after another video and are perfect for delivering a quick, memorable message to a wide audience.
  • Outstream Ads: Outstream Ads are mobile-only ads that appear on partner websites and apps outside of YouTube. These ads start playing with the sound off and are ideal for extending the reach of your video ads beyond YouTube.
  • Masthead Ads: Masthead Ads appear at the top of the YouTube homepage and provide maximum visibility. They automatically play without sound for up to 30 seconds and are an excellent way for brands to achieve significant exposure and capture user interest quickly.

YouTube ads use an auction or bidding system where you compete with other brands for ad space but only pay based on each click, which means cost varies depending on the type of ad and how many users you intend to reach. Typically, video ads range from about $0.10 to $0.30 per click — to reach 5,000 users, you’ll need to spend about $1,500 on your YouTube ad campaign. Larger organizations should consider putting more money behind budgets in order to compete more effectively, reach more users and make the most of your video content. 

X Ads

X offers a diverse array of advertising options tailored to meet the dynamic needs of modern brands. X Ads are designed to engage, inspire and convert audiences through a variety of creative formats. Let's explore the different types of X Ads and how they can be utilized to maximize your brand's impact. 

  • Promoted Ads: Promoted Ads on X can include images, videos, carousels or text, providing flexibility in how you present your message. These ads are seamlessly integrated into the user's feed, offering a non-disruptive and engaging way to reach potential customers.
  • Vertical Video Ads: Vertical Video Ads are full-screen ads for mobile users that offer an immersive viewing experience. These are great for capturing users on the go. 
  • X Amplify: X Amplify lets brands partner with content creators to amplify their message — this connection can increase audience trust and leverage another creator’s following. 
  • X Takeover: X Takeover Ads are great for important, ultra-visual messages. These take up all the space on the page for a high-impact ad that are great for major campaigns. 
  • X Live: X Lives are sponsored livestreaming content, which is perfect for broadcasting major events like fashion shows, watch parties or even conferences. This is a great chance to maximize your event-planning strategy and integrate your social tactics into your wider social media marketing strategy
  • Dynamic Product Ads: Dynamic Ads target users who have already visited your website or app. These ads are perfect for retargeting. 
  • Collection Ads: Collection Ads lets brands showcase various products directly within the ad. This format is great for telling a richer product story or drawing attention to complementary products.
  • X Ad Features: X Ad Features include various tools that enhance ad performance, from advanced targeting capabilities to interactive elements and analytics tools. 

X Ads lets you set your own budget depending on your ad type — no minimum or maximum spend required. You’re charged based on the ad type you select —  a followers campaign, for example, will only charge you when someone follows your account. X, like YouTube, also uses a bidding system but lets you customize which actions you’d like to be billed for. Automatic bids are fairly self-explanatory — these will automatically bill you for interactions at the lowest amount possible. Maximum bids are better when you have some experience running ads and let you set the maximum amount you wish to spend for specific interactions. Target bids are somewhat similar, but you set an average price you’d like to pay for interactions, like followers or views, and X will automatically optimize your bids to meet your budget and your ideal interactions. 

LinkedIn Ads

LinkedIn ads are an excellent way for any organization to market itself to other businesses and prospective employees. 80% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn for marketing, while 84% of B2B content marketers report that LinkedIn delivers the best value for their team. Additionally, the United States is home to the most LinkedIn users in any country with 200 million

  • Sponsored Content: Sponsored Content are images, video and articles that appear directly in user’s feeds and resemble regular posts. General sponsored content is great for ultra-visual content and helps you increase awareness by sharing thought leadership, videos with a compelling narrative or the latest content from your blogs. 
  • Sponsored Messaging: Sponsored Messages are perfect for niche targeting. These ads appear directly in user’s inboxes and are meant to spark one-on-one conversations that deliver tailored messages to a particular user or audience. 
  • Lead Gen Forms: Lead Gen Forms on LinkedIn are designed to drive lead generation directly within the platform. When users engage with your ad, they can easily submit their professional information through pre-filled forms, simplifying the process of collecting quality leads.
  • Text and Dynamic Ads: Text and Dynamic Ads take up less space on the homepage, instead appearing on the sidebar and use text-only format which includes links. These are perfect for short, concise copy and to direct users to your website or other landing page.

LinkedIn uses an auction or bidding system and charges you depending on your campaign objective. For example, if you selected ‘Lead Generation’, you’ll only be charged when someone submits a lead form. Auction systems mean you’re competing with other brands for ad space — LinkedIn will determine the best ad to promote based on user interests, demographics and your budget. The minimum amount you can spend is a bit higher than other platforms at $10 with no listed maximum spend. 

Pinterest Ads

Pinterest is a visual search engine offering a unique platform for brands to connect with their audience through inspiring and actionable content like Rich Pins (images that take up more space and have dedicated templates for recipes or video). With Pinterest ads, businesses can leverage the platform's user base who is piqued for discovery in order to drive traffic, increase sales, and build brand awareness. Here's a brief look at the various ad formats available on Pinterest.

  • Video Ads: Video Ads on Pinterest allow brands to tell their story with motion and sound. These ads are particularly effective for capturing attention and driving engagement, as they stand out in a user's scrolling feed.
  • Carousel Ads: Carousel Ads enable businesses to showcase multiple images within a single ad. Users can swipe through these images, making it an ideal format for highlighting different aspects of a product or telling a brand story in chapters.
  • Idea Ads: Idea Ads are designed to inspire and engage users with actionable content. These ads blend visuals and instructional content, perfect for brands looking to share ideas or how-to guides that resonate with Pinterest's audience.
  • Lead Ads: Lead Ads on Pinterest are tailored to generate user interest and capture leads. They simplify the process for users to sign up for more information, making them a valuable tool for businesses focusing on building their customer base.
  • Showcase Ads: Showcase Ads allow brands to feature a collection of products or ideas. This format is excellent for businesses looking to display a range of offerings in a visually appealing and organized manner.
  • Quiz Ads: Quiz Ads engage users with interactive content, inviting them to answer questions. This format is engaging and useful to gather insights about their audience's preferences and interests.

Pinterest also uses a bidding system and lets you arrange your own budget surrounding Awareness, Consideration, Conversions and even Offline Sales — you’re billed on the first day of the month or when your budget threshold runs out, whichever happens first. In terms of CPC (cost per click), Pinterest ads typically cost anywhere between $0.10 and $1.50 per click. To reach 5,000 users at the highest cost, you’ll need a $7,500 budget. 

Social Media Ad Brand Examples

Almost every brand recognizes the importance of social media advertising as a key component of their marketing strategy. From small startups to global corporations, using social media platforms for advertising offers a range of tools and formats tailored to different marketing objectives, from brand awareness to direct sales. Let's explore examples of how various brands have successfully leveraged social media ads. 

Dior on TikTok

Dior uses TikTok ads to promote their updated product, Rouge Dior Lipstick, with hi-fi video production featuring a celebrity brand ambassador, Rachel Zegler. This ad promotes both brand awareness and their updated beauty product, showcasing Dior’s luxury status with lush, inspirational visuals.  

rachel zeigler red dress for dior
Image credit: @dior

Voices Ad on Instagram

Voices is a service that lets you hire voice actors for various products — their Video Ad helps spread brand awareness by educating audiences on its services while showcasing some of its talents. They maximize the use of the video and caption space, using short copy that clearly communicates their value proposition, plus the user isn’t required to take secondary actions to read the text.

woman thumbs up wearing headphones while recording voice audio
Image credit: @voices

Arc’teryx Ad on Facebook

Arc’teryx is known for its high-performance clothing — in this example, they use Facebook’s Video Ads to promote their new ‘Beta’ jacket. They use dark visuals that mimic a harsh environment where people would likely wear their product, which displays how it repels moisture and reflects light to keep the wearer safe and protected in severe conditions.

arc'teryx jacket ad, jacket being worn in dark snowy conditions
Image credit: Arc'teryx

Prose Haircare Ad on YouTube

Prose Haircare uses Skippable In-Stream Ads to simultaneously educate users about their brand while encouraging conversions and website traffic via the ‘Shop Now’ button featured at the end of the video. This ad is a great way to drive sales and learn more about which users are most engaged with their brand — since it’s an introductory video explaining the brand and what their purpose is behind customizable hair products, this is helpful to determine if they’re targeting the right users and whether or not video is a compelling format for their audience. 

girl with shiny brunette hair prose haircare ad on youtube
Image credit: @Prosebeauty

Il Makiage Ad on X

Il Makiage uses the power of celebrity to influence their audience to try their product via personality Carson Kresley and actress Melora Hardin — this is a great way to promote their product to all genders while showing their product in action. In the same ad, it also features makeup artists, adding credibility to the efficacy of its product. They also feature a unique call-to-action, avoiding ‘shop now’ verbiage, instead using ‘Take our 90-second quiz’, which brings users to a shade-match quiz where they can find their perfect foundation color and make a purchase. This helps to add value to the user by offering a customized experience that people can take advantage of wherever they are, versus traditional shade matching which requires in-person interaction.

carson kresley applying il makiage foundation in ad
Image credit: @ilmakiage

Mercedes-Benz on LinkedIn

Mercedes-Benz’s ad does a great job of promoting their product in a way that engages B2B consumers, in particular — the viewer is able to get a quick glimpse at the value for their consumer (the fact that their battery tech produces longer drives and a more powerful driving experience) or click the article to learn more. At the same time, this knowledge is especially useful for dealerships and brokers looking to sell luxury, electric vehicles or boost their sales by adding value for their customers. 

mercedes benz battery linkedin ad screenshot
Image credit: Mercedes-Benz AG

Marriot Bonvoy Ad on Pinterest

Marriot Bonvoy promotes specific destinations, serving travel inspiration with a call-to-action that encourages users to book a trip now. Rather than provide a visual of their suites or other amenities, they highlight a visitor who appears to be relaxed and enjoying her vacation, using images that evoke a sense of restoration and fun to inspire user’s travel plans. Scottsdale itself is home to diverse attractions from the North Scottdale’s upscale district featuring shops and spas to Old Town, filled with historic facades — this imagery helps the user reflect their own vacation aspirations on the ad.

woman in yellow skirt looks out on scottsdale landscape in marriot ad
Image credit: @marriottbonvoy

How To Create Your Own Social Media Ads

Typically, you’ll need a business account on whichever platform you plan to advertise on. Overall, creating ads on social media follows a general framework — though the nitty-gritty specifics can differ by platform. Here’s a basic, step-by-step guide to creating social media ads. 

  • Step 1: Define Your Objectives: Start by identifying what you want to achieve with your ad campaign. Common goals include increasing brand awareness, generating leads, or boosting sales.
  • Step 2: Choose Your Platform: Select the social media platform(s) that best align with your target audience and objectives. Each platform, be it Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok, has its unique strengths and user demographics.
  • Step 3: Set Up Your Ad Account: If you haven’t already, set up an advertising account on the chosen platform. This typically involves providing business details and setting up a payment method.
  • Step 4: Target Your Audience: Utilize the platform's targeting options to define your audience. This can be based on demographics, interests, behaviors, or even retargeting previous website visitors.
  • Step 5: Create Your Ad Content: Design your ad, keeping in mind the platform’s specifications and best practices. This might include crafting compelling copy, selecting images or videos, and deciding on the format of the ad (e.g., carousel, single image, video).
  • Step 6: Set Your Budget and Schedule: Decide how much you want to spend and over what period. Most platforms offer options for daily budgets or a total budget for the campaign duration.
  • Step 7: Launch Your Campaign: Once everything is set, it’s time to launch your ad campaign. Monitor its performance closely, especially in the initial stages, to understand how it's being received by your audience.
  • Step 8: Analyze and Optimize: Use the platform’s analytics tools to track the performance of your ads. Based on this data, make adjustments to optimize for better results, whether it's tweaking the ad creative, adjusting the target audience, or modifying the budget.

Remember, while these steps provide a general guideline, each platform has its unique features and tools, so it's vital to familiarize yourself with the specific processes and best practices of your chosen platform. 

Tips for Creating Great Ads for Social Media

Crafting effective social media ads involves a complex blend of creativity, the right social media marketing strategy and data-driven insights. Discover essential tips to find success with social media ads. 

Identify Your Objective

Before diving into the ad creation process, it's crucial to define what you want to achieve. Whether it's increasing brand awareness, driving website traffic, or boosting sales, having a clear objective shapes your strategy and helps measure success. This clarity ensures that every element of your ad is aligned with your end goal.

Research Your Audience

Understanding who you're speaking to is key in social media advertising. Dive deep into your target audience's demographics, interests and online behaviors. This research informs the content and design of your ads and helps you select the platforms your target audience uses the most. 

Tap Into Your Organic Performance

Your organic content is a goldmine of insights. Use Social Analytics to analyze what naturally resonates with your audience. This understanding can inform your paid strategies and help ensure your ads feel authentic. This also makes them more likely to strike a chord with your audience. Leveraging organic successes can significantly boost the effectiveness of your paid campaigns.

Have a Mobile-First Mentality

The United States is the leading mobile advertising market, with over 156 billion dollars dedicated to mobile ads. This spend is expected to rise in the coming years,  with over 284 billion dollars devoted to search, banner, video and influencer advertisements for mobile devices by 2028. Design your ads with a mobile-first approach, ensuring they are visually appealing and easily digestible on smaller screens. This includes using eye-catching visuals, concise messaging and mobile-friendly landing pages that offer a seamless user experience.

Test, Test and Test Again

What works today might not work tomorrow. Embrace a culture of testing — from A/B testing ad copy and visuals to experimenting with different targeting options. Continuous testing allows you to refine your strategies and stay ahead of competitors. 

Keep Track of (And Report On) Your Results

Measuring and analyzing your ad performance is non-negotiable. Regularly track key metrics aligned with your objectives and use these insights to inform future campaigns. Reporting on these results demonstrates the ROI of your tactics and efforts. They can also provide valuable learnings to continuously improve your advertising strategy. 

How Dash Hudson Supports Your Paid Journey

Dash Hudson’s social advertising capabilities for Meta give paid and social teams a break from Meta’s complicated user interface and a central location to build Dashboards to establish performance benchmarks for your ad campaigns and compare performance benchmarks across brands. You can compare ad spend, conversions and more for your paid campaigns across brands. 

Social teams can also use Community to respond to customer comments and concerns, alleviating the need for dedicated Meta community management — this also helps ensure your tone and voice is consistent across all communication channels. Community Insights provides feedback on engagement from users like commonly used keywords and interaction sentiment so you can pinpoint precisely how your audience perceives your advertising strategies. 


How does social media advertising work?

Social media advertising differs depending on the platform, but generally, it works similarly across platforms — most social ads require the following steps: 

  • Step 1: determine your goals. These can vary from awareness to leads. 
  • Step 2: set your budget. The budget determines how much you’ll spend to promote your content. 
  • Step 3: monitor ads. Respond to customer queries and concerns and monitor general performance.
  • Step 4: track results. Measure the ROI and other outcomes of your paid tactics. 

What are the best platforms for social media advertising?

The best social media advertising platforms ultimately depend on your target audience and goals — there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for all advertisements. For example, if you want to reach Gen Alpha or Gen Z, you’ll likely want to focus on TikTok ads, while you might focus on Instagram ads if you wish to increase conversions and promote your product catalog. 

How much does social media advertising cost?

Social media advertising costs can vastly differ across the board. Meta Ads Manager, for example, recommends dedicating at least a dollar per day to ads. This spend includes boosted posts and sponsored ads, with many brands opting to spend a bit more in order to increase their ad’s reach.

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