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Advertising on social media is one of the most misunderstood strategies in social media marketing. Many businesses don’t invest in social advertising because they think it’s too expensive or too complicated to make it worth their while, but this isn’t true.

For social media marketing beginners, social ads may seem just like social networking – but in reality social advertising is quite different from social networking. When you build a social audience on any social platform, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest, you’re building an audience of people who’ve chosen to follow you (or become fans). With social ads, you’re targeting an audience that has never even heard of your company.

By advertising on social media, you can increase brand awareness by reaching people who aren’t already following you – and social ads are the most cost-effective way to do this.

Let’s take a look at what social advertising is and why social advertising works.

What is social media advertising?

Social ads, also known as social marketing or social media marketing, are exactly what they sound like: advertisements you create for placement on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Social ads allow you to introduce your brand to people who may not already be familiar with you and your services.

You’ve likely seen social ads if you’re active on social media: social ads look like posts from people you follow or look like sponsored stories in your social feed. They may even resemble tweets or updates from your favorite social networking sites. But social ads aren’t organic social messages: social ads are paid for and directed at specific social audiences.

The goal of social ads is to introduce your brand, product or service to people who haven’t already heard about you – on social networks where they’re spending their time online.

Are social ad campaigns effective?

The short answer: yes! Social advertising is an efficient and effective social media marketing strategy. Of course, the effectiveness of social advertising depends on how you run your social ad campaign.

There’s no doubt social ads work: social ads led to an overwhelming $40 billion in ad-generated revenue for Facebook in US & Canada alone last year. And social media users are 2 times more likely than non-social users to purchase a product or service online.

Social ad campaigns also help social media marketers attract and convert new customers, increase social engagement leading to greater brand exposure , and measure social advertising success using social analytics . And social ads offer unparalleled targeting capabilities which helps you connect with the exact right social audiences you’re looking to reach.

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