Paid Ads

Social Media Ads: How Things Really Work

Bottom Shape

Krista Neher

Oct 11 2022

Social Media Ads

Ads on social media are a type of digital marketing paid advertisement that appears on social media networks. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, have well-established self-service advertising platforms.

Social media ads are popular because they are inexpensive and have very focused targeting opportunities. Businesses can get them in front of exactly who they want to reach.

How they are purchased:

Most social ads are purchased based on a bidding system, which means that the more people who want to reach the target audience you selected, the more expensive it will be.

When it comes to what you pay for, you can purchase them based on an impression (when someone sees your ad), for reach (number of people who see your ad), for clicks (people who click on your ad), leads (people who submit a lead form), and more. What you choose should be tied to your specific business objectives.


Social ads offer some of the most appealing targeting options online. Since social networks know so much about their users they can offer incredibly robust targeting options for advertisers.

Social ads allow targeting based on a broad range of demographics, interests, and behaviors. Below are some of the targeting options available in Facebook ads.

  • Location – include and exclude down to the zip code level
  • Demographics – basic age, gender, etc.
  • Advanced Demographics – marital status, education, income, parents, etc.
  • Interests – topics, categories, or even pages that people have expressed an interest in
  • Behaviors – things that people do online like shopping, making donations, in the market for a vehicle, etc. (these vary by country)

Facebook has very robust interest targeting and detailed demographics. You can create a Facebook Ad account for free and explore the targeting options to get an idea of just how detailed your targeting can be.

In addition to the general targeting options above, social networks usually allow businesses to target custom audiences that are built based on people that they have already interacted with.

When They Don’t Work:

From a business standpoint, since there are so many types of social ads, they work for most businesses in most scenarios. When they don’t produce the results you need, it’s often because they aren’t set up correctly or their content isn’t impactful for the audience.

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