Senior Content and Social Media Specialist, Sarah Vaughan, joined us to discuss the nuances of social media campaigns. Is paid social a must? Can you get away with only organic content? Come get a little off topic with Sarah and Speak's VP trio to find out.
Roberts: Hello everyone and thank you for joining us. You're listening to A Little Off Topic, one agency's water cooler chat on digital marketing, business, and all the things that get in the way, presented by Speak Creative. Let's get into it.
Kindra: Today we are so excited to have our senior content specialist join us. Sarah Vaughan, welcome to A Little Off Topic!
Sarah: Thanks guys. I'm excited to be here.
Kindra: We are grateful to have you here. I think today we're going to be talking about something that you're truly the pro at. Paid social media ads, so can't wait to jump in and hear more about that. Alright, Sarah. We've talked about social alot. It's been a frequent topic of conversation here on the podcast, but we want to dive in a little bit deeper today to the nuances of it. We're so grateful, like I said, to have you here and want to hear your expertise really shine here. If you want to start, I would love to ask you what is the biggest advantage of paid social media?
Sarah: Paid social media has so many advantages. In terms of paid social versus traditional marketing, you can really target who your audience is. So if you buy a billboard or an ad in a magazine, you might have an idea of who's going to see that ad. You might have an idea of who lives in that neighborhood, or who's going to pick up that magazine, but you don't really know for sure if they are someone who's interested in your product, you might know their age, but you don't know the entire picture of who they are. With paid social, you can get really granular and say, "my product is really great for someone of this age in this area who's interested in these products, who is this type of buyer." There's really no better way to target your products or your services to someone than to be able to get the most bang for your buck by targeting exactly who is going to buy your product.
Kindra: Absolutely. The data reporting is a big deal for clients and us, because we can see exactly how it's performing.
Sarah: Absolutely. That's another good point too, you have that data from paid social that you don't have from the results of a billboard or a magazine ad. Even if something is doing well, but you could tweak it a little bit, you know exactly how to do that to even have better results the next time around.
Roberts: Even differentiating from organic social, there's a big difference there, right?
Sarah: Absolutely. You can target people obviously who don't follow your page with ads. You can target people who are all around the world. We have clients who we're targeting all over the United States and in other countries for, and that's something you can't necessarily do with organic. It's a great marketing tactic.
Kindra: Sometimes the people that like your page or your mom, right? Maybe not your target audience. For an organization, and I know my answer, but would you say that paid social media is do or die in today's marketing world?
Sarah: It is for sure, because any type of social media and any type of marketing, is all vying for our attention. Being able to utilize a type of marketing that is targeting the right people for the right reasons, I think is the best way to get your product or your service in front of the right audience.
Roberts: Thinking about the importance of paid social, what are the hurdles that people need to get over? What are the misconceptions about paid social that we need to help people unpack or get comfortable with that prevent more folks from engaging with it and actually seeing the success that we know is possible there?
Sarah: I would say there's two or three different things that tend to come up in conversations that I've had with people. I think the first is a fear of the platforms themselves. It can feel really intimidating if you've ever gotten into Facebook ad manager or the business manager. It can feel there's a lot that you don't really know. You're not really sure if you want to work with it, which is understandable.
Kindra: Not to mention it changes every day.
Sarah: It does. Facebook must have an entire department of people whose job it is to change things. To their credit, they do actually do a very good job of making things very user-friendly. For example, the iOS 14 updates that are hitting Apple soon are really going to have an impact on ads, but they have an entire tab in every single client's ad manager to say, "Hey, here's what you need to do to prepare for it." So they really are all about making it as user-friendly as possible and #ad, but obviously if you have an agency to help you, then you've got someone on your side. But I think it can be a little bit intimidating, but it's really not that big of a hurdle to get through. Then the second thing I think is, I think a lot of people are afraid they're going to have to spend a lot of money for it to be beneficial. That's not the case at all. We do have clients who spend quite a bit of money $10,000 or $20,000 because they're marketing to a lot of people all over the world. But then we have clients who spend $250 and they generate a significant number of leads from the ad spend. I wouldn't want people to think, "Oh, I'm going to have to spend a lot of money or I'm going to have to totally do away with my traditional budget." You really can experiment with certain budgets that are good for you that can still be successful.
Kindra: We have a client in particular I'm thinking of that came out of a really traditional media mix. They were buying a lot of TV and when you're buying one spot on the nightly news, well, there's 10 spots on the nightly news, so that price is really expensive. But when we're talking about digital ad space inventory, we're on our phones more and more and more. So everything has ad space and that makes it really cost-effective, because there's so many different opportunities. We've got all sorts of types of ads, audiences to target. We can reach everyone through a 5x3 square piece of technology versus one billboard that is on prime real estate. I think the ad inventory makes it so cost-effective, but it does scare people. I think you're spot on.
Ervin: The billboard is so much bigger though.
Roberts: So if I'm recapping so far, it's more targeted, with more granular reporting, it's less expensive, and it has a higher return on investment. It's interesting to hear you say that because on the front end, I talk to people who are considering us as a solution quite a lot, and occasionally I'll hear a really backwards approach towards marketing. "I'm not on this specific channel. I don't know any of my friends who were on this specific channel." I've been guilty of having the same mindset sometimes of "Oh, because I'm not aware of it and because I don't know what's going on, it can't be effective." How do you get folks comfortable generally with some of the channels and what's going on and how to actually get into some of these demographics?
Sarah: That's a really good point. That's understandable. I can relate to that. I am the type of person who still wants to detox from my phone sometimes. So I think especially people who are over social media ask "do I really want to use that as a marketing tactic?" But I think it's beneficial, because even if you're not on Facebook or even if you're not Instagram, there's always Twitter. There's always Spotify. There's always YouTube. There's always Tiktok. Your audience is somewhere on one of those platforms. You're probably somewhere on one of those platforms. I think people sometimes think they have to do it all. "We have to be on Facebook. We have to be on Instagram. We have to be on YouTube" But there are a lot of brands that one particular platform might be great for you and that might be all you need to stick with. I think not letting that fear of feeling you have to do it all and you have to reach your audience on every platform, can give you room to feel "okay, let's evaluate who our audience is, which one of these platforms would they choose?" and maybe start with one and see and go from there.
Roberts: I love it. That's great insight.
Kindra: Playing devil's advocate. Are there any types of clients that you wouldn't recommend paid social for? Where maybe it's not going to perform well for them?
Sarah: People who do not like results. Just kidding.
Ervin: Well done. Well done.
Sarah: Yes and no. Well this is a little bit of a nuanced answer, but my parents are a great example. My parents own a business where they sell hearing aids. So for a long time, my parents were convinced that they don't need to run social ads because their audience is 70 or 80 year olds. They are not actually on Facebook, which is true for the most part, but their kids are. Their 56 year old kids are a big part of the reason that a lot of their clients come in, because they're the ones who say, "Hey, I saw this great deal or this brand is reputable. I follow them on Facebook." So that's something to think about too. Even if your target audience isn't on Facebook, someone who might have an influence in their buying decisions probably is. We have some clients who are universities and we're not necessarily targeting 14-year-olds, but we are definitely targeting their parents.
Kindra: There are so many tools now, even if you don't have a website, you can run Facebook ads that are click to call or app downloads or lead forms, right? Having a website is what I would have probably said was a requirement to doing paid ads a few years ago, but it's really not a barrier anymore.
Sarah: You can also utilize the audience network. You can actually do a form of display ads through a Facebook ads manager, so even if your audience is not necessarily on Facebook, you're still getting a return on investment. They're running ads there because using algorithms, they're still putting it in places where they know they're going to get results.
Roberts: That's awesome. What are some favorite types of ads that you've seen that have been super successful over the past 6 to 12 months? I think it's easy to get into the benefits and what's possible and everything else, but when we actually look at ads that have been created, campaigns that have been created for our clients, what are the ones that we feel like have really performed well?
Sarah: I would say there are two big things. One is going back to the basics. Instead of selling your product or your service, try to think of what solution you're solving and lead with that in your copy and your graphics. People are so overwhelmed with the social media ads they're getting, you've gotta be able to stand out. Making sure that you are actually presenting yourself as, "okay, I actually have this product or service that you need." That's a big one. The second one is carousel ads are doing really well. If you've ever seen the ads where you scroll through, and then you use your finger to scroll to the right or left, those are really great because it allows the consumer to engage in some way. It makes it more interactive which is always fun. Those always do really well. Video ads do really well. Youtube ads are a big one, especially if you have any way to create some visual content, those are doing really great.
Roberts: And #ad, if you need help creating visual content, we got you.
Sarah: We know some people that know some people.
Kindra: What outside of obviously Facebook and Instagram are our primary ones? We do a few other LinkedIn things, but what's the newest place that we're seeing some success with clients advertising? We're trying to keep them off Tiktok I know, for a little bit longer.
Sarah: Spotify and Snapchat are two the newest that we've seen some really great results with I think a lot more of the Gen Z and millennial generations are getting onto Snapchat. There a lot of people are using Spotify, so we're seeing a lot of success there.
Ervin: Out of curiosity, why not Tiktok?
Kindra: Well, here's my philosophy. I'll answer it with my philosophy. Then Sarah, please chime in. But Tiktok and Snapchat to me, it's too much to try to do ad content there, it disappears. Tiktok doesn't disappear, but you have a split second to capture attention. It's a whole drain on your budget and it's not content that's going to be long-lasting. Also I think that your audience is not there to look at your ads. If you're going to have a Tiktok strategy, it needs to be because you're there to entertain, not sell something.
Ervin: That makes sense.
Sarah: I think that's spot on. If you think of how Facebook posts are structured, even when you're scrolling through your friend's posts, an ad looks very similar. It doesn't feel as, it doesn't feel as much of a pitch or as in your face. Whereas on Tiktok, people are going to Tiktok to watch videos from people trying to be funny. It's really hard to place an ad there and it not feel really forced and really inauthentic. If Oreo wants to advertise on Tiktok, they can start some Oreo challenge and all these people will copy it and it will be huge. If the local plumber wants to do something on Tiktok, it's not gonna work the same way.
Ervin: What if he's really funny? Like a really funny plumber?
Kindra: Well then we'll try anything. We'll go for it.
Sarah: I think funny plumber actually could be a great handle.
Ervin: Funny plumber. Alright. We've got a new project.
Kindra: We came out of a very tumultuous 2020. There were new ad restrictions. Unprecedented, if you will, that we couldn't advertise anything with COVID. It was an election season. There was a lot of racial tension. We got the book thrown at us as far as rules go and disapprovals go on ad content. Can you talk a little bit about that challenge?
Sarah: That's something that we face in the social advertising world. I think it's important to understand both sides. Obviously Facebook has these restrictions in place because they want to protect users. They want to make sure they're not putting out false information out there. They want to make sure that they're giving a user the best experience. I think that knowing that their intentions are there and their intentions are to protect users, it makes sense why they say, "Oh, you can't use this word or you can't promote this idea." It makes it a little bit challenging. We have one client, for example, who has a historic home and it's an event venue and it's a museum and people come for tours. But simply because of the fact that we use the word "history" a lot, it'll get flagged. Because a lot of people tend to use topics in that area for political fodder and it does make it challenging. I will say one thing to know is it is worth taking time to learn what Facebook does and doesn't want you to do. Obviously that'll save you some time in getting things rejected and not using certain words there, but it's important to know that they are ultimately trying to protect users so they do have those things in place there.
Kindra: Sarah getting flagged for putting the word "history" in an ad was a new eye roll for us, for sure. I know that some medical clients, you can't say that you're going to change someone's look or that they're going to be happier with you. Any time you attempt to edit them based on your service, that will get disapproved, so instead you have to say that you do that service rather than "we're going to change your smile" It's "we improve smiles." You get around the language. Luckily, Sarah is a brilliant copywriter in addition to a paid social strategist, so we've got the best of both worlds, but it's a challenge.
Roberts: She's also rapidly gaining a place on the sales team.
Kindra: I need you to cut that out.
Sarah: I don't know if I'm interested in this.
Roberts: That's good, man. Feels good.
Kindra: I've gotta be my introverted book nerd, social expert self. I don't know about the sales team.
Ervin: I have a question. I'm a complete luddite when it comes to social media, I don't do any of it. It's all very interesting to me. When I asked Kindra that question, I was really curious because I didn't know the answer, but are there some things without being too revealing of who might've asked you for this, but are there some things that people have asked for that have been really bad ideas? Well no you should not do that. It may be a hard one to answer.
Sarah: I don't think we've ever had anyone ask us anything where it's, "Hmm, that's unethical" but I would say that it's important for businesses who are in the health and fitness realm, like gyms or dentists who provide cosmetic dentistry or any organization that is focused on beauty and health and wellness. That is one of the biggest areas. So sometimes they might want us to say "love your new smile" but Facebook is very picky in terms of what Kindra was saying, you don't want to encourage someone to change yourself. That's a big, big thing that gets flagged a lot. That's something to know. You can't really talk about some things with health and fitness. You can't talk about anxiety. You can't talk about depression, you don't want to imply that someone has those things. I would say if you're in one of those specific industries, work with someone who can help you navigate that and guide you and direct you. Here's what we can say. Here's how we can present this so that people know we're offering this valuable service and we're not trying to change them.
Kindra: One thing I would add to answer the question would be something you touched on, which is strategy. I have seen clients say, "well, we haven't spent our $300 boosting budget, so let's go boost this post or that post without any strategy." So I think with any ad spend, you need to understand your end goal, not be there to fulfill a strategy or budget line. Making sure that it's clicking somewhere, that we're not boosting something that has no action for your user to take. We have run into that, not so much anymore. I think people are a lot more conscious of what they're spending, but certainly have had that conversation in the past.
Sarah: When a client comes to us and they're paying us to handle their social ads, we are coming up with the right target audience. We're executing that. We're creating the graphics because I remember back in 2012, we could literally have a picture that you took on your cell phone and use it in an ad, but you can't get away with that anymore. We're creating the graphics and the assets and we're making sure you can track it in Google Analytics. There's a lot of things on the backend that go into that. It's really important.
Roberts: I think another thing that's worth maybe talking through from a strategy standpoint is paid social ads are certainly great for building overall awareness and getting people into a consideration phase, but through retargeting, we can help move somebody through the entire funnel of whatever a buying experience would look like. Whether you're somebody who's actually selling a product or you're selling a service or you're looking for donations or whatever the case might be. You can shepherd somebody through that process. Could you pull that apart a little bit for us?
Sarah: That's a great point. You can use ads for general targeting for people who haven't necessarily purchased anything from you or engaged with your business. But you can also use them for retargeting. We use them for clients, especially e-commerce clients. You might have someone who went to your website and they put something in the cart, but they didn't purchase it. So we'll have a retargeting campaign set up for those individuals. We might have a retargeting campaign set up for someone who did make a purchase in the last however many days, maybe it's the last three months or the last six months. We can retarget them as well. You can use social ads to both target people who haven't engaged with your business, but also keep people who are still engaged and continually engaged.
Roberts: It's time for us to ask you the random off the wall question to round things out. We know you're a big reader. If you could read only one more book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Ervin: You mean like read it over?
Roberts: You choose how to answer the question.
Kindra: Take a really long time to read it, Matt.
Sarah: This is such a hard question for a book lover.
Roberts: It's like picking your favorite kid.
Ervin: Oh I have one.
Kindra: Me too.
Sarah: If I really had to choose, I would say, there's a book called A Man Called Ove. It's written by an author named Frederick Backman. He's actually a Swedish author, so his books are translated, but they're really well done. But it's such a heartwarming story.
Ervin: It's a good book.
Sarah: It's a great book.
Roberts: Did you say he's Swedish?
Sarah: He's Swedish, yeah. Then it's translated by someone else.
Roberts: Well, I was about to say, do you have a lifelong ambition of learning Swedish so that you can read them in the original text?
Sarah: I do have family. My grandfather is Swedish, so that's why I always joke that Ikea is the land of my people. If I could learn another language, it would be Swedish, but ain't nobody got time for that. I don't know, I read the translation for now and then we'll see. Maybe check back in like 10 years.
Kindra: How many books do you read a month, Sarah?
Sarah: Usually anywhere from 10 to 12. I'm surprised that people know I read. It's not that I talk about it every day.
Kindra: I feel really good about myself when I finish two in a month. Sarah puts that to shame for sure.
Sarah: Well you've got to get some audiobooks in there. You got to get the Kindle, got to get some physical books.
Kindra: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining us. This has been super enlightening. Love to get to share you with the world, but no, we can not have you do sales. Well, we can have you join sales conversations, but sorry, Matt. She's not coming to your team.
Sarah: I love my digital marketing team.
Roberts: From myself, our panel today, and all of us at Speak. Thanks for getting a little off topic with us. If you liked today's episode, you'd love the content. Our team is cranking out on our blog, head over to madebyspeak.com to check out the latest and greatest. If you enjoyed the show, subscribe and leave a review on your podcast platform of choice and see you next time.