15 Smart Ways For SMBs To Get Started With Paid Social Media

Paid social media ads can help companies reach their target audiences faster and with more precision than organic social media marketing tactics. From branded content to influencer messaging to pay-per-click advertising, getting sponsored and promoted content in front of specific audiences on the most popular social media channels can bring big benefits for brands.

Of course, a paid social strategy is table stakes for many larger companies, but how can small or midsized businesses get into the game without spending too much of their marketing budget? Here, 15 members of Forbes Agency Council discuss the best ways for smaller companies to get started with paid social media advertising.

1. A/B Test Small Ad Buys On Facebook And LinkedIn

A/B testing with small amounts of money using both Facebook and LinkedIn is a good way to start your paid social media strategy. Facebook tends to have the better return on investment, while LinkedIn tends to have better reach. By testing both platforms out, small and midsized businesses can determine whether the investment is worth it and their target audience is being reached. – Scott Miraglia, Elevation Marketing

2. Leverage A Video Views Campaign On Facebook

Leverage a video views campaign objective on a platform such as Facebook, as it’s cheaper, and let the content do the filtering—don’t narrow the targeting. It’s similar to casting a wide net in the ocean and seeing what bites. Then, retarget those who watched a percentage of the ad that you deem appropriate. They’re qualified, and you can now run ads for a fraction of the cost of cold targeting. – Callum Roche, Roche Marketing Group

3. Sponsor A Post Before Building Out A Paid Ad Budget

Test the waters until you’re comfortable with the channel. Consider sponsoring a post, which can be done for a much smaller sum—we’ve done them for $100. Then, take a look at the metrics. Are you reaching the intended audience? What type of reaction are you getting? Then, build out a paid ad budget. It’s not exactly a direct comparison, but it will give you a snapshot of what to expect. – Leeza Hoyt, The Hoyt Organization, Inc.

4. Target A Narrower, Bottom-Of-Funnel Audience

If you can’t define yourself as the No. 1 provider of your product or service, narrow your target audience until you can. Big companies can broaden their advertising spend to reach a broad audience (top of funnel), but your niche allows you to target a narrower audience (bottom of funnel) that is more likely to convert. Finely narrow your targeting to specific people, then expand your reach later. – Stefan Pollack, The Pollack Group

5. Start With A Small Ad Spend And Test Continuously

Do not let an ad campaign run without making iterative improvements depending on how the audience responds. If you drive leads to a landing page, but no one converts, revise the messaging on that page so that it speaks more to buyer pain points. It’s better to start out small and incrementally increase ad spend. – Jonathan Franchell, Ironpaper


Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?


6. Have A Strong Social Strategy And Solid Engagement Practices

All companies should remember that social media ads are not a Band-Aid. They must be paired with a strong social strategy and foundational social engagement practices. Understanding your target audience and developing a social media strategy based on that understanding is the easiest way for small or midsized businesses to put an impactful social stake in the ground. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications

7. Set Up Proper Conversion And Attribution Tracking

SMBs tend to create campaigns around the wrong metrics. It is crucial to set up proper conversion tracking and multichannel attribution tracking so that you understand which campaigns generate positive ROI. Also, creatives and offers are the biggest levers you can pull on paid social, so test everything to discover the winning offer for your paid social ads. – Yan Zhang, XYZ Advantage

8. Spread Your Budget Equally Among All Platforms, Then Narrow Down

For the first month, equally distribute your viable budget among all the social media platforms where your target audience is active. Narrow down to that one platform that gives you maximum returns at minimum cost and concentrate all your budget there in the following months. Closely monitor your campaigns and block all the sources that cause wasted spend. Aim to achieve the minimum cost per action possible. – Ajay Prasad, GMR Web Team

9. Start With A Specific Campaign, Goal And Audience

Start with a specific goal versus broader branding initiatives. Track it and learn from it. Also, start with a smaller, targeted audience. If you’re looking to get started with paid social media ads, start with a specific campaign, audience and goal, then learn from those results. – Mark Skroch, BCV Social

10. Start With A Budget Of $500 Per Ad On LinkedIn

We recommend a starting budget of $500 per ad to our clients who are just starting out with LinkedIn advertising, regardless of company size or goals. It’s a sweet spot in terms of financial commitment, as you work to tailor your target audience and A/B test ad copy to deliver the best results. You can always increase your spending from there and use your metrics to inform a more robust strategy. – Heather Kelly, Next PR

11. Have A Solid Foundation In Place To Capture And Convert Leads

Smaller businesses need to be strategic in their marketing spends. Make sure that there is a solid foundation in place before running ads. The biggest mistake that small businesses make is spending money on ads but not having a way to capture or convert the leads that those ads generate. Without the proper foundation to take advantage of the ads, it’s just a waste of critical revenue. – Jason Wilson, Strategy, LLC

12. Test Social Media Ads With Small Sample Sizes

You can start testing ads on social media with small sample sizes. This can be very cost-effective, and you need to start somewhere to be able to test different creatives, offers and target audience response. Once you see where the ROI is coming from, you can expand your social media plan into profitable marketing channels. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

13. Use Paid Ads To Boost Organic Content That Is Gaining Traction

Start by focusing on creating organic content and a good cadence of organic social engagement. Once you can see what content is naturally gaining more traction on which platform, you can then try boosting those posts with small budget spends and weekly campaigns. In the B2B space, we have seen clients get hundreds of leads quickly on very little ad spend simply by using this technique. – Azadeh Williams, AZK Media

14. Time Your Social Media Ads Around Big Sales And Events

If timed well, social media ads can be game changers even when on a budget. For starters, time these ads around big sales or events. Not only will this attract consumers to the brand, but it will also give them an opportunity to try your product or service at an attractive price point, boosting conversion rates. – Candice Georgiadis, Digital Day

15. Be Extra Analytical To Ensure Every Cent Counts

Smart with smaller budgets, focus on your business’ service, product or target audience segment that offers the most ROI potential, and continually assess, test and optimize. Large ad investments are not a telltale sign of success and vice versa. When investing less into an ad campaign, you need to be extra analytical to ensure every cent counts. – Dejan Popovic, PopArt Studio

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