Beyond the Like: Marketers Share Social Advertising ROI Tips Ahead of #SESTO

Hundreds of experienced and knowledgeable marketers will gather together later this week for SES Toronto 2013. Two of those marketers, Helen Overland from Search Engine People and AdParlor‘s Rohan Karunakaran, will join me Friday afternoon to share their considerable expertise on social advertising ROI with SES participants.

Beyond the Like: How Companies are Using Social Advertising to Drive User Acquisition and ROI features practical tactics marketers can use immediately to better optimize their social ad spend for lead gen and customer acquisition. Overland, her digital marketing agency’s Vice President, and Karunakaran, Sr. Account Manager for large Facebook ads campaign clients at AdParlor, were kind enough to answer some questions in advance of their session.

Your customers increasingly spend their time on social networks; Nielsen reports 20 percent of the average consumer’s time spent online is in social media. Advertisers are capitalizing on this opportunity to connect with incredibly specific audience segments using targeted content and messaging.

Just a few years ago, when social advertising was in its infancy, ROI and proper attribution were incredibly difficult to prove. Now, as the market has matured and become far more competitive, brands demand measurable results and accountability for every dollar spent on social ads.

Overland and Karunakaran understand the importance of planning to ensure campaign success; of defining goals, understanding KPIs, aligning content with relevant offers, and tracking attribution reliably across platforms and devices. They also shared these helpful tips to get us primed for their session on Friday:

Try Facebook for B2C, LinkedIn & Twitter for B2B Social Ads Campaigns

As a rule, of course, there is no rule that states one network is better than another for your company’s social advertising needs. If you’re just get started, Facebook is typically a better platform for B2C marketers, whereas LinkedIn and Twitter might be a more effective solution for your B2B needs.

“LinkedIn is definitely the go-to place for marketing to businesses. The ability to target ads based on Industry, job function and seniority is hugely powerful,” Overland said, adding that Twitter is also a network that B2B marketers should pay attention to. “With so many businesses using Twitter and interacting through it, there is a good sized market there for B2B advertisers, especially those in niche markets.”

Both Overland and Karunakaran believe Facebook is more suitable for B2C marketers, with exceptions.

“When people are on Facebook, they’re in the mindset to catch up on news about their friends and family. Facebook is a respite from work, so if someone sees an ad for better HR software or Enterprise Network Security, they’re probably not in the mood or mindset to click through,” Karunakaran pointed out.

He also notes that intent on Facebook can be weak.

“Someone may click through a B2B ad on Facebook, but since they weren’t actively searching for that information at that point in time, they’re not going to follow some deep conversion flow and sign up for a subscription service or make a big investment at that instant,” he said. “If anything, they may offer up their email address, and this lead would have to be nurtured and closed via email funnel.”


Overland agreed it’s a bit more difficult to target the B2B market in Facebook, but for consumers it can be very powerful. “If you are promoting content on an ongoing schedule, you can spread your message quickly and widely using Facebook on a fairly reliable basis,” she advised.


  • Twitter offers a decent B2B market.
  • Don’t expect social ad respondents to follow a lengthy conversion process.
  • Try Facebook first for B2C campaigns.

Understand the Differences Between Search & Social Advertising

The skill set required to actually execute search and social ad campaigns may be similar, but there are key differences in strategy that marketers need to understand. The three primary ways search & social ads differ are in intent, discovery, and targeting.

Intent in search tends to be stronger.

“Well-done search advertising means showing your products and services to people who are actively looking for what you do, in the moment they are looking for it,” Overland explained.

The spectrum of intent is also much wider for search, according to Karunakaran.

“You can have someone searching for ‘widescreen TVs,’ if they want an idea of all their options and various price ranges,” he said. “On the other hand, someone who has made the decision to make a purchase may search, ‘60″ Sony widescreen TV, Future Shop Toronto, price.’ This person is likely very close to making that purchase. The same is true for travel, retail and other industries,” he adds.

In social channels, people probably aren’t actively searching for your product. “You’re just presenting it to them,” Karunakaran said. “Therefore, they’re less likely to go through some deep or lengthy conversion process.”

Discovery, on the other hand, tends to be higher in social than in search. “What Social lacks in intent, they make up in discovery,” Karunakaran points out, noting that social allows brands to present themselves to users who hadn’t searched for them. “If brands are intelligent and craft a compelling ad, with great creative and targeting, and conversion flow (consistency in messaging from advertisement, to offsite landing page to checkout experience), they will see higher conversion rates.”

Social also provides social context and personalization opportunities, says Karunakaran. “Brands like Indochino can publish ads/stories to users that their friends ordered a tailored suit. These users may now be likely to find out more about the brand from their friend.”

Finally, social offers the opportunity to reach users further down in the funnel, Karunakaran said.

“Both search and social are excellent in the granularity of targeting they offer. Facebook, in particular, offers custom audience targeting, lookalike audience targeting, and other options to help marketers reach people further along in their purchasing decision,” he said.


  • Understand where your audience segments are in the funnel as you plan social ad campaigns.
  • Use targeting and user activity to amplify content with social context for your audience.
  • Try Facebook’s advanced audience targeting options.

The Closer Your Bid Adjustment is to Real-Time Market Conditions, the Better

How closely should marketers monitor their social ad campaigns? While it would be ideal to sit on it all day, most business owners and marketers can’t justify the investment in time.

“Some of the networks (like Facebook) offer options to optimize and manage your bids for you, which can save you a huge amount of time,” Overland recommends. Her company’s testing has shown that the auto-bid management system in Facebook tends to be a fairly reasonable way to manage bids when marketing managers don’t have the time to manage bids manually, she said.

Karunakaran adds, “If they work with an ads partner, bids are adjusted dynamically depending on inventory of their targeting users at any given time, and the number of other advertisers bidding on that same inventory.” This means bid adjustments approximately every fifteen minutes.

“With e-commerce, more so than with brand awareness, you want to be as efficient as possible with your bids, to make sure you’re not overspending on clicks, as that will back out to expensive CPAs,” he warns. “The closer your bid adjustment is to real-time market conditions, the better.”

Overland also reiterates that CPC isn’t everything; monitoring conversions from your campaigns is critical in measuring success.

“Social can be difficult to measure, but it’s certainly not impossible,” she said. “There are many tools out there now that will monitor the conversion rates of your social campaigns. Without selling your services, or at least building an audience you can market to, you’re wasting budget, so it’s absolutely critical to monitor the conversions generated or influenced by your social campaigns.”


  • Try Facebook’s auto-bid management to effectively manage bids without a heavy time investment.
  • Keep a close eye on e-commerce campaigns.
  • Always factor conversions and CPA into your calculations when measuring success.

Keep Social Ad Creative Fresh

Social advertising can exponentially expand your brand’s reach.

“If you put a piece of content up on Facebook for example, only a few people might see it. If you promote that content, though, you can spread your content further and faster. That piece of content still has only a short lifespan,” Karunakaran said.

With greater exposure can come ad fatigue, both experts warned.

“A couple key metrics to measure ad fatigue are click through rate and conversion rate,” Overland explained. “If your CTR drops, you know that your message is becoming repetitive and users are developing banner blindness to it. If CVR drops, your ads might still be compelling enough to get efficient CTRs, but the quality of your targeting isn’t great, because they’re not performing a given conversion.”

Generally, Karunakaran introduces new creative every 4 to 5 days on the same audience. he will also introduce the initial ads to different audiences to maximize the shelf life of his advertising.

“Think of a social campaign as a series of ongoing content pieces, instead of one content piece for each campaign,” he recommends. This approach will tend to deliver the best results over time.

Karunakaran adds, “The social space is too noisy and alive with change to put out a single piece of content and assume it will have a lasting effect. The best course of action is to be creating and promoting content on an ongoing basis, for each campaign you are running.”

For her part, Overland says, “Generally, you want to be producing content on a weekly basis if you’re going to be using promoted posts, and much more often if you’re trying to promote yourself for ‘free’ on Facebook.”


  • Watch carefully for signs of ad fatigue and refresh content accordingly.
  • Promoting content can reduce its lifespan.
  • Promote content to all appropriate audience segments and target markets for maximum return on each piece of content.

Beyond the Like: Friday June 14th at 3pm, SES Toronto

If you’re in Toronto for SES this week, don’t miss Beyond the Like on Friday, with speakers Rohan Karunakaran and Helen Overland, moderated by yours truly. Share any questions you have for this panel in the comments below and I’ll do my best to get an answer for you on Friday!

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