By Dan Stasiewski published October 10, 2013

How to Amplify Your Content Strategy with Social Media Advertising

amplify social strategy-bullhornContent marketers work hard — after all, it’s not easy to produce the blog posts, white papers, videos, and eBooks that make up a large portion of a content marketing strategy. Writing, design, distribution — there are multiple steps involved just to get something created. Not to mention that there are so many competing content sources these days that each content effort needs to find a way to break through all the search and social noise. Regardless of how great your content is, if no one’s showing up to read it, it won’t have an impact.

How, then, can you ensure your content is reaching potential customers? We know that in a highly competitive content marketplace, simply relying on search and social isn’t enough. For example, in 2012, tweets, on average, had an 18 minute half-life, while Facebook posts had a half-life of 30 minutes. And search is just as complex to navigate, as it becomes increasingly difficult for marketers to keep up with the algorithm updates and changes from the major search engines. As a result, content marketers are relying on the hope that a rather vague (and subjective) quality content promise from Google will push their content to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). 

Given the complexity of our current content marketing landscape, it may be time for content marketers to cross the battle lines and start taking advantage of a tried and true technique: advertising as part of their social media content strategy.

Creating an advertising flow to your content ecosystem

With content marketing, you’re creating an ecosystem that organically develops over time. The more blog posts you have, especially evergreen ones, the more you can share on social networks and, in turn, the more those posts can be shared by others. Downloadable eBooks and white papers are generally promoted with these blog posts, providing a way for marketers to capture a potential buyer’s email address and nurture them further. All of this content, when it’s good enough, gets linked to by others on the web, increasing the flow of visitors to your content. Visit, capture, nurture, repeat.

But as we know, any business strategy can sometimes use a bit of gentle intervention to promote sensible growth. Advertising functions like a canal being built between two separate ecosystems, joining them for a common purpose. When you add advertising to your content ecosystem, with your website serving as the primary source of content, the new flow (a process we developed with the help of Andy Crestodina) looks like this:

social media ads-website content

In the graphic above, you can see that social media is not just used for content distribution, but also for funneling potential buyers on those networks to content via advertising. You can achieve this flow in five simple steps:

  1. Create valuable content such as blog posts, eBooks, or guides.
  2. Share the content on your social channels.
  3. Determine what content is popular based on network activity (“likes,” shares, retweets, etc.).
  4. Promote your most popular content using ad units like Facebook Promoted Posts, LinkedIn Sponsored Updates, and Twitter Promoted Tweets.
  5. Capture new visitors and leads who engage with your content via social advertising.

This social advertising flow maximizes the return on your content investment by continuing to promote website content that your audiences deem valuable.

But the flow doesn’t stop there. You can support the social flow by using traditional PPC, such as Google AdWords or content distribution networks (such as Outbrain or Taboola), to drive traffic to your site. This gives new visitors the opportunity to share your best content on their social networks, which further adds to your social flow.

Success in social advertising

Generally speaking, there is a misconception that social media advertising is ineffective because it is so easily ignored. But any advertising is ignored if it doesn’t appeal to an audience.

The advantage of social advertising has always been in the amount of personal data about a user’s lifestyle and interests stored by each network. This allows marketers to select smaller, highly targeted audiences and share the most relevant content with those audiences.

Moreover, ads being placed in newsfeeds are much more effective at gaining audiences’ attention because they look and feel just like standard updates — only with a little extra (paid) boost. In order to give you a simple starting point, let’s take a look at two of the most likely social advertising opportunities you will want to take advantage of — Facebook and LinkedIn:

Promoting content on Facebook 

Facebook isn’t the first company to make sponsored updates available to advertisers, but with its deep knowledge of users and massive reach, the social network is the perfect place to promote your content.

advertise on facebook

Using Facebook’s Promoted Posts ad unit, you can take the content you’ve already shared on your business page and have it appear in mobile and desktop newsfeeds alongside other non-promoted content. You just need to remember to make advertised content both appealing and relevant. To that end, here are some tips on how you can take advantage of Facebook’s promoted posts:

  • Don’t just promote a link: Try promoting an image and putting a tracked link in the text section of the status. This makes your promoted post stand out on both mobile and desktop.
  • Always promote posts via Facebook’s ad manager: This allows you to hyper-target your audience just like a standard Facebook ad unit.
  • Promote your post to three groups: Non-fans, friends of fans, and even your existing Facebook fans. This combination creates new connections and reinforces old ones.
  • Don’t over-promote: Facebook post promotion is delicate, and you don’t want to be considered spammy. So be selective of what you promote, and avoid promoting everything you share.

Example: Facebook Sponsored Updates: Over a 5-month period of time, Axis|SybronEndo spent just $1,665 on Facebook Promoted Posts to support its content activities. This resulted in 165 raw leads directly attributed to Facebook, 28 percent of which were qualified as of the writing of this post. The rest continue to be nurtured with additional content and blog posts from the Axis|SybronEndo website.

axis dental advertising

Promoting content on LinkedIn

LinkedIn recently followed in Facebook’s footsteps by creating Sponsored Updates, an ad unit that takes a company page’s status update and places it in users’ newsfeeds. Unlike on Facebook, however, you can only promote a link using Sponsored Updates.

sponsored updates on linkedin

This makes it harder to stand out, so you have to make sure your content is just right if you want to succeed. Here are a few tips:

  • Share content of high value only: These include lengthy blog posts, eBooks, or white papers. LinkedIn audiences generally prefer more substance in their content than a list or top tips blog post.
  • Make sure the content you share has a great image: You can’t upload your own image on LinkedIn. Instead, you are limited to choosing one of the images on the page you’re sharing. A great image on the shared page is essential to successful promotion.
  • Don’t forget to target LinkedIn groups: While you can target based on location, title to industry, groups on LinkedIn get right to the heart of what people are most interested in, similar to a Facebook page “like.”

Example: Linked In Sponsored Update: Spending just $200 over a one-week period, Kuno Creative was able to boost the post shared on its company profile page, resulting in 31 paid clicks. From that Sponsored Update, 18 leads were generated — a click-to-lead rate of nearly 60 percent. Those leads continue to be nurtured with additional relevant content.

kuno creative-storytelling ebook

Defending your advertising budget

Before you launch into advertising your content, ask yourself: What KPIs should you measure against in order to demonstrate content marketing ROI?

In the end, most B2B marketers will be judged on the number of leads generated from advertising. So you must be able to show your social content promotions are creating qualified sales leads. For most companies, it’s likely that anywhere from 20 to 60 percent of leads generated through social content promotion were qualified based on pre-determined criteria — not just raw leads. Even 20 percent is a much higher success rate than standard social ad units or traditional PPC.

Another goal could be as simple as reducing pressure to create enough content. The fallacy that more content is better is still strong within content marketing circles. However, if you can boost the performance of your existing content using advertising, then your efforts can be focused on the quality of the content rather than the quantity produced.

Looking for more ways to make your content stand out and drive increased consumer engagement? Joe Pulizzi’s new book, “Epic Content Marketing,” is available now. 

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Dan Stasiewski

Dan Stasiewski is Technology Director at Kuno Creative, where he consults enterprise-level companies on content marketing, lead nurturing and marketing automation strategies. He has been developing online communities and building buzz for companies, products and brands, professionally, for nearly 10 years. You can connect with Dan on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus, or read more of his posts on Brand & Capture and DanStasiewski.com.

Other posts by Dan Stasiewski

  • Al

    I think the medium or context in which the content is promoted or sponsored is just as important as the content itself. From a purely anecdotal experience, the Sponsored Posts on Facebook feel intrusive no matter how good the content is or how well the content flows into the Newsfeed with the rest of the news from my social network. I think the reason for this is because Facebook is still a very personal experience where you connect with your friends and advertising may seem intrusive.

    I work for a content distribution platform called Cooperatize, and we believe that native advertising is the most effective when the medium or context is appropriate for the sponsored post. We work with long-tail blogs who have a niche audience to push out sponsored posts that are highly targeted and relevant for readers. If you’re interested in learning more, send us an e-mail at info@cooperatize.com

  • http://www.referralcandy.com/ Zach @ ReferralCandy

    Some people cringe at using social advertising or ‘paid social’ as they think it goes against the grain of what content marketing stands for.

    But to me, giving content an extra boost from paid social advertising makes a lot of sense. And if you think the content is valuable, you should aim to spread it as far and wide as possible so that more people benefit from it.

    Thanks for the post Dan!

    • Dan Stasiewski

      Thanks Zach. Most times I wait to see what content is already popular using social engagement stats and then pushing out via social advertising. That’s a good gauge for determining if you’re what content is worth advertising. And sometimes, content that might be worth advertising on Facebook isn’t going to do well with LinkedIn advertising. It’s all about letting the audience dictate their interest to a certain extent.

  • Owen McGab Enaohwo

    Won’t the best thing to do is determine the content which generate the most email leads or better yet the content which generates the most customers and then create social media ads for such content?

    I do not think creating social media ads for the most popular content makes sense.

    • Dan Stasiewski

      You’re absolutely right, Owen. In my experience, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Popular content tends to produce leads by shear number of visits alone. If you’re not getting leads, in the end, you should probably save the budget and promote content that does produce them.

      • Owen McGab Enaohwo

        There needs to be an easy to use tool that can let you know which specific content generates the most email leads or better yet which content generates the most customers. Any tool comes to mind and easy to use?

  • Bluenote

    Excellent Read,, Thank you, As a retired senior agency executive,( but still actually involved in the community )if someone were to ask my opinion,( A few have). Social medial without the direction and leadership of marketing pros ( not social media bloggers ) will take less and less priority in the marketing mix.iIf you are an agency principal , make your marketing people responsible for to training the so called social media mavens.. So ,far results from, social media people without a solid foundation in marketing principles, are underwhelming.

    • Dan Stasiewski

      Thanks! That’s still one of the biggest challenges our industry still struggles with. Social media and social media marketing are two very different things. There has to be a solid marketing strategy behind this or any medium to make efforts successful.

  • John Verlin

    As social media gets more cluttered and fragmented, paid content/product placement will face the same problem other media have faced in the past–how to stand out and make an impact amid less consumer time spent with that media. We have suggested to our clients coupling personality-driven radio messaging with social media promotion. Mixing traditional with digital (based on client budget) is a great way to produce measurable results quickly.

  • Haralambi Markov

    I’m interested to know how much link baiting actually factors in, when it comes to promoting content, especially when you’re paying for promotion rather than simply posting it. As John Verlin said social media clutters, fragments and streams flush at ever increasing speeds, if the users are active and immersed.

    I guess this factors in with the content being popular, shareable and of quality in the first place, but it helps when titles are a bit over the top. How provocative in trying to grab attention do you think is acceptable for companies (those with aspirations to establish a company voice) to be?

    • Dan Stasiewski

      That’s a good question, Haralambi. For the social advertising I’ve done, the titles that simply describe the content a user will receive win over baity titles, especially in the B2B space.

      • Haralambi Markov

        Ah yes, I didn’t count in the B2B side. My experience has so far been with B2C to say to say and it’s been a technique I’ve seen colleagues employ. I personally find it a bit gimmicky, so wanted to hear a stance from a more seasoned professional.

  • Houssem@hqsocialmedia

    Hi Dan, great post as usual! I just have one suggestion. Wouldn’t it be better to decide whether a piece of content is a good candidate for social advertising using leads or filling a contact form as an indicator of effectiveness instead of social shares? Thanks

  • Wolfgang Digital

    Great article Dan!!! Great to see traditional PPC thrown into the mix!

  • http://www.enjoytechnicalwriting.com/ Vinish Garg

    Great post Dan. I will add that the ‘social’ element in content strategy means that we need to have a dedicated targeting strategy for social media.

  • prowebguru

    Very useful post. Thanks for sharing.

  • Michael Bian

    A must read article great information here!