Paid Social on A Budget

Over the past couple of years, there has been an obvious, and sometimes extreme, decrease in organic reach across all social media platforms. If you are following best practices by monitoring your performance on a monthly basis (read our #MakeItSocial publication if not), this will not be news to you. To be clear, organic reach is NOT dead, but newsfeeds are prioritizing content from family and friends, and those that spark conversations as opposed to ‘reactions’ such as likes and loves. In this article, we take a look at why you should be paying attention to paid media and making it part of your overall social media strategy.


Social media success starts and ends with your community — they are your organization’s biggest asset. If you’re not reaching the right people, you’re not going to see the engagement you’re looking for.

As social media managers, we need to put an increased focus on our social media community; learn from them, and understand what’s resonating with them to ultimately mobilize them to take the desired action. Social paid media can help you do exactly that. Here a number of the benefits you’ll see by allocating some budget to your social media activity.

You can reach more of your following and people beyond your following

According to recent research by Social Media Today, organically, your content is going to reach roughly around 6% of your following. With paid media, you can reach a much larger percentage of your following, as well as people outside of your following. This will increase awareness of your organization and will help to increase the engagement rate on your content.

You have greater control over who sees your content and when

Newsfeeds are no longer in chronological order, and they haven’t been for a while now, so while you are posting relevant and timely content, it may not reach your audience’s newsfeed when you want them to see it. With paid media, you can target the right audiences and schedule it so that they see the content on the day you would like them to see it.

You can deliver the right message to the right people at the right time

If you have multiple audiences that you need to speak to for different purposes, you’ll be creating multiple posts in order to get your message or ask across. With paid media, you don’t need to put all of this content on your social feeds; you can make sure that the right posts get to the right audience through strategic targeting.

You can learn more from your audience

The data pulled from social paid media allows you to learn a lot from your audience and the actions they take with your content. This information goes beyond the best time of day to post, or the number of clicks your link had. You can look at the devices they were using, the number of landing page views, whether it resulted in a Page follow. Paid media allows you to carry out tests to further understand what messages work best for different audiences, whether they are more receptive to video content or stills, what calls-to-action drive the best performance, and much more.

You can track traffic to your website

If you have implemented a Facebook pixel and Twitter tracking onto your website (a small piece of code that lets you track clicks through to your website), you will be able to report how your social media content is driving traffic to your website. If you get very technical, you can also report on whether this converts into a donation or sign up – which is great for measuring ROI and impact. This will help you to report more meaningfully on the impact social media has on supporting your organization’s overall goals. With pixel tracking, you are also able to create audiences for retargeting based on certain actions they take on your website. To learn more about this, here’s a guide on creating Lookalike audiences.

Increasing engagement on your page through paid should also help with organic reach

If you are continuously increasing the engagement rate of your content by reaching the right people with strategic paid media targeting, you are essentially increasing the overall engagement with your page, and therefore (technically), you should see an increase in your organic reach as a result. As we mentioned, organic reach is not dead, you just need to pay a little more attention to what your audience wants to see from you to get that engagement rate up!

Paid media works in real-time

Unlike other advertising platforms, social paid media is real-time, so if something is working really well, you can put more budget behind it. At the same time, if something just really isn’t working, and it is far too expensive, you can turn it off straight away. You pay for what you get, and you don’t have to commit to the full budget if your learnings tell you it’s not driving the results you need. This is extremely useful if your budgets are limited.

Budget tips

As an agency, we are often asked what our recommended paid budget is for social media campaigns. Our answer to that will always be the same: how long is a piece of string? Just kidding, it’s actually — what are your goals?

In order to work out what budget you need, you should first understand what it is you are trying to achieve and work backward from there. You’ll be pleased to hear that you don’t need to have a huge budget to start increasing your reach or engagement rates. By this, we mean you can put as little as $15 on a post, and you should start to see a lift.

We understand that budgets can be limited, and more often than not, you’re expected to deliver a lot with very little. So, we’ve put together our top tips for a successful paid media strategy on a budget.

Understand your goals (objectives)

As with any strategy, understanding what you are trying to achieve is the first step. If you are trying to increase video views, make sure you select video views as your paid objective. If you are trying to drive traffic to your website, make sure you select traffic as your objective. Social media can do a lot for your organization, but when budgets are tight, you need to prioritize your goals.

Consider your calls-to-action

As with any ask, making your call-to-action clear and concise will drive better results. If you are asking your community to watch a video and share and visit your website, the likelihood of them taking any of these actions decreases dramatically. Make one ask per post and make it clear to your audience what you would like them to do.

Consider if you have had interaction with your audience before

Most of us wouldn’t walk up to a stranger in the street and ask them a favor. You should think about your paid media activity in the same way. With paid media, you are reaching a person’s newsfeed because you have paid to be there, not because they have asked you to be there (that is unless you are targeting your followers).

Therefore, this could be the first time you have interacted with this audience. Think about how you would approach this in person — introduce your organization, tell them a little bit about who you are, and why they should pay attention. Make sure your content is eye-catching, engaging, and gets your message across quickly.

Post with a purpose

If your content isn’t relevant for your audience, paid media will not be able to make it a success. Ensure that every post has a purpose and that your audience can relate to it – think quality over quantity. Make sure that your content follows best practice; that your tone of voice is on brand, your copy is short, and your message is clear.

Make sure your assets are fit-for-purpose (social-first)

Make sure the asset you are using in your post is in the correct dimensions for the platform (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn., etc.) and ad format (Video, Carousel, Instant Experience, etc.) Our sister company, Lightful, has a great article on image guidelines for social media platforms.

Don’t be afraid to test

Test, test, optimize, and test again — trust us when we say this is the way to get more for your money. Don’t be afraid to try new objectives, new formats, new copy, new creative, and new audiences. You’ll get to know your audience better and to understand what mobilizes them to take action. This will ultimately drive lower cost-per-action, meaning more results and therefore stretch your budgets further.

And it’s ok if you mess up

The best way to succeed in paid media is to test, test, and test some more. It’s ok if you don’t get it right the first time. The second time you try it, results will be slightly better, and by the fifth time, you’ll be well on your way to being an expert. Remember, it’s not always the numbers the count – it’s the learning that you get along the way.

So, in summary, there are lots of opportunities with paid media, and you don’t need bottomless pockets to see success — from easily (and cheaply) increasing your reach and engagement to enhanced reporting, understanding your audience better, and having greater transparency on your social media ROI.

Don’t be afraid of it; start with small budgets to test the opportunities and continuously learn from the performance.


Want to learn more about digital advertising on a budget? Enroll in our week-long online course, Pay-to-Play: Digital Advertising to Drive Impact. NTEN members always save 50% on all courses.

Natalie Clarke
Managing Director, Social Misfits Media
Natalie is the Managing Director at social media agency, Social Misfits Media. A B Corp, Social Misfits works exclusively with purpose-led organisations to effectively harness social media to reach real-world targets. 

Social Misfits is part of The Brewery, parent company of global communications agency, freuds.