What's the Secret Sauce in Social Media Advertising?

With overcrowded feeds and flagging consumer tolerance, a new level of personalization is your best tactic for social ad targeting.
Chris Sugrue
September 22, 2017 - 6 min. read

Most marketers don’t need to be told that pay-and-spray tactics just don’t cut it anymore. Social feeds are overcrowded and we are all just plain sick of ads.

But there is a lifeline for marketers:

Consumers are more open to personalized advertising than you may think – you just have to go that extra mile to be relevant to them.

It’s time to get not just personalized, but hyper-personalized with your social ad targeting.

The decline of organic
The ‘death’ of organic is greatly overstated, but there is no doubt that ever-changing algorithms are taking a grievous toll on organic reach.

Facebook’s algorithm change last year, which was designed to give your friends and family priority, is believed to have decreased publishers’ organic reach by 52% alone.

So yes, you do need to rely more on paid than ever before, but don’t write organic off just yet. It is a great way to test messaging and imagery before putting ad spend behind it – we do that here.

social ad targeting

Organic reach is not dead. However, the odds are not the greatest.

However, money doesn’t make people click
Advertisers have increasingly switched to social media advertising as a strategy to combat the rise of online ad-blockers.

But even though you can beat most ad-blockers on the social networks – you can’t expunge the attitudes driving their adoption. Namely that 50% of the people using ad-blockers simply find ads “annoying and irrelevant”.

Then there is the mobile factor
Another nail in the coffin of spray-and-pray tactics is the mobile takeover.

Almost 80% of the time spent on social media is done from mobile devices. This is important as our beloved mobile phones are far more our personal, private space than any other touchpoint.

That means that advertising has taken on an all-new level of intrusiveness – and even if consumers can’t block your ads, these are just a thumb-scroll from oblivion.

The lifeline: personalization
The concept of “personalization” can raise some hackles, immediately conjuring fears about privacy. The key is to be relevant rather than creepy – more on that later.

But the good news?

Consumers are open to personalized ads. Adobe even found that 78% ‘like them’. A Yahoo study concurred, adding that consumers find them more engaging (54%), educational (52%), time-saving (49%) and memorable (45%) than general-audience ads.

social ad targeting

So how do you go about it?

Retargeting – effective, but take it easy
Social ad targeting based on individuals’ online behavior is an effectively simple form of personalization, but it can end up going the creepy route if limitations aren’t in place.

Thankfully both Facebook and Twitter can help you out. Frequency caps keep audiences from continually seeing the same ads. Custom Audience segmenting or exclusions help you do the same. You will also save money by not targeting earlier conversions.

A good tip with retargeting is to put a Facebook pixel in your emails and then retarget the people who open with a personalized paid ad.

But to really turn it up a notch, you need ‘hyper-personalization’
Yes, that does sound like a bit of marketing fluff. But it really is a thing because the software making it possible improves by the day.

Hyper-personalization is all about taking your personalized consumer interactions out of ‘creepy’ and putting them squarely in the camp of ‘relevant’.

Case-in-point: Netflix and Amazon are two brands commonly cited as having hyper-personalization locked down. A full 60% of Netflix’s rentals and 35% of Amazon sales are driven by personalized recommendation algorithms. When did you last find your Netflix or Amazon page or emails ‘creepy’?

So how do you do hyper-personalization and apply it to social ad targeting? Here are the three components as defined on Business 2 Community.

social ad targeting

1. Social listening
Social media listening is a well-established if sometimes under-utilized technology. It is how you can monitor social media and the web for anything from brand-mentions to hashtags and trending terms that may be of use to you. It is also a great way to zone in on new customers and what matters to them.

2. Data Analysis
This is where all the customer touch-points need to be gathered in unified profiles. Including site behavior, CRM entries, transactional history and social media interactions. The need to integrate these data sources is the impetus behind the growing trend towards marketing technology stacks in larger companies. Basic segmentation is the first step – bucketing people by age, gender, etc. – but it lacks that truly ‘relevant’ edge, which takes us to step 3.

3. Content and Context
Content is a multi-faceted topic of its own; here we are more concerned with context. Context is a key differentiator in hyper-personalization. With social ad targeting it is about making sure your ads go to the right person, at the right point in their customer journey.

Connecting the dots is crucial
Collating and understanding all your interactions across touchpoints is how you can ratchet up the relevance of your messaging.

Doing that takes the creation of unified customer and prospect profiles continually enriched by social data. This kind of segmenting blows geographics or gender out of the water.

You can target interests based on likes, hashtags and follows, as well as or coupled with behavioral targeting based on their purchase or interaction history with your brand.

Once these characteristics are established, Facebook and Twitter both allow custom targeting (called Custom Audiences on Facebook and Tailored Audiences on Twitter) where you can upload your profile base.

Even better, Facebook lets you do Lookalike Audiences based on Facebook users’ similarity to your customer profiles.

Lookalike Audiences
Imagine a set of people who are just like your existing clientele in every way except for one: they’re not your existing clientele. That is a lookalike audience.

Facebook allows you to input a user list or pull that data from people who interact with your page and find others who are just like them. You can then advertise to that audience. Lookalike audiences take a lot of the guesswork out of ad targeting, but you should make sure to compare the results from lookalike campaigns with other types of targeting.

Tips for Lookalike Audiences:

  • Only use your best Custom Audience (social followers, customer database, or loyal customer list and brand advocates).
  • Choose a smaller audience size. When creating your Lookalike Audience, you can pick an audience size from 1% to 10% of the total population in the country you choose, with 1% being those who most closely match your seed audience. The lower the percentage, the smaller and more targeted the audience.
  • Layer on other targeting options, such as interest and behavioral targeting to narrow your reach and better match your ideal customer.
social ad targeting

Choosing an Audience Size of 1% will make your Lookalike Audience match your source customer group more precisely

But all this rides on actually knowing your audience
Ultimately, the more you know about your audience, the more effectively you can target them.

However, this kind of data management takes some pretty hefty software; but that software is here and rapidly maturing.

Our Falcon Audience is where brands can store and contextualize all their social media customer interactions into personalized profiles, which can be synced with CRM data.

Using this centralized data, you can create custom target groups based on anything from shared hashtags to locations, purchase history or any label attached to these individuals. This data can be plugged back into Facebook or other advertising platforms for more streamlined social ad targeting.

 Audience’s capabilities were recognized by Facebook with a Facebook Innovation Spotlight Award in the Personalized Marketing at Scale category. 

social ad targeting

Audience inFalcon continually enriches profiles with fresh social interactions.

Personalization: maximize your social advertising ROI
Today’s connected consumer holds all the cards, whether it be with ad-blockers, reviews or dismissively scrolling thumbs.

To be a relevant and therefore welcome presence in their feeds takes a new approach and it hinges on data. The more data points you have on your audience, the better you can understand how to target it more effectively – and ultimately add a lot more bang to your social media advertising buck.

Personalized Marketing at Scale.
See why Falcon won a Facebook Innovation Spotlight Award.
Discover Audience