Managing Paid Social Media Advertising

The following section explores what marketers should consider before launching a social media campaign.

Always-on vs. campaign approaches

Always-on activity can be important for maintaining brand awareness and recall, which in turn could positively affect campaign activity when it runs.

Bigger brands will have the budget to continually run always-on activity and maintain a brand presence among their target audience.

This is especially true of large retailers, ecommerce and Digitally Native Vertical Brands (DNVBs) who consistently have a background level of performance social running. This is frequently based on user behaviour, so, for example, those who have viewed products on the site will be retargeted along with those who are due to replenish their supplies of cosmetics or food.

Campaign approaches can be useful for smaller brands for whom it is challenging to maintain consistent visibility among their target audience.

Campaign approaches can provide bursts of highly targeted media to ensure that budgets are maximised and used as effectively as possible.

This can work for certain advertisers and some campaigns, for example, a political party wishing to persuade voters ahead of an election. However, for some advertisers using campaign approaches only, this means is that once the campaign is finished, the brand is no longer visible to the target audience. This can mean a loss of brand awareness and momentum generated from the activity.

If budgets allow, a blended approach is desirable. Adopting this strategy means the ongoing brand activity maintains a foundation level of visibility across the platforms, while campaign activity can support specific or time-restricted initiatives effectively.

Resourcing for paid social media

A number of different elements are required to run a campaign successfully, including budgetary and staff resources. The scale of the planned activity and the organisation itself will dictate the volume of resources that is available.

In-house or outsourcing

The advertiser may choose to work with agencies or keep paid social advertising entirely in-house; there are advantages and disadvantages to both.


Agencies can be scaled up or down depending on the needs of the account.

The best agencies have high levels of expertise as they have a shared knowledge base, benchmarking data and are also required to keep up with industry news to maintain their competitive edge.

However, it can be difficult to know exactly how much time is being spent on the account. An agency also may not be as knowledgeable about the business or its processes as the advertiser. In-house management of the agency and their performance will be required.


A key benefit of having an in-house team/manager is that they are very closely integrated with the company. This means they will able to instigate and manage adjustments more easily and have more access to day-to-day data. They can also speedily request any internal changes, such as amendments to website pages that could benefit the campaign.

On the other hand, having just one in-house person or team can make it more difficult to quickly scale up or down as needed. If the company does not develop social media skills more broadly, they can become very reliant on individuals, which can cause difficulties when there are absences or people changes.

There are costs beyond salaries that also need to be considered, such as overheads, recruitment, design costs and the training required to maintain industry standard knowledge.

Hybrid approach

Hybrid approaches, although generally the most expensive option, tend to be preferred as they allow for the best of both worlds.

This approach allows for internal knowledge to be directly applied, as well as support to ensure optimisation amendments run as efficiently as possible. It also allows for extra agency resources to increase capacity if required, which means scaling up is easier.

There can be some added benefits to having an agency, in terms of access to their software, systems, translators, creative, planning teams and other facilities. Having two teams working together also allows for a bit of healthy competition, as they can challenge one another to achieve the best results.

Budgeting for paid social and budget allocation

Companies that have not used social media advertising before should trial small budgets to compare effectiveness to other marketing channels.

If budgets allow, compare different social media platforms. This will allow the business to make an informed decision about the scale of budget it should invest within social as a whole or on specific social media platforms.

As part of the budgeting strategy, advertisers must ensure that the level of investment put into budgets is reflected, or ideally exceeded, within campaign results. Bear in mind that these results may or may not be monetary. Consider what success would look like for a brand campaign and what the business would deem to be a good return on investment in this instance.

Before making any assessments on budget performance, ensure that the appropriate measurement and evaluation processes are in place. Using multi-channel attribution models and looking at assisted conversion reports in web analytics platforms makes it possible to consider whether social media has played a valuable role in the company’s overall digital marketing activity.

Also, consider that the budget is not solely media spend. As well as optimisation, social media ads require community management and appropriate handling or escalation of any issues.

Additional costs that may require review include investment in new platforms, trials on new audiences, geographies and new ad formats.

Other budgetary considerations might include additional insight, planning and campaign management tools as well as training and support.

International campaigns

This report is focused on the main social media channels within the US, UK and European markets. Those operating within different markets should be aware there are additional appropriate platforms they can use. For example, in Russia, VK will need to be considered as a potential platform, while in China, WeChat will be central to any social media strategy.

Bear in mind other considerations, such as the uptake of technology in particular markets or how cultural differences may have an impact on creative design. Those advertising in different markets are likely to have adopted approaches for other marketing channels. That said, there are a number of things to consider for those looking to operate internationally.

After conducting audience research, ensure that what works for a single market is not simply applied to everyone in the audience. Advertisers should take time to familiarise themselves with the markets they are looking to advertise in as each market will have variances and will be receptive to certain communication styles.

Advertisers looking to operate in a different market should also consider the following:

  • The user base of each social platform in different markets
  • Translation/transcreation of paid social media campaigns
  • Payment methods and currency variants
  • Devices used by audiences
  • Legal and compliance differences
  • Localised landing pages and content.

Running international campaigns

“We deal with a number of clients across a number of international markets. When taking on the challenge of international campaigns, we would recommend that advertisers:

1. Before activating, research the market

“The same strategy for one market will not necessarily work within other markets, even if they speak the same language. There are markets out there who are more advanced when it comes to adapting a new technology (such as VR/360) or a specific buying behaviour (e.g. mobile-only users).

“So, while your overall target consumer may be the same, there are a lot of nuances to be taken into consideration – a mum in the UK has a completely different approach to a mom in the US when they go grocery shopping or when they buy nappies/diapers for their child.

“This also applies to KPIs – advertisers need to understand that they cannot expect the same CPA in the UK as they have seen in Brazil. This change in thinking can cause brand activity to fail because they did not do their due diligence on a market.

2. Localise your creative

“It’s important to adjust your creative for the local market – this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have completely different creatives but it is advisable to look at what works best in each market. In some countries, creative featuring a product converts better, in others, a lifestyle creative is the best performing one.

“Also, if your ads feature people, it pays off to show diversity within your creative, especially when advertising in countries that have an ethnically diverse population.”

Paul Kasamias, Managing Partner Performance Media, Starcom | Performics

Cross-cultural challenges

Additional things to consider away from resource management include cultural interpretation. Cultural differences in each market will have an impact on how the brand’s message is received by the target audience. This applies to both language and the nuances within it, and the imagery, which may be interpreted by global consumers in different ways.

In the UK, photography featuring people performs well in paid social media creative, while other markets prefer visuals that do not feature people.

There are many creative pitfalls to be aware of when considering international campaigns. Idioms such as “it’s raining cats and dogs” would not be understood when translated directly into French or German. For example, the report author once horrified an Italian restaurateur when asking for “a sack of dogs” in a Tuscan restaurant. Apparently, “a doggy bag, please” does not easily translate from English to Italian.

Use a trusted translator to not only translate, but ‘transcreate’ content. This person should be able to pick up on the nuances of language, and should have strong in-market knowledge. A translator with knowledge of a market’s traditional and contemporary culture is in a far stronger position to highlight any potential issues prior to launch.

The reaction to actor Tom Hiddleston’s ads for vitamin company Centrum on China’s Weibo platform is an example of cultural nuances and preferences at play. While the ads were well received and successful amongst Chinese women, many UK commentators suggested the ad was “voyeuristic” and “creepy”.[39] Smart marketers looking for campaign success in China would do well to draw learnings from the debate.

Facebook offers the ability to dynamically translate text within ad units, through the process of automatic (machine) translation. However, this should be adopted with caution given the opportunity for error without manual review.

How to not get lost in translation

“My advice when dealing with campaigns that sit outside of your linguistic comfort zone is to ensure you have creative that not only translates well into different cultures, but that stands out. Of course, this makes it difficult to perform A/B testing with different copy variations too. In order to mitigate this, you must ensure you have a good relationship with your translator – history is littered with examples of ads that were sadly lost in translation.

“On a practical level; if you are launching a Facebook campaign in a region in which you have no prior expertise, it’s always best to start with small budgets and grow them as you see the results.

“For example, when we first entered Russia on Facebook we found that the platform was relatively expensive and quite limited in terms of targeting. It was only through experimenting with different platforms on small budgets that we found that Instagram was a much more effective means of advertising in Russia (a reverse of the results we found everywhere else). We fed this back to the client and changed our strategy accordingly.”

Dave Lowe, Associate Director, Regital

Global, regional or local management

The selection of options for how to manage paid social media advertising internationally is similar to the one for how to manage a brand’s social media overall.

There are different ways this can operate, however, there are three main approaches:

Global: One centralised team manages the brand’s messaging. This is consistent across every market and is translated into local languages, but the content always remains the same.

Local: In this approach, there are separate teams in every location who create the brand communications for that market. Bear in mind the in-market paid social specialists will likely be able to make recommendations that make campaigns more effective.

Global-local: The brand messaging is governed centrally to ensure consistency across every market. However, messaging can be translated into local languages, with specific content produced so it is appropriate for the local audience.