When It Comes to Social Media, the Numbers Don’t Lie: The Ads Have It

For some PR practitioners, dealing with paid media is nothing short of heresy. But if you’re a PR pro in charge of social media within an organization (a growing trend to be sure), it’s hard to ignore the advantages—and payoffs—that “paid” can bring via social media advertising.

With social media, organizations are able to not only engage mainstream media and top influencers, but other targeted groups and individuals, says Clint Schaff, director of digital at GolinHarris. “If you expand the pie to people who can drive your story to everyone, why wouldn’t you?” he asks.

Schaff, who will be a presenter at the PR News Digital PR Summit on Feb. 16 in San Francisco goes so far as to say that a social media ad on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms is the equivalent of putting a flashing message on the desk of a reporter at The New York Times.

The ability to target via social media platforms is key, says Schaff.

“Unlike a story in The Washington Post, where we can’t determine exactly who will read the paper, in social media we can pick based on interest, location and age to drill down to the targeted audience,” he says.

And these ads can be deployed for peanuts when compared to other forms of paid media. “Depending on the competition, we have seen per-clicks costs as low as 25 cents and the cost per new fan as low as 30 cents,” says Sarah Van Heirseele, digital director at Blue Chip Marketing Worldwide, based near Chicago.

And that’s why PR pros are lining up to try social media advertising. eMarketer estimates Facebook’s ad revenue to be about $4.27 billion for 2011. Twitter’s ad take is estimate at $139.5 million this year, a 210% jump from 2010.

Since Facebook is by far the most popular social destination for advertising, Haley Hebert, social media account manager at San Francisco-based PR agency Lewis Pulse, has these tips to get started on the social network:

1. Figure out your daily budget. “Even without a huge budget, you can run effective Facebook ads for a couple hundred dollars per month,” says Hebert.

2. Choose keywords wisely. “The great thing about Facebook is the ability to adjust keywords for better audience reach,” says Hebert.


Whether going the paid media route on Facebook or on other social platforms, the key is ad integration with other communications activities, says Rodger Roeser, president of The Eisen Agency, based in Cincinnati. “This is not the magic bullet,” says Roeser. “What else are you deploying for engagement—direct mail and media relations? And who are you trying to reach out to?”

But here is where some real thought comes into play: Say you’re a B2B IT company selling a service and hunting for IT professionals. Eisen says it’s essential to narrow down the job position list. His B2B communications experience tells him to target two, maybe three titles—director of IT, VP of operations and perhaps the CEO.


This is where the ability to experiment with your ads comes in. Failure comes at little cost, which makes social media advertising so valuable, says Schaff. It’s a great opportunity for PR pros to test out targeting and messaging, and to see what works. “We can put live messages out in the marketplace and see how people are reacting,” says Schaff. “Then we can see if the click leads to a connection or like.”


But engage them where? How do you choose a social platform that will give the most ad bang for your buck? “It comes down to the social site that has the largest, most engaged community that aligns with your goals,” says Van Heirseele. “If the fans are on Facebook, focus on Facebook, and vice versa with Twitter.”

And the good news with either platform: There’s an emphasis on turning regular user content into ads, on Facebook via its Sponsored Stories unit and Twitter through its Sponsored Tweets.

Then there’s LinkedIn. The power of this platform lies in its plethora of job titles to target. Roeser advises to take advantage of creating groups within LinkedIn. For The Eisen Agency’s own efforts, Roeser formed PR groups in Ohio and surrounding states. This stokes ad engagement.

Roeser says social media ads are “a godsend for B2B.” For his own agency, he estimates 500,000 ad impressions generated in 2011, with 15,000 per month on Facebook alone.

“It’s amazing how many direct leads that we’ve closed from social media.” The cost, continues Roeser, is less than $5,000 for the year, with an ROI of 100-1.

With those kinds of numbers, you should waste no time and use the Cheat Sheet to study the major social media platforms—and then get the ad party started. PRN


Clint Schaff, cschaff@golinharris.com; Haley Hebert, Haley.Hebert@lewispulse.com; Sarah Van Heirseele, svanheirseele@bluechipww.com.; Rodger Roeser, rroeser@theeisenagency.com.