3 Common Social Media Ad Mistakes

Social media is a very unique advertising platform. The concept of virality and personalization are two elements that make it much different than traditional methods. As someone who has managed social media marketing for personalities, brands, and companies of all sizes across a diverse range of industries, I’ve studied the medium from many different vantage points.

There are several things I commonly see other accounts doing that may severely limit the effectiveness of social media ads — some of which I may have done myself at one point and learned through trial and error not to do.

Now, if what you’re doing renders ideal results, keep at what works for you. If not, here are the three issues I come across most frequently:

1. Hashtags

The use of hashtags can be problematic even with organic posts, particularly when used in excess. Though if inserted strategically, hashtags are also a great way for your content to be discovered. When it comes to paid social media ads, however, you may want to consider avoiding this practice altogether for the following reasons:

Hashtags take people away from your content
You don’t want to pay for someone to click a hashtag and go somewhere else. You want them to engage with your link, profile, video, etc. Also, on Instagram, your hashtagged ad won’t show up in search results with the organic posts — which pretty much defeats the purpose. They’re not allowed in IG story promotions at all.

(Note: This looks to be trickling down to feed posts as well.)

I recently submitted an IG ad maybe three or four times, because it was going into the review phase and then defaulting back to a common post. I then realized I’d forgotten to remove the hashtag—did that, resubmitted the promotion, and it went through.

Unless it’s for branding purposes, i.e. #JustDoIt, hashtags may do your paid ads more harm than good.

Excessive hashtags decrease the readability of a message
This is how hashtag use can also negatively impact organic posts. You see people inserting hashtags after a line break at the end of a caption or in the comment section for a reason.

Would #you want to #sit and #read through a #long #post that #looks like #this one?

Probably not, unless it’s from an account that you really enjoy. Let’s face it, we’ll probably read whatever Will Smith posts, however, he posts it. But for the rest of us, we don’t want to turn people off before they’ve even given our content a chance.

Hashtags are ugly when littered throughout the body of a message. If you want people to actually read it, try to fight this urge unless it’s for satire or dramatic effect. i.e. #Leave #Me #Alone

In general, experts say that clean social media ad copy performs best. Get rid of hashtags. Even Twitter recommends using no more than two. Make it easy for people to engage with your content and they’re more likely to do so.

2. Broad Targeting

If you try to please everyone, you won’t please anyone. It sounds good to have your ad shown to 50 million people, but I’d rather have it shown to 50,000 people who will find it interesting. Quality over quantity.

Narrow your targeting to a more niche demographic. If you’re promoting a book, don’t target people interested in just “reading” or “Amazon.” First, Amazon sells so much more than books. That category is no longer indicative of a reading habit. Target people interested in “romance novels” or “motivational speaking,” whatever your genre or topic.

It’s a waste of money to show ads to people who won’t care about them.

3. Sales Pitches

No one enjoys being sold to. We do enjoy a good story and learning something new, however. We appreciate getting information. The best social media ads are those that don’t feel like ads.They add value to the community and the overall user experience.

Take an IG video ad that I came across from an emerging speaker:

Kyle’s trying to sell you a course with this video, but he doesn’t say, “here are all the reasons this course is great and you should buy it.” He says (paraphrased): “If you give me 60 seconds of your time I’m going to show you how I booked a 20-city speaking tour in only 10 days…”

Kyle nails this approach and adds value to the user in a few ways:

  • He shows respect for your time by asking for it.
  • He tells his story and explains how he accomplished staggering results.
  • He introduces a concept you may not have heard of before/teaches you something new.
  • Finally, Kyle offers to show you how to do what he did.

He does all of this in just 60 seconds! The ad is to the point, appealing, and doesn’t feel sleazy or selfish.

Don’t forget about the “social” in social media

This medium at its core is a place for conversation, storytelling, and sharing information. Most users are annoyed by the heavy influx of advertising. Promoted posts almost have to fall into one of the aforementioned categories to hold anyone’s attention.

There are many more potential social media ad blunders, but those are the three I witness most often. Those are also easy to fix. We may not have the resources to film elaborate videos or extend ad duration — but everyone can eliminate hashtags, research and develop a defined audience, and take a less self-serving approach to their messaging.

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