Promoted Posts: Strategy for using sponsored updates on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter

Promoted Posts: Strategy for using sponsored updates on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter

Throughout this article sponsored Facebook stories, promoted tweets and LinkedIn sponsored updates will all be referred to as promoted posts. Pinterest and other platforms also offer advertising solutions for business but this article focuses on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

The phenomenon of paying to get posts pushed before the right eyeballs is a direct result in the growth of mobile and tablet use. As CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner, said in a recent interview there is “limited real estate” on a mobile device. In order for social networks to balance the monetisation of their platforms against actual use, it is essential that rent is paid on that real estate. Traditional display and pay per click advertising is too intrusive for the smaller screens.

Like many digital advertising platforms promoted posts allow advertisers to manage and target their advertisements to ensure the most cost-effective use of their budgets. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have the following features in common:

  • Targeting - advertisers can choose across a range of demographics (gender, age, geography etc.) to focus their efforts on those most likely to respond.
  • Reach an audience beyond your following - all of these platforms will expose your brand beyond your current followers. This will help you build your following on the social network as well as promote specific events, products, services or offers.
  • Bidding and daily budgets allow planning - the advertiser chooses how much a click or a thousand impressions is worth and bids accordingly. At the same time the advertiser can set a daily limit to the budget for the promoted post therefore keeping cost within budget.

Preparation is key

Whichever platform you choose it is essential to be prepared. You must have a defined business objective with a strategy in place to achieve it. A promoted posts campaign is a tool within a larger framework that, at least, involves 

  • developing customer persona
  • mapping customer journeys
  • unique landing pages
  • data collection and analysis

All of this activity must be repeatable and measurable. Therefore keep in mind how you will measure the success of your campaign as you create your promoted posts.

  • On Twitter you are paying for cost per engagement (CPE)
  • On Facebook and LinkedIn you choose whether it is cost per click (CPM) or per thousand impressions (CPM).

You are charged, to the limit of your daily budget, when a user reacts to your promoted post: when you gain a follower, a retweet, a share, a clickthrough. (Note: LinkedIn only charges for clicks on “content, company name, or logo. This doesn’t include social actions (shares, likes, and comments).”

How you use these platforms has implications for your campaign strategy and business strategy overall:

  • Have you created a unique landing page that will allow you to measure the results?
  • Have you created funnels and goals that will allow you to track user journeys once they click through to your site?
  • Have you the resources to manage the traffic and new custom, on- and offline?

As these systems are relatively new on all three platforms it is worth reflecting on whether to jump in. On the plus side users are not yet jaded by promoted posts. You can also maintain complete control of your spend on the platforms, adjusting or cancelling your campaign depending on the results.  On the minus side it is difficult to gauge how successful this form of advertising is with so few relevant case studies available. As one writer puts it:

“Is it worth paying for placement on a site that gives away its core currency -- the 140-character tweet -- for free? The summary response from some early adopters is: Yes, most definitely -- but it helps if you know what you're doing.”

Using promoted posts seems very positive but is, according to Twitter, about “awareness and purchase consideration” not actual purchases. Indeed this is a key phase of the purchase process and possibly the longest. It is imperative that your brand is present in order to be considered. However, none of the platforms can confirm actual conversion or acquisition of their users by their clients: the onus is on the online marketer to put these systems in place.

Promoted posts are a way to promote a well planned and executed content strategy: your content will not prove any more effective if it is not already helping you acquire customers or leads. Using promoted posts could be an expensive way to find out whether your content is doing its job. It is fundamental therefore that your organisation have your own systems in place to measure the cost per acquisition. According to one early adopter of LinkedIn Promoted Posts

“Linkedin Sponsored Posts: 1,819% Better CTR Performance Than PPC, 73% Lower Cost”

which sounds very attractive but read on to understand the actual cost: “the cost per click (CPC) on standard pay per click ads on LinkedIn was $18.69 per click, while the sponsored post was a mere $5.01 per click”
With that kind of cost per click it is crucial to know that a sale was made, a lead was captured or an appointment secured. If you can’t measure that yet then you are not ready to use promoted posts.

Make your posts work

These tips will help you create better promoted posts. They should also help you decide whether your organisation is ready to promote your content and your business to a wider audience.

Excellent Headline
This is without a doubt the most important factor in a promoted post. You have limited space to get the message across (about 100 characters). Make them work: check your spelling, don’t use txtspk or acronyms and craft unique headlines for each platform.

Test, iterate or segment
If you are unsure how a post will perform for a targeted audience, tweak and split your budget into sub-campaigns. Be conservative in your spend as you familiarise yourself with the platform and as you measure the results.

Strong image
In a recent article on the development of Facebook’s Newsfeed we emphasised the importance of using images. Similarly a study of the effectiveness of native images on Twitter showed promising results. However, all of these sites, through different technologies, will also grab an excerpt and image from a shared link. Talk to us today about ensuring your site is set up to pass the best content to the platforms.

Well crafted introduction
While Twitter has a distinctive limit to the number of characters that can be used in tweets, promoted or otherwise, Facebook allows a marathon 63,206 in comparison but studies show that shorter updates gain a better response. However, as mentioned above, all platforms show an excerpt which can include an image and an opening paragraph also. When writing content for Pixel Design channels we create unique introductions for the various platforms. Coding this functionality into your site will let each network know which content to use in this excerpt.

A single link
Never use more than one link in a promoted post. You may think “Oh I’ll get two for the price of one.” but it will be confusing to users. Split your campaign if you can’t decide which to use. However if you can’t decide where you want to land your audience maybe your campaign has a more fundamental issue. Facebook will allow you to post a strong image with a status update and a link. LinkedIn also allows this. However, if you wish to include an image and a link in your promoted Tweet you may find your link is not getting the love it deserves according to research from Search Engine Watch. The advice therefore for Twitter is focus on the link and post your image on your landing page. It will display in the expanded tweet if your site is set up for this. One added piece of advice for links on LinkedIn is that the site strips custom URLs so make the most of services like to share the custom URLs that you have created for your campaign.

Strong call to action
Be clear about what you want your audience to do and what will happen when they do it. For example “Click here to read our article on best practice for promoted posts” (while it may not be the most compelling) is clear that we want you to click here and when you do you’ll be presented with an article, this article in fact. Make sure you follow through as you indicated. Don’t be tempted to include a subscription gate if you didn’t indicate this e.g. “Click to sign up and receive our ebook on best practice for promoted posts.”

Unique post per platform
The post that you write for LinkedIn may be a roaring success on that platform but might be a flop on Facebook. While you may know that you have an overlap in your audience on both platforms, there are many factors that make the same individual a different audience member on each. You will know from experience the content that works on each: trust your intuition and maintain your voice.

Unique landing page
Without falling foul of Google’s search algorithm by creating duplicate content on your site it is essential that you create unique landing pages that reflect the audience that you have targeted with your campaign. This will allow you to give new visitors a customised welcome but also measure the effectiveness of the campaign. Work on your overall content strategy to create strong landing pages for these promoted posts. Then whether or not your investment will have the results you are seeking, at least you will be able to measure it.

Promoted posts are a tool to assist you in your overall business goals. This tool must be assessed like any other to ensure it will help you achieve those goals sooner, more efficiently and more effectively. Ultimately, they are as good as useless if you do not have a well designed site with a solid marketing strategy in place to make the most of any increased traffic to the site.

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