9 Common Paid Social Media Marketing Mistakes (updated January 2022)

Social Media Marketing Mistakes

Do you ever wonder why your social media posts aren’t hitting their engagement marks like they used to? Unfortunately, and despite your best efforts, organic reach on social media is getting thinner and thinner. Only about 1-3% of your most loyal fans will see your posts organically. With fewer people seeing your posts, many brands are turning to sponsored or boosted posts (paid social media) to increase content visibility. Using paid social is a smart way to put your content in front of those who would value that content; campaign mistakes can be costly, though. Whether you’re a paid social pro or you’re curious about how paid social works, we’ve collected a list of our top 6 9 common paid social media marketing mistakes that even the professionals are guilty of so you don’t run afoul.

Top 9 Paid Social Media Marketing Mistakes

  1. Not Running Enough Tests
  2. Doing Everything On Your Own
  3. Putting All Yours Ads In One Basket
  4. No Ad Diversity
  5. Not Defining Your Marketing Objective
  6. Not Targeting The Right Audience
  7. Focusing on Vanity Metrics instead of Conversions
  8. Not Benchmarking and Measuring Results
  9. Placing Too Much Emphasis on Paid Media  

What Is Paid Social?

There’s no better time to get involved with paid social than now. In 2018, the social media advertising revenue forecast is about $51.3 billion USD. This comes to about $17.24 USD per user. That revenue number is expected to increase by 10.5% annually.

In a nutshell, paid social is sponsored content or advertising on native social media platforms (Facebook/Instagram/YouTube/Twitter/etc.) that is designed to increase your brand’s content reach and engagement. Sponsoring content gives you the opportunity to reach more of your followers as well as a wider audience based on your targeting specifications.

Paid social media offers several buying mechanics for purchasing your ad space including:

Cost per Click

A cost per click campaign (CPC) is designed to drive click traffic directly to your blog or website. You pay when a person clicks on the ad and goes to your website.

Cost per Engagement

Cost per engagement (CPE) campaigns drive individual post engagement through likes, comments, shares, follows, etc. to specific posts you’ve published on to your social pages. You pay when someone engages with your post.

Cost per View

With cost per view (CPV) campaigns, you’re looking to increase views on specific videos that you’ve published previously on your social channels. You pay when someone watches the first few seconds of your video.

Now that we’ve run through the fundamentals, let’s take a look at some of the biggest holes marketers dig themselves when running paid social.

Mistake #1: Not Running Enough Tests

Imagine being in school and you never seeing how your progress was going until you got your final report card. It’d be hard to gauge whether you’re on track for an A or an F(ail). Don’t wait until the end of a single long-term campaign to determine how effective a campaign is at meeting your goals. Ad and audience testing is a way to monitor your ad campaign’s success before the final “report card”.

The rule of thumb for media budget testing is to use 5-10% of your media budget on test campaigns. Determine which campaigns are effective, the scale your spending on those campaigns or audiences.

But, why continue to run tests even if you know exactly what worked a year ago?

As you grow online, you’ll gain new customers with fresh and dynamic interests. The things that worked even 5 months ago are not guaranteed to drive the same results today. Additionally, within your demographic exists unique individuals who don’t respond in the same way to the same ad copy or images.

If you want the highest ROI on your ads, you need to run tests.

Specifically, be sure to test:

  • Several different audience makeups
  • Which buying mechanic works best for your goal
  • Ad placement

Testing allows you to determine where to invest your resources and leverage the demographics, social channels and ads that generate the most results at the lowest cost.

Mistake #2: Doing Everything on Your Own

As a business owner or team lead, you’re very meticulous about who does what. And you would probably do it all yourself if you could.

But the reality is, you can’t.

We’re here to tell you that it’s okay to delegate your marketing activities to an expert who has the time and experience to create sales-driving marketing campaigns. Digital marketing campaigns take time to properly manage; if you’re cutting corners or missing opportunities, you’re not going to be able to scale your campaigns to their full potential.

If you’re not comfortable using an individual, consider automating your tasks through software. There are platforms available that let you schedule and post content in advance so you don’t have to worry about manually scheduling your ads.

The purpose of automating your ads is not to “set it and forget it” but to “set it and monitor it”. After you’ve set the ads to go live, you still need to track and monitor the success of your campaign. Use your newly freed-up time to invest in up-leveling your campaign efforts to take your ROI to the next level.

Mistake #3: Putting All Your Eggs (Ads) in One Basket

With 2 billion users, it makes sense as to why you’d decide to place the majority of your ads on Facebook. The right ad on Facebook can lead to retention for the least amount of investment by your brand. How little of investment you ask? About $0.27 per CPC (depending on your industry). If you’re still not convinced that you should be using paid social, remember, only about 12% of your posts on Facebook reach your intended audience organically.

But what about paid media on other social media channels?


According to socialmediaexaminer.com, LinkedIn is the 3rd most popular paid content promotion strategy. LinkedIn users are 6x more likely to engage with content. 64% of clicks and engagement drive traffic to a business website. With 3 options to promote your content, you get a unique opportunity to test different ad strategies on one platform.


Instagram is becoming a strong advertising platform for countless brands. On Instagram, your ads blend effortlessly into a user’s timelines. Using ads on Instagram is best for B2C businesses who want to drive engagement. With 4 different types of ads, you get the chance to test different media images, copy, and ad type to see which drive the most engagement.

It’s a smart strategy to use multiple social channels to advertise your brand, product or service. Which brings us to our next mistake…

Mistake #4: No Ad Diversity

There’s no “one size fits all” digital marketing strategy – which means you can’t use the same tactics across each demographic and channel. In one study, Newscred found that 88% of people felt that ad diversity helps a brand’s reputation. Even with a small demographic, what catches people’s attention changes frequently. Certain images and copy might work one week and flop the next.

The Internet is one big melting pot of individuals. About 8 in 10 African-American, Caucasian, and Latin-American adults use at least one social media site. 73% of Latin-Americans are on Facebook, 38% of African-Americans are on Instagram, and 32% of Caucasians are on Pinterest.

The last thing you’d want to expose your fans and followers to is ad fatigue. Excess exposure to the same advertisement can result in ad fatigue, where the consumer becomes desensitized to your brand and message.

When planning your ad and content schedule, you need to remember the most important rule: The 5-3-2 Rule.

5 – 5 pieces of content should be content from others that are relevant to your audience.

3 – 3 pieces of content should be content from you, relevant to your audience, and not a sales pitch

2 – 2 pieces of content should be personal content to humanize yourself or your brand.

This rule can help you create stronger ad diversity and relate more closely with your fans and followers, no matter which social channel you’re using.

Mistake #5: Not Defining Your Marketing Objective

Have you ever heard the phrase, “work smarter, not harder”? You can put out a bunch of different ads, cross your fingers, and hope for the best, but it’s not a smart strategy.

Ask yourself, “What are my objectives for paid social media marketing?

Do you want to drive more traffic to your website? Gain more followers? Get more likes? Or maybe you just want to improve brand awareness. Whatever your objectives are, they need to be clearly defined. Here are some questions to ask when determining your objectives:

  • What does my audience expect from me?
  • What do I really want from my marketing efforts?
  • How does my audience differ across social channels?
  • Are my goals and objectives measurable?

Defining your objectives will help to keep your content and promotion goals in alignment with your overall business and marketing objectives.

Mistake #6: Not Targeting The Right Audience

If you don’t see the results you’re expecting from your paid media campaign, start by reviewing your audience. 

When executing a paid social media campaign, a common mistake we see brands are that they go too broad with their audiences. They focus on pure demographics (age/gender/location) with maybe a few behaviors or interests thrown in. The broader your audience, the less likely your ad creative and message will resonate with the individual.

Instead, focus your audience to align with your creative. Use excludes, and/or logic, and your first-party data to fine-tune your audience and maximize your potential ad engagement.

Mistake #7: Focusing on Vanity Metrics instead of Conversions

Sure, Impressions and Clicks have their place in your reporting and ad performance analysis, but the most essential evaluation metrics will always be those related to Conversions. Specifically:

  • Conversion Volume  (How many conversions your paid social efforts generated?)
  • Cost per Conversion (How much did each conversion cost you?)
  • Conversion Rate (How many clicks did it take to earn a conversion on average?)

We’re going to go out on a limb that your business isn’t making money from ad comments and video views (unless you have a specific business model). Your revenue is dependent on your sales volume or lead generation efforts.

If you’re comfortable with your conversion rate, volume, and cost, then absolutely invest in improving vanity metrics like a higher CTR or engagement rate. 

If, however, you are disappointed with how many new customers yours ads are generating, focus your resources on improving that piece of the equation before investing in optimizing more top-of-funnel metrics.

Mistake #8: Not Measuring Results Over Time 

You can’t manage or improve what you aren’t measuring. If you aren’t measuring your paid media results, you won’t know which paid social strategies are working and which should be shut off. 

Often brands will evaluate their campaign performance in snapshots (weekly or monthly) and then decide on whether or not that campaign is “working” based on this snapshot. 

The problem with this approach is that you lose sight of the bigger reporting picture when you limit your evaluation period to a short time window. Is that slump last week a sign that your campaigns aren’t performing well? Or is a conversion drop-off due to yearly seasonality? 

We’ve seen many a brand shut off successful campaigns because of an off week, only to turn those same campaigns on again after a few days to a higher performance rate. 

There are a ton of factors that can go into the day-to-day performance of a campaign (the specific needs of the individuals coming to the site, server speed, distractors), many of which are outside of your control. To adequately gauge your campaign performance, choose an evaluation timeline that allows you to identify overarching performance trendlines.

Mistake #9: Placing Too Much Emphasis on Paid Marketing

Paid social is a powerful marketing tool that can boost your brand awareness, capture new audiences, and spread your message. However, constantly boosting and promoting posts can get real expensive, real fast. If paid social media is the only channel you are using to amplify your social media content, you’re missing out on your #1 source for content shares and engagements: your loyal fans!

Your loyal fans and top customers are already raving about you to their online (and non-digital) social circles. So how can you leverage their voice to boost your brand?

Easy. Advocacy Marketing.


What is Advocacy Marketing?

Advocacy marketing isn’t anything new. You use advocacy marketing when you tell your friends about a hot new ramen place or when you post online about a great new product you just bought. But you can’t just hope that people are talking about you. To have success with advocacy marketing, you need to create a system that empowers and encourages individuals to share your latest content.

As we mentioned earlier, you can’t do everything yourself. Between creating content, recruiting fans, responding to emails, and tracking spreadsheets you’ll barely have time for managing your business. Let alone managing an advocacy marketing campaign.

That’s why we recommend that brands that want to start leveraging the power of advocacy marketing to boost their social media presence utilize a tool (like SocialToaster) built for the job! SocialToaster can help you focus on what’s important. Learn more about how SocialToaster can be integrated into your paid social efforts here.

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