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How to Target Your Social Media Promotion

Michelle Garrett

Jun 16, 2020

Social media engagement has changed. It used to be that just by posting great content, followers would engage. No longer.

Today, if you want your posts to be seen, you have to put some budget behind them. While this may be bad news for some, on the plus side, paid social media allows you to be extremely targeted, reaching the audience of your choosing.

“Attention is a key element many brands and organizations are going after on social, and in order to reach these audiences, you have to pay up,” says Karen Freberg, Associate Professor in Strategic Communication, University of Louisville. “With that being said, you have the ability to target, engage, and really pinpoint the exact members you want to reach, which will make your campaigns more effective and efficient.”

Even so, your paid social media ad strategy needs to be tied to your organic strategy, says Christina Garnett, Strategist, ICUC.

“Many see paid social as a short cut for followers, engagement, and link clicks,” says Garnett. “The fact is, putting money behind weak content won’t work. Your paid and organic strategy need to work hand in hand, understanding who you want to target and the content they need to see. Knowing who to target is crucial, but you also need to know what to provide within the ad. You never want your audience to wonder why they are seeing your ad.”

To make most of your paid social media promotion, here’s a brief overview of a few of the most popular platforms.


Facebook allows you to be extremely targeted when placing ads. “You can target audiences on Facebook with a dozen different ad formats and thousands of possible ad targeting parameters,” says Larry Kim.

Ads can be targeted based on location, demographic information, gender, languages, and interests. Facebook’s location-based targeting options include country, state, county, city, postal code, and an adjustable radius from a specific address.

Other options to target ads on Facebook under demographics include education, home, life events, whether they are parents, their political affiliation, and whether they are in a relationship. 

As for the most successful formatting strategy, conducting A/B testing of ads is recommended by many experts, including CMI.

“When crafting your ads, you need to consider who needs or wants this product or service,” says Garnett. “Remember their customer journey and determine how you want to connect with them at each point. How can you personalize your ads for specific personas? When thinking about who you want to target, you need to think about their online behaviors. Knowing they’re on Facebook isn’t enough. How do they behave once they’re there?” 


Because Facebook owns Instagram, you can use the Facebook Business Manager to manage your ads on Instagram, as well.

Instagram allows you to target ads based on location, age, gender, demographics, interests, behaviors, languages and connections.

Images are the priority when it comes to Instagram ads. “Technically, you can use up to 2,200 characters for most Instagram ads, but only two rows of text will display without being cut off,” says Hootsuite.


LinkedIn, the top B2B social media network, allows you to target ads based on company, demographics, education, job experience, and interests.

One strategy to leverage with LinkedIn ads is to see what content is working on other platforms and how you might tweak it for LinkedIn. As always, you can conduct tests to see which ad content and formats work best.


On Twitter, you can target your audience by gender, age, location, language, and technology.

Because it’s Twitter, the copy should be concise. Be sure to include a call to action. Another strategy is to keep an eye for major events you might play off of. One example is how Wendy’s used March Madness in 2019 to create a successful month-long campaign.

As with all social media advertising, test and analyze to see what works best.

Bottom Line with Social Media Advertising? Be Strategic.

“It’s better to be strategic in the investment of paid media rather than just put money behind it,” Freberg says. “Understanding the current practices, expectations, and tips on how to reach your audiences through paid media more effectively will become more important than ever.”

Measure Results

Targeting your social advertising is critical in growing reach and engagement—with the right audience. The next step is to measure results and map them to your business goals. Read our playbook on planning and measuring social media campaigns. Then, make sure you're presenting your results in the most convincing way.