Advertising Gets Social

Many, if not all, small businesses love using social media in part because it’s a free service, at least to sign up.
    However, more frequently these days social networks like Facebook are controlling how much of your content is actually shown to your followers. That’s where paid social-media advertising comes in. And since more brides than ever are planning and shopping for their weddings online, it makes sense to use these networks to reach future customers right where they are: social-media networks.

Finding Your Audience
On Social-Media Sites
    In the past, advertising your bridal salon meant placing ads in local newspapers and wedding magazines. While these are still viable options, advertising on social-media networks is becoming an increasingly effective way to put your salon in front of potential brides.
    “Advertising on social media has become necessary as not only is this where your current and future customers spend a large majority of their time each week, but it’s also where they look for products, recommendations from friends, and inspiration for things like weddings, honeymoon travel, reviews, discounts and more,” says Cassandra Rosen, co-founder and president of FK Interactive, a digital communications agency in Winter Park, Fla.
    In addition to advertising where your potential customers are, social-media advertising allows you to reach out to future clients in a way that’s not available through traditional advertising.
    “Social-media advertising allows you to target a very specific audience, such as engaged couples, mothers or young women,” says Tyler Sprunk, owner and director of account strategy at Forgelight Creative in Lincoln, Neb. “Unlike other advertising mediums like radio or TV, your ads will only be shown to those people in your target audience, ensuring that your money isn’t wasted on people who aren’t a good fit for what you’re selling.”
    Currently, Jennifer Thompson of Facchianos Bridal and Formal Attire in Broken Arrow, Okla., is trying boosted Facebook posts with a budget of $75 per month. Because Thompson just started this advertising tactic, she doesn’t have any hard results on how it’s working out yet, but she is sure of one thing: She will continue using this advertising outlet.
    “It is what needs to be done with millennials,” Thompson says.

Where to Advertise:
Target the Big Three
    Most experts agree that the top three social-media networks for advertising are Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
    “Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest are all social-media platforms known for their ability to influence purchasing and decision making, particularly with consumer-related items,” Rosen says. “Instagram is also growing in popularity, although for retailers my top pick would be Pinterest or Facebook.”
    Thanks to its longevity and its role as the first social-media network to offer advertising to users, Facebook is the obvious choice for where to start when it comes to social-media advertising.
    “Facebook is more conducive to marketing for bridal retailers because women on Facebook are there to connect with their friends via chat, their images and their walls,” says Conor Keenan, digital marketing manager for Christine Waller Photography in Chicago.
    Throw in Facebook’s ability to target ads to a specific audience based on gender, relationship status, age and location, and it makes this network a natural fit for bridal retailers.
    In addition, Pinterest and Instagram both are gaining on Facebook as a key place to spend advertising dollars. On Pinterest, you can pay for a “promoted” pin that is shown to users, and on Instagram you can pay for a “sponsored” post, also shown to users.
    Like Facebook, Pinterest allows you to choose which pins you want to promote, as well as target a select audience to view that promoted pin. More details are found at http://ads.pinterest.com/.
    For Instagram, you must have a Facebook account, and all Instagram advertising is done through Facebook. You can learn more at http://help.instagram.com/1415228085373580/.
    
Money Matters:
Start Small!
    When it comes to spending money on social-media advertising, there is no right answer. You can start with as little as $10 and increase from there.
    “The good news is that you can pay as little or as much as you feel comfortable with, and you can change how much you’re spending at any time,” Sprunk says. “We always recommend that you spend the first couple of months testing different target audiences with different text and images in your ads. This allows you to zero in on what works best for your business.”
    This approach appears to be working for Beth Ambeau, owner of Beth’s Boutique in Gonzales, La. Currently, she boosts selected posts on Facebook for $30 per post.
    “I have only tried it a few times, but the results do justify the extra boost,” Ambeau says. “I plan to increase my advertising and boost more posts.”

Choosing the Right Ad
Requires Experimentation
    When it comes to designing an ad or deciding what to promote on social media, it all comes down to what you want in return. At Collezione Fortuna Fashion Boutique and Bridals in Carmel by the Sea, Calif., owner Cathy Montante promotes special events or new inventory.
    “I may do a Facebook post for as little as $10 for 10 days for a sale and $20 to boost new arrivals or a dress of the week,” she says.
    To find what works best for your store and goals, don’t be afraid to experiment.
    “We recommend testing all kinds of different ad designs to find what’s most effective for you,” Sprunk says. “Generally, the ads that perform best are going to be the ones that feature high-quality photos with people in them and short, clear copy that includes your competitive advantage and a call to action.”
     On Pinterest and Instagram, you can not only opt for promoted pins or sponsored posts, you can try your hand at “shopping” posts that allow users to purchase a product directly via the post itself.
    “For retailers looking to increase online purchases, the key to using Pinterest and Instagram is to get ahead of the trend curve,” Rosen says. “Post new items as soon as possible on your website, and share early on during the season. Keyword your posts, and watch which hashtags seem to get the most visibility. When you find something that works, keep doing it. Keep it fun, fresh and entertaining!”
    In addition, experts recommend that shopping “posts” be limited to lower-priced items like wedding accessories and wedding party gifts.
    “If you sell products on your website, use shopping posts for impulse-buy products,” Sprunk says. “These will be the products that are new, on sale and/or in limited supply. They should also be relatively low cost, no more than $50. These types of posts are great for quick sales and for helping get your customers used to buying products from you on the Internet. To see even more success with these posts, pick products that are likely to be bought with other products.”
    To aid retailers in determining which ads are the most effective, each social-media network provides analytics that tell you who is seeing the ad and how they are responding.
    “Successful advertisers tend to be the ones that pay close attention to these metrics, especially the ‘cost per click’ or ‘cost per engagement’ metric,” Sprunk says. “How you access these numbers varies between platforms, but all the social-media networks offer help sections to make you more familiar with how to find these metrics and what they all mean.”

Social-Media Advertising
Is Here to Stay
    Like social-media networks themselves, advertising on social media is not going away, although the process likely will continue to evolve.
    “Social-media advertising is already a major part of any effective advertising strategy, and its importance will only increase,” Sprunk says. “The ability to target very specific audiences based on common demographics as well as behaviors is extremely valuable.”
    And, unlike traditional advertising, you don’t have to wait for a print publication to come out weeks or even months later to see results; you can start at any time.
    “People who have the most success with social-media advertising are the people who aren’t afraid to dive in and start testing,” Sprunk says. “Make a commitment to spend $100 this month to play around with different social-media ads, and you’ll learn more about your customers and your brand message than you could’ve imagined.”

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