Five steps to improving your paid social ads strategy

In our recent Croud Academy Live webinar, Five steps to improving your paid social ads strategy, Alberto de la Cruz, Croud Australia’s Senior Biddable Account Manager explored the key steps you can take in order to improve your online strategy. Below is a summary of the session.

Know the landscape

From Facebook and WhatsApp to Pinterest and Reddit, there are a lot of players in the paid social landscape, each with varying numbers of users. Therefore, in order to make sure we use the right platform, we need to understand them in a bit more detail.

Monthly active users by platform:


As you can see from the graph above, five of the platforms are a part of the Facebook network, making it a good place to focus. They are the leader in monthly active users and impressions, and provide advanced targeting options, including first-party data, connections and life events.

This is enhanced by their advanced algorithm technology which allows them to leverage data from all platforms, something we explore later on.

From a usability perspective, they are fast reacting to any new formats by their competitors and adapt to changing user needs.


LinkedIn provides a platform to reach niche high-value audiences, and allows advertisers to uniquely target based on CV information. Whilst their usage and impressions are lower than other platforms, they have high engagement amongst users on the platform.

They have their own unique formats (such as InMail or spotlight ads) and a higher cost per thousand impressions (CPM) due to the value of the audiences reached.

Snapchat / TikTok

Although these are completely different platforms, I grouped these two together as they are both innovators reaching the Gen Z audience. They have a younger, very engaged audience, and have unique and engaging creative formats, such as geo-filters and lenses. There is lower reach and impressions available through these platforms, but also lower competition and usually lower CPMs.

Understand your customer journey

Everyone is familiar with the consideration funnel, but I want to associate the funnel with behaviours that are happening during the process. Each customer journey is different, and each company will have to consider their funnel.

During the customer journey, there are three times when we expect the user to complete an activity by themselves, independently of any actions taken by the agency or brand. The first is following initial contact, when they do their own research, probably going onto competitor websites and looking at alternative products. The second is at the purchase stage, and finally at the post-purchase re-engage stage.

By including advertisements in the awareness part of the funnel we are hoping to increase the number of people who come into contact with the brand. By putting advertising in the consideration phase we are influencing the decision-maker and assisting them in the research. The following purchase we are reminding the consumer of the purchase and brand, and are hoping for a repeat engagement.

However, even if we can influence the customer journey at the different stages, most of the users will still be searching once they have made their decision and just before the purchase. The reason why this is important is because you are going to be creating a set of targets or key performance indicators (KPIs) which are going to help you measure the activity’s value; it’s crucial to tailor your KPIs to the end goal of your campaign to get an accurate measurement of success. If you try to measure all the activity at different stages with the same KPIs, you are probably not going to see success – not because the campaign is not working, but because it is not the expected behaviour.

Some food for thought, here are the stages of the user journey, and the KPIs which could be associated with them:

Plan for a social (potentially small) audience

Social media targeting is very wide and can pretty much cover anything you want; from behaviour and interest to connections, demographics and locations. The tendency for many is to try and get to very niche audiences by overlaying a lot of the different characteristics, resulting in a very small target audience which you have seen work in the past.

However, some problems can arise with this, as with a small audience, the frequency of ad serves might be high, leading to faster creative fatigue. Also the focus on a niche audience may mean that you miss an opportunity in terms of expansion of your brand and education of a new customer base.

In order to resolve these, there are three key steps:

  1. Broaden your target audience – Extending your audiences, especially for prospecting, will allow the platforms to reach new audiences instead of increasing frequency
  2. Timed audiences – Timed audiences can help you manage a specific message to a niche audience without needing a continuous refresh of content
  3. Use your organic posts – Plan your content so it can serve your acquisition strategy

When building creatives, remember where they are going to be shown

Creatives are perhaps one of the most important elements in the performance of the campaign. Here are some of the best practices you can follow:

Vertical display – Tall formats will get more real estate on the device screen. In terms of imagery, the industry standard is usually square formats, so go for 4:5 or 9:16 for a more immersive experience.

Short attention span – Design your ad to stand out visually in a feed and make sure that you introduce the brand at the start in order to grab attention and cut through the noise.

Muted devices – Most users will see your video with the sound off. Design for no sound and ensure captions are delivering the main message.

Leverage the platforms’ technology

Each one of the platforms uses its own algorithm, and you therefore need to make sure the right data is being shared with the platform in order to work best with the algorithm.

Pixel implementation is key for creating audiences, tracking online conversions and feeding the algorithm, so make sure you implement as many standard events as possible, and always check to see if you can implement the parameters needed for Dynamic Product Ads (DPA). I’ll explain about DPAs below.

In addition, add offline completion conversion tracking so you will have a full view of the customer journey, and then be able to optimise towards the final goal.

When all the data is in the platform, you can use machine learning to drive success to your campaign.

Machine learning optimisation is available and will be working in all stages of the marketing campaign:

  • Conversion objective – When selecting a conversion, the platform will deliver first to the users that are more likely to convert based on their demographics, behaviours and interactions with previous ads.
  • Lookalike audiences – Choose a seed audience and generate audiences similar to these ones using all the data available in the platform for it.
  • Dynamic creative – Provide the platform with different versions of the creative elements (headline, post, image), and let the platform generate and test all possible variants, eventually choosing the one to show each user.

Other cool things to do on these platforms include:

  • Tailor your ads with Dynamic Product Ads – DPAs allow you to show relevant tailored ads to each user based on their behaviour on your site, creating a more bespoke experience. You can expand your DPA set up to reintroduce related products and re-engagement strategies, whilst targeting broader audiences, including those who’ve expressed an interest in your product, even if they haven’t visited your website yet.
  • Merge your multi-language campaigns – With multi-language campaigns, you can have the same ad with customised text, headline and text for each language. This way, you will have all the engagement and conversion metrics in the same ad, helping the algorithm to make better decisions
  • Split testing to fast track learnings – Using the split test functionality in Facebook, you can segment one of your prospecting audiences into two, and service a different type of ad for each. This allows you to quickly learn if there’s a significant difference in performance by tactic. You are then able to focus on areas you are more likely to see leads and conversions.
  • Incrementally testing to maximise budget – You can run incremental tests to understand the value of your remarketing activity, through different recency settings. The platform allows you to create a control and exposed group of users, and learn the uplift your ads have on conversion rates. We can then ensure our spend is driving incremental uplift, and not simply capturing the credit before a conversion.

Main takeaways

  1. Each platform is different. Plan your paid social activity taking into account the targeting and reach available in the platforms.
  2. Choose the objectives of your activity based on the expected reaction of the audience.
  3. Keep your audiences as wide as possible, and have a creative calendar to keep refreshing the content of your ads.
  4. Keep your ads fast-paced and design for a mobile screen without sound.
  5. Make the most of your strategy by using the machine learning, automation, and testing tools available for each platform.

You can watch the full webinar below:


If you would like to speak to our Paid social team about your next campaign, or find out more about Croud, contact us.

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