Have you ever used paid social media? I know some people who completely avoid it. They think it means cheating, or it’s somehow inappropriate.
In my opinion, paid social media traffic is an excellent tool.
Obviously, I’m not talking about illegitimately purchasing likes or shares from spammy businesses (more on that below).
I’m discussing legitimate paid methods.
If you use them properly, you can quickly grow your audience, your brand, and your revenue.
However, if you use paid traffic without first educating yourself and deliberately seeking out the best tools and information, it will lead to huge financial losses.
Knowing how to use paid social media traffic is important. But what’s even more important is determining when you should use paid social media traffic.
I think that’s where a lot of the confusion starts for some people. Maybe you’ve wondered the same thing.
When should you start spending on social media traffic, impressions, or clicks?
For paid traffic, like for many aspects of business, timing is everything.
I’ve already written many articles on how to use paid social media traffic to effectively grow your business and increase the ROI of your marketing campaigns.
But today, I want to cut through the noise and help you make an educated decision on whether or not you should be using paid traffic at all.
First, a definition
Before we dive into the deep end and discuss the ins and outs of paid traffic, I want to start with a definition.
When I talk about paid social media traffic, I am not talking about buying likes or fake followers.
This is an absolutely terrible business tactic!
It leads to a poor quality audience that has no interest in you or your company and will result in large followings that do not help you grow your brand.
Not to mention, it’s also a very sleazy and unethical approach to social media marketing.
By paid social media traffic, I mean the practice of investing in paid ads and marketing for the purpose of delivering your content to relevant audience members—audience members who are actually interested in what you are selling.
Instead of paying some kid with a computer in a foreign country to “like” your photos, you are actually putting your content in front of someone whose interests genuinely coincide with what you are offering.
With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.
When should you pay for social media traffic?
Let me answer this question with four statements. If any of the following is true of your business, paid traffic may be your best approach.
1. When you are building an audience from the ground up
One of the first situations in which you should pay for social media traffic is when you are building an audience from scratch.
If you are just getting into the game of social media marketing, paid traffic is critical.
Think about it.
If you have no audience, no one is going to see your content.
If no one sees your content, no one shares your content.
If no one shares your content, your following cannot grow.
If your following cannot grow, your social media efforts are completely irrelevant to your business.
Such is the struggle of the social network newbie.
Is it possible to grow your social media accounts organically when you are starting from scratch?
You can reach out to other similar brands, link your accounts to your blog or YouTube channel, and use friends and family to help your content get off the ground.
But that is life in the slow lane.
Using the organic methods, you could reasonably expect to have a decent social following (3,000 – 5,000 followers) within about 18-24 months.
However, if you use paid traffic, you could cut that time in half while doubling your traffic.
2. When you are diversifying the demographics of your audience
A big problem many brands have is that they get caught in an endless cycle: they target the same type of audience over and over and over again.
Let’s say you own a local business.
You run a chain of unconventional gyms with your primary locations on the East Coast.
In addition to your traditional marketing campaigns, you use social media and content marketing to grow your brand and increase your company’s exposure.
Over the years, you’ve built up a reputable following on Facebook, but your audience is primarily located in your hometown and the surrounding cities.
Now, you want to open another location on the West Coast so that you can enjoy sunny beaches and fruity beverages while helping people get fit.
The only problem is, your entire online following is located about 2,000 miles away from your new location.
Not exactly ideal for building a new customer base, is it?
This is where paid traffic becomes a life saver.
With paid social media traffic, you are able to target new demographics and promote your brand in new locations.
You can get really specific, like this:
Using social media in a geotargeted way like this is especially useful for brick and mortar stores looking to relocate or for online business looking to tap into a new audience.
3. When you are looking to scale your social platforms with a similar audience
If you’ve already built up a healthy social media following and you are looking to make your social media platforms even more profitable, paid traffic is the way to go.
While organic traffic is great, it doesn’t generally work well with large followings.
This is because of the law of diminishing returns.
Let me explain.
Imagine you are an aspiring bodybuilder who is just starting to lift weights. After the first couple of months, you are going to see humongous gains.
You will pack on muscle, shred fat, and improve most of your lifts by close to 100 lbs. But after about 6-12 months of doing this, you’ll see that your improvements start to slow down.
You will still be gaining muscle and losing fat. You will still be increasing the amount of weight you can lift. But it will not be as drastic.
Then, as you continue training on a regular basis, you will start reaching a point where even marginal gains are difficult to achieve. You will start approaching your genetic potential.
And then, you have one of two options:
You can continue training naturally and understand that you are close to your peak and improvements will take a long time.
You can decide to use steroids or some other performance-enhancing drug to beat your genetics and achieve even more gains.
Now, this is not an ethical or health-based argument for steroids, but it is a pretty effective analogy for paid traffic.
You see, whenever you first launch your social media campaigns (if you really know what you are doing), you will probably see some pretty quick growth.
You will go, as they say, “0 to 100, real quick.”
0 to 100,000 anybody?
After the first year, you will likely have several thousand followers across your various channels.
In the second year, growth may continue at an even more rapid pace.
But eventually (and this typically happens around the 10,000 followers point), you will hit a wall.
You will still be adding to your followers, but, unless you are willing to start using the “performance enhancing drug” of paid traffic, it will take you years to hit your goals.
However, if you are willing to invest into paid traffic, you can beat the law of diminishing returns and skyrocket your social media following in a very short amount of time.
Luckily for us, there are no ethical, legal, or health concerns related to paid social media traffic like there are with steroids.
You have little to lose and much to gain.
4. When you want to increase your organic reach
I know that using paid traffic to increase your organic reach sounds like an oxymoronic statement.
And it is. But hear me out.
Just because someone follows you or “likes” your content does not mean your content is actually showing up in their newsfeed.
People simply follow too many different brands and individuals for all of them to show up in their feeds.
I, for example, follow dozens of other influencers and tech blogs across my various social channels.
But I rarely see any of the new content posted by the people I am following.
It’s not because I don’t like the content or because I have no need for what they are sharing.
It’s simply because of the volume of content published each and every day.
If you want to grow your organic reach and get your content in front of people who already like and follow you, you need to invest in paid traffic.
It will increase the frequency with which your content is seen by your followers, and your audience will be more likely to actually find out about a new product you are offering or a promotion you are running.
When should you not pay for social media traffic?
Now that I’ve covered some of the situations when you should pay for social media traffic, I want to touch on one of the biggest reasons why you should not pay for social media traffic.
It’s about quality.
If you are looking for super high quality traffic, paid ads may not be your best approach.
The current stage of your business will determine the type of traffic you want to generate.
For those of you just getting started, the single most important thing to focus on is simply generating more traffic and getting your content in front of new eyeballs.
For others, especially if you already have a strong social media presence, your focus should be on generating high quality traffic.
The quality of the audience you build with paid traffic will generally be lower than the quality of the audience you build with organic traffic.
This is due to a variety of factors.
First, we have to acknowledge the unfortunate reality of social media. There are hundreds of thousands of bots and fake accounts.
Whenever you use paid traffic, it’s much more likely that you will attract more of these automated accounts than you would if you were growing your reach 100% organically.
The second factor is that people who seek out and find your brand organically are typically much more likely to purchase than someone who simply “liked” your page because your ad popped up on their phone.
If someone has taken the time to find your social media pages without the persuasion of advertising or paid marketing, it means you are solving a problem they have.
These people will be much more likely to share your content, be engaged in your discussions, and invest in your products.
Now, using paid traffic obviously does not preclude you from generate organic traffic.
However, you have to remember opportunity cost.
Every hour you spend and every dollar you invest in paid traffic is a dollar and an hour you could have spent optimizing your social platforms and website to generate high quality organic traffic.
With that in mind, it’s important that you have a clear understanding of the current stage of your business and your goals with social media.
Next steps and measuring your success
Now that you are a little bit more informed about the times when you should and should not use paid social media traffic, I want to discuss one last thing before I leave you to it.
Measuring your metrics.
While tracking your metrics is extremely important whether you utilize paid traffic or not, it is doubly important whenever you are investing your hard earned dollars in social ad campaigns.
You need to have clear business goals for your paid traffic campaigns.
Whether it is to generate new leads, increase sales, or simply increase brand exposure, you have to have clearly defined objectives for your investment.
Once you’ve defined that objective, it is imperative that you track your metrics to ensure your investment is actually getting you closer to your goal.
Are the individuals you reach on social media buying your products? Are they joining your email list? Are they reading and sharing your content?
If you are not tracking these metrics, you will never be able to effectively run paid traffic campaigns.
You’ll end up spending thousands of dollars that could’ve been better spent elsewhere, and you’ll end up with a negative ROI.
Paid social media traffic is a phenomenal tool.
If you use it in the right situations and in the right way, it can accelerate the growth of your business in a way that few other investments can.
But the key here is you have to use it at the right time.
If you are using paid social media traffic in the wrong situations, you’ll end up losing money and damaging your brand.
Take the above advice to heart, and decide for yourself whether paid social media traffic is a worthwhile investment in your current circumstances.
How have you used paid social media traffic in the past? What were the results?