Unlocking Growth: Social Media Ads Guide for Busy Businesses

Here at Hop Skip Media, we’re all about helping your business grow with the power of digital ads. We write a lot about pay-per-click advertising (PPC) as it relates to Google Ads because we have a lot of clients who find that search engine advertising on Google fits their needs best. However, it’s no secret that in today’s fast-paced digital landscape, social media ads stand out as another powerful tool for businesses aiming to expand their reach, connect with their audience, and drive growth. That’s why we created this social media ads guide for busy businesses!

I would argue that choosing between search engine ads or social media ads is like choosing between cardio and weight training for health and fitness. They complement each other, and both are necessary for the best results. 

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Many of our clients find us through social media, and we’ve gotten a lot of valuable business over the years through that channel. So we recommend never sleeping on social. But it’s also true that it feels harder every day to grow organically on social, and the data backs this up. The 2023 Social Media Benchmark Report by Rival IQ found that Organic engagement and social network traffic have been shrinking yearly on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (TikTok being a notable exception). 

What’s a business to do?

Social media ads could be an answer.

According to The Ultimate Social Media Report 2023 by GWI, more consumers use social media for product research. 

Search engines (50%) and social media (45%) are battling it out to nab first place for product research, with the gap between the two closing over time (remember what I said about weights and cardio?).
A staggering 94% of consumers engage with some social platform at least monthly – a sign of the huge opportunities for brands in this space. The average consumer also spends 37% of their time online on social media, making it a good place to reach a large audience. 

On top of this, more are turning to social media to find products – the number who find out about new brands and products through social media advertising has grown 9% since Q1 2020. They were only beaten by one percentage point by ads on music streaming services.

So basically, if I’ve done my job well, I’ve convinced you by now that social media ads are a must-have for your business. But now you might be overwhelmed thinking about the complexity of a new or several ad platforms and how to do it correctly.

No worries, I’ve got you. 

After 16 years in the digital ad industry, I’ve seen my clients, most of them medium-sized businesses in Canada or the USA, navigating the complexities of social media advertising, especially on Meta platforms, and the challenges they faced before coming to us. That’s why, in this comprehensive social media ads guide, we’ll explore social media ads best practices, share valuable insights, and present real-world case studies to help businesses like yours make the most out of their social media advertising efforts.

Understanding the Landscape: Social Media Advertising for Busy Businesses

Many businesses often find themselves in a dilemma – they recognize the potential of social media ads but lack the time and dedicated staff to capitalize on it fully. The good news is that effective social media advertising doesn’t require a huge team or endless hours. By following this social media ads guide, even businesses with limited resources can make a significant impact.

Getting Started: A Guide to Social Media Ads Success


1. Setting Clear Objectives

Before diving into social media ads, defining clear and measurable objectives is crucial. Knowing your goals will guide your advertising strategy, whether it’s increasing brand awareness, driving website traffic, or boosting sales. It’s also important to remember that different platforms are suited for different goals. At Hop Skip Media, we’ve found that social media ads are most useful for top-of-the-funnel advertising goals (reach, discovery), and search engine ads are best for bottom-of-the-funnel goals (leads or sales). This may vary from business to business, but if you’re starting with social media ads, I recommend keeping them simple and creating top-of-the-funnel goals and strategies for these platforms. 

2. Understanding Your Audience

Identifying your target audience is the cornerstone of successful social media advertising and digital advertising. My advice (no matter the platform you’re using) is to set up proper conversion tracking. This will make your life infinitely easier. But that’s a topic for another blog post.

There are three different ways you can target ad audiences on social media ads: 

  • Demographic targeting
  • Behavior targeting 
  • Lookalike audiences 

Demographic targeting 

This was quite popular several years ago. It asks you to define characteristics of your target audience, such as age, gender, occupation, marital status, hobbies, and interests, to then show your ads to profiles that match this description. This type of targeting is a good choice for businesses that are very new, don’t have a lot of client data yet, or don’t have a website with a decent amount of traffic, but it’s not the most efficient way to target. Think about it. There are very few products or services that have one ideal customer. We may have an idea of who our customers are, but at the end of the day, people who don’t fit into these categories could be interested in buying our product or service as a gift, and our ads wouldn’t target them.  

On the flip side, a lot of people who fit into the demographic category may not be interested in our product/service at this time leading to wasted ad spend.

 It’s casting a very wide net and not usually the most efficient way to target an audience unless you’re just starting. This brings me to the second (and my favourite) way of targeting. 

Behavioural targeting

Behavioural targeting is a powerful strategy. It’s about analyzing user online behaviour to target those most likely to buy from you (those with intent). By leveraging this data, we can tailor ad campaigns to drive results:

  • Based on a user’s online purchase history, ads can be personalized to showcase relevant products or services.
  • By tracking website browsing behaviour, ads can be displayed to users who have shown an interest in similar products or topics.
  • Understanding device usage patterns allows marketers to optimize their campaigns for specific devices and platforms.

The caveat is that to implement this kind of targeting; a business needs enough data about its customers or online visitors/fans so Meta can effectively target them or people like them. It also requires setting up pixels on a website and other external platforms to glean this data. 

To recap, behavioural targeting helps marketers deliver more relevant and personalized ads, leading to higher engagement and conversion rates, so if you have a webpage averaging at least 1k visits a month, a client email database, active social media profiles, or other sources of data, use this to your advantage and find your target audience based on their buying intent. 

Lookalike audiences 

Lookalike audiences build on the previous two. You choose an existing audience and tell Meta to find people similar to them, and you can control how similar you want this new audience to be. Lookalike audiences are a great way to expand your audience when it’s already well-defined, but you want to reach a new segment of potential customers. Meta recommends that the original audience be between 1 and 5k people and carefully segmented to ensure the best results (using only your best customers as the original audience instead of a general customer list, for example).

3. Choosing the Right Platform

If you skipped straight here, I get it! A lot of advertisers just want to know which platform they should choose, but this can only be done in context, so I recommend reading the entirety of this social media ads guide before choosing a platform. With that said, Meta platforms offer a vast audience for businesses in the USA and Canada, but TikTok ads are new and very interesting players in the game. For B2B businesses, LinkedIn ads can be attractive, although they are a pricer option.

If you’re just starting out, Meta ads are a sure bet, and once you’ve got a handle on these, you can consider incorporating other platforms based on your results. A big mistake a lot of businesses make is assuming they can reuse the same content on different platforms. This doesn’t work 90% of the time. Each platform has a unique purpose; understand why people are on it, and you understand how to deliver a compelling message to them, which is not by using cookie-cutter content. On TikTok, for example, unpolished, barely edited content is king. Here’s a breakdown of the four major platforms and their differences:


  • Purpose: Instagram is a visual-centric platform for sharing photos and short videos. It emphasizes visual storytelling and creative expression.
  • Audience Demographics: Popular among younger users, particularly Millennials and Gen Z. It has a diverse user base but is known for its visual and lifestyle content.
  • Content Types: Primarily photos and short videos, with features like Stories and Reels for quick, engaging content. It also supports longer videos through reels.


  • Purpose: Facebook is a comprehensive social networking platform that supports various content types, including text, photos, videos, and links. It’s a platform for connecting with friends, family, and a more comprehensive network.
  • Audience Demographics: Originally popular across all age groups, but it has seen a decline in younger users. It is still widely used by adults, making it a diverse platform in demographics.
  • Content Types: Supports various content types, including status updates, photos, videos, articles, and events.


  • Purpose: TikTok is a short-form video platform encouraging creative and entertaining content. It’s known for its viral challenges, trends, and highly engaging and interactive user experience.
  • Audience Demographics: Dominated by younger users, particularly Gen Z. It has a global reach and appeals to users who enjoy creative and entertaining short videos.
  • Content Types: Short videos typically range from 15 to 60 seconds. Users can add music and effects and engage in duets, making it a highly interactive platform.


  • Purpose: LinkedIn is a professional networking platform for business and career-related activities. It’s used for professional networking, job searching, and sharing industry-related content.
  • Audience Demographics: Primarily used by professionals, business owners, and job seekers. The audience is generally older and focuses on career-related connections.
  • Content Types: Professional profiles, job postings, articles, and updates related to industries and careers. It’s more text-centric compared to other platforms.

In summary, Instagram is visual and lifestyle-focused, Facebook is a comprehensive social network, TikTok is centered around short-form creative videos, and LinkedIn is a professional networking platform. Keep this in mind when choosing an ad platform to run ads on. 

4. Budgeting for Success


This wouldn’t be a complete social media ads guide if we didn’t talk about budget setting! Calculating social media ad budget depends on many things and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. 

To give you a general idea, I recommend dedicating 10% of the marketing budget to ads, so you could split that up 50-50 with search ads or use more or less depending on your unique business. Meta tends to be the cheapest platform; its costs are comparable to Google Ads, whereas LinkedIn and TikTok command a steeper price. 

Cost also varies by industry. To make sure you’re setting realistic goals, consult things like “Facebook/Meta Ad Benchmarks (industry) (current year).” That will help you evaluate your performance against your industry standard and see if your budget is working for you or not.

TIP: Use this easy formula to calculate a rough budget.  Multiply the necessary number of visitors (taking into account your website’s conversion rate) by the expected cost-per-clicks you researched beforehand to calculate the advertising budget. Example: 2000 visitors x $2 =  $4,000. 

5. Avoiding Pitfalls: Staying on the Right Side of Advertising Policies


All ad platforms have a series of policies we, as advertisers, must adhere to or risk losing our accounts. Here’s a big-picture summary of what you need to watch out for, although you should always check each platform’s unique policies.


  • Content Guidelines:
  • Infraction: inappropriate or offensive content, false advertising claims, or content that promotes illegal activities.


  • Targeting and Audience Restrictions:
  • Infraction: Misleading targeting, inappropriate audience selection, or violating restrictions, such as showing age-restricted content to minors.


  • Prohibited Products and Services:
  • Infractions: Advertising banned products, promoting illegal activities, or violating regulations related to specific industries.


  • Privacy and Data Collection:
  • Infractions: Unauthorized data collection, privacy breaches, or violating data protection laws.


  • Misleading or Deceptive Practices:
  • Infractions: False advertising, clickbait, or deceptive practices to trick users into engaging with the ad.
  • Intellectual Property:
  • Infractions: Unauthorized use of copyrighted images, logos, or trademarks, leading to legal issues.


  • Quality and Landing Page Experience:
  • Infractions: Misleading landing pages, slow-loading sites, or sites containing malware or phishing attempts.


  • Political Advertising:
  • Infractions: Failure to comply with political advertising regulations, lack of transparency, or spreading misinformation.


  • Ad Fraud and Manipulation:
  • Infractions: Engaging in deceptive practices to manipulate ad performance metrics.

6. Mastering Social Media Ads: Best Practices for Optimal Results

Still here? Good! So far, in this social media ads guide we’ve established the foundations and shared valuable insights into social media advertising. Now let’s delve deeper into the specific best practices that will elevate your campaigns and ensure optimal results.

  1. Craft Compelling Ad Copy and Visuals

   Key Tip: Your ad copy and visuals should be attention-grabbing, concise, and aligned with your brand. Use high-quality images and compelling language to capture your audience’s interest within seconds.

  1. Implement A/B Testing for Continuous Improvement

Key Tip: Test different ad variations to identify what resonates best with your audience. Experiment with different headlines, images, and ad formats to refine your approach and enhance performance.

  1. Optimize for Mobile Users

Key Tip: Given the prevalence of mobile users, ensure that your ads are optimized for smaller screens. Use concise, mobile-friendly visuals and compelling CTAs that encourage on-the-go engagement.

  1. Utilize Retargeting Strategies

Key Tip: Implement retargeting campaigns to re-engage users who have interacted with your brand but have yet to convert. This can significantly improve conversion rates and reinforce brand recall.

  1. Monitor and Analyze Key Metrics

   Key Tip: Regularly review key metrics such as click-through rates, conversion rates, and cost per conversion. Use these insights to make data-driven decisions and optimize your campaigns for better performance.

  1. Maintain Consistency Across Platforms

   Key Tip:  While diversifying across platforms is beneficial, maintain a consistent brand identity and messaging. This ensures a cohesive brand experience for your audience, regardless of the platform they engage with.

  1. Use Ad Scheduling

   Key Tip: Identify peak times when your target audience is most active and schedule your ads accordingly. Ad scheduling can optimize your budget by ensuring your ads are displayed when they are most likely to be seen.

  1. Encourage User Engagement

   Key Tip: Design your ads to encourage user engagement, whether through comments, shares, or clicks. Social media algorithms often prioritize content with higher engagement, increasing the visibility of your ads.

  1. Stay Informed About Platform Updates

   Key Tip: Social media platforms frequently update their algorithms and features. Stay informed about these changes to adapt your strategies and seize new opportunities.


7. Real Results: How A Premium B2C Brand Increased Sales by 975% With Meta Ads


The client: A premium B2C brand in a niche automotive industry.

The issue: Last year, they started using Meta ads to drive sales for their e-commerce store. However, in 2023, they only had 23 sales. Why?

When Hop Skip Media took over the ads, we discovered they had the wrong structure; they were only running retargeting ads and therefore not reaching a new audience, and the products in the e-commerce and the creatives needed to be more organized and properly classified. 

The solution: First, some general housekeeping and organization for the account will be needed. We collected all the products by category in Sets and correctly classified them within campaigns. Then, we had to fill the pipeline with potential new customers, so we launched prospecting campaigns to look for new users, ensuring that the re marketing audiences were constantly replenished.

The results: After correcting these issues, sales have grown by an unbelievable 957% in the past five months in a single campaign. After only having 30 sales in all of 2023, there have been 293 sales in 5 months. 

Screenshot of a campaign performance dashboard displaying various ad sets, metrics such as website purchases, link clicks, and reach. Highlights include changes between two time periods in a row, providing busy businesses with insights into the effectiveness of their social media ads.
Screenshot of a campaign performance dashboard displaying various ad sets, metrics such as website purchases, link clicks, and reach. Highlights include changes between two time periods in a row, providing busy businesses with insights into the effectiveness of their social media ads.

Social Media Ads Success Guide: What’s next?


In conclusion, by combining the foundational knowledge shared in this social media ads guide with advanced best practices, you’re well-positioned to achieve outstanding results in your social media advertising journey. Elevate your campaigns, engage your audience, and watch your business thrive in the dynamic world of social media. 

As you implement this social media ads guide and best practices, remember that Hop Skip Media is here to support you every step of the way. Our team of seasoned professionals specializes in maximizing the potential of social media advertising for businesses like yours.

If you’re ready to transform your social media advertising efforts into a driving force for growth, schedule your free discovery call with Hop Skip Media today. My team and I will create tailor-made strategies to align with your business goals, ensuring that your campaigns get you views and clicks and drive conversions and sales. The journey to success begins now.

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