It’s THE question on everyone’s lips… what’s for dinner? I kid. The real q here is not as tasty as that, but still important…

Do social ads work? If so, how do I cook some up?

The answer is, yes, absolutely. And it's pretty simple. But you'll need quality ingredients (just like making any good meal). Confused? It’s not as complicated as it seems. 

The TLDR version is this: social ads can be a powerful tool for reaching more people and getting them to take action if you’ve got a great message, a clear audience and a decisive outcome in mind—and the budget and time to do it. If not, we’re here for it.

Before we jump into things, it’s worth noting that this discussion is really more of a consideration for ads rather than boosting. 

“What’s the diff?” we hear you ask… Put simply, boosting relates to giving your organic social a little leg up and often involves smaller budgets. Ads are more built for purpose, involve more strategic objectives and targeting, and aren’t shown organically on your pages. Get it? Hopefully. Having said that, keep in mind that the principles we outline below apply for both methods. It’s just more important for ads, if you want them to work.       

Oh, and when we talk about paid social, we’re mostly talking about Facebook and Instagram ‘cause they’re the bigguns. Again, you can apply the same principles to other formats too like LinkedIn, Twitter (hello writers and trolls) and YouTube.

Come across a term you’re not familiar with? No problem. At the bottom of the article is a glossary of words you’ll often read when delving into social media advertising.

First, check your checklist. 

🧐 Do I have a clear objective that aligns with an ad bidding objective? 

👯‍♂️ Do I have a clear audience and CAN they be targeted? 

🖼 Do I have nice words, video and pictures I can use that will chime with my audience? 

💰 Does my budget match my expectations?  

⌚️ Is there time? 

Within each of these questions lies leavers you can tweak or yank to ensure you’re getting great bang for your coin.

Set a clear objective (plus what the hell is bidding)

Bidding on Facebook is all about defining the kinds of behaviours or outcomes you want to target. In other words, set your bid and Facebook will find the people most likely to do the thing you’re asking them to. So, thinking about what you’d like to achieve in bidding terms will help, loads. 

For example, do you have something to sell (online)? You’d look at website traffic and conversions (add to cart, purchase etc.) Or do you want to grow a community? Page likes, event RSVPs and post engagements is where it’s at for you. 

Defining your audience (waiting to cheer and shout “encore”, obviously) 

Big Brother (the internet) is watching you. Creepy as this is, it’s also pretty powerful if you’re a business owner. It means it’s highly likely you can find people who’d like to pick up what you’re putting down. 

There are a couple of targeting methods on the menu. Having a few up your sleeve is *chef’s kiss.*

Interest or behaviour based. If you’re a business that neatly falls into a category this can be a great in. Do you sell beer? There’s an interest group for that. Do you want to promote your new takeaway menu to peeps? There’s a behaviour for that. 

Adjacent interests. This is a little more crafty than the above points and a bit more experimental. It’s about finding audiences through unexpected avenues. For example, if you’re selling fancy hampers around Christmas time, maybe targeting Executive Assistants, Personal Assistants and receptionists might be a good move ‘cause they’re likely to be organising that kind of thing. Out of the hamper thinking, folks. Something we love doing here at Buffet should you need ads implemented as part of your content strategy. As we said, here for it.

Custom audiences. People who have directly engaged with you in some way before, collected via website traffic (you need a pixel to track this and other stuff like purchases), Instagram and Facebook interactions and video views. People you know are engaged. Lovely stuff. 

Look-a-likes. Find people similar to audiences you already have clearly defined. Do you have a marketing list from your EDM? Feed it into Facebook and tell it to find more people like this. Want to find people to watch your new video? Tell Facebook to target those that have watched your content before. Bam. Easy. 

Make it look good 

Probably the most important thing. 

Eye catching, on brand and on message creative wins. And when we say eye catching, we mean it. People are fickle (we know this more profoundly than ever thanks to Tinder), and you’ve got about 2-secs to grab them as they engage in one of their thrice daily doom scrolls. 

BUT, having said that it’s also important that your ad doesn’t stick out too much from other content in your audiences’ feed, lest it look too much like an ad, or feel irrelevant. Nobody wants to be a sore thumb. 

Another hot tip: it’s great to use video whenever you can, even if it’s GIF style videos composed of beautiful imagery. Why? Because video views allow you to re-target people for future campaigns. They can also help with building great look-alikes (as per audience explainer above). 

Oh and hot off the press: FB has lifted the 20% text rule meaning you can go HAM on fonts if you wish. 

Show Zuckerberg the money (budget)  

How much should you be spending on paid social? Answer: how long is a piece of kitchen string. 

The thing with mulla in this space is it’s all about scale. Scale meaning, more money = bigger results. Thing is, more money also means more management—more ads, more audiences, and more community management. You should always monitor ads for comments, by the way (this is something people often forget to do). 

Of course, a little can go a long way if you’ve got great creative, a really clear objective and an audience who’s going to vibe with your message. 

In short, the budget needs to match your expected outcomes and resources, including how much reach, engagement or conversions you’d like for the month, how many assets you have to create nice ads, and how much time allocation to manage it all. 

Alternatively, set your budget according to what you’re willing to pay, and line up your expectations accordingly. 

Tick-tock (not the platform) 

Time. Do you have it? You’ll need a timeline, specifically, before any deadline you might need to meet. As a general rule of thumb it’s good to be “live in market” one to two weeks before any key launch/marketing date. Plus, ads should be live at least three days before assessing if they’re working or not. As with any good yardstick this is also highly dependent on the situation, and context needs to be considered when planning or assessing success. 

Ok, phew, that’s it. Even though we haven’t even talked about placements yet. That’s a whole other School Up for another day. 

Want to do some paid social, creative for it, or to assess if it’ll work for you? Get in touch to chat. We’re here to help!


Facebook Pixel: this is essentially a few lines of code from Facebook that you copy into the header section of your website. The“pixel” then collects customer data from your site and feeds it back into Facebook. It’s a superpower, of sorts, for creating highly-customised audiences and ads.

Bidding: a bid represents what you're willing to pay for your ad in order to achieve the desired result from someone in your target audience.

Interest groups: When you’re setting up an ad, you can select interest groups from a search bar for targeting purposes. This is usually used for cold audiences – i.e. when you want to get yourself in front of people who haven’t heard of you before, but who will likely like what you’re all about. 

Behaviours: similar to interest-based targeting, behavioral targeting is an avenue for getting your ads in front of the people who demonstrated a possible interest based on their actions. 

Conversions: getting people to take a very specific action. I.e. making a purchase, signing up for your newsletter or adding something to their cart.  

Reach: the total number of people who have seen your ad or content. 

Engagements: refers to the number of times your ad or content is engagement with in some way by your audience. This includes things like post clicks, likes, shares and comments. 

Retargeting: an ad bidding strategy whereby you re-target an audience that has previously engaged with you in some way or did not convert. 

Placements: the places where your ad runs. For example, Instagram explore, feed, stories, Facebook feed, right column, messenger etc.