Paid advertising on social media – because there’s no such thing as a free lunch

When I first started working in non-profits, social media advertising was in its toddlerhood. I worked for a regional theatre that was an early adopter of the importance of having a social media presence, but struggled to move past more traditional forms of marketing. While they have grown with the times, those early days of consternation about why we should PAY for something we could just do for FREE have always stuck somewhere in my mind.

Over time, I have also grown my opinion on paying for advertising on social media. The game is always changing – which is perhaps what is most scary to those who were once at the top of the traditional marketing game. As soon as you think you’ve figured out the algorithms, they change. Larry Kim explains that “most content goes nowhere.” Sure – it’s free to create a social media account for your business and to post as often as you want, but organic reach is declining and therefore brands need to figure out a foolproof way to get their content in front of their consumers.

Click to view.

Enter: paid advertising. As Basha Coleman points out in the article Paid Social Media Advertising: Worth the Investment?, “paid social media…can optimize a marketing budget that might not be substantial enough to promote a large brand through traditional media channels.” The flexibility of the cost scale and the ability to target the best possible audience for your brand makes social media advertising one of the most cost-effective forms of marketing.

Paid social media advertising has countless pros, including the aforementioned ability to scale the cost to fit your budget and audience targeting, as well as creating a higher likelihood your content will be seen. You’ve worked hard on that content, right? You want it to be seen by more people than your mom.

Speaking of content, the biggest con I can see in social media advertising is not knowing what content to boost. It’s easy to say “BOOST IT ALL” but unless you have unlimited resources to pump into advertising, that won’t get you very far. Using paid advertising to promote content that has already gotten some organic traction is a great place to start. You know the people who already care about your brand are interacting with your piece of content in a positive way so promoting that should be a no-brainer.

Using paid advertising should always be a part of a larger campaign strategy – not the entire campaign strategy. “If you build it, they will come” only works in the movies. DiGiorno, the frozen pizza company, used a mix of paid advertising and organic posting to huge success in their “It’s Delivery… It’s DiGiorno” campaign in October 2019.

You may not know, but October is National Pizza Month. Wanting to get their own slice of the action (pun totally intended), DiGiorno took to Twitter with a campaign that the script on its iconic slogan. The company offered to deliver pizzas to customers who used the hashtag #DeliverDiGiorno and used a combination of paid advertising and organic posts to stoke interest.

DiGiorno teased the campaign with promoted posts during September as well as used running a 24-hour promoted trend spotlight on October 1 to encourage people to participate in the campaign. Finally, DiGiorno delivered on their promise by delivering 1,100 frozen pizzas in five cities across the U.S. to campaign participants.

This campaign combined a current trend (#nationalpizzamonth) and an incentive (free pizza) to spread brand awareness. By delivering 1,100 pizzas and combining paid advertising and organic posting, generated 8.5 million Tweet impressions and a positive sentiment rating of 78%. The campaign also drew attention to the brand offline with media coverage in the five cities selected in the campaign.

Another successful Twitter campaign was the Subaru #MakeADogsDay relaunch in 2019. Looking to create new interest around the long running campaign which helps find homes for adoptable dogs, Subaru used a custom emoji and promoted trends such as First View and the Explore tab to announce their declaration of October 22 as “National #MakeaDogsDay”.

The company teamed up with the ASPCA and offered to donate $10 for every item purchased off the ASPCA Charity List. This post alone garnered 10.6K retweets.

They also teamed up with dog influencers like Doug the Pug to spread the word about their new national holiday.

The campaign saw a remarkable 100% positive sentiment rating and 14,000 mentions on Twitter. The campaign videos were viewed more than 10 Million times. The campaign raised brand awareness on the day by 23% and, most importantly, raised $164,000 for the ASPCA.


Barnhart, B. (2019, April 15). 7-Step social media advertising strategy to better performing ads. Sprout Social.

Coleman, B. (2021, April 6). Paid Social Media: Worth The Investment?

Cyca, M. (2020, August 19). 7 of the best social media campaigns (and what you can learn from them). Hootsuite.

Kim, L. (2021, February 17). 10 best social media advertising tips for content marketers.

Twitter. (2021a). Go ahead, Subaru, #MakeADogsDay.

Twitter. (2021b). It’s Delivery…It’s DiGiorno.

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