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5 Paid Social Media Ad Mistakes to Avoid

Advice 9 minutes read March 22, 2023

Struggling to optimise your social media ads? Pretty much everyone has been in your boat.

Trying to pull the right lever to get more leads, sales, or impressions without spending more money. You could be running the ads as a tradesman or as the only marketer in an SMB. The good news is that there are some basic principles you can follow to help you get the most out of the Meta Ad platform, Linkedin or the likes of TikTok creative centre.

If done right, social media advertising can be one of the most effective digital marketing strategies to expand your audience and drive engagement with your brand. However, if done wrong, it can cost you a lot of money without any real results.


  • Testing your ads properly is essential to know what resonates with your audience and where to focus your spend
  • Lack of ad creative diversity and ignoring your budget can lead to ad fatigue and ruin your ROI
  • Scaling by expanding your reach into newer segments of users and leveraging Facebook’s targeting options to find new customers
  • Resist the urge to constantly tweak your campaigns as Facebook’s ad algorithm needs sufficient time to gather data and optimize its performance
  • Follow these basic principles to make the most of paid social media advertising and see real success for your business

Not Testing Enough

One of the most common mistakes made in paid social media advertising is not testing your ads properly. Without testing, it is impossible to know which type of ads are resonating with your audience, and where you should focus your advertising spend.

A good place to start with testing is on the creative side, this is where most of the power of the social platforms sits, but we’ll get more into the graphics later.
If you take the example from Nike above, grabbed from the Facebook Ads Libary, you can see their copy is the same, headline, and call to action are all the same. The element they’re testing in this circumstance is the creative/graphic. 

Nike Ad Creatives

So why are they testing three different approaches for the same desired outcome? You might think of it as a waste of money to run three ads for the same purpose, but what they’re learning from people’s engagement and the data is worth 10x times what they’re spending

After a good test period of 1-3 months, Nike will be able to look at the cost per click, click-through rate, video ThruPlays and even more data points, such as app installs and decide which gave them the best ROI.

As an example; the static image ad might have given them the cheapest ad spend and the most link clicks, so that’s a winner right? Not necessarily. The other two ads featuring videos might be more expensive per click but could be driving more engagement on their landing page and app installs, which can be useful for further marketing channels like email marketing.

So by testing different creatives, audiences and campaign objectives you focus on what works for your business and drive the results which mean success for you.

I would only recommend changing one thing per test as if you do more multiple changes per comparison you can’t concisely say that was the deciding factor in the performance shift.

No Ad Diversity / Lack Of Creativity

When it comes to paid social media advertising, probably the most common mistake that I see marketers make is a lack of ad diversity.

A lack of ad creative diversity doesn’t just make it lacklustre for your potential audience, it can lead to ad fatigue on your account pretty fast, driving up your CPC.

Knowing your audience demographic is a crucial first part of figuring out your ad creative strategy,  since different age groups, cultures, and genders all have different preferences in what creative medium they interact with.

A good place to start is creating a static image graphic, this could be a product image in a professional studio ting, an image of your product or service in a situation where it’s being used (known in the industry as user-generated content), and finally a video where possible.

And then you start diving into further techniques like before and afters or start adding certain social media trends to your ads.

Using different creatives and testing out various styles will help you gain feedback and data, which you can then use to scale your ads effectively. Just make sure to keep your ads to your brand guidelines to keep a consistent brand feel.


Ignoring Your Budget

Not using your budget effectively is one sure way to ruin your return before you’ve started.

When running a social campaign you need to plan out what you’re planning to achieve. Is it sales, reach, or traffic?

Meta Goal Types

You might think I want as many people to see my ads as possible, so awareness it is. That’s great and while it’s one of the cheapest campaign objectives out there for eyes on screens; the people seeing your ads won’t be clicking through to engage with your landing page.

On the other end of the spectrum you’ve got conversion campaigns, focused on people likely to spend money or take that valuable action you need. This type of campaign tends to be one of the most expensive to run as social platforms can charge more for placing your ads in front of people likely to part with money, but it will often give you the results you need to make campaigns viable.

So where do you put your money? Do you put it into a prospecting audience where people need introducing to your brand? Or do you put into targeting warmer leads via retargeting? Unfortunately, there’s no right or wrong answer, it’s a test-and-adjust scenario for what suits your business, industry and ad account.

What I wouldn’t recommend is putting all your budget into one campaign, as putting all your eggs into one basket has never been a wise strategy, and often can lead to blind spots in other areas of your marketing objective.



Not Scaling

After you’ve got your creatives, campaigns, and objectives optimised it’s time to scale.

Most of the time you start with some good results when doing social ads and you come stuck a few months down the line, and this is probably why you’re reading this blog now, we’ve all been here.

Scaling Facebook ads can be a challenging task for any marketer, but it can also be incredibly rewarding and satisfying to see the results. The two main levers for scaling are audience and budget, and there are several smart ways to approach both.

When it comes to budget, the easiest way to scale is to simply increase it. However, this can be more complicated on Facebook than on other platforms like Google or Microsoft Ads. Every time you change your budget on Facebook, it alters the data feeding the algorithm, which can be the learning phase. To mitigate this, stick to budget changes of 20% or less of the original budget, and adjust in multiple phases if necessary.

To scale audiences, one approach is to target not-as-spot-on interests. By expanding your reach into newer segments of users, you can find related interests that are complementary to your product or service. Another approach is to go after competitor brands. You can target users interested in competing brands or take inspiration from their ads in the Facebook Ads Library.

Another way to extend your reach is to tap into affinity brand audiences. By identifying other brands that complement yours or that your customer base would also purchase from, you can leverage Facebook’s targeting options to find new customers.

Lookalike models are another effective targeting option. Rather than just using one model based on your current customer base, try creating multiple seed audiences. For example, you can target users who added products to their cart, newsletter subscribers, or high-value customers.

If you’ve exhausted all potential target audiences and still want more scale, you can try broad targeting. With this approach, you leave the targeting options up to Facebook, using a conversion-focused campaign and identifying the conversion action you want more of. However, this strategy is best employed by accounts with high volumes of the desired conversion action.

Tweaking Facebook Ads

Constantly Tweaking

Have you ever been tempted to make changes to a brand-new Facebook campaign right after it goes live? It’s an easy trap to fall into, but let me tell you why it’s important to resist that urge, at least for the first month. 

I’m going to take you through a campaign we’ve run for a local company.

On the first day of the campaign, we allocated a daily budget of £20 to the campaign. One specific ad performed well, generating a few sales, while the other two merely garnered clicks to the landing page. 

However, it’s the remaining ad that I want to focus on, a video of the customer’s shop filmed in a typical UGC fashion. Even though £7.43 was spent on it, not a single sale was generated. Typically, media buyers would deactivate this ad due to its poor performance.

Moving on to the second day, all ads except for the one mentioned above managed to generate leads when both days were combined. At this point, you might be tempted to deactivate the underperforming ad, but based on our experience, we believe in giving the ads a minimum of a month to run.

And here’s why: on the third day, only one ad managed to generate sales, and it was the one that had underperformed in the previous two days. Surprisingly, when we looked at the campaign’s performance over the first seven days, this ad ended up being the top-performing one.

Why a month, you might ask? Well, not many people know this, but Facebook recommends running an ad for around a week before making any significant changes, but in our view, this is too short.

You’re not letting your ad reach all of its potential audience via all the available placements within the ad platform.

You also might find certain ads have better engagement near the beginning of the month when people are paid, this could be the case for higher-priced items when people have a decent amount of disposable income to hand.


What To Do Next?

While paid social media advertising can be an effective way to expand your audience and engage with your brand, it requires a strategic approach to avoid wasting money without seeing any real results.

Testing your ads properly is essential to understand which types of ads are resonating with your audience and where you should focus your advertising spend. A lack of ad creative diversity and ignoring your budget can also lead to ad fatigue and ruin your return on investment.

After optimizing your creatives, campaigns, and objectives, it’s important to scale by expanding your reach into newer segments of users and leveraging Facebook’s targeting options to find new customers.

Lastly, it’s important to resist the urge to constantly tweak your campaigns as Facebook’s ad algorithm needs sufficient time to gather data and optimize its performance. By following these basic principles, you can make the most of paid social media advertising and see real success for your business.

If you’d like any specific advice about your social media campaign, please feel free to reach out to us here. We’re always more than happy to provide insight into why you may not be achieving the results you are aiming for and how we can support you to make social media ads work for your business. 


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