From 2014 to 2016 alone, global social media advertising spend doubled from ?$16 billion to $31 billion. There's a good reason for this: it's under-priced, and more importantly, it works. Yet, despite many entrepreneurs being aware of the significance social media can bring to their brand in terms of awareness on top of increased sales, knowing where to start and how to properly execute is the difficult part?--?causing many who try to become frustrated and give up. 

On that note, here's how to get started with social media advertising, along with best practices to ensure you're getting the most out of the medium.

1. Don't resort to only using Facebook ads.

When I speak with entrepreneurs who are looking to begin leveraging social media advertising, they almost always discuss soley Facebook ads. While Facebook certainly has the sharpest targeting capabilities given the immense amount of consumer data they have access to, the cost to advertise on the platform is steadily increasing and will only continue that trajectory. Additionally, users are leaving the platform in droves and access to certain segments of data will become more difficult following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. 

The good news is, you've got plenty of alternatives, and I recommend giving all of them a try. Here are a few other platforms to consider, along with the average cost per click (CPC) along with the cost per 1,000 impressions, i.e. views (CPM), according to WordStream.

For reference, Facebook's average CPC $1.72 and CPM is $9.06.

  • Instagram: CPC of $1.28 and CPM of $6.70

  • LinkedIn: CPC of $5.61 and CPM of $6.05
  • Twitter: CPC of $0.52 and CPM of $5.76

2. Know where your target audience is.

One of the most important things to figure out when deciding which social media advertising platforms to invest heavily into is knowing where your target audience hangs out most online.

For instance, if your company is trying to sell a recipe book, online yoga course or home decor, then chances are high you'll find a lot of success on Pinterest. If your company is trying to sell inspiring merchandise like motivational t-shirts, chances are high Instagram will be a worthwhile platform to invest big into. If your company is a blockchain startup, then Twitter ads will more than likely be your best bet.

Take the time to brainstorm and put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and figure out where they spend their time browsing online. Once you do, buy ads on this platform.

3. Follow your social media marketing.

As basic as it sounds, one of the greatest indicators of which platform your social media ads will perform best is where your social media marketing is performing best. For example, if your business has a much larger and more loyal following on Instagram than they do anywhere else, then it's safe to assume your budget would best be spent on Instagram advertising.

Additionally, you can also use the analytics gathered on your social media channels to refine your targeting for social media ads and vice versa. Who knows? You may have a dedicated following in Iceland or Dubai you would never have known about until diving deep into the analytics available on nearly all social media platforms.

4. Never be afraid to experiment.

No matter how calculated your decisions become by using the tips from this article and other material online, at the end of the day, every business is different and the social media landscape is always changing. Because of this, you'll need to frequently test new platforms, strategies, targeting tactics and more to stay on top of your game.

Each month, set aside a portion of your budget as money for experimenting. Approach the situation as if you know you'll lose the money entirely. Whether this experiment is a new social media platform or feature, giving influencer marketing a try or targeting a brand new audience, the point is to test to see what works best for you. 

If you don't have time to do this on your own, then hire an agency or talented freelancer to do it for you.

Lastly, according to a study by? ?Zenith?, time spent watching media online will officially surpass time spent watching TV for the first time ever in 2019. Because of this, social media usage is on the rise and your advertising budget should begin reflecting that shift if it isn't already. However complex or overwhelming it may seem to know where to invest your dollars into, how to target, optimize ads and more, if you follow the tips laid out in this article, you'll be in a terrific position to reap all the benefits social media ads have to offer you. Best of luck.