What is paid social?

Social media platformsAs any social media newbie will tell you, the hard work is in growing a following and getting ‘eyeballs on content’.

Fortunately, the social media sites have thought of this, and they have a solution: you can pay them to put your content into the right people’s newsfeeds. This is what the marketing industry calls ‘paid social’.

As a social media user, you come across paid social all the time: those sponsored posts that pop up when you’re scrolling through your news feed are examples of content that businesses have paid to show you because you fit their target audience.

In this piece, we’ll have a look at some of your business’s options for paid social.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic – is paid social such a great idea right now?”

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Businesses are wary of spending money right now, and with good reason. One in five UK businesses have placed staff on leave under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and businesses in several sectors (e.g. travel and hospitality) have been forced to stop trading altogether.

If your business is suffering severe disruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, now might not be the right time to start spending on your social media presence.

On the other hand, if you are able to trade and you feel the time is right to get the word out to a larger audience, paid social could be a good option for you. After all, we’re all spending a lot of time on social media at the moment and a lot of us have time to spare, so your audience is probably paying attention.

Also, given the reduction in advertising all round, some experts are claiming that it’s cheaper than ever to get your promoted content in front of your audience.

“What are my paid social options?”

These are the main paid social offerings by channel:

Facebook and Messenger

There are two ways to advertise on Facebook:

1) You can work from your business’s Facebook page, choosing particular pieces of content to push out into the newsfeeds of your followers, their friends, and new audiences who fit your target demographic.

Read more about boosting posts.

2) You can create ads in Facebook Ads Manager, to display to custom audiences who are not necessarily fans of your page.

Read more about creating ads.

Is your target audience more likely to use Facebook’s Messenger app rather than the platform itself? If so, you can create ads specifically for Messenger.


Twitter’s main advertising options are Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts. The first is great if you have a particular tweet that is getting lots of retweets and replies, and you want to share it with a wider audience. The second is a good option for growing your following, as it will suggest to users that they follow your account.

Read more about advertising on Twitter.


If you sell to other businesses, LinkedIn is likely to be top of your list of advertising platforms. There are several paid social options on LinkedIn, from sponsored posts in the newsfeed to sidebar ads and sponsored InMail messages.

Read more about advertising on LinkedIn.


When you’ve created an ad on Facebook, you can select an option to run the ad on Instagram too, even if you don’t have a page there. This is convenient but you may prefer to create ads specifically for Instagram, which is more visually led than Facebook. There are options for video ads and carousel ads as well as story and photo ads.

Read more about advertising on Instagram.

Always remember that the most important thing isn’t the channel, it’s the message. The best way to sell on social media is to understand your audience and create highly targeted messages that will resonate with them.

We hope this overview helps you to decide whether paid social is right for your business, and which channels you might want to try.

For more advice about managing social media at the current time please see our recent blog piece: Covid-19: What should I do with my brand’s social media?

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