Social Media Marketing -Is Pay to Play Worth It?

Paid social media advertising is a worthwhile investment for any business that wants to grow its online presence, reach new customers, and increase its sales. By using the right strategies, platforms, and tools, you can create effective and efficient paid social media campaigns that deliver results.


Bill Arnold

12/14/20235 min read

Paid Social Media Marketing
Paid Social Media Marketing

In the past few blogs, we have been touting the benefits of using organic social media marketing. We will now turn our attention to using paid demand and how it can be an extremely effective strategy in social media marketing. As we begin this journey it is important to remember that ALL the best practices we share in The Top Fifteen Mistakes Social Media Managers Make, apply to your paid demand efforts as well.

In our discussion with organic social media, we will have one blog focusing on the benefits of including it as part of your strategy and share the best use cases for doing it. We then followed up with a second blog that gave you actionable campaigns that you could implement. We will follow the same structure with our analysis of paid demand.

The Confusion About Advertising on Social Media Platforms

The reason many companies decline to use paid promotions on social media platforms is uncertainty as to their value. Over 83% of marketers say social media return on investment is hard to measure (Gitnux) For many marketers (over 46%) that difficulty is because they are not sure what metrics constitute an ROI. Because a typical purchase happens after six to eight touchpoints, it is impossible to ascertain which contact is connected with the customer.

Many B2C clients use actual purchases to overcome this confusion. If the link used to get to the payment page came from a social ad, that was considered revenue for the ROI calculation. For B2B businesses, they often only consider paid social for ROI if that was the activity that resulted in the customer contacting sales. In 2021, this meant that only 9.3% of conversions were attributed to social media. (Gitnux)

We believe that both of these methodologies result in an artificially low ROI attributable to paid social media.

How To Assign ROI for Social Media

The problem is most of these companies are hung up using a Single-touch attribution approach. Using this attribution method 100% of the revenue value is assigned to one touchpoint in the customer journey. That touchpoint could be the first click, the point where your buyer became a lead, or the last touchpoint before purchase.

Single Touch ROI
Single Touch ROI

Since it is impossible to ascribe any attribution with certainty, we prefer using the Multi-touch attribution assigns value to all of the touchpoints in the customer journey, but different types of multi-touch attribution give varying degrees of value to the touchpoints.

Multi-touch ROI
Multi-touch ROI

Single-touch models of attribution reduce the customer journey to one relevant event, which runs the risk of turning into a confirmation bias. A muti-touch approach tries to assign the value of each touchpoint according to the difficulty in making the transition from one state to another. While the percentages shown have been adjusted based on the performance of a specific client, they are roughly the conversion rates typically seen. (Mosaic)

While no model is perfect, we used this methodology to provide an analysis for several of our clients who wanted proof that paid social media programs were driving actual sales.

The ROI for Paid Social Media

Once you settle on a methodology for determining how you will calculate ROI, the numbers may astound you. The average ROI for a social media campaign is 250%. (Gitnux)

When we shared that information with a few clients they had a genuine disbelief. We were told by one CEO that if we could deliver that number, he would pay us three months of our engagement as a bonus. We first agreed on the methodology we were using to make that determination (e.g., multi-touch approach) and had a three-month test period. At the end of the quarter, there was a 689% ROI. He happily paid.

Now we have done trial programs for other clients to prove the validity of a powerful ROI on paid social media. While none had the incentive of a bonus, all of them delivered above the 250% ROI that Gitnux reported. Like ALL marketing programs, the success was based on sound marketing strategies, great content, and a data-driven approach to optimizing performance every day.

Other Reasons for Implementing a Paid Social Media Program

While the compelling ROI numbers are reason enough for implementing a paid-demand program, it is not the only reason. The reason that you need to be advertising on social media platforms is because your customers expect you to be 78% of all consumers want brands to use social media to connect with them. (SproutSocial). If the ROI and the expectations of your audience are not enough, here are six additional benefits that paid social media excels at delivering.

Highly Targeted Engagements - With paid social engagements you can choose specific demographics, interests, behaviors, locations, and languages to target their ads. This not only ensures that the message reaches the most relevant audience but it is done cost-effectively.

Real-Time Metrics - Companies can track the performance of their ads in terms of impressions, clicks, conversions, and ROI, providing valuable insights for future campaigns. Being able to view performance in real-time allows for quick adjustments, like updating copy or imagery. This helps contribute to improving ROI as you can avoid ineffective ads from running.

Enhanced Brand Awareness - Paid social media advertising helps in building brand awareness and credibility. A consistent presence on social media platforms boosts brand recognition and trust among customers.

Personalized Experiences - Everyone has a preference on how they prefer to view content. That preference also may change depending on their surroundings. While you might prefer to view videos at night during business hours it may be more practicable for you to just scan a carousel of images. Social media ads can be served in a variety of formats. You can meet all these expectations by providing content in videos, images, carousels, and stories that capture the audience’s attention and convey a message.

Not Intrusive - Social media ads can be fun and interactive. A well-done ad can be entertaining but can be sent up so if you don't like the ad you can either scroll through past it in your feed or ask the platform not to show you that ad anymore. This again helps keep the ad cost-effective

Cost-effective - Did we say paid social media ads can be cost-effective? Not only are paid social media ads relatively affordable, You don’t need to reinvent the wheel! Take a look at your high-performing platforms and content that are working organically, then boost posts or replicate the content for your paid ads.


Paid social media advertising is a worthwhile investment for any business that wants to grow its online presence, reach new customers, and increase its sales. By using the right strategies, platforms, and tools, you can create effective and efficient paid social media campaigns that deliver results.

The key to your success will be determined by the strategy and processes you to develop and implement the program. I have seen companies throw a lot of money down the drain by poor planning or execution.

In tomorrow's blog, we will share some tips on how to implement your program and provide examples of how we help create programs that delivered quick wins for our clients.