Seven-in-ten Americans use social media platforms at least once a day, representing an enormous opportunity for brands to connect with prospective customers. It's not by accident that social media advertising revenue is forecasted to reach $41 billion in 2017, after nearly doubling in the past two years.

As a smart professional, you want to tap into this opportunity. You know social media platforms offer numerous advertising formats, have an unbeatable ROI and give you the ability to target specific audiences, but where do you start? The first step to creating a successful digital ad campaign is to develop a social media plan for paid advertising.

We know it can be tricky waters to navigate if this is your first time advertising on social media. So we’ve drawn up six steps to help you get on the right track and successfully design a social media advertising plan.

How to create a social media strategy plan for advertising

1. Identify goals

The first task is to determine the goals that will mark your social media plan as successful. They can be simply defined as increasing brand awareness, driving sales, generating leads or creating a community around your brand. A good strategy to follow would be to implement SMART goals.

Whatever business goal you choose will determine the best metrics to measure your success. You should stay away from vanity metrics in this case, such as likes or followers. Instead, focus on metrics that measure leads or conversions.

2. Choose your target audience and platform

To start with, you need to look at the who, what and why of your target customers. Who are they, what are they looking for and why would they pick you over a competitor? A good way to figure that out is by developing buyer personas.

Also, where is your target audience? Facebook and Twitter? Or Instagram and Snapchat? Take a look at what demographics are big for each platform and compare it with who you’re trying to reach according to the buyer personas you have developed. Be sure to match the voice associated with each platform and to cater your ads to work well for where you want them placed.

3. Create content and structure your campaign

The most obvious of these steps is creating the content that will make up the ads for your campaign. Humor, celebrities and content that appeal to our emotions are some of the most important elements of popular ads. You also need to write good copy and create CTAs that will elicit the desired response.

Your campaign will only get to your desired audience, though, if you choose the right keywords. There are several free tools available that can help you in this task.

Google AdWords Keyword Planner is a great tool for finding the best keywords related to the business or service that you’re trying to sell. You not only discover new keywords, but you can also compare keyword trends, see how often they’re searched and how their search volume changes over time. Facebook Audience Insights is another useful tool to get to know your target audience better.

Place the chosen keywords into ad groups with distinct keywords for each to create a strong structure for your social ad campaign. This will help you reach a larger pool of potential customers.

4. Plan your budget

After using tools such as Google Adwords Keyword Planner to see how the search volume fluctuates for the keywords you chose, you can plan your budget accordingly. Remember, you want to be spending your money wisely rather than harder.

First, calculate the return on investment (ROI) or return on ad spend (ROAS). This is also where cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-view (CPV) comes into play. How much are you willing to spend throughout your campaign? What would your ideal ROAS look like once the campaign has run its course? Consider how much you’re willing to spend related to how much you’re hoping to make.

5. Track and measure your results

Now that your ads have begun circulating through the social space, the only way to tell how well your social media plan is doing is by tracking and measuring the KPIs you've chosen when identifying your goals.

A good outlet for this would be Google Analytics. When linked to your Adwords account, it will tell you how your ads are performing in terms of guiding targeted traffic to your website and which ads or placements are leading to conversions.

Each social media platform also offers their own analytics, so you’re able to check the performance of your ads directly through them.

You can also check how well you’re doing by calculating either your ROI or ROAS and by paying closer attention to the metrics that matter the most according to your goals. These metrics will tell you how well or poorly your ads are performing. Here are some to consider:

  • Impressions are when your ad appears in a social platform. It doesn’t necessarily mean there were conversions, simply that it was seen on a social feed where a potential conversion was browsing.

  • Views are similar to impressions but are related to the number of people who watched or engaged with your video ad.

  • Clicks are exactly what they sound like — someone thought your headline was interesting enough to click on it and see your offer.

  • Click-through rate (CTR) differs from clicks because it takes both clicks and impressions into consideration. It is the number of clicks your ad received divided by the number of times it was seen (impressions), expressed as a percentage.

  • View rate is pretty similar to click-through rate as it counts the number of people who viewed your video. View rate is measured as the ratio of paid views to impressions.

  • Cost-per-view (CPV) is the amount you will pay when a viewer watches your ad. Each social media platform counts views in a different way. On Google Ads and TrueView it is the amount you’ll pay when a viewer watches your ad for 30 seconds or more.

6. Improve and optimize

The goal of any social media plan for advertising is to obtain the best results. How about optimizing your ads to provide exactly that? Taking this step allows you to eliminate what’s performing poorly and invest more in what is working well.

Make sure to watch your campaign 24/7 and observe how your target audience reacts after you spend the first dollar on your campaign. The key to success is to analyze the data you collect, learn from it, iterate and apply the learnings to your campaign. This strategy will also increase the other metrics you are considering, such as your ROAS, giving you more bang for your buck.

Start planning

Now that we’ve outlined creating a social media plan for advertising, it’s time to take over the social media ad space.

Be sure to keep in mind the main objectives you chose and what you want to accomplish upon completion as you move through the steps.

Taylor Schaller

Taylor Schaller

Taylor is the Social Media and Content Marketing Intern at Strike Social. A graduate from The University of Alabama, she is now an MBA candidate at Loyola University Chicago.