The ultimate guide to paid media in a social media age

Almost every business wants to find new customers. But knowing where to find them? Well, that’s the big question every business owner has wrestled with since… well… a long time ago.

It used to be simple. Buy a billboard, buy an advertisement in a newspaper, or get someone to wear a sign and stand on a street corner. These days, the landscape is a whole lot more crowded.

So, where do you spend your advertising dollars? Do you try to go viral (for good reasons!) on TikTok, pin your hopes on Pinterest or hope people find you on Facebook? There’s not really a silver bullet, as each platform has its strengths and weaknesses. Lucky for you, we’re here to help.

What is paid media?

First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. In marketing jargon, paid media is marketing or advertising that involves paying in return for an audience for your paid advertising.  What this can look like is many and varied. A quick hit list might include: paying for better search results on Google, video advertisements on TikTok, YouTube or Instagram, pop-ups on a website, ‘sponsored’ content on LinkedIn and much more.

The ultimate goal of paid media is to put your brand in front of more eyeballs so you can generate more clicks, send more people to your website and let the good times roll.

What paid advertising channels are available?

Every day it seems a new social media channel is appearing so no wonder many people are confused about where to target their paid advertising. The first step is to understand the platforms and what type of paid media channels are available. Then you can come up with a digital advertising plan that can actually work instead of taking a $50 note and setting it on fire.

So, what’s out there?


Some might call Facebook the grandfather of social media (and by some, I mean me) but it still has its place in a digital marketing plan. In fact, Facebook is mounting something of a comeback thanks to the pandemic. According to one report, 40% of ‘consumers’ increased their time spent on social media and messaging apps since Covid came into our lives. And if there’s one business that makes a living as a social media and messaging app, it’s Facebook.

One thing Facebook is great for is taking advantage of its sheer size. There are almost 3 billion people using Facebook, meaning it’s great for finding new customers that look a lot like your current ones. You can use Facebook to create a “lookalike audience“, which allows Facebook to display your paid advertising or other social media content to potential customers.

The cost per click (CPC) on Facebook is also relatively cheap compared to other channels. So even if you think that your audience won’t be on Facebook, we hate to tell you, but they probably are.


Early in its life, LinkedIn was referred to as Facebook for professionals. The reality is that LinkedIn is just another social media platform, it just happens to be used for a more niche purpose.

Because it’s so niche, it means you can target people very specifically. For example, you can target by job title, industry, or even years of experience in a particular field. That’s a lot more specific than the traditional filters of age, gender and location.

The counterpoint to this specialised specificity (say that 5 times fast), is that the general audience is smaller and the paid media options (such as cost per click) are more expensive (than Facebook, anyway). And, since most LinkedIn users are there for business-related content, the platform is really a B2B or networking tool.

But if that’s your space, then LinkedIn might be the paid advertising channel for you and your digital advertising plan will get a lot more bang for buck.

For more information, read our Tips for a Successful Marketing Campaign on LinkedIn.


If Facebook is the grandfather of social media, then TikTok is the granddaughter who’s out till all hours of the morning. That’s because over 40% of TikTok’s users are aged 18-24. And a quarter of TikTok’s entire user database is women aged 18-24. So if young people (and young women in particular) are who you want to target, then get onto TikTok and get your digital advertising going. Like, now. Why are you still sitting there?

There are also lots of different forms of paid advertising to try. There are static images or video advertisements (they have these advert types called Spark Ads which make your adverts look like any other organic (not paid media) content), but where TikTok can become quite powerful is getting users to participate in your digital advertising themselves.

For example, TikTok will often run ‘hashtag challenges’ which encourage users to create content related to a specific hashtag. Companies can sponsor these challenges which turns it into a ‘branded hashtag challenge’. TikTok reckons this transforms consumers from passive onlookers to active participants. Which is true… if it works. This is where a good digital advertising agency is important as they could be the difference in turning your hashtag challenge into a viral one rather than a flop.

For more information, learn How brands can make the most of TikTok

Google – Search, display

If there’s one platform that is built for creating more awareness of a brand it’s Google. The real power of Google is the number of people who use a Gmail account. Now, rightly or wrongly, Google is able to track the way they search for content which allows you to create really customised digital advertising plans.

For example, you might want to create a paid media strategy that targets people who have previously visited your site (either to encourage them to buy from you for the first time or to buy from you again). This is called a ‘remarketing’ list – Google helps you target these people which allows you to create very specific advertisements.

Another option to help with how high your business appears in a Google search is to ‘bid’ on keywords. This means you identify keywords or phrases that people might type into Google to find your product or service and you bid (like at an auction) for those words. The goal is that when people search for those keywords, your company appears first on their search results.

For more information, learn Why Invest in Google AdWords for Your Business?

What paid media should my digital advertising plan focus on?

As you can see, there are plenty of options available, and this blog has only scratched the surface (there’s still Pinterest). The best thing to do is to consult an expert, like a digital marketing agency. They know the rules of the game and can make sure your company is spending your valuable dollars in the right place for the best impact.

If you want to build your paid media strategy, contact us today. We can help you figure out which channels are right for your audience, and where to get the best bang for your buck.

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