How to advertise on social media: Step-by-step on 4 networks

LinkedIn

LinkedIn would seem to be ideal for reaching other businesses.

It's easy to get started advertising with LinkedIn. If you've set up a new company page recently, LinkedIn has probably even emailed you a promotion for free ad credits. Either follow the links in that email, or from your company page on LinkedIn, click the blue Edit dropdown and select "Promote this page with LinkedIn Ads."

Ads here work very similarly to Facebook's, and you can promote either your LinkedIn page or your website URL. Most ads on the site currently link to outside websites. As with Facebook, you can create multiple ad variations for use on a single campaign. The system tracks which one performs the best as your campaign runs. Ads have a small thumbnail image, again much like Facebook; headlines can be 25 characters and description text is limited to a mere 75 characters.

LinkedIn steps you through creating an ad.

The next page offers copious targeting options. You start with the world, then narrow down based on criteria for those you want to see your ad. Choose their location, job title, age, gender, and even very fine data, such as the company they work for and the school they went to. Want to target only Stanford graduates working at Google? It's easy.

LinkedIn penFlickr: The Seafarer

Finally, set your bids. You can choose to pay per click or per impression, and it isn't cheap. LinkedIn charges $2 minimum per click for CPC ads or $2 minimum per 1000 impressions for CPM ads. The minimum daily budget is $10. (New users must also pay a one-time $5 activation fee.)


For companies offering professional services, LinkedIn offers additional value in the form of its Lead Collection system. With this turned on  at no extra charge, LinkedIn places a bar at the top of the page while your ad or website loads. Users who have clicked your ad see a message, such as, "Would you like XYZ Corp. to follow up with you on LinkedIn?" With a single click they can choose for you to contact them later. In turn, you receive an email with their LinkedIn profile information included.

Finally, billing information is collected before your ad is launched on the site.

StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon ads are a different beast.

StumbleUpon is a different animal from the above social networks, but it remains a popular site for sharing fun Web content, and for getting your advertising message viewed.

StumbleUpon's Paid Discovery (PD) system is easiest to reach via this page. Just click the Get Started button. You will need a unique account on the PD system because your regular StumbleUpon account, if you have one, won't work here. Activate your account via email and begin to build your campaign.

StumbleUpon ads work differently than other social network ads. You don't write any ad copy. Rather, you provide your URL and the number of visitors you would like to see that URL. Each unique visitor costs 10 cents by default. Your page is then inserted into StumbleUpon users' Stumble flow automatically; up to 5 percent of "Stumbles" on the system are diverted to paid links. It is also unique in that advertising is prepaid. Your credit card is charged in advance for the amount you indicate, then that account is drawn down until it is emptied.

On the final page you can set advanced options, including demographics, start and end date, and user interests (which can be specified in users' StumbleUpon accounts). There are also options here to pay more or less per unique visitor that sees your ad, based on how "engaged" they are. StumbleUpon doesn’t offer much guidance on what this really means, though.

One caveat: Remember that StumbleUpon users are looking for content during their Stumble session, not for business home pages or blatant ads. It's a good idea to use a blog post or video as your destination URL for a StumbleUpon ad in order to keep visitors from clicking away as soon as it loads. Also note that ads (or rather, your landing page) must be approved by the company before they are scheduled to run.

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