How To Do Paid Social Media Marketing Right

An increasing number of social media websites are finding that the only real way to structure advertisements so that they have any significant ROI for sponsors is to integrate them into the social nature of the website itself. StumbleUpon did this through the use of “paid stumbles” where they charged $.05 a visitor from the StumbleUpon toolbar and Digg rolled out a similar program soon after showcasing “sponsored stories” amongst the other submissions on the home page.

If you are going to pay to advertise on social media websites, this is the way it is to be done. This is the only way to force readers to seriously consider clicking on your “advertisement” as it is essentially part of the content, essentially being the key word. To retain any sort of credibility, any social media website adopting such advertising forms will display a visible, although often times discrete, “sponsored post” message to let users know the link is an ad. However, since the ad is part of the content, users can’t help but to take notice of it and thus if intrigued they will click. This is a far cry from traditional sidebar banner advertisements which many users will glance over without any consideration.

The key to successful social media marketing through the purchase of paid advertisements is discretion. Simply getting users to read your ad isn’t enough, you need them to click through. This is especially true for sites like Digg where the ad is featured in a list of links people are looking to click on. The traditional 5% click through ratio does not apply here. Social media users hate advertisements so how does one go about promoting a product in this form? Through NOT trying to make a sale.

The moment your social media submission focuses to discussing prices or making a purchase, you have lost the potential visitor. Instead, you need to focus on what value you can add to the visitor assuming they won’t buy anything, while EDUCATING them about your product so that they can if they are interested.

The best way to see this is through an example so take a look at two recent sponsored posts on Digg. One, an advertisement for Virgin Atlanic airlines reads, “Bubbly Low Fares from $49” with a description that says, “Fly in style with WiFi, movies, on demand food and drinks, and more–all for a fabulously low fare”, while another for the HTC Google phone reads, “Who Knows You Better than your Phone” with a description that says, “See you from the perspective of your phone”. The Virgin Atlantic post has amassed 250 Diggs, while the HTC ad has done twice as well, generating over 575 diggs and 360,000 views on YouTube.

Why? Simple, Virgin Atlantic was simply trying to sell its product and even with the popularity of the brand in the tech community, its ad was not as highly rated as the HTC ad that took the reader to a cleverly put together short video on YouTube which served as the video advertisement for the company’s phone. The HTC ad also allowed the user to interact with the brand on two social media sites, Digg and YouTube, where the user could view and subscribe to the official HTC channel.

Here is more information on the most effective marketing techniques for start-ups .

This post was written by Aditya Mahesh, founder of, one of the web’s most popular entrepreneurship blogs.

24 thoughts on “How To Do Paid Social Media Marketing Right”

  1. That is a really good point. People do not want to be sold things, they want to think that they learn things on their own. That was a great marketing campaign by HTC.

    1. And Aditya represent this very well.

  2. VItaly says:

    I think this post is about nothing.

    1. S Ahsan says:

      Mahesh is talking about the most effective marketing techniques for start-ups; its definitely something if you take 10 minutes to read it!

    2. It all depends on what your definition of nothing is at the end of the day, Vitaly. Perhaps your vocacubalry is too limited to deliver a comprehensive rview of what you deem this post to be all about…. 😉

  3. Great post! Building that relationship through user interaction will always attract more click thrus than a stand alone sales pitch.

  4. chester says:

    That HTC campaign is pretty sharp.

  5. Diabetis says:

    Getting some sales coming from social media marketing is the hardest.

  6. Gamers Plaza says:

    seems not a new way at all

  7. You will attract a lot more visitors when you offer your customers something that will help them. However, do not make your offer look like a sales pitch, as tests have shown they do not like that.

  8. Interesting. I have used stumble upon’s paid advertising programme and it drove huge amounts of traffic to the blog whilst the advertisement was running (c10 times my normal number of visitors) but I failed to capitalise on it, which I now understand why I was going wrong. Thanks for giving me the lightbulb moment!

    1. The ability of StumbleUpon to drive traffic has never ceased to amaze me, whether it is paid-for advertising or just regular traffic. It is also some of the poorest converting traffic too…..

      1. Yup, i heard that stumbleupon bring high poor quality of traffic.

        1. chester says:

          It brings decent traffic but has never converted for me. But as long as there are more eyeballs, it’s all good for me.

  9. I think give benefit from first time (in advertising) will work great in social media marketing.

  10. Perhaps I am different than most readers but I don’t mind ads such as Virgin Atlantic’s.

    But I do presume that a good percentage of the people who are hanging out on sites like Stumble Upon and Digg are the sensitive anti-progressive type and hate being presented with straight up facts. Rather they prefer to “discover”.

  11. John says:

    That HTC campaign is very nice & Outstanding. I want to always touch this company.



  12. Scott Short says:

    So many places I see give info about products and mention a service just once. With so many travel sites out there, how can I make mine more subscribed and unique?

  13. I agree, we shouldn’t be thinking about making a sale at first instance. People is going to be interested in an Ad if it actually provides benefits to them.

  14. seems not a new way at all

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