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.