Optimizing Paid Social Media for Algorithms

How health, wellness, and lifestyle brands can curate paid social media strategies to win the algorithm game 

If you spend time on social media sites like Instagram or YouTube, you have no doubt been subject to seeing a “curated” feed of content that’s served up specifically to fit your preferences.  You innocently watch one video of a kitten playing with a ball of string, and next thing you know, Youtube is providing you with endless suggestions for other cat videos. YouTube, like all other social media sites, uses algorithms that are designed to customize the experience and show users content based on individual preferences. These sites want to sift through all of the endless content and show you what they think you’ll like best.  By providing this type of customized experience, they hope to keep you more engaged and thus, spending more time on the platform.  

Personally, I enjoy this system when it comes to my organic social feeds – I see a lot of content about dogs, camping, and other Colorado-y things and I’m here for it!  As a marketing professional, these algorithms can either help or hinder your ability to deliver a message to the intended audience.  They choose the ads they think people will be interested in seeing based on ad quality, how the ad was set up (things like demographic targeting), and the user’s previous interactions with similar ads. In theory, this is helpful for your marketing budget as it’s ensuring your ads are being seen by the most interested people.  However, these same helpful algorithms can sometimes hurt your marketing efforts if you don’t follow a few best practices:

Play by the rules

Each platform has its own ad policies, and violating these can have effects ranging from getting an ad account shut down, to increasing the cost of running ads. On Facebook for example, if people click on your ad but then quickly bounce from the landing page because it’s irrelevant, that ad will be marked as less valuable, and you will end up needing to spend more to win the auction against other similar advertisers who are using a more relevant landing page and hence deemed more “valuable” by the FB algorithm

Create ads that are interesting

Content that will “stop the scroll” and encourage people to watch or engage.  That’s how the algorithm knows you’ve got something worth showing to others. Creative A/B testing on paid ads is one way to see what drives solid engagement, but you can also test the waters by looking at engagement from your organic social posts and then trying to mimic the winning strategies within your paid ads.  

Have a communication plan

Social platforms want to keep users on their sites for as long as possible, so if people are commenting on ad posts, a best practice is to always reply as this builds engagement and thus signals to the platforms that your piece of content is helping to increase dwell time.

Build credibility

Fill out the “about” section of your social profiles and don’t forget to post organically as this builds your company’s legitimacy. 

Build different ads for different platforms

A TikTok ad should incorporate engaging sound and follow any applicable trends, while an ad on Instagram should focus on beautiful imagery.  There are some best practices that bridge across every platform, like focusing on “mobile-first” creative, but ads should be designed to fit the feel and use cases of each unique platform to drive the best engagement.

Being mindful of these algorithms and how they work across platforms is especially important for health, wellness, and lifestyle brands as the goal should be to create meaningful, lasting connections with your customers through your paid ads vs. just driving a one-off sale.  Parallel Path can help partner with you to build a winning paid social strategy that works with these algorithms – reach out if you’re interested in learning more.

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