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Marketing 101 – What is Paid Social and How Does It Work?

Paid Social is a form of Digital Marketing where businesses pay to promote their content on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest. Paid social allows businesses to expand their reach, target specific audiences and gain visibility. This can be done by either “boosting” their organic social content, or by creating new content specifically designed to be an ad.

In 2023, 4.9 billion people use social media and the majority of those people are present on more than one social media platform. Did you know that 28% of consumers discover new brands via social media? So if your business wants to be seen and be successful you need to have a social media presence. Having a strong business page as well as running ads is a sure fire way to make your business known in the digital world.

There are a few different options when it comes to paid social – pay per click, branded or influencer content and display ads. Most people are familiar with these types of advertising, even if they didn’t necessarily know it was an ad. Rules around social media advertising have changed in recent years, and now each ad has to be specifically tagged to ensure that the platforms users know they are being advertised to. Typically you’ll see post tagged with “ad”, “sponsored”, “promoted” or in the case of an influencer you could see “#gifted”.

So How Does It Work?

Marketers select the platform or platforms that resonate with their target audience and campaign goals. They can then choose subsections of the platform’s audience to show their ads to by using information such as age, gender, location or even specific interests. Each social media platform collects some form of data on its users so there’s always a way to narrow down the target audience for advertisers.

Once you’ve decided on your target audience or audiences, you can then create ads for each audience – different messaging will work with different audiences so keep that in mind. Set your goals and your budget and you’re ready to go!

Make sure to keep an eye on your ads to find out what works and what doesn’t using the reporting tools available for the platform(s) you have chosen.

Why Pay for Social Ads?

One of the main benefits of social media advertising is the cost. It’s one of the cheapest ways to advertise online which is great if you’re just starting out or have a smaller budget to work with.

The second thing to consider is the sheer scale you can reach. You might have a few hundred followers who’ll see your organic social posts, most likely these are people who are already familiar with your business, but turn those posts into an ad and a few hundred can turn into a few thousand relatively quickly.

Because of the volume of people you’ll be reaching, you’ll then get more access to audience data. Is there a particular group of people who interact with your ad more than others? These insights are really valuable and can help you target other types of marketing campaigns like Paid Search or YouTube as well.


If you want your business to be seen and be successful, then social media is the way forward. To quote The Little Mermaid “ I wanna be where the people are” and those people are on social media.

P.S. if you also “wanna see them dancing” we suggest TikTok.

Happy Scrolling!

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