How to Run Successful Social Media Ads on a Budget

One of the biggest mistakes a company can make when launching a social media marketing campaign is not investing in social media ads. You may have heard success stories from companies that jumped on social media early and used creative campaigns to reach a fairly large audience for free, but unfortunately, organic reach for business pages has declined significantly in the last couple of years.

In 2014, Facebook organic reach was estimated to be as low as 2% for business pages, and social@Ogilvy has estimated that organic reach will eventually hit zero.

Click to Tweet: In 2014, Facebook organic reach was estimated to be as low as 2%.

Organic reach on other social media sites isn’t looking too great, either. In a 2015 analysis, Forrester found that large brands got interactions from 2.26% of their followers on Instagram, 0.055% on LinkedIn, and just 0.027% on Twitter.

It’s pretty clear that organic success on social media is a long shot, but what can you do when your social media budget is limited? Fortunately, even a low budget for a social media campaign can pay off, leading to high enough click-through and conversion rates to warrant a larger social media marketing budget in the future.

I talked to Leverage Marketing’s Director of Social Media, Thy Ta Hooks, to learn more about some of the ways a business can make the most of a low social media budget. Below are some tips she provided to make the most of the social media advertising budget you’ve been given—use these tips to maximize your reach and engagement so that you’ll get upper management buy-in for your next campaign.

Assess Your Social Media Options

Social Media Signs

Before you start allocating your social media advertising budget, you need to figure out who your target buyers are and what social media sites/apps they’re most likely to use.


If you have an ecommerce business, Facebook is a good place to start building an audience and driving traffic to your site. Facebook offers advertisers a number of features to help online stores reach the right audience, including:

  • Remarketing: Businesses install a snippet of code on their website so that visitors will be targeted with ads on Facebook
  • Custom Audiences: Facebook users are targeted based off 3rd party data, such as email lists
  • Lookalike Audiences: Businesses can target a new Facebook audience similar to their website audience or can target based off of who has converted from their Facebook ads

Facebook can also be a powerful tool for brick-and-mortar businesses because these companies can run specific ads targeted to a narrow geographic area. For example, a seafood restaurant in Seattle could run a lunch special ad that only gets shown to people within a 10 mile radius of their restaurant during their lunch hours. That way, if someone in the area is scrolling through Facebook around noon and thinking about where they want to eat, they’ll see an ad with the nearby restaurant’s lunch specials.


While Facebook works well for B2C, it’s not necessarily the best starting place for B2B companies with a low budget for their social media campaigns. As a professional network, LinkedIn is a logical place to test out business-based advertising, especially because advertisers can target users based on a wide range of demographic details, including industry, company, company name, company size, and job title.


Twitter may also be worth testing for B2B advertising because its structure rewards topics that are trending in different verticals. For example, if a tea leaf wholesaler saw that the New York Times just published an articles on the health benefits of tea, they could benefit by running related Twitter ads and piggybacking off the trending article.

Document Your Social Media Strategy

Social Media Marketing Concept

Before you start using your budget for a social media campaign, you should document the following:

  • Your target audience and audience segments (for example, if college applicants are your target audience, your audience segment might be students ages 18-21)
  • Messaging based on your target audience(s)  (with 1:1 messaging being the goal)
  • Estimated existing audience size per network (this will help you determine the best platform to go after)
  • Current organic post frequency, engagement rate, and growth rate (if you already have a social media presence)
  • Biggest opportunities based off your goals
  • Content topics (for original and curated content) by type

Get Creative with a Limited Budget

Once you’ve outlined your strategy, you can start putting your social media budget to work. You may not have the money or resources to produce eye-catching infographics or videos, but you can still create visually attractive posts using free and low-cost graphic design tools like Piktochart and Canva. When planning the specific content you want to share, think about what’s going to engage and resonate with your audience. If you sell kitchen appliances, for example, a user scrolling through their Facebook News Feed might not pause to read a bulleted list of your newest blender’s features, but they may click if you offer them an exclusive discount or share a recipe for healthy smoothies that taste like dessert.

Track and Report Results

cost benefit concept

If you want your low budget for social media campaigns to increase in the future, it’s essential to track and report relevant metrics so that you can see what strategies have been most successful—and show upper-management concrete evidence that social media marketing works.

It’s worth looking at metrics related to engagement and brand awareness, but keep in mind that the main goal is to increase conversions and revenue. Metrics you need to pay attention to include:

  • Click-through rate: the percentage of clicks a link to your site has gotten based on total number of post views
  • Conversion rate: the percentage of social media viewers who have completed a defined goal, such as filling out a form or making a purchase
  • Conversions by campaign: the conversion rate for specific campaigns/ads (this will help you determine what ad types are most effective)
  • Return on investment: you can learn how to calculate your ROI with this straightforward Buffer guide
  • Referral Traffic – The amount of traffic to your website from your social networks

Final Takeaways

To be truly successful with a limited social media marketing budget, you’ll need to be persistent. Running and tracking social ads is an ongoing process, and you’ll need to keep focusing on the ad types that your audience best responds to so that you can adjust your overall strategy as you go. As you collect more and more data, you’ll be able to better hone your social media ads to maximize your success.

Have questions for us that we didn’t address here? Comment below or Tweet us at @leveragemktg. You can also get more social media tips and exclusive digital marketing content by signing up for our newsletter.

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