Posted 02.12.2019 by Maddy Osman

Top Paid Media Acquisition Tips for 2019

It's never been easier to break into the world of paid media.

Paid media is an area of digital marketing that changes almost every day. Luckily, the major tools of the trade and best practices stay the same over time (for the most part, anyway!).

Whether your role involves existing knowledge of paid media or you’re just starting to learn about it for the first time, our expert panelists recently shared their best insights for finding success during a recent Let’s Get Digital meetup event. Listen to the live recording of the episode below.

But First… What is Paid Media?

So… what is paid media, exactly?

According to BigCommerce, paid media, “refers to external marketing efforts that involve a paid placement. Paid media includes PPC advertising, branded content, and display ads.”

Or as one panelist explained to their grandfather,

“I pulled out an ad from the paper, like a Kohl’s ad and I said, ‘You see how this says 30 percent off in green right here? Well, what if we could try that in red. Would you be more apt to click that?’ And he said, ‘Well, I don’t know, I suppose green. And I said, okay, then we’ll use green.’ That’s what I do for a living.”

Paid media is one part of a complete marketing mix that should also include earned and owned media. Earned media involves external organic brand mentions, while owned media involves the content you create on your own channels.

Introducing: Our Paid Media Experts

The insights that follow about paid media in 2019 are shared in partnership with the rockstar individuals who sat on our recent panel.

Here’s what you need to know about them:

  • Tim McDougall is the Co-Founder of eCommerce agency 50 Pound Boson.
  • Haley Warack is the Vice President of Digital Strategy at digital marketing agency Converge Consulting (an Inc. 5000 company for the past three years).
  • Zach Schladetzky is the Manager of Paid Social Media Programs at TaxAct.

Without further ado, here’s what we learned about paid media and the most important things to keep in mind for 2019:

#1: Don’t Overlook a Relevant Paid Media Channel without Testing it First

To be sure, not every paid media platform will be a great fit for a given campaign. A large part of finding success with paid acquisition starts with a base understanding of your audience, where they like to hang out online, and the type of placements that result in conversions.

Said one panelist, “I’ve been hearing since 2010 that Facebook is about to go down and go out of business and it still hasn’t happened”. Almost everyone on our expert panel made a point of saying that Facebook advertising definitely isn’t overrated yet (and likely won’t be anytime soon).

With so many available targeting options, and the many insights you can learn from with even a small ad spend, using Facebook advertising has implications for paid media efforts that truly reach past the platform itself.

So which paid media platforms are underrated coming into 2019?

Snapchat Stories is a hidden gem with a lower CPM (cost per thousand) than Instagram Stories. Additionally, LinkedIn InMail is a great way to scale a personalized outreach approach.

And what paid media acquisition methods are on their way out in 2019?

Our expert panels brought up the idea of geofencing, sharing this example:

“I want to reach doctors that work at this hospital because I think they’re going to be great for my Ph.D. program. Well, that doesn’t make any sense because half of the people, probably 90 percent of the people at the hospital, aren’t doctors and I would hope doctors aren’t on their phones all day.”

#2: You Don’t Need to Spend a Lot of Money to Gain Useful Insights

A few of our panelists used the word “snackable”, then laughed at themselves self-deprecatingly, to describe the type of text you should use in ad creative (especially in terms of Facebook).

Will we see “snackable” added to a future edition of Knock Knock’s Corporate Flashcards deck? Only time will tell…

At any rate, one of the major topics associated with paid media success involves ad testing methods.

Said one panelist, “Our whole build is built around massive testing and massive iteration and testing fast and failing frequently but failing cheap.”

The road to success then involves testing multiple variations around copy, creative, targeting, and so on.

This same panelist frames up the modern paid media testing process as such,

“In the old world of doing TV campaigns, you have two different competing ideas. But it takes you a million dollars to go test it. You’ve got to shoot a TV campaign, you’ve got to run it, you’ve got to wait a couple of months to see if sales come in.

Now we can do this with our partners. All we say is, oh, you want that headline? Great. Put it in there. You want that image, put it in there. It’s going to cost us two or three bucks to figure out if it works or not.”

You can also improve your successes by first testing ad creative with real users before initiating a campaign.

Another panelist recommends UsabilityHub to do just that, based on his company’s own paid media process. Don’t forget that it’s ok to take inspiration from other ads — so long as you don’t outright copy them.

One final tip for keeping testing affordable while gaining useful insights?

Make sure to run a given ad campaign for a week before making any new optimizations. This is precisely how long it’ll take to gain enough useful data that you can then act on to improve ad set performance.

#3: You Don’t Need a Paid Media Degree to Break into the Field

If you’re reading this article because you’re devouring everything you can get your hands on to learn more about paid ads, you’re already on the right track. For those looking to make this your full-time job, our expert panelists shared lots of useful advice for getting started.

It all starts with motivation. You’ll have a hard time finding an accredited degree program to learn more about paid media perhaps because you don’t need a degree to become an expert. But in order to find success, you’ll need to engage in your own form of self-study.

Start with resources that the biggest online advertising platforms provide, free of charge.

Facebook’s Blueprint courses will take you far when it comes to learning how to use the platform optimally. Google’s Academy for Ads certification program is another one worth working through as a beginner.

AdEspresso is another resource recommendation from our expert panel, though you’ll need a paid subscription to get the most out of it.

It can also help to keep up with influencers who teach their followers about how to best use paid media, like Matt Navarra, Jon Loomer, and Ezra Firestone. Just make sure that when you read any content about understanding paid media, it’s not just a quick skim. In order to actually benefit from it, you should set aside time each week to really focus on it.

Of course, nothing beats a small ad budget and a desire to take a deep dive into each platform. Encourage your employer or a client to devote as little as $10/day to your efforts to become proficient in paid media — that’s really all it takes to get started. Ideally, as part of your self-paced study, you’ll start testing ads based on what you’ve learned, refining them after running them for long enough to get insights about what’s working and what isn’t.

At this point, it also helps to have a mentor who you can sit down with for feedback about your approach and things you might be missing.

A great first project to solicit help for is setting up a dashboard to help you understand how you’re doing each day, at a glance. Just forget about vanity metrics — you want to focus on if people clicked on your ad and if they bought. After all, if you can’t prove ROI, what good is it?

While you’re just getting started, get as familiar as you can with all the various tools paid media platforms (like Facebook) have to offer — even the more obscure/new options. This will help you in the future, as you get more confident with regards to optimizing ad campaigns.

#4: Will 2019 Be the Year of New Ad Formats?

Paid media professionals are no doubt familiar with the impact of increased ad blocker usage and rising concerns regarding personal data privacy. Because of these implications, paid media will continue to evolve and this year promises to be an interesting one.

Our expert panel specifically mentioned Facebook Story Ads when predicting the evolution of effective paid media in 2019.

Though the article is now somewhat dated (at least in terms of the fast-moving social media world), according to The Verge, there are a combined 300 million daily users across Facebook Stories and Messenger. This puts Facebook Stories users at ¾ of what Instagram has achieved with the same format (boasting 400 million daily users).

In general, Stories (regardless of the exact platform) seem to be performing well as an ads medium and are absolutely worth testing out in 2019 if you haven’t yet.

Another exciting ad format that our panel sees evolving over 2019 and the next few years is streaming TV ads. Although Netflix has supported itself without ads up to this point, they have started testing the possibility for the inclusion of paid media alongside their content offerings. Our panel predicts that today’s higher buy-ins for ads between streaming content will become more accessible to the average paid media customer.

As a direct result of the issues related to the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica fallout, Facebook advertisers lost access to a lot of targeting options they had previously relied on.

Advertisers are still scrambling to land on new best practices for getting attention. One of our expert panelists suggested falling back on a simple principle — providing value outside of simply saying “buy our product”.

#5: Does Amazon Have Too Much Control in Paid Media?

Since Amazon is the world’s largest online marketplace, it’s worth specifically calling out Amazon’s role in the paid media landscape as part of this discussion of paid acquisition in 2019.

Driving traffic to Amazon from another website creates tracking and attribution issues, because you won’t have access to all relevant ecommerce data. What you can do is loosely correlate ad spend with sales when you shut down the effects of other marketing campaigns. This works best for products that aren’t highly searchable.

Members of our expert panel mentioned that building your business with Amazon might be a good short-term plan but that it shouldn’t be your long-term strategy for finding success because you don’t ultimately own your customers on the platform.

Final Thoughts: Top Paid Media Acquisition Tips for 2019

Once a month, Sculpt puts on the “Let’s Get Digital” meetup event where modern marketers chat about a narrow topic of interest to digital marketers.

There are many different ways to benefit from these events:

First and foremost, we’d love to see you there live! It’s the same place, time, and format each month and it’s always free — sign up to RSVP for the next event (or indicate your interest in participating on a future panel). Join us at MERGE in Iowa City for the next one.

But if you can’t make the event, no worries. We share recordings from each one on Anchor.FM (which you can listen to on your favorite podcast apps). If you learn best by reading, we’ve also created a transcript that you can reference for this particular event!

Between the live event and this recap, we’ve discussed a lot of different sides of paid media acquisition and what we expect it to look like in 2019. Of course, this is all just the tip of the iceberg. So what questions do you still have about paid media and how to use it effectively in 2019? Let us know by tweeting at @wearesculpt — we’d love to help you out!

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Maddy Osman

Maddy Osman helps businesses grow traffic and sales with content marketing. A long-time friend of Sculpt, Maddy is the founder and SEO Content Strategist at marketing firm, The Blogsmith.

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