6 Social Media Ad Mistakes Brands Need to Avoid

***Credited to Accounting Technician


We all make mistakes, but when it comes to your social media advertising efforts these seemingly innocent blunders can end up costing you—a lot.


Hootsuite’s social ads expert Gabrielle Maheux found out what the biggest social ad mistakes are. Continuing reading to learn how you can avoid these mistakes—and save your budget. 

1. Not setting the right goals

“Before you even think about creating a single social ad,” says Maheux, “you need to know why you’re doing it.” Are you trying to build brand awareness or are you solely focused on getting leads? Consider what exactly you are hoping to achieve with your social ad campaign.

We recommend setting S.M.A.R.T. goals—goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Instead of a goal to “boost sales,” think about an actual percentage you (or your business) wants to increase sales by and what your timeline is. Once you have set these business goals, it’s much easier to plan your campaign.

If you aren’t establishing tangible goals, you’re not setting your ads up for success. To help figure out the kinds of goals you should be setting, think about what audience questions and pain points you need to address.

As Maheux explains, “An audience question could be “How do I measure the impact of our social efforts effectively? Once you know what question you are trying to answer, you can better test different variations on the core message.”

2. Not tailoring your ads to the specific platform

Not all ads are created equal. Every social network has different requirements and specs for the social ads they host and if you aren’t optimizing your ad content to adhere to these, you’re hurting your chances of success.

“You need to think about what platform [your ads] will be running on, as well as what kinds of devices,” Maheux explains. “Specs for different networks are important to pay attention to so you can make sure your ads look as good as possible.”

Our post, A Day in the Life of an Experienced Social Ads Manager, shares the following specs for quick reference: 

  • Facebook ad specs:
    Recommended image size: 1,200 x 628 pixels
    Headline: 25 characters
    Text: 90 characters
  • Instagram ad specs:
    Caption: Text only, max 2,200 characters
    Image size: 1080 x 1080 pixels
    Limited support for landscape format
  • Twitter ad specs:
    Tweet copy: 116 characters are available (24 characters are used for the link)
    Hashtag: 21 characters
    Headline: 23 characters
  • Snapchat ad specs:
    Length: 3 to 10 seconds
    File size maximum: 32GB
    Canvas: 1080 by 1920 pixels
  • LinkedIn ad specs:
    Thumbnail image size: 1200 x 627 pixels (1.91:1 ratio) displayed on mobile
    Company logo: The recommended minimum logo size is 100 x 100 pixels
    Primary CTA (below images): Maximum 50 characters including spaces

3. Forgetting to monitor your ads

If you forget—or don’t know how—to monitor your ads properly, you can end up costing your business a lot of money.

“Make sure that you’re removing the most expensive placements or targeting (age groups, locations, and other demographics) along the way to maximize the cost efficiency of your ads,” Maheux explains.

When you closely monitor your ads, you’re able to quickly make decisions such as pausing or stopping ads that aren’t performing well. This lets you funnel that budget back to top-performing ads.

Maheux monitors her social ads throughout the day. “Monitoring your ads gives you the opportunity to be make adjustments that will ultimately drive better results,” she explains.

4. Not knowing how to reach your target audience

To get the most out of your social media ads, you need to make sure that the content you’re sharing aligns with the audience you’re targeting.

“For example, if a piece of content relates to video content marketing, make sure you’re targeting people who have interests in those fields or whose job titles align with the topic you’re promoting,” Maheux says.

Be strategic with the information you have about your audiences. If you are sharing a piece of content about the launch of your new butcher shop, you will want to make sure you aren’t targeting people who have only liked content related to vegan businesses and vegetarian living.

As Maheux says, “Being strategic with how your audience’s interests overlap can be really beneficial for targeting the right type of person.”

5. Not applying organic lessons to your paid promotion

By looking at what kind of organic content is performing well, social ads managers can use this information to tailor their ad content. Maheux recommends you test your content organically first, before you put budget behind your ad.

“Your organic content is a great indicator of which content resonates with your audience and it’s a big mistake to not use it to your advantage,” she explains.

If something you posted organically didn’t get the engagement you were expecting, she suggests two options:

  1. Test specific targeting to reach people who are interested in the topic or industry.
  2. Don’t use it for an ad.

Essentially, if your ad hasn’t performed well you can try to run it again with a more targeted and specific audience, or cut your losses and move on.

On the other hand, if you have high-performing organic content you can also easily promote it with the Automated Post Promotion functionality on AdEspresso.

“We find that this works really well for our regular content so that we don’t have to manually look for the top performing posts every day, Maheux explains, “We simply set it so that it promotes posts with more than five shares.”

6. Forgetting to plan your budget

When it comes to ads, one of the biggest mistakes social media managers can make is not planning ahead. Maheux recommends planning your budget before each month begins. This means outlining all of your planned tactics for the upcoming month and allocating a specific spend to each tactic.

If you don’t plan ahead, you’ll be wondering where your budget went—and it’ll be difficult to properly measure the success of each campaign.

Maheux recommends this easy way to manage your budget:

  • Build a spreadsheet with all of your social ad tactics
  • Make a column for allocated budget and one for actual spend
  • Make sure that you’re consistently updating your spreadsheet so that you don’t lose track

“It’s important to know how to divide your budget up among the tactics you’ve laid out,” Maheux explains. “You may notice month over month that a certain format, like video, is much more cost efficient than others. This is an indication to me that I can have a much higher success rate, with a relatively stable CPV, by increasing the budget.”

These mistakes described above could be keeping you from social media ad success. By making sure you’re organized, keeping track of your day-to-day spend, and making smart decisions about your paid content, you can avoid these blunders—and make your social ads work for you.

Dara is a Blog Writer at Hootsuite. She writes about social media, technology, and Hootsuite happenings