Paid Media In the PESO ModelBefore the world fell apart, we were talking about the different media types in the PESO Model—how they work individually AND together.

When we stopped talking about the PESO Model (for obvious reasons), we were at paid media. 

Because social media ads in particular, are so cheap right now and still crazy effective, I thought we’d pick back up there.

While we may never see the level of a consistent, reliable, and scalable source of traffic and new leads that we got to enjoy even just a few short months ago, there is still the opportunity to use paid media effectively.

Let’s talk about what that looks like, how to go about it, and what needs to shift in your paid media strategy amidst a global pandemic.

The Internet Is Pay-for-Play

The dream is to build a consistent, reliable, and scalable source of traffic and new leads—and  paid media is a part of making that dream a reality. 

Especially before “The Corona” as my seven-year-old calls it, it certainly seems like something every other organization in the world does.

And you definitely can’t read a digital marketing blog without seeing case study after case study of success stories where people just like you are opening the floodgates of high-quality traffic generated from a single blog post or webinar or guest appearance or video or what have you.

The internet was pay-for-play before—and it will become increasingly so, but in this exact moment, many organizations are fearful of doing any marketing at all, which makes paid media  inexpensive and far more approachable.

And, while earned, owned, and shared media are still critically important to a robust PESO Model communications plan, paid media is required to get the full value out of them. 

The big traffic drivers out there—Google, social media sites, and even other content creators—are evolving, and not in the direction of more access for less money.

If you want attention, you pretty much have to pay for it.

This has always been true for ads, of course, but we’re seeing it more and more for guest articles, podcast appearances, and even reaching audiences you’ve already built online.

Love it or hate it, it’s part of your communications strategy, and it’s only going to become more important, so you may as well be prepared, knowledgeable, and ready to experiment! 

Reach Your Audience, Drive Results

You’re probably familiar with the basics of paid media, so I’ll skim through them quickly.

From there, we can get into some of the challenges people are still having, how the PESO Model helps address them, and some of the interesting new possibilities that are arising.

(If you’d like an in-depth paid media explanation, give episode 16 of the Spin Sucks podcast a listen.)

Fundamentally, paid media is about finding and reaching your desired audience, and driving results for your organization.

When you have content that’s owned or earned, and you want more people to read, listen, or watch it—and then share it and act on it—paid media can help.

A lot. 

It allows you to reach the audiences you’ve already built (but no longer have access to), reach new audiences, reach prospective customers, and stay top-of-mind with current customers.

Plus, it’s totally fun because of all of the data. So much data and it’s completely accurate, even for the most novice among us.

After a two-week trial, you will know exactly how much you have to spend to reach your goals.

For instance, I know it costs around $60 in social media advertising to convert an agency owner to our program specific to business growth.

If I want 10 new clients, I need to spend $600.

When you think about how to do that for your communications programs, being able to demonstrate results like that is not just imperative, it’s fun!

How to Choose the Right Channel

To get started, you have to figure out where, what, and how you’re going to use paid media.

You most likely already have a good idea of which channel will be the most effective for paid media.

It’s where most of your audience spends time, where you see the most engagement in your shared media efforts, or where your current customers or prospects have conversations. 

You’ll have to test, of course, but by looking at the behavior of your current audience, you’ll be able to make a pretty decent guess about where you should start.

There are two things I’ll note about paid media, particularly when you’re just starting out:

  1. Almost every one of you will assume LinkedIn is the right place to start. Don’t make that assumption. Not only is it far more expensive than the other social networks, it’s not as effective. 
  2. Almost every one of you will assume Facebook is NOT the right place to start. Don’t make that assumption, either. In the past five years of using Facebook for ourselves and for clients in varying industries and products and services, Facebook (and Instagram as it’s related) is, hands down, the most effective and the least expensive. 

If you are unsure of where to start, I’d start with Facebook and then add Instagram.

Once you’re satisfied with the results, you can move to LinkedIn and then Google and then Twitter.

Then you can consider YouTube and some other platforms.

Finding the Right Audience

I’m pretty hopeful that, at this point, you know who your audience is and also where they might be in the buying journey.

There’s a great article from Digital Marketer that goes into some detail about the three main categories of potential audience members for a paid campaign, and the specific types of content you should be driving with paid traffic for each of them.

Those three categories are:

  1. Awareness;
  2. Evaluation; and
  3. Conversion. 

For the people at the awareness point, they need to get to know you and your brand.

They may never have encountered you or your clients before, so anything that lets them know you’re here and you’re great at what you do is useful.

Think blog posts, articles about the organization, quizzes, and low-risk opt-ins.

After awareness comes evaluation.

This is where people start to decide if they want to learn more and engage with you more closely.

This is also where they’re probably looking at your competitors.

Hopefully, you’ll have them on your email list, and well-segmented in your paid strategy mix.

Retargeting is helpful here, as are low-dollar value offers that can give you an opportunity to show off a great customer experience and more premium content.

Finally, when people are in the conversion group, you want to present them real offers for sale, or get them on a call for a sales conversation.

How long this journey takes depends on what your organization sells.

For a B2B organization, you might do paid media at the awareness and evaluation stages for several months.

The conversion ads may not convert for 12 months or longer. And that’s OK!

It should shorten the sales cycle, but not from months to days.

If you sell makeup or adult paint by color or flowers, the awareness, evaluation, and conversion might take hours or days.

The sales process doesn’t change because you’re advertising on social media, but it does shorten it.

Getting Paid Media Buy-In from Executives

Another big challenge we have with paid media is business leaders tend to get, how shall we say, impatient for results.

Going back to what I just said—that the sales cycle doesn’t change—it requires constant education and showing short-term results.

That could include a decrease in cost per impression as they move from awareness and evaluation or from evaluation to conversion.

It could also include a decrease in cost per conversion. 

For the uninitiated, paid media can seem like either a magic button you can press that opens the floodgates to unlimited traffic and leads or an intimidating way to waste a lot of time and money.

And it’s no wonder.

There are lots and lots and lots of digital marketers out there who make that claim.

Yes, it does open the floodgates, but if you don’t have the rest of your PESO Model integrated or you don’t have anything to do with the leads once you get them, it won’t do you any good.

This is why we always recommend paid media last in the foundational work of your communications program.

Understand how paid media works, know what the metrics are for each stage in the buying process, understand the data and what it’s telling you, and continue to educate your business leaders on the process. 

If you do those four things, it won’t be rid of the impatience, but it will make it easier.

Paid Media Is Becoming More Sophisticated

Several years ago, Richard Branson went on a rant against Facebook because he had millions of fans and less the one percent saw his posts.

It was the start of Facebook requiring you to pay to reach your fans—and the other social networks followed suit.

They need to make money and everything is becoming more sophisticated.

We’ve talked about neural networks and machine learning and other AI—and how they affect the work we do in our everyday lives.

Plenty of the paid media platforms are using those technologies in exciting ways. 

Dynamic Ads

Several of the big software companies are making dynamic ads available to communicators— Google, Facebook, Pinterest, and Snapchat, to name a few.

A dynamic ad change based on who sees it.

You can look at an advertising space, whether it’s on a website, on social media, or in a video or podcast as an empty box that can be filled with something different for each type of person who sees it.

Pretty cool, huh?

Some of the coolest dynamic ads I’ve seen are the Obamas telling me that February babies are the best and Charlotte Tilbury showing me how their makeup looks on models with my exact skin type and face shape.

I’ve even seen some clothing retailers that show me their clothes and bathing suits on my exact body shape—large cycling quads and all.

Let’s say you have a podcast that has international listeners.

And let’s say you were hosting an event in Chicago.

You could create a dynamic ad so that the people in Chicago who are listening will get the event information and everyone else will get something either more general or more suited to their region. 

Shoppable Ads

Shoppable ads is another cool way to include paid media in your communications program.

This is particularly interesting for any of you who work with online shopping or ecommerce businesses. 

Up until recently, the main goal of paid ads on social media has been to drive traffic to a page where people can get more details about a product and buy it.

Now companies, such as Facebook and Google, are letting advertisers put that kind of information, and a checkout button, directly in ads to make sales easier. 

I’m sure you’ve seen these come up in your feed.

The only thing I will say that, as a consumer, this is VERY dangerous.

I’ve bought two different things that way, only to never receive the product.

And, when I did what I should have done first and researched the company or product, I found terrible reviews and low Better Business Bureau ratings.

Be very careful, both as consumers and as communicators, on how to use shoppable ads.

Augmented Reality

Let’s move on to augmented reality.

This is where things get a little futuristic.

Now users can take pictures using a social media platform, and see “additions” such as information, engagement opportunities, and offers that brands have placed there.

Let’s say you were working with a client who sold guided tours around a city.

You know, when The Corona ends.

A tourist could take a picture of a landmark using one of these tools, maybe on Snapchat, and get direct information about specific tours and offers that your client provides. 

There are statues all over the city here that have augmented reality where you can find out who they are, what their stories are, and be placed inside history with them.

My husband LOVES to do this and we often lose him when we’re running errands or enjoying the lakefront. 

If you have a little time and a bit of a budget, experimenting with any of these new features can be a valuable use of your time.

Check them (and several other developments) out in this Marketing Land features trend article.

Getting Started with Paid Media

If you’re just starting out with paid media as it relates to your communications program, I would start with Facebook.

If you’re more sophisticated and have search engine marketing working like a champ, I would test out some of these other options. 

I would love to do some dynamic ads for the PESO Model Certification, depending on where you are in your career or where you work.

If you’re mid-level at an agency, you’d get a different ad than someone who is a one-person marketing department at a non-profit.

The options are endless and don’t have to be relegated just to consumer brands.

If you can dream it, it can be done. And for far less money than you anticipate. 

Paid media is one of the coolest of the media types because of the opportunities you have to try new things for relatively low cost.

And, once you get the hang of it, the metrics are easy to come by and easy to showcase real results.

If you need help getting started or brainstorming ideas, the Spin Sucks Community is there to help you. 

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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