Before Spending a Fortune on Facebook and Instagram Ads, Try This…

By on May 24, 2019

If you feel like your post engagement isn’t making the grade, it can be tempting to launch straight into paid social media ads on Facebook or Instagram. And I’m definitely not opposed to paid social, but in my experience,  there are a few things you should experiment with before you drop a bunch of money on your ad spend.

To give you the bottom line up front, my advice before veering into paid ads is to change your routine up. If your current process isn’t giving you what you want, the actual solution might be to just break out of your routine a bit.

Experiment with Posting Times 

If your posts aren’t generating good engagement, try switching up posting times. This can be a little nerve-wracking if you’ve put a lot of thought into the best time to post, but people check their phones at odd times. The average Facebook user opens the app around fourteen times per day, and you can bet that they’re checking their phones during work hours, so don’t feel as limited to posting during “reasonable” hours if they’re not generating you engagement.

Every audience is different, so I’m somewhat skeptical of those “Best Times to Post on ___” reports that come out on marketing blogs. I think it’s better to experiment for your specific audience. There are some tools that tap into your analytics to estimate the best times to post. I use Social Report to schedule my content, and they have this awesome feature that shows me engagement and activity on my networks across different days and times. And of course, there’s always good old-fashioned experimentation. Do a little test study and see which times perform the best!

Re-examine Your Hashtag Strategy 

If you’re not using hashtags, you’re excluding yourself from a broader social media dialogue. Appropriate hashtag use helps you connect with existing conversations about your brand’s areas of interest, and it helps people looking for your content to find your stuff organically. If you’ve only been using them ironically or you’re leaving them out entirely, try adding some in. If you’ve been using hashtags already, try mixing it up.

If you don’t know where to start, do a hashtag analysis of your market to give you some pointers. What are the successful users using? What about the big brands influencing the culture? Take a look and follow suit, and then consider creating your own unique hashtag just for your brand!

If you want to really go overboard, you can even exceed the thirty hashtag limit in the captions by adding a comment below your caption. Social Report has a built-in tool for adding them in, and I also love some cool online tools like All Hashtag for generating hashtag ideas.


Here’s some of the hashtags I used on a recent post.

Test out Other Platforms like LinkedIn

LinkedIn is hot right now in the world of digital marketing, and no wonder! There are over 467 million professionals on LinkedIn, which makes it a powerful platform for movers and shakers. Despite this, some people are iffy on the platform. They feel that it’s just for corporate, buttoned-up business networking rather than lifestyle brands.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. The bottom line is that LinkedIn users are there to make genuine, useful connections and learn from relevant content. Sales-heavy content doesn’t perform that well on LinkedIn, but thought-leader content can make a big impact if you bring it in front of industry-leaders in your field. Try crafting some content that helps your audience do their job better or solve some business pain-points, and watch that organic traffic roll in. Don’t forget your call to action at the end of your post!

If you want to learn more, I have a whole podcast episode dedicated to this subject.

Encourage Conversation and Build Relationships 

Relationship marketing is all about being in business for the long-haul. If making a conversion with a customer is a first date, relationship marketing is about putting a ring on it. Social media is a fantastic way to do this, because you can let people connect with your brand on an emotional level. You’re human, aren’t you? Let your followers see that! Answer questions, share your values, and joke around a little. Your customers will feel a personal relationship with your brand that they never would have if all you did was produce content hitting them over the head with a “buy now” message.

I love using narrative to build relationships. It helps your audience develop more of a connection with you. Saying that your brand values its team members is one thing, but a monthly staff profile post shows that you value your team as individuals. Generate some real emotional connection on social media and open up a potential long-term relationship with your audience.

Give Facebook/Instagram Live Video a Shot

Some people feel daunted at the idea of doing a live video, but it’s actually pretty fun once you get the swing of it. Live content is fresh, unique, and dynamic, and on top of that, they rank highly in Facebook and Instagram algorithms, so it’s more likely to be seen than a pre-recorded video.

It’s also very inexpensive. Rather than producing a polished, edited video, you can just hit “go” and start to broadcast; viewers aren’t expecting crazy high production values, they just want to listen to your content. It’s another great way to connect in a casual, un-edited way with your audience and provide some value without a lot of overhead.

That said, do have a plan before you hit that “live” button. Even though videos are unscripted, you should have a point to make and a goal to meet when you make a live video, otherwise your audience won’t care.

Nervous? Hubspot has this awesome guide to going live that gives a good breakdown of what to expect.

Those are some of my favorite ways to make an impact without spending a ton of money on ads. If you feel stuck in a rut, the overall take home message here is to shake it up! Do something radical, make some videos, tell some stories, and do it all with a mindset of optimizing your social media performance.

Have fun!

About Andrea Jones

Working with hundreds of small businesses, startups, and podcasters since 2014, Andréa Jones is a Social Media Strategist who loves helping business owners and influencers elevate their social media strategies. She’s also the host of the Savvy Social Podcast, a weekly show for budding entrepreneurs and she's the founder of Social Media for Podcasts, a social media agency for podcasters by podcasters.
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