What to consider when choosing paid social KPI

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Many times we’re faced with the eternal question of what defines the success of a paid social campaign. More often than not, we approach paid social with the traditional way of media buying without taking into account the rules of programmatic and real-time bidding.

That said, we fall into the assumption that the success of every campaign is very much dependent on the level of coverage we will achieve at the lowest cost possible. Hence why, for those of us who have clients, we are often asked to run campaigns with ‘Reach’ as the main objective.

 Do we, however, really understand what reach means in a real-time bidding environment? Even in traditional media buying, not all impressions cost the same. The only difference in offline media is that inventory pricing is predetermined and you know what you’re getting for the investment you’re making, whereas in real-time bidding, advertising inventory buying is auction-based and automated.

But what does ‘Reach’ mean in real-time bidding?

Genuinely? As raw as it may sound, all you’re getting by running campaign activity optimized towards reach, is simply cheap inventory. Does this work? It depends on various factors, macro and micro, such as your existing brand, product awareness, or how specific your target audience is. But more importantly, the first question you should ask yourself before deciding on whether reach is the key performance indicator (KPI) you should be going after, is which stage of the marketing funnel you’re currently trying to cover.

Even if mere exposure is your ultimate business objective, low-cost inventory doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting the best value for your money. The reason is because paid social inventory is priced in real-time – through numerous algorithmic calculations – and factored by the way a certain audience interacts with a brand and standard supply-demand laws.

So when do I use reach as an objective?

Reach as a campaign objective is not that bad, the same way cheap inventory is not always bad. But it needs to be used consciously and has to be the right fit for your business at the right time. In addition to that, a Reach campaign alone cannot help you maximize paid social ‘efficiency’; it needs to have a purpose, be the means to an end.

To determine whether Reach is the best fit for you, you have to consider the following:

  1. What part of the funnel are you trying to cover? 

It would be great if you could do everything at the same time, but sadly, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Reach is typically a top-of-the-funnel tactic often used in new product launches in order to raise awareness within your already-known target audience, or to discover your potential target audience during initial brand awareness steps.

  1. Reach campaign, then what?

If you do go for a reach campaign, make sure you have a purpose behind this tactic. By that, I mean, for instance, test how audiences engage with your ads, even though you’re after the cheapest inventory (on which audiences are least likely to perform an action) to determine if this audience has potential for your future plans. Specifically, test running a reach burst targeted towards multiple audience groups and observe which of these are interacting with your brand and then invest on these for more mid-funnel activity.

  1. Follow the funnel and don’t try to skip steps.

This is the usual recipe to success. You can’t optimize towards more than one objective at the same time, but this shouldn’t be a reason for concern. The way you approach your awareness, top-funnel marketing phase can determine your future performance in the long-term. Expect to pay more for impressions that matter but invest carefully in the audiences that can prove vital for your brand.

The original article can be found on Wall Blog.