If you are reading this article you are probably here to learn why your social media ads aren’t really going anywhere.
The good news is: we can fix that. The bad news is you might have to confront some of the following inconvenient truths about social media ads.

Never heard about the red pill? ? Check this Wikipedia article first

“All I am offering is the truth. nothing more.”
– Morpheus, “The Matrix”

Let’s get started with our social media red pills!

Truth #1: You know nothing

The first and hardest truth to accept after swallowing the red pill is that you know nothing.
Acknowledging this reality is the first step to prevent you from letting business decisions be influenced by your biased opinions. Most people are very different from you in many ways, hence you are in no position to make assumptions about their behaviour. This being said, you’ll need a more reliable means of judgment:


While it can be hard to find the time and develop the skills to make sense of your data, it is the only way to avoid wasting money. It is essential for you to know who your paying audience is and which content resonates with them. This is valid for small as well as big companies, especially when advertising different products to different target audiences. Too many marketers keep doing what they‘ve always been doing, thus hindering their company to reach its full potential.

I know nothing

Regularly checking your channel’s main stats like reach, engagement, clicks or demographics will help you understand which content reaches your target audience and what kind of people it is being delivered to. This knowledge will help you improve your content, tone, message and ad performance. Apart from being humbling, this approach will teach you to leave your biased view on things behind and be objective about your decisions. But it does not end there: If you are not careful you risk misinterpreting data due to a phenomenon called the confirmation bias.

Don’t only rate your content according to the number of likes it generates but try to find out which content sells your product or service. In most cases you will not need to care if your best-selling ads don’t generate any likes as long as they help you generate business.

Truth #2: The easy way is not enough

Just like Neo in the movie “Matrix” you need to forget what you think you know. In a digital world dominated by the battle for attention, traditional marketing methods and approaches are not going to help you stand out anymore.
If you want your audience’s attention you need to constantly adapt your content to their way of consumption and their expectations towards content and ads. This adaptation process applies to the selection of the channels but also to the format and nature of the content. Don’t assume that your audience won’t like Instagram stories just because you personally don’t like that feature.

Weak performance shouldn’t come as a surprise if you upload the same 3-minute video to Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin. If you want to create content and ads that people resonate with, you need to take into account the way people consume content today: The most successful Social Media videos, for example, are snackable pieces of content which are occasionally interrupted by short or skippable ads.

difference between knowing the path and walkking the path

Data clearly shows that the most impact of a video occurs in the first 10 seconds.
For you, this means keeping your ads as short as possible – ideally 15 seconds or less. Rather than producing one huge piece of content, consider breaking it up to a series of shorter clips. Don’t expect users to commit minutes of their free time to consuming your ads like back in the days of TV. The world has changed and you need to change with it.

If you try to break through the noise of social media, start by designing your ads for mobile devices. Most social media platforms, including YouTube, support vertical videos now and that’s where we are heading. Today over half of all video content is viewed on mobile devices.

Truth #3: You are using social media wrong

Don’t join new social media platforms unless your community and supporters are using them too. Keep in mind that every additional channel entails more work for you, hence it is better to focus on mastering one channel that works rather than being on 5 channels and not mastering any of them.

You have to understand the „culture“ of the platform you are using and what type of content people expect and embrace. Stay up-to-date by subscribing to related channels to identify trends early on and use them to communicate in an authentic way. Even big brands like Gucci pick up popular memes and re-brand them for their own purposes.

Take time to learn about the platform you are using and design content specifically for the audience and platform. If you do not have the time or don’t feel the platform you should consider hiring a helping hand who is familiar with the social network and the audience you want to reach.

Truth #4: Your content is not helpful

We are well aware of the fact that businesses need to make money. However, just like in real life, building your communication on how amazing you are is not going to get you very far. One efficient way to convince potential customers is to actually start helping for free. Create value for your users by offering free tutorials or sharing your expertise under any form you’re comfortable with. If you manage to repeatedly create value for your followers, they will acknowledge your expertise and be as convinced of the quality of their purchase as our friend Fry in the GIF above.

To give you a real-life example let’s have a look at Growth Tribe. They’re a company that offers advanced online marketing training for companies that can cost thousands of Euros. Instead of telling potential customers only about their services and achievements, Growth Tribe focussed on producing youtube videos that are helpful and relevant to online marketers.


Truth # 5: Your landing page sucks

Imagine a bucket full of holes. No matter how much water you pour in there, you are always going to end up losing most of the water. The same principle applies to a weak website you send traffic to: If your website has significant flaws, you will lose potential customers right away.  Whether it’s your page not being mobile-friendly, your destination page not following through on the promised offer or a confusing User Interface; you need to fix these issues before investing in marketing campaigns. This information is even more relevant considering a survey by “we are social”, who claim that over 90% of social media traffic is happening via mobile. As always, Airbnb did their homework with a responsive landing page to sign up new hosts to their service that looks neat and works fine on every device.

While your ad is essential to grab potential customers’ attention, your website’s where the deal goes down. Make sure your website is mobile-optimized and especially if you are an e-commerce business, get some UX/UI designers to make sure the user has the best possible experience on your website and can close a purchase within a few clicks.

You need to be conscious about the fact that there are hundreds of other websites that have a similar offer as you and users can find them on Google within seconds. Customers have evolved and will watch reviews, compare and consult other websites before making a purchase. Most people prefer to buy from companies that appear trustworthy and actually care about their customer and this is the impression you want your website to give off: high quality.


Many online marketing attempts fail because marketers are stuck in old paradigms which they try to apply to advanced technology. It is this exact refusal to adapt that is often hindering them to reach their full potential of social media ads and beyond.
While no human can know and understand every potential customer, we have the possibility to use data in order to make more objective decisions. This is what makes online marketing, and targeted online advertising in particular, so powerful and makes the internet a space with huge opportunities for success for those who can adapt.

This article is also available on medium.com

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