Three Keys to Unlocking Paid Social ROI

Published 11/21/18
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Understanding how social ads work: tracking and increasing ROI

What is the ROI of social media? How are social ads affecting the bottom line? These questions are common ones.

As social networks continue to optimize experiences for users and monetize, businesses continue to see the decline of organic reach, making them pay to play. While the number of businesses utilizing paid social in their marketing strategy has increased, proving the effectiveness of these ads beyond the click or engagement is often challenged.

The first step in building an effective paid social strategy is in understanding how social ads work. Social ads are fundamentally different from other types of online advertising primarily because of the type of traffic they generate. Let’s look at consumer behavior here: People who click on Google Ads, for example, are actively looking to take action, whether that’s to book, visit or buy, while people on social media are there to engage with friends, family and browse, therefore taking them longer to take action. You can see how this could create challenges when there is a small paid social budget and the goal is conversions.

Hence, this is why an always-on paid social strategy is crucial. While there are many different platforms to advertise on across social media, today I’m focusing on the two key channels for travel and hospitality: Facebook and Instagram. Once a paid social ROI is defined, showing the business value of social ads begins with these three basics.

#1. Track

Whether it’s a content hub or the vehicle for a booking engine, many of our goals are tied to website traffic – that’s where the Facebook Pixel comes in. This is a small snippet of code you can install on your website to optimize ads on both platforms.

The benefits are tri-fold:

  • By setting up events using the pixel, you can track various actions on your website, assign value to them and see attribution not included in Google Analytics in Ads Manager, including newsletter signups, searches, revenue and more.
  • This data gives marketers more insight into the true impact of social ads, deeper than just results. By understanding where and when conversions are taking place due to your ads, you can continue to optimize.
  • And lastly, the pixel allows you to retarget website traffic or specific events for specific periods. This not only keeps content personalized and relevant, but allows us the opportunity to reconnect with users In different stages of the funnel (more on that later).  

With the pixel and events in place, now comes the strategy.

#2. Build

Facebook made some big changes this year, from announcing that business would have zero organic reach to updating their targeting capabilities to comply with GDPR — all pointing to the fact that marketers, now more than ever, need to focus efforts on establishing audiences through paid strategies to reach goals. The top audiences to build are:

  • Core Audiences: Utilizing Facebook’s targeting capabilities to create audiences based on demographics, interests, behaviors and more.
  • Lookalike Audiences: Using a high-performing audience as a sample, then allowing Facebook to automatically find people that resemble the sample.
  • Custom Audiences: Remarketing to audiences you’ve acquired including website traffic, email lists, video views, Facebook and Instagram engagement and more. 

These audiences are then aligned with each stage in the marketing funnel.

#3. Personalize

Understanding that people take longer to take action on social media, creating ads for your audiences at each stage of the funnel is what drives impact. While touchpoints are different for every destination or business, in order to see conversions, you need to start at the top and foster the audiences in the consideration phase. The offer or promotion is then presented at the bottom. In short, a promotional ad should not be a business’ first impression on social.


As the online world continues to evolve, we see more integration between marketing channels. In essence, unlocking paid social ROI takes us back to our bread and butter here at Miles — tracking, remarketing and leading with an approach that mirrors the traveler journey.