Content Marketing
How to Earn Your Audience With Paid Media: The Best Channel Options

How to Earn Your Audience With Paid Media: The Best Channel Options

November 14, 2016
5 min read

Paid media can be a powerful outlet for lead generation and sales – but only when executed in the right ways and in the right places. So how do you know which places are right for your organization?

Testing, testing, and more testing.

Through experimentation and testing on different paid channels with different types of content, you can discover which of your paid media efforts best caters to viewer needs, interests, and channel preferences.

In this post, we’ll cover a some introductory elements of paid media, plus getting into the weeds for more experienced users in terms of resources to use and best practices.

We’ll explore these three main areas with visual examples and resources to learn more:

Discovery-Based Paid Media Examples: Where Do I Start?

When people think of paid media, they often think of discovery-based channels like Google and other search engines. However, there are paid options beyond this realm that help potential customers discover resources. Let’s look at a few different paid media options within this category.

Search Engine PPC

Paid media on channels like Google, Bing, and other search engines allows businesses to connect with relevant audiences who are actively searching for answers to their questions and problems. In the example below, you can see how these ads are shown on the basis of relevancy to a search query, and that many include conversion-oriented copy and clear CTAs that drive user action.

Reddit Ads

Reddit is another discovery-based platform that people use to learn, find content, and explore online. With thousands of different threads and forums, you can target different niches based on subject matter, location, and community type.

Creation of these ads is fairly simple: All account holders need is a 70×70 image, ad copy, and a click-through link to get going.

StumbleUpon Paid Discovery

StumbleUpon, a discovery engine which serves up random, interest-based content, also allows companies to advertise – meaning their sites are promoted within the mix of content users can discover. Companies like Buzzfeed have seen success with this platform, as seen in the case study below.

All of these platforms allow companies to connect with their target audiences in different ways, but they all focus on discovery and problem-solving.

Next, let’s look at paid media on the social side of things.

Paid Media on Social Media Platforms

Social media has many different paid media opportunities to choose from, as there are many different platforms that offer advertising. These channels allow marketers to connect with their extremely engaged audiences.


Facebook offers several different types of paid media opportunities, both within the feed and through its network of partners (including Instagram.) With more than 1.4B users, marketers using targeted Facebook ads can get in front of highly specific groups of people.

Facebook may seem almost strictly for B2C marketers, but the reality is B2B buyers are just as prevalent. While a B2B buyer is typically not going on Facebook with business intention, that doesn’t mean their work mind has shut off. Getting your product and messaging in front of browsing eyes may not have an easily direct ROI, but it certainly keeps you top of mind when it comes time to shop or purchase.


Twitter is another social network with paid media placements. While it’s user base is smaller than Facebook (313M), it still offers marketers the chance to connect with its unique community. There’s a famous example of how Acura used a Twitter ad to promote an interactive experience around one of its new offerings.


For organizations looking to connect with a professional demographic, LinkedIn has a well-suited user base. In the example below, you’ll see there are several different types of ads that can be created here based on campaign objectives and budget.


As online video viewership continues to climb, YouTube is another lucrative advertising medium that allows marketers to get in front of an active audience. Forrester data shows that more than one-third of all time spent online is devoted to consuming video content. More and more marketing teams are looking into the viability of incorporating these types of paid media into their strategies.

Pitfalls of Paid Media: What to Avoid and Best Practices

With a firm grasp on the different types of paid media, we can next examine some of the common pitfalls that can make these efforts unsuccessful, have poor ROI, or drop off in effectiveness over time. Keep these in mind as you create your own paid media campaigns and know the mistakes that can keep you from obtaining the results you need.

Stale content

When paid media content becomes stale for the audience, effectiveness drops off – and so does ROI. Content becomes stale for a variety of different reasons:

  • Ad copy/content isn’t refreshed over time. When this happens, the audience becomes overly familiar with the material – which eventually gets tuned out. In order to keep this from happening, remember to give your ads a refresh when CTR begins to drop off.
  • Ad content isn’t engaging. If the copy and material within the ad isn’t interesting or enticing to the audience, they aren’t going to interact with it. Consider using actionable and more immediate content to create experiences that encourage audience participation (think quizzes, polls, assessments, etc. – how has BuzzFeed dominated? Quick and personal content.)

Lackluster CTAs

Paid media performance can be dramatically hindered by low-performing CTAs. These are the ones that don’t inspire, excite, or encourage engagement.

Optimizing your CTAs, however, can skyrocket your conversion rate. We tested this ourselves and found that simply changing button copy increased conversions by 11%, as seen in the example below. In this instance, using ‘Let’s go’ in place of the less enticing ‘Request a demo’ boosted conversions from 2.07% to 22.7%.

What are some other ways you can revamp lackluster CTAs?

  • Offer a challenge: Encourage a competitive spirit.
  • Tease a reward: Motivate through reward-based incentivization.
  • Stand out with unusual button copy: Forgo the typical button copy and experiment with less traditional words to see what’s most effective.
  • Optimize your CTA with different content options: Different formulas and strategies work best for different media.

Lack of Ongoing A/B Testing

Any smart marketer knows that ongoing testing will illuminate effective strategies and tactics – and this is also true in the context of paid media. However, as work gets busy, testing is often one of the first things to fall to the wayside. We quickly fall into the “If it ain’t’ broke, don’t fix it” mentality.

However, experimenting with different adjustments (like copy, images, angles, and placements) via A/B testing can help pinpoint the most profitable version of ads.

Limited Budget

Last, but not least – budget. Sometimes underwhelming performance is simply a matter of budget. Without an appropriate spend, some paid media opportunities are going to fall flat.

And larger marketing budgets are ahead for many. 51% of B2B marketers are projecting increased content marketing budgets next year according to Content Marketing Institute.

Translation: To stay competitive, be prepared to spend more.

With these pitfalls in mind, you can steer clear of roadblocks that may be keeping your paid media from success and results.

Paid Media: Test to Find Your Best Option

When it comes to paid media, experimentation is required. Use customer data and channel demographics to first determine which channels make the most sense for your business, and then conduct ongoing testing to find which paid media opportunities drive the most ROI.

As you discover what works and what doesn’t, you can better plan for future initiatives that drive positive results for your overall marketing efforts.

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.

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