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Paid Promotion

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Defining paid promotion

Paid promotion of content involves paying for any media space or placement. Usually ads or advertorial, they're targeted toward your individual audience segmentation. Paid promotion is a great opportunity to assess whether your content is working and whether your marketing message resonates with your audience. It also allows for great scale and reach for your marketing campaigns.


What are the benefits of paid promotion?

  • Right audience. Paid promotion ensures your content reaches the right audience at the right time by essentially making it visible in their newsfeeds.
  • Maximizes reach. Paid promotion maximizes your reach and gets your content seen by enough people to make it worthwhile investing in and creating in the first place.
  • Brand visibility. Paid promotion increases your brand awareness. It makes sure that people who may never have heard of your brand or business offering before are made aware of it by seeing your content boosted into their newsfeeds.

Creation versus paid support

A common mistake by content marketers is investing heavily in content creation, but not necessarily putting a decent paid budget behind it. So you can have a situation where you've created a big budget piece of content, but the value of your return is quite low. Generally, if it's worth putting the investment and time into creating a piece of content, it's worth promoting. So have an adequate spend support for all of your content.

Social algorithms

The social platforms are moving to introduce algorithm-based newsfeeds. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the platforms state that it will improve social-media users' experience on the platform by prioritizing the content that is relevant to them, has been peer-reviewed, and is popular within their own social circles. Secondly, the social platforms themselves can generate revenue by charging brands to get their messages seen.

The three things to be very conscious of here are:

  • Visibility. Visibility is lower than ever for businesses within the social newsfeed. Media networks and media publishers get higher visibility.
  • Budgets. Budgets need to be geared toward social investment in the same way that many businesses carve out a TV-advertising or print-advertising budget for the year.
  • Adapting. Make sure that you adapt your social-media advertising plan on an ongoing basis. Use formats that work for you, invest in trialing new innovations, and always make sure that you're learning from your experiences.

Auction versus fixed

There are two formats in which you can place social-media advertising. One of these formats is auction-based, the other is fixed-based. Let’s look at each format under a number of different headings.

  • Social. In a social space, auction-based advertisements can be charged based on your cost per like, your cost per engagement, your cost per fan acquisition, or your cost per conversion. Fixed social-media advertising placements are generally around cost per impression. These are where you're charged a fixed price and you're not competing with other brands. Essentially, a fixed piece of inventory might be a banner or a home-page takeover, whereas an auction-based piece of advertising might appear in a newsfeed, but is also competing with three or four pieces of content that are all looking for that same target audience. You will achieve greater reach and better consistency for your auction-based advertising if you have direct-content copy, if you make sure that your relevancy is absolutely high-end, and that your content is perfectly produced.
  • Search. Search advertising is largely based on an auction system. Determining the correct keywords, ensuring that your content isn't misleading for your audiences, and that any imagery you use is well produced and looks great, will help you achieve a higher relevancy ranking with the individual search platform that you place your advertising on. Fixed formats are a little less frequent here.
  • Display. With display advertising, fixed items might include homepage takeovers, skyscraper ad units, banners or mid-page units. Generally, these are negotiated at a fixed rate with the media owners themselves. So, for example, if you wanted to run a home-page takeover on perezhilton.com, you might brand either side with your individual brand and you'll be set a fixed charge for that. Whereas, if you were running a Google Display campaign, it would be based on an auction basis across a wide variety of Google-affiliate websites. So being aware of the two individual types of format buying will help you adjust your message accordingly.
  • Media outlets. Some individual media outlets charge in auction-based format, depending on how many sites are part of that media conglomerate. In the fixed space, native advertising is becoming increasingly popular. This is advertising which is, essentially, a digital version of the old-school advertorial-based content which sits within the newsfeed of regular content on the media site.
  • Bloggers and influencers. There's not really an auction-based system here; this is very much a rate card of fixed prices. Some bloggers charge maybe $200 or $300 for a tweet or an Instagram post that endorses your product. Be aware of declaration, if pursuing this particular method of paid promotion.

Facebook formats

Facebook advertising appears in three spaces:

  • Social newsfeed. Within the social newsfeeds of consumers who are browsing their friends' and family's posts, Facebook offers an opportunity for brands to insert their messages amongst that newsfeed content.
  • Facebook Display. Facebook display advertising largely appears on the right-hand side of Facebook.
  • Facebook Network. Facebook has access to a network of affiliate brands, media publishers, and mobile apps. Ads that appear here are essentially outside of Facebook, but are displayed through Facebook's ad-buying process.

With Facebook advertising formats, it's very important that you're mapping each of your ad placements to an ad objective. This will help you achieve the best reach, relevancy, and engagement for your piece of content. Follow the guidelines specific to each ad format to ensure successful placement of your Facebook or indeed Instagram ad through the Facebook platform.

Twitter formats

Twitter has also started to prioritize content serving based on audience insights. Sponsored content will push content ahead of this algorithm. Just like Facebook, the formats are designed to align to a business objective. Formats include:

  • Promoted 280 characters. These are purely text-based. Where possible, include links, @ mentions of other users, and hashtags for your campaign.
  • Summary cards. Summary cards preview website content with a short description and an image. They also utilize a call-to-action button.
  • Image cards. Image cards allow for a single image or for an image gallery, depending on what your content objective is.
  • Player cards. Player cards allow for audio, video, and live-streaming content formats.
  • Product cards. Product cards showcase a product and key details, with a shortened link to convert your audience in a more effective way.
  • Lead-generation cards. Lead-generation cards are great tools for capturing user details directly within a tweet.
  • Mobile-app cards. Mobile-app cards show an app summary and a download call-to-action button. These can be tailored for iOS or Android phones.

Instagram formats

The Facebook-owned platform Instagram has introduced great advertising formats to help content reach more fans.

  • Always make sure to connect your Facebook and Instagram accounts before activating any Instagram advertising.
  • Some formal objectives for Instagram advertising include app download, video views, or click to website.
  • Instagram also benefits from really powerful targeting tools worked into Facebook's ad manager, to make sure you're targeting effectively.

Google and YouTube

Google-owned YouTube has a number of advertising formats available to social media marketers. These will help your video content achieve more views. Some of these formats include:

  • Google Ads for video. These enable pre-roll content and video on-demand.
  • Multiple auction formats. These allow your video content to essentially compete with other people's video content throughout the Google Display Network.
  • Fixed formats. These include banner ads and mid-page units.
  • Targeting. Great targeting is conducted through the Google Ads panel.

YouTube formats

Some YouTube formats available to content marketers include:

  • In-Search. In-search highlights your video in the YouTube search terms. This makes your video stand out ahead of all your competitors.
  • In-Display. In-display shows your video as a sponsored item in the Suggested Videos panel on the right-hand side.
  • In-Stream. In-stream ads, also known as pre-rolls, play as a trailer before another video. These can also be incorporated to include a call-to-action overlay footer, which shows during video playback.
  • In-Slate. In-slate video ads show your video as a suggestion at the end of a video play.

With the auction format, you are competing for ad space with other advertisers, so make sure to set a maximum cost per view or a cost per impression. Try to outbid other advertisers for your content to be seen ahead of theirs. But make sure you keep an eye on your content-marketing budget, so these costs don't spiral out of control.

YouTube fixed-inventory formats

Digital-ad formats are generally booked as display inventory directly with a YouTube sales representative. It's important to note that these fixed-inventory formats can be localized to your country, so you can change the language based on your location. It also means that YouTube can resell this format in a number of different regions.

Google formats

Other auction formats include marketing within the search feed. With Google’s search marketing, search advertising appears in search results by bidding on keywords and audiences. These search terms have essentially been paid for in terms of placement. They're targeted by demographic, keyword, and also by auction bid. Targeting and optimizing are important to make sure that you're obtaining the most from your budgets.

Google also offers a dynamic network of partner sites on which display advertising can be placed. Essentially, these are moving images with a call-to-action banner that get you to click through to an intended destination. Google display advertising appears by both contextual and specific placements on the Google Display Network. So you can have your ad display automatically or manually choose the sites it will be displayed on. These ads are placed through the Google Ads manager. Targeting and optimizing here are important to help you keep track of your budgets and make sure that they're effectively spent.

LinkedIn formats

LinkedIn primarily offers two advertising formats for content marketing. These are text ads and sponsored updates. Both are available through the LinkedIn self-service advertising platform. LinkedIn also operates an algorithmic newsfeed similar to Facebook, which means publishers really need to leverage their updates with sponsored payment to achieve greater reach and engagement with their audiences.

  • Text ads. These are display ads which run alongside profile pages. These can incorporate an image and a line of text. Generally, they should always include a call to action.
  • Sponsored updates. Sponsored updates are pieces of content like articles or posts from an individual or a business, which can be sponsored and pushed into more users' newsfeeds. These are very similar to Facebook promoted posts. The newsfeed that LinkedIn uses is called Pulse.

Snapchat formats

Snapchat's advertising formats are a little more difficult to activate. Finding information about this can be challenging, as there's no self-service option available for brands at the moment. Prices are based on fixed-price models and ads have to be placed directly with a Snapchat sales representative. Prices ranging from £35,000 up to $750,000 for 24-hour advertising placements have already been reported in the media.

Some of these formats include:

  • Discover interstitials. Interstitials for brands placed through the platform's news or Discover section are treated similarly to mobile interstitial formats.
  • Sponsored filters. Sponsored filters are an engagement-oriented and very innovative format for users. Essentially, a sponsored filter is a custom design, often a combination of graphics and video, which users can then engage with to create their own versions of images and videos. These offer a really fun and novel way to engage; however, can be a very expensive proposition.
  • Sponsored stories. Sponsored stories will add a brand stream of content into the organic newsfeed of users. This negates the need for anybody to be following you, and pushes your content straight into their newsfeed.

Pinterest formats

Currently, there's only one form of paid promotion format on Pinterest. This is sponsored pins, which is a great format for driving traffic from an e-commerce perspective, as there is a Buy button included with this format.

Reddit formats

Reddit offers promoted posts and a sponsored link to a thread on the platform. This can be placed either on the Reddit home page or within a dedicated subreddit. Your budget and impressions/frequency limits will determine how often your sponsored thread is viewed. It's very important to note that, while this is a paid placement and the nature of Reddit is upvotes and downvotes, your paid placement will remain at the top of the intended page, regardless of how many downvotes it gets. This is great for increasing visibility of your brand message on one of the Reddit subreddits or on the main page.

Tumblr formats

Tumblr’s sponsored posts allow publishers to reach an intended audience through a self-service platform. This is activated on the newsfeed of your intended audience. Essentially, content can be text-, image-, or GIF-based, with GIFs being incredibly popular on the Tumblr platform. Targeting can be placed using hashtags on the platform.

Paid formats

There are various mechanisms by which social content can be promoted:

Paid social advertising. This involves getting your content or message into the social newsfeeds of your intended audiences. Paid social advertising is generally activated through self-service platforms.

Paid search/display. These are ad formats which generally appear in the search newsfeed of an individual website or in digital ad format inventory, for example, MPU, skyscraper, or banner format. Search advertising generally appears in the search terms as a highlighted search result pushed up to the very top of the results.

Paid syndication. This is where editorial content is used in an advertorial way. It helps get your brand or business objective out to a wider reach and a dedicated media-publisher audience.

Paid bloggers/influencers. This is where you place your brand message or business objective through the platforms or channels of a key influencer or blogger. In this space, you need to consider how much you need to declare to comply with your local Advertising Standards Authority. Anything that has been paid for needs to be declared.

Ad blockers

When considering these ad formats, it's important to note the increased use of ad blockers. An ad blocker is a piece of software that blocks search and display advertising from appearing on the web pages of a user's phone or desktop computer.

A lot of media owners and media publishers rely heavily on the revenue generated by display advertisements, and the use of ad blockers prevents revenue being generated on these sites. This has led to the rise of native advertising, which can't be detected or blocked by an ad blocker.

Example: BuzzFeed

The media publisher, BuzzFeed, is the leading online publisher of native content formats. It has actually moved its entire business model to depend solely on native advertising. You can see, within the newsfeed (see slide ‘Native content – combating ad blockers’), the native ads have been clearly declared as native advertising, but the quality of the content that lies within them is so high that they still receive great click-through engagement and reach with the intended consumer audience. This is a great example of how to overcome an issue such as ad blocking within your content-promotion strategy.

Native content

Media owners are driving the adoption and collaboration process behind native content and finding room at the table for everyone, including creative agencies. They believe the best way to operate is to have everybody input into the creative process.

Take, for example, brand marketers. They have similar interests and marketing objectives to the media publishers. Being able to incorporate both viewpoints, along with an element of creativity from any agency that's involved, makes everything work much better and delivers a more integrated product, as well as higher results. 

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Seán Earley

Creative Director at Teneo PSG Digital

  • Creative Director at Teneo PSG Digital with five years’ experience in Digital Marketing, Social, and PR Agencies
  • Founding member of Teneo PSG Digital
  • Former Director on the Board of the Irish Internet Association
  • Passionate about creating content that captures audience imaginations and delivers business objectives

Data protection regulations affect almost all aspects of digital marketing. Therefore, DMI has produced a short course on GDPR for all of our students. If you wish to learn more about GDPR, you can do so here:

DMI Short Course: GDPR

The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful.

You can find more information and content like this on the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library

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