Blogs: Social Setting / Social Media

Two Experiments Test the Effectiveness of Paid Instagram and TikTok


We know that having a social media presence is a necessity for brands to reach new and existing audiences these days, but when it comes to spending their marketing dollars, how much should be dedicated to paid social?

A local jeweler might prefer to spend more on a great radio ad or even a billboard, another might devote a large share of its funds to email campaigns.

But a paid campaign on a platform such as Instagram doesn’t have to take much from a marketing budget. For example, a jeweler could pay as low as $1 per day on a boosted Instagram post (though the results probably wouldn’t be spectacular)—or they could spend $1,000 a day, on the opposite end of the extreme.

We Are Social Media (WERSM), a digital marketing news source, performed a small social experiment to see how one boosted post with a budget of $100 might perform and whether it delivered favorable results. It used an existing post that generated decent success at the time of its posting (so as to compare the difference between boosted and unboosted results), with a set goal to encourage more profile visits, and, ultimately, gain more followers.

After five days, results showed that the boost did, in fact, experience further reach. Converting that reach into followers, however, wasn’t as simple. With its $100 investment, the post reached a reported 7,447 new users—of those, 203 tapped through the ad and just 10 became new followers.

The experiment isn’t black and white, its results not necessarily applicable to all businesses on Instagram. What it does prove is that boosting drives results, and doing so even with a relatively small budget seems worthwhile. To see further success, it matters which type of post a marketer boosts and what sort of results they’re looking for.

Audience Instagram boost
What it looks like to define your audience when boosting an Instagram post

When boosting a post, Instagram offers three goals: more profile visits, more website visits, or more messages. From there, you’re able to select the audience: Let Instagram do it for you, targeting users its algorithm deems most like the followers you already have, or by manually entering your target options. If you want to get really specific, opt for the latter. Maybe you’re looking to reach more Gen Z users since much of your audience is made up of millennials—that’s where that option comes in handy. If you’re okay with growing your followers in the demographic(s) you already have, the first option is convenient and easy.

Instagram boost budget
Selecting your budget and duration when performing a boost on Instagram

Finally, you set your budget. If you’re ready to spend a bit more on the boost, make sure you do the work—boosting can guarantee more people see your post, but it doesn’t promise it’ll speak to them. How many ads do you scroll over in a day that don’t appeal to you? It takes something really special to convince a user to tap through that sponsored post. You can spend a hefty sum, but unless you have your content and your audience just right, its reach might not matter as much as you’d like.

Should you boost on Instagram? Absolutely—just be aware of what’s required of you to make it a success, and manage your expectations accordingly.

How about ads on TikTok? WERSM put the rapidly growing app to the test in another experiment: looking at the performance of TikTok’s Spark Ads.

Similar to Instagram’s boost option, a TikTok Spark Ad allows a brand to promote organic content in its feed. There is one major difference: TikTok’s version allows marketers to promote posts by other creators (with their permission), helping businesses to leverage positive word of mouth on their products. Say an influencer makes a TikTok wearing your jewelry, for example, what better way to convey to potential customers that people like your stuff? The concept is brilliant (and probably something Instagram will “borrow”)—but does it work?

It does, according to WERSM’s tests. Two paid campaigns—one seeking to increase profile visits, the other focused on obtaining video views—reportedly delivered solid results (you can see the experiment and its results in full here).

The caveats are the same as with Instagram, with the website offering advice in a way that’s helpful to remember: Before you pay to promote, make sure your content is “relatable, aspirational, inspirational, or informative.” Though this was specific to TikTok, I think the advice can be applied across all social platforms.

Top: Getty Images

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By: Brittany Siminitz

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