With the rapid rise of social media, beginning as a small website born in a dorm room (a la Facebook) and morphing into an all-consuming worldwide pastime, exceptional performance on social marketing has become a must-have for businesses to succeed and stay relevant. The world is watching.

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For a social campaign, much more is needed than just a “set it and forget it” execution. To be a league apart, continuous monitoring and improvement is not just a nice-to-have; it’s necessary. The many ways social campaigns can be optimized for greater performance is staggering, ever growing, and often overwhelming. The good thing is, most of the iterative grunt work can be alleviated— if you have the right tools.

We’ve compiled the top “best practices” for social media optimization from our own experiences of what’s worked and what hasn’t, and gathered input from experts who work this magic every day.

Installed Phone Apps | Recently Visited Stores

1. Get Clear on the Path to Purchase

First and foremost, know your customer. Gone are the days when you relied on focus group feedback from individuals that were hardly representative of your consumers as a whole. You can now tap into precise purchase behavior and more with the latest social media tools— from the apps your customer uses to the stores they buy from. This gives you the insight needed to place ads with different messaging based your customer’s interests and likes, not to mention influencing buying decisions at the most optimal times.

Video Completion Rate

2. Measure the Social Media Metrics That Matter

Once you have your target audience in place, line up your reporting metrics to ensure campaign performance is tracked with your main goal in mind. If your preferred performance metric is not available, no need to fret! You no longer have to rely on the standard “cookie cutter” metrics provided by each social or video platform. AdParlor, for example, allows you to create relevant, personalized formulas that combine any number of existing metrics, however you want, to gather information that truly matters to you. Track these metrics for automated goal-driven optimizations and smarter campaign management so you can choose your own definition of success.

Current Weather Conditions | Real-time Sports Scores | Real-time Campaign Goals & Data

3. Design Campaigns with Real-Time Situations in Mind

While targeting and reporting accurately are important in the ad space, social media in particular is all about what’s trending at that moment. Using what are called “rules engines,” you can automatically monitor key metrics and trigger specific actions at the right time in order to show relevant ads. For example, you could send congratulations to the top scorer during the Super Bowl, or tempt thirsty consumers with a ‘beer on the patio’ ad when it’s warm and sunny (and not if it’s pouring down rain). This will help your ads stand out and be more relevant to your audience.

A/B testing

4. Test, Test, and Test Some More

The oldest tricks in the book are still sometimes the best, and control testing is one of them. While comparisons may not always be beneficial (did someone say sibling rivalry?), they’re consistently insightful in lab experiments, research studies and yes, even social media ads. There’s always more than one good approach to a campaign—to find the better approach, A|B test ads against each other. Or, to prove a theory of yours, test against a control. This will help you get the pulse of the market and make informed decisions to ensure you’re always putting your best foot (or ad) forward, and that you are constantly seeking to improve.

5. Use Dynamic Remarketing to Move Customers Down the Funnel

Finally, for those customers hovering in the middle of your conversion funnel, give them that final nudge by remarketing to them with customized ads specific to their last action. Features such as dynamic product ads and custom audiences are especially helpful for this type of remarketing. Did they fall off at the shopping cart step of the purchase funnel? Retarget them with a discounted offer or free shipping. Have they already purchased your flights? Entice them with a follow-up ad for discounted hotels. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what it would take to guide them to the finish line. The opportunities are endless!

Always remember, the customer’s experience is key. There’s a reason why “showing the right message, to the right user, at the right time, at the right place (whew!)” is the most ubiquitous cliché in advertising. Tailor your messaging for better performance, and focus on goals that are important to you while cutting out the noise. Critical functions like frequency capping, customized creatives (tip: use the Ad Mockup Generator tool to preview your ad for free) and smart bidding can be key in creating a pleasant, yet robust marketing journey for your customers.

AdParlor Blog Post: Our Updated Ad Mockup Generator Now Includes Pinterest Ads

As the Old Adage Goes: Time = Money (+More Money!)

Above all, paid social is one avenue where investing in the right tools (and experts to provide the know-how) can lead to huge payoffs for the advertiser; whether it’s driving massive brand awareness, generating a flood of leads, driving sales, or whatever your goals may be. With the ever-growing population on social networks and more eyeballs ‘gluing in’ every day, the social space is ripe for the picking.

So, what are you waiting for? Strap on your tool belt, and set your ad to run social!