Paid Media Strategy: Our Platform’s 5-Step Plan for a Winning Ad Campaign [+ Free Tools and Examples]

Alexandra Kazakova

By Alexandra Kazakova
20 min READ | May 1 2024

Table of contents

Creating a solid paid media strategy isn’t easy, especially if you don’t have the right tools and framework.

Besides, the sheer magnitude of advertising channels and types of messages you can choose from can feel overwhelming.

You’re on the right page, though.

We’ll share our experience creating solid paid ad campaigns with plenty of insider tips, free tools, and in-house examples.

You’ll learn:

  • What paid media is, and how it compares to earned and owned media
  • Our in-house 5-step paid media strategy with free tools and steps
  • 5 best practices to hone your campaign

Let’s start.


  • Paid Media Explained: It's about purchasing ad space to promote a brand on digital platforms like Google Ads, social media, and search engines. This approach targets ideal customers directly, boosting online visibility and conversions.

Key Components:

  • Paid vs Earned vs Owned Media: Paid media increases reach, earned media boosts credibility through organic mentions, and owned media controls the brand narrative.
  • 5-Step Paid Media Strategy: Includes understanding your audience, setting goals, choosing the right channels, using effective tactics, and monitoring and scaling the strategy.

Channels and Tactics:

  • Choice of Channels: YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter, each with pros, cons, and strategic uses.
  • Paid Media Tactics: Incorporates paid search, display advertising, social media advertising, retargeting ads, and out-of-home ads.

Best Practices:

  • Regular performance reviews.
  • Emphasis on first-party data collection.
  • Use of advanced tracking technologies.
  • Adoption of a multi-channel approach.
  • Leveraging automation for bidding in advertising.

What Is Paid Media

Paid media refers to buying advertising space to promote a brand across digital advertising channels, including Google Ads, social media platforms, and search engine advertising.

Paid media’s main benefit is targeting your ideal customers directly and precisely.

That way, your online visibility and conversions skyrocket.

Insider Story: How Leveraged Paid Media

As an influencer marketing platform, we’ve worked with many clients who combined paid media and influencer marketing.

This approach enabled their marketing teams to reach new audience segments and enhance their campaign's authenticity.

By blending the precision targeting of paid media with the personal touch of influencer endorsements, they saw significant uplifts in engagement and conversion rates with lower CPAs.

For example, Nielsen IQ’s campaign used a media-buying strategy built on a scalable user-generated content strategy.

Results: Using influencers and creators from our discovery platform, they decreased their CPAs by 75% across channels and got 100,000+ monthly downloads.


You probably heard these terms before; now, let’s see what they are and how they can fit into your digital marketing efforts.

Paid media means investing in advertising space to boost visibility.

This involves launching advertising campaigns on platforms like social media accounts, using banner ads, and engaging in search engine marketing.

A classic example is running social media ads on Facebook to drive traffic to your latest blog post or product reviews.

It's a direct route to capturing the attention of internet users and moving your marketing funnel forward.

Insider tip: We use this free Facebook ad mockup generator to create different ad versions quickly, and we advise our clients to do the same.

Testing different versions maximizes your chances of reaching the right audience and, therefore, boosts your conversion rates.

Earned Media: Best for Credibility Boost

Earned media is the golden nod you get when customers or content creators talk about your brand without you paying a dime.

It's the shares, mentions, and online reviews that spread organically.

Remember: This type of media is priceless for building customer loyalty and enhancing your brand's reputation.

Examples include a user-generated content feature of your product on Instagram or a glowing article from an influential blog.

For instance, Hurom H400 Easy Clean Slow Juicers received this glowing review from Forbes.And yes, they’re also one of our platform’s clients:

Owned Media: Control Your Narrative

Owned media is every piece of content you create and control, from your website to Instagram posts and email newsletters.

It's where you provide value through insightful blog posts, engage with your audience via social media posts, and deepen customer experience through personalized email campaigns.

Owned media is the backbone of your content marketing strategy, nurturing loyal customers and maintaining a consistent message.

Daniel and Kelli, owners of the online fitness platform Fitnessblender, offer a great example by creating awesome content on their Instagram account while promoting their services:

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Fitness Blender (@fitnessblender)

5-Step Paid Media Strategy

Now that you know what paid media is and why it is so important for your digital marketing strategy, let’s see how you can create a solid paid media strategy.

We’ll share the steps we typically take ourselves and recommend to our clients as well.

1. Know Your Audience

Understanding your target audience is crucial for tailoring your paid media strategy effectively.

We typically dive into data analytics, using tools like Google Analytics 4 to dissect audience segments and pinpoint our ideal customers.

Remember: This step is about more than demographics; it's about grasping their behaviors, preferences, and pain points.

Here’s how we use data analytics effectively in our paid media strategy to understand our audiences:

  • Segment your audience: Break down your data into audience segments. This might include grouping users by age, location, device (mobile apps vs. desktop), or behavior (new vs. returning users). Segmentation helps tailor your strategy to specific groups.
  • Gather data: Use tools like Google Analytics 4 to collect data on your website and social media platforms. Look for data related to user behavior, such as session duration, pages visited, and demographic information of your visitors.
  • Analyze user behavior: Dive deeper into your segments' behavior. Which pages do they spend the most time on? What type of content leads to the highest engagement or conversion rates? Understanding these patterns will help you optimize your strategy later.
  • Track conversions: If you’ve already run some ad campaigns previously, use conversion tracking in Google Ads and other advertising platforms to see which ads and keywords lead to desired actions, such as purchases or sign-ups. This will help you understand purchase intent and adjust your bidding strategies accordingly.
  • Use performance metrics: Again, this step works if you have preexisting ad campaigns you can track. Monitor performance metrics like click-through rate, cost per acquisition, and average cost. These metrics offer insights into your campaigns’ efficiency and audience preferences.

Here’s a neat tutorial for Google Analytics 4, which will help you if you’re a beginner.

2. Set Your Goals

Setting clear goals helps you steer your paid media strategy in the right direction.

Basically, it transforms your abstract ambitions into measurable outcomes.

Here's how to crystallize your objectives (and yes, we’re using the same step-by-step plan):

  • Identify primary objectives: Start with broad marketing goals, such as enhancing brand recognition, boosting brand recall, increasing your social media following, or converting qualified visitors. Identifying these aims sets the foundation for your strategy.
  • Align with business goals: Ensure your marketing objectives complement your overall business goals. If your business aims to penetrate new markets, consider setting goals around brand recognition in those areas.
  • Define specific targets: Break down each goal into specific, measurable targets. For brand recognition, this could be increasing the number of times your brand is mentioned on social media platforms. For converting qualified visitors, set a target percentage increase in conversion rates.
  • Choose relevant metrics: Select key performance indicators that align with each goal. Social media platform engagement metrics can gauge brand recognition and recall, while conversion and click-through rates can assess the effectiveness of strategies to convert visitors.
  • Benchmark current performance: Assess your current standing in each area. Understanding your starting point is crucial for measuring progress and setting realistic goals.
  • Timeline and milestones: Establish a timeline for achieving your goals, with milestones to keep your marketing efforts on track. This will help you monitor progress and make necessary adjustments.
  • Regular review: Periodically revisit your goals and performance against them. This agility allows you to adapt to changes in the digital landscape and your business environment.

3. Choose Your Channels

Selecting the right channels for your paid media strategy is critical to reaching your target audience and achieving your campaign objectives.

In this section, we’ll break down key channels that we and our clients are using, with pros, cons, and best uses we’ve noticed over the years.

Insider tip: When choosing your channels, consider your marketing funnel, the type of content that resonates with your audience, and the unique advantages each platform offers to meet your campaign objectives.

YouTube Ads

PROS: YouTube's vast user base of 2.70 billion monthly active users allows you to reach larger audiences, especially when your ads appear in engaging video content.

YouTube is also great for longer ads featuring product reviews and storytelling through video, appealing to users' purchase intent.

CONS: Creating high-quality video ads can be costly and time-consuming. Also, skippable ads may reduce exposure.

Our recommendation: It is ideal for brand storytelling, product demonstrations, and reaching users in the research phase of the customer journey.

Here’s one of Slack’s ads addressing YouTube users in the research phase or those who already bought the more affordable plan.

The ad briefly explains why Slack can streamline team communication better than an internal email platform, ending with Slack messaging’s recognizable sound bite:

TikTok Ads

PROS: With a high percentage of younger, engaged users, TikTok is perfect for campaigns aimed at a youthful demographic.

User-generated content and influencer marketing thrive here, so Spark Ads are a great tool.

CONS: The platform's fast-scrolling nature means your ads can be skipped quickly. Its effectiveness for B2B marketing is also limited.

Our recommendation: This is best for viral marketing campaigns, brand challenge ads, and leveraging organic content styles for higher engagement.

Our sister company, inBeat Agency, created this TikTok ad for Bumble, using the platform’s classic raw style to promote the dating app:


Facebook Ads

PROS: Facebook's detailed targeting options, including lookalike audiences and custom audiences, allow for precise segmentation.

Its diverse ad formats support various marketing goals, from brand awareness to conversion.

CONS: The platform's changing algorithms can affect ad performance. Ad saturation can also lead to higher advertising costs.

Our recommendation: Use Facebook Ads to reach a broad demographic, run retargeting campaigns, and drive conversions through direct response ads.

Instagram Ads

PROS:  High engagement rates make it a prime channel for brand visibility and social proof through visually appealing ads.

Integration with Facebook Ads enhances targeting capabilities.

CONS: The platform's visual nature means content needs to be high-quality and aesthetically pleasing, which can increase production costs.

Our recommendation: Suited for lifestyle and fashion brands, visual storytelling, and tapping into influencer networks for authentic engagement.

Here’s another one of our clients, Linktree, rocking it on Instagram:


LinkedIn Sponsored Updates

PROS: LinkedIn's professional context is ideal for B2B marketing, thought leadership content, and targeting professionals based on job roles and industries.

CONS: Generally higher cost per click than other platforms.

Content needs to be highly relevant and professional to engage the audience.

Our recommendation: This is best for B2B marketing, recruiting campaigns, and promoting white papers or industry research to professional audiences.

PROS: Promoted Tweets enhance visibility and engagement for your content directly in users' Twitter feeds.

Their real-time engagement makes them suitable for time-sensitive content and announcements.

CONS: Twitter's (now X’s) fast-paced environment means content can quickly lose visibility.

The platform requires consistent activity and engagement to maintain relevance.

Our recommendation: Ideal for engaging with active users on current events, launching new products, and driving conversations around your brand.

4. Paid Media Tactics

Here are the commonly used paid media tactics you can consider:

4.1 Paid Search Advertising

Paid search advertising, mainly through Google Ads and Microsoft Ads, positions your brand at the top of search engine results, targeting users with high purchase intent.

The typical model is pay-per-click (PPC), meaning you only pay when someone clicks on your ad.

Insider tip: We love responsive search ads.

These ads adjust your ad's content to match search queries, optimizing your message for potential customers.

This tactic is key for immediate visibility in search results and driving qualified traffic to your website because you can capture users actively searching for solutions your brand offers.

4.2 Display Advertising

Display advertising leverages visual banner ads across the internet to enhance brand recognition and engage internet users who may not be actively searching for your products but fit your target audience profile.

These ads appear on various advertising platforms, within mobile apps, or as part of a wider digital advertising strategy, so you get a broad reach.

Besides, the visual nature of display ads can make them more engaging, increasing brand awareness and recall.

Display ads use a PPC model, but you can also opt for PPI (pay-per-impression) or pay-per-mille (PPM), which means paying for a thousand impressions.

Insider tip 1: While display ads have a higher cost per impression, their cost per click (CPC) is significantly buffered.

Insider tip 2: We found that display advertising is particularly effective for top-of-the-funnel marketing efforts that aim to attract new potential customers.

4.3 Social Media Advertising

Social media advertising involves placing ads on social network platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, to reach and engage with your ideal customers.

We already saw some examples above.

This tactic allows for highly targeted advertising campaigns based on detailed demographic, interest, and behavior data.

Social media ads can drive brand engagement, boost your social media following, and convert users into loyal customers.

You can even use them as part of a burst campaign to promote your app.

Remember: Based on the examples we already discussed, using this tactic effectively means aligning your ads with the native content and user experience of each social platform to maximize engagement and campaign performance.

4.4 Retargeting Ads

Retargeting ads re-engage users who've interacted with your brand but didn't convert.

These ads use cookies or a list of contacts to remind potential customers of their previous interests, increasing the chance of conversion.

This tactic leverages user-generated data and insights from tools like Google Analytics to target ads more precisely so they’re highly relevant and personalized.

Retargeting is a powerful tool to move users further down the marketing funnel, from initial interest to loyal customers, by keeping your brand top-of-mind.

Side note: We wanted to create an infographic to explain how they work, but SEMrush already did a great job of it, and we love them, so here it is:


4.5. Out-of-Home and Digital Out-of-Home Ads

Out-of-home (OOH) and Digital out-of-home (DOOH) ads take your message to the streets, literally.

Think digital billboards, transit ads, and digital screens in high-traffic areas.

These ads offer wide exposure to diverse audience segments, including those not reached through traditional digital channels.

While not as targeted as online strategies, OOH and DOOH can significantly boost brand visibility and complement your broader digital marketing strategy, especially for campaigns to increase brand recall and reach larger audiences in specific geographic areas.

5. Monitor and Scale Up Your Paid Media Strategy

Monitoring and scaling your paid media strategy are essential for maximizing ROI and ensuring your marketing efforts align with your business goals.

Here's how we do it effectively:

  1. Analyze campaign performance: Regularly check your performance against key performance indicators (KPIs) using tools like Google Analytics and other internal software your marketing team loves. Look at metrics like click-through rate, conversion rates, and cost per acquisition to gauge success.
  2. Adjust based on insights: Use your gathered data to tweak your campaigns. This could mean adjusting your bidding strategies, refining your target audience, or changing the content you're promoting based on what performs best.
  3. Test and optimize: Continuously test different elements of your campaigns, from ad copy to landing pages. A/B testing can reveal valuable insights that allow you to optimize your ads for better performance.
  4. Leverage influencer marketing: To scale up your social media advertising efforts, consider integrating influencer marketing. Influencers can reduce ad fatigue by presenting your brand in a new, authentic light. They can also increase your conversions by reaching larger audiences with a trusted voice.
  5. Expand successful tactics: Identify which channels and tactics yield the best results and allocate more of your advertising budget to these areas. This might mean increasing spending on social media platforms where your ads perform well or investing more in display ads if they drive significant traffic.

Insider tip: One thing you can focus on testing and optimizing is your ads’ hooks, especially if you run paid ads on social media.

Hooks attract social media users’ attention and keep them watching your ad, so you need to offer a short but fast and concise reason for them to do so.

The influencers our clients use in their paid media strategies always include different hooks in their content.

Here’s an excellent example from Brave: “If you care about your privacy online, this browser is a huge game changer.”


Of course, our influencers used various hooks to keep people watching and staying engaged.

We also used influencer marketing to scale Miro’s paid ad strategy, which is different than powering your ads with influencer content.

In this case, we honed an entire B2B influencer marketing campaign separate from any paid ad campaign.


5 Best Practices of a Solid Paid Media Strategy

Before implementing the 5-step paid media strategy above, read these best practices to ensure you can hone your campaign to a T.

We’ll share plenty of tools and step-by-step action plans below, so keep reading.

1. Review Your Performance Regularly

Regular performance reviews are a cornerstone of a successful paid media strategy.

Don't just settle for weekly PPC reporting; take it further with comprehensive quarterly reviews.

This is your chance to zoom out and assess broader trends, performance metrics, and the effectiveness of your advertising campaign.

Pro tip: Use tools like Google Data Studio to visualize your data and make it actionable.

Dive into pre-made templates or explore new ones to get a clear picture of where you stand.

Remember also to benchmark your performance against industry standards to stay ahead of the competition.

This periodic deep-dive helps you pinpoint what to amplify, adjust, or abandon in the coming quarter, keeping your strategy sharp.

2. Collect More First-Party Data Instead of Third-Party Data

Prioritizing first-party data collection ensures a higher quality of data directly relevant to your brand.

As such, you can create more personalized experiences and effectively target your ideal customers.

Here's how to enhance your first-party data collection:

  1. Develop lead magnets: Entice your audience with high-value offerings like free guides, tools, or consultations. Make these available on your website in exchange for visitors providing their information via a form. This is a direct way to gather data while delivering value, increasing conversion rates, and building your customer base.
  2. Use lead form ads: Platforms such as Facebook and Google offer lead form ads, which can be a goldmine for collecting first-party data. Customize these forms to ask the right questions that align with your campaign objectives and audience segments. As a result, the data you collect is relevant and actionable.

Here’s a neat example:

  1. Implement a solid content strategy: Regularly publish valuable content that positions you as a trusted resource in your field. Content can be repurposed into various formats like webinars, checklists, or blog posts, serving as additional lead magnets. A solid content marketing approach attracts potential customers and fosters trust, making them more inclined to share their information.
  2. Engage with your social media followers: Encourage interaction on your social media platforms. Use social media posts, polls, and Q&A sessions to gather insights directly from your audience. This approach boosts engagement and provides valuable data points.
  3. Offer exclusive memberships or subscriptions: Create a members-only section on your website or offer subscription-based content. This encourages users to share their information in exchange for exclusive access to your content or community.

3. Leverage Advanced Tracking Technology

Advanced tracking technology gives you deeper insights into your advertising campaign performance and ensures compliance with evolving privacy regulations.

Therefore, you'll better understand how different touchpoints contribute to conversions and ensure your strategies are built on solid, privacy-compliant data.

This approach enhances the precision of your marketing efforts, driving better results while maintaining user trust.

Here's how to get started:

  1. Adopt Privacy-Enhancing Technologies (PETs): Work with frameworks set by organizations like the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to ensure your tracking methods respect user privacy while still providing valuable data.
  2. Implement Facebook Conversions API: This tool allows you to measure customer actions more accurately by connecting your marketing data from Facebook with actions taken on your website, optimizing your social media advertising efforts.
  3. Import Offline Conversions: Use Google’s Offline Conversion Import (OCI) feature to track how your Google Ads influence offline activities, like in-store purchases or phone orders. This bridges the gap between digital advertising efforts and real-world outcomes.
  4. Enhance conversions with Google Ads: Set up Enhanced Conversions in Google Ads through Google Tag Manager, sitewide tagging, or API. This provides a more complete view of your conversion paths, improving the accuracy of conversion measurement.

4. Take a Multi-Channel Approach

By adopting a multi-channel approach, you're not just casting a wider net; you're strategically placing your brand in front of your target audience wherever they are, boosting your chances of engaging them effectively and driving conversions.

Here's how to implement this strategy effectively:

  1. Identify your channels: Based on your audience research, select the right mix of digital marketing channels where your potential customers are most active. This could include social media channels, search engines, email, and digital out-of-home platforms.
  2. Coordinate your message: Ensure your campaign's core message is consistent across all channels yet tailored to fit each platform's unique format and audience expectations. Consistency builds brand recognition, while customization enhances engagement.
  3. Leverage cross-channel data: Use data analytics to understand how your audience interacts with your brand across different platforms. Use the tools we already discussed, like Google Analytics, to track user journeys and understand how different channels contribute to your marketing funnel.
  4. Optimize for each channel: Adapt your strategy based on the performance metrics specific to each channel. For instance, tweak your search advertising based on Google Ads click-through rates while adjusting your social media advertising based on engagement rates.
  5. Synergize efforts: Ensure your marketing teams are aligned and working together to create a cohesive multi-channel strategy. This includes sharing insights, data, and learnings across teams to optimize performance.

5. Leverage Automation

Automated bidding on Google Ads harnesses machine learning to optimize your bids for each auction, aligning with your specific campaign objectives.

Therefore, you can efficiently allocate your advertising budget and focus on strategic planning.

Here's how to implement it:

  1. Select your campaign: Choose the Google Ads campaign you want to apply automated bidding to. Ensure this campaign aligns with your business goals and marketing strategy.
  2. Choose a bidding strategy: Google offers various automated bidding strategies, such as Target CPA (Cost Per Acquisition), Maximize Conversions, or Target ROAS (Return on Ad Spend). Pick one that best fits your campaign objectives, whether it's driving conversion rates, enhancing brand awareness, or maximizing clicks.
  3. Set your targets: You may need to set targets. For example, if you select Target CPA, specify the average amount you will pay for a conversion. This guides Google's algorithm in optimizing your bids.
  4. Monitor performance metrics: Even with automation, you must still monitor key performance indicators like click-through rate and cost per conversion. You want to ensure the automated system aligns with your performance expectations and campaign objectives.

Insider tip: We use this free click-through rate calculator to assess different campaigns and ads’ performances.

  1. Adjust as needed: Automated bidding doesn't mean “set and forget.” Regularly review campaign performance and adjust your targets or switch strategies if necessary.
  2. Test and refine: Consider running experiments within Google Ads to compare automated bidding strategies and their impact on your campaign's success. Use these insights to refine your approach continuously.

Kickstart Your Paid Media Strategy

This article covered five awesome paid media strategies and five actionable best practices—not that we’re bragging.

But the real examples, step-by-step plans, and tools we included will help you kickstart your ads campaign today.

If you want to scale your ads with influencer-generated content or influencer marketing, use our discovery tool.

Otherwise, use our free toolkit to create ads and monitor your campaign’s performance.

And if you’re not really sure how or where to get started, consider getting in touch with one of these solid paid media agencies.

inBeat, for free

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