Social media, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or any other network, is a pay-to-play game, and you don’t want to waste money. Let’s cover four points on how you’re able to test and home in on your target audience, so that when you’re spending money, you’re doing it in an efficient way.

Number one: Organic drives paid.

When you are posting, as you see Mary does on LinkedIn organically, the algorithm is watching to see what drives the most likes, comments, and shares. Whatever does the best organically is also what will do the best on paid, because it’s the same algorithm. On Facebook, this is especially true, because EdgeRank, which is looking at the intersection of engagement, similar audiences, and time decay, is awarding traffic to you on the paid side, using the same criteria.

In other words, when the algorithm knows who is engaging with your content organically, it will use that signal on the paid side to seek similar people. In advertising, most networks allow you to run lookalike audiences, which are similar audiences to the people who have bought from you or who have engaged with you. If you’re running an ad without the signal of existing organic engagement, it’s more work for the algorithm to figure out what’s going on. We think of paid as throwing fuel on the fire and amplifying what’s already working. When you try to run ads without organic proof in advance, it’s like you’re driving your car with the emergency brake on. When you encounter resistance, you may decide that you want to floor it, instead of figuring out what’s wrong before releasing the emergency brake.

Number two: Constant content production allows us to learn from our audiences.

You know, from watching Mary’s posts, I see how consistent she is, but more important, I see that she is getting the heartbeat of her audience. She’s learning the words they use. She knows her tribe of coaches so well that are digitalising their expertise to launch programs, to monetise their knowledge. Her words are unique and so distinct that other people can’t copy them. When you are spending time in the trenches creating content, you’re able to learn what topics are working and who is attracted to the message. When you zero in on this audience, that tribe of a hundred fervent followers, as opposed to a million random people who might sort of care about you on LinkedIn, you have the necessary ingredients for your paid efforts to work.

Number Three: Engagement drives follow-on messaging.

Listen carefully to the comments on your posts. Look carefully at the replies on your tweets. Look at what your customers tell you on Zoom, in podcasts, and in testimonials. When you use those exact words, you’re unlocking the key to driving further engagement. When we use the exact words of our best customers, we’re able to drive more of that type of customer to our content.

Number Four: Content targeting combinations.

Most people are mystified by social media advertising because of the account structure of account-to-campaign, to ad-set-to-ad. They wonder why campaigns don’t just have ads in them, and why there’s this middle layer of that ad set. The ad set is there as a testing vehicle to try different combinations of content and targeting. This is true on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google. The ad set, also known as the ad group, measures the relevancy also known as the quality score between content and targeting.

You may have multiple pieces of content. You may have multiple audiences, whether they’re explicitly defined by you or by the algorithm. On the paid side, the algorithm is finding combinations of that content and targeting pieces. And when there’s alignment, then the quality score, the relevance score, is high, and they award you by giving you a lower cost for that traffic. No matter what bid objective you choose, whether it be leads, video, views, conversions, or engagement, the price you pay on the traffic is directly proportionate to your quality score. 

For example, if you’re running ads on Google and your quality score is a three, and your competitor is also running ads on Google and they have a quality score of six, then all else being equal, you will have to pay twice as much for the traffic for those same ads, because the quality score is a direct variable that impacts what you pay. For those who are math-inclined, your ad rank, which is how you were positioned in the auction, is your quality score times your bid. So, getting more exposure and an advertising system means you either increase your quality score, known as relevant score on Facebook, or you increase your bid. 

Advertisers who are not very efficient or not very intelligent in their advertising efforts will increase their bid and budget when they’re not getting traffic, instead of being smart enough to figure out how to increase their relevance score. For example, if I’m running an ad and I’m in the same coaching space as you going after the same keywords or the same targets, and I have a relevance score of four, but you have a relevance score of eight, you’re going to be paying half as much for that traffic. Your cost per click and therefore your cost per conversation are going to be half as much. Therefore, you can afford to pay twice as much for that same traffic and put me out of business because I have to pay twice as much. If you haven’t looked at your relevance or your quality scores and your advertising, that might be your check engine light signal to determine when something is broken.


We’ve talked about why testing and knowing your target audience are key before you start advertising. We know that organic is what drives paid, because it’s the same algorithm that the social network is using to determine who is having a good experience with your content. We know that when you use the right words, meaning the exact words that your most fervent fans are using, you’re going to increase your relevancy. 

We know that consistently producing content on topics that your audience cares about because you’re listening to them is what builds trust in the community and also increases your quality score. We know that the mechanics of being able to test lots of pieces of content against lots of different targets helps you home in on exactly who your tribe is. Mary Henderson is successful because she knows exactly who her audience is. And I encourage you to do testing to figure out exactly who your audience is, so that by the time you have something that’s working, when you spend money for ads on it, it’s a foregone conclusion that you’re going to be successful.

We call this the social amplification engine, which amplifies something that’s already working. Think of advertising as a multiplier. If you have a product that isn’t proven to work, putting more money against is just going to waste money. If you have content targeting combinations that are working that drive sales organically, you’re going to get a lot more of the same when you throw fuel on the fire. 

I’m Dennis Yu, founder of the 9 Triangles framework. And I would love to hear your feedback on what you’re doing to home in on your target audience and to drive more sales for your coaching programs and courses.