Social media advertising in SA how to make your business stand out

With social media algorithms and search engine rankings constantly evolving, it can feel almost impossible to stand out from the crowd. While organic search is free and likely a more comfortable route, the chances of being noticed without putting some money on the table are slim.

Today, at least 75% of Gen Zers and 48% of millennials make purchasing decisions influenced by social media ads.

Although digital marketing has taken the South African market by storm, there are three key areas in which digital marketing in South Africa differs from the rest of the world, presenting unique opportunities for local businesses.

Firstly, for many South African businesses, there is far less competition digitally. Whether due to a lack of capital to invest in emerging trends or lack of appetite for risk, South African businesses tend to take 5-7 years to catch on to international trends. 

Secondly, digital marketing in South Africa is more affordable. Again, linked to a lack of competition, so the amount of money required to market effectively is far less than in international markets, on average. 

Thirdly, there is actually less risk and more reward when applying digital marketing strategies in South Africa. Bearing in mind that it takes South Africans 5 years to catch up, we have the opportunity to learn from the results of international trends before we adopt them.


When deciding where to place your ads, keep in mind that each social media platform holds its own unique audience. So, find out where your customers spend most of their time and meet them there.

As the largest social media platform in the world and the most popular platform in South Africa, it’s safe to say that Facebook is a reliable choice when deciding where to advertise. Facebook is popular among a wide range of demographics, which means that there’s a good chance your target audience is engaging with the platform, too.

Known for its glossy photos and videos, Instagram is an ideal platform for brands with products that are easily incorporated into visual media and are visually appealing. And, if your target audience is under 35, Instagram is a gold mine: 75% of 18-24-year-olds, 67% of Gen Zers and 57% of Millennials use the app every day.

LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, holds a large professional user base and is able to target people based on professional qualifications. However, unlike most social media platforms, LinkedIn advertising is largely geared toward a corporate audience and is best suited to B2B advertising campaigns. 

Then, the newest player in the social advertising game, TikTok, has proven to be a hugely successful platform when targeting younger audiences – 62% of TikTok users are between ages 10-29. Many of TikTok’s social commerce capabilities have primarily relied on product-focused video ads that appear organic on users’ “For You” feeds.   


Targeting an audience means zoning in on a select cluster of consumers, based on demographics such as age, gender, occupation or interests that might influence the way they make purchase decisions.

Surveying and interviewing customers is key to creating strong customer personas which help paint a clear picture of who your ideal customer is, allowing you to target them accurately.

Targeting varies based on your ad objective – targeting new or potential customers is important when your focus is on increasing brand awareness and reach, but retargeting existing customers is often where the real magic happens. Retargeting helps to keep your brand front-of-mind amongst customers who have already made a purchase or engaged with it and is far more cost-effective than advertising to potential customers.


Consumers do not often purchase a physical product specifically, but rather what the product does for them. So, before trying to sell to your audience, you first need to understand what it is that they want. When you peel back the layers of your target audience to uncover what their pain points or personal objective are, you’ll be better equipped to craft copy that grabs their attention and speaks to them on a deeper level.

You can usually break a product up into three layers:

  1. Physical: The product itself.
  2. Functional: What the product does for the consumer.
  3. Identity: How the product makes the consumer feel.

To know which of these layers you need to focus on when advertising takes a bit of groundwork, but this step is worth the effort. 

Start by reading reviews of your, and your competitors’, products. Whether positive or negative, customer reviews offer valuable insights about what your customers truly want.

In South Africa, our pool of consumers come from a variety of colourful backgrounds and cultures. So, you need to keep your ear on the ground and tap into local practices, values and beliefs. In order to capture the attention of any South Africa audience, you need to speak in a language that resonates with them.

A recent study by Kantar shows that when it comes to customers’ needs, South African consumers want more. Value > Price. It’s no longer about offering a similar product at a better price; it’s about finding the optimal balance between price and benefit. Consumers are willing to pay more for brands that offer meaningful value, so it’s extremely important that you’re clear about the value your product adds when crafting your copy.

Then, don’t forget about a clear call to action (CTA) – a prompt that tells a user to take a specific action, typically written as a command or action phrase, such as ‘sign up’ or ‘shop now’.


Creating an effective social ad that actually reaches your audience isn’t luck – it’s the result of testing. If your objective sits right at the end of the sales funnel and you want to increase sales, your product should be the star of the show. But, if you’re hanging out at the beginning of the sales funnel, opt for imagery that sells a feeling rather than a product – emotions drive a customer experience that grows a brand.

The line between image and video-based ads can get pretty blurry, and your choice will be largely based on the product or service you’re promoting. The best way to find out which drives better results is through testing both formats against each other. 

Facebook offers a simple guideline to help you ensure that your ad creative, no matter the format, is engaging and effective.


Pricing for social media ads varies depending on a number of factors, including the audience you’re trying to target and the budget you set for your ads. As a rule of thumb, the more ad spend, the more efficient Facebook’s algorithm becomes at spending your money and increasing ad performance over time. You can find a more comprehensive benchmark of ad spend in South Africa here.

Social media advertising is one of the most efficient and effective ways to reach your target audience and convert them into customers. As more and more businesses dip their toes into the world of digital marketing, it’s crucial that you understand the ins and outs of this powerful advertising medium and work your way ahead of the curve.

If you’re interested in learning more about social media advertising, let’s arrange a workshop to help give you clarity on how to articulate who you are (both internally and externally), analysis of what competitors are doing, confidence in your particular offering, knowledge of your target audience and creative ideas to engage them. If you’d like someone else to take the reins on your communication strategy, we do that too – get in touch with us

Please fill in your details and we will contact you to book your workshop.


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