Digital Media Buying: What It Is and How to Get Started

Media buyers have the essential role of procuring ad space on advertising platforms, which makes them vital to any multimedia

Media buyers have the essential role of procuring ad space on advertising platforms, which makes them vital to any multimedia marketing campaign.

In fact, these stats show how digital advertising is growing:

Considering the vast majority of businesses and customers getting into paid social advertising, it makes sense to hire a specialist who can help organize and execute it.

However, it can be difficult to find a good digital media buyer. They must understand the landscape of your industry, grow relationships with publishers, and accurately read analytics to continuously improve the strategy.

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look into digital media buying, specifically on paid social ad platforms. We’ll also provide a guide on how to leverage paid ad buying to increase your reach and get the best return on investment (ROI) for your marketing spend.

Let’s jump right in.

What Is a Digital Media Buyer? [An Overview]

Simply put, digital media buying is the purchase of ad space on various digital platforms, including Facebook and Instagram Ads, Google Ads, and YouTube Ads. 

Digital media buyers analyze a brand’s advertising needs and decide which platforms will be ideal for the brand to advertise on. Once that’s done, they procure ad space on those platforms for the brand’s ads to be posted. 

Traditionally, media buying involved negotiating with owners of billboards and banner space to secure the best deals within a company’s marketing budget. 

Today, the role involves securing paid ads on search engines and major social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, among others.

How Digital Media Buying Works on Social Media Ad Platforms

Here are the main paid social media buying platforms:

1. Facebook (META) Ads Manager

Facebook Ads Manager is the primary media buying portal for the Facebook side of META’s social media operations. 

Since the META unification of social platforms, ad buying is simplified by putting it all on a single platform. 

Social media ad buyers can simply set up the Ads Manager tied to the company’s business profile on Facebook. Once done, they can access various ad functionalities such as ad placement, performance analytics, and campaign tracking. 

The Ads Manager works like a traditional demand-side platform (DSP). However, because it’s centered in a social media sphere, it gives you a lot more control over ad management. 

Depending on the size and scope of the paid social media campaign, paid social media buyers can even adjust ad spend for multiple points during the campaign. 

2. TikTok Ads Manager

The TikTok Ads Manager is quite similar to the META Ads suite, with the only difference being the platform. 

What’s unique about TikTok Ads is that media buyers can choose the specific app placement and general location of the ads. Placement refers to whether the ads will be shown on TikTok only or via Pangle as well.

The entire interface is a lot simpler than competing ad networks. However, it does leave a lot of decision-making to the media algorithms, especially in terms of which videos the ads will be shown through.  

That said, it’s a great “fire and forget” system that social media buyers can implement. 

A supply side platform essentially works the same as a demand-side platform — only from the ad publisher’s side. The “publisher” is the website or any social platform that people regularly visit.

3. Google Ads Manager

The biggest most prolific ad platform is Google Ads Manager.

The platform functions like an ad revenue engine for companies. Social media buyers can retain a significant amount of control over it.

What separates Google Ads from other social media advertising offerings is the nature of the ads themselves. With platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest, you have somewhat limited reach.

However, with Google being the widespread entity that it is, it can feature ads on websites that generally don’t entertain ads from social media sources. 

Media buyers can customize paid ads for the platform they’re featured on. Plus, the platform offers unique analytics and insights that media buyers can use to identify growth opportunities. 

How to Identify a Qualified Digital Media Buyer

There are many reasons why digital media buyers choose this challenging but rewarding career. But the most successful buyers are skilled at fast-paced transactions and analyzing prime marketing opportunities.

Here are the qualifications, experience, and prerequisites that set the best digital media buyers apart from the rest:


Although there’s no formal list of qualifications for a digital media buyer, here are some that give them beneficial advertising and marketing knowledge. 

  • Bachelor’s degree in advertising, (digital) marketing, and/or communications
  • IPA Foundation Certificate
  • Vocational diploma in paid social advertising or marketing 

Basically, look for any set of qualifications in the advertising or marketing fields when selecting a digital media buyer.

Relevant Experience

Experience is by far the more important necessity for a paid social media buyer. 

Ideally, a candidate should have five to eight years of experience working in advertising or digital marketing. It’s an added benefit if their experience involves both.

The candidate should have worked on a few campaigns on paid social platforms. This is either as an active media buyer, or as part of a team that ran social media advertising campaigns.

Preferably, they should know the ins and outs of advertising on various social ad platforms. This includes experience with Facebook ads, TikTok ads, YouTube ads, etc.

Other Prerequisites

Here’s a list of skills that an ideal digital media buyer should possess:

  • Strategic thinking: The candidate should be able to keep in mind the brand’s advertising needs, the available budget, seasonal ad performance, target audience, and various other variables while bidding for ads.
  • Detail-oriented: Media buyers need to look for minor details that identify great opportunities among a sea of good ones. This will also help them look for tiny details that marketers with many other responsibilities would otherwise miss.
  • Natural networkers: Modern digital media buyers who are implementing automated buying systems often don’t need to negotiate with publishers. However, networking skills are still important for digital media buyers, since they help buyers multitask between several publishers and platforms. 
  • Analytical skills and intuition: Above all, paid social media buyers need to be smart analysts and intuitive problem solvers. This is because bigger campaigns often involve dozens of ads on multiple platforms, with several trends occurring at once. The candidate will have to be able to keep an eye on all of that while collecting actionable insights.

In addition to the skills mentioned, digital media buyers should have great communication and negotiation skills. They should also be able to work both independently, and as part of a bigger team. 

Full-Stack Social Media Buyers

Traditionally, the media buyer role has been very specialized, to the point where the role was limited to simply buying ad space. 

However, modern job requirements are for professionals who are both specialists and generalists. This is also referred to as having a T-shaped skill set.

In media buying terms, this is known as a full-stack media buyer. 

Here are some of the specific skills that a full-stack media buyer should possess:

  • Experience with long-running paid social media ad campaigns
  • In-depth knowledge of how various social media platform entertain and feature ads
  • Experience with social media advertising spend in the 5-6 figure range
  • Social media management skills such as ad and post creation for optimal visibility
  • Functional knowledge of lead generation via paid social media ads
  • The ability to identify the ideal audience for various social media campaigns
  • A high-level understanding of how different social platforms display ads to users
  • An ability to manage paid social advertising budgets efficiently

In addition, full-stack social ad buyers should be current on the latest developments in the social media landscape.

How the Best Achieve Results with Paid Social Ad Buying

Here are some of the methods used by the top digital media buyers:

1. Create a Social Media Ad Buying Strategy

A good strategy goes a long way toward generating traffic and valuable leads from ad placements.

Any digital media buyer worth recruiting will start by analyzing the short, median, and long-term paid social advertising needs of your brand. This is to identify which ad space, on which paid social platforms, will benefit the campaign needs the most. 

After that, they’ll create a schedule that determines which ads will go out when, to maximize impressions and reach on each specific social and streaming platform. They’ll also identify key performance indicators (KPIs) including reach, impressions, and growth trends in both areas. In addition, they’ll set up tracking for each of them. 

For example, a media buyer for TikTok ads will decide the optimal time windows for those ads. Just like a YouTube ads media buyer, they’ll also determine the best channels to advertise in between. 

This forms a cohesive social media ad buying strategy that you can reuse for all your paid social campaigns. If you’re hiring a paid media buyer with a successful strategic framework already at hand, you’re basically applying a recipe for success to your social campaigns during the planning phase.

2. Identify the Target Audience on Social Media and Streaming Sites

The target audience consists of people who are more likely to see your ad, click on it, and make a purchase or subscribe to the service you’re offering. 

The more targeted your ad and its contents are, the more likely it is for social media users to interact with the ad. 

Identifying the target audience has the added advantage of cutting social ad costs, especially if your product or service occupies a specific niche. For example, a Facebook ads media buyer can save on ad spend (with potentially similar results) by making ads specifically for Facebook, instead of running the same ads everywhere. 

Targeting a specific audience also helps to ease performance tracking. Each social platform has their own ad tracking setup which makes it easier to track.

Analyzing the prime audience and choosing the best ad space to make impressions on those audiences has a much greater chance of follow-through.

3. Set Up Paid Social Campaign Foundations

Depending on the social platform, setting up a paid ad campaign can vary.

However, when using a demand side platform, the social media ad buyer generally will input basic campaign details. These include the type of campaign, the total number and type of creative assets, the budget, the target audience, as well as bidding strategies.

The campaign setup is different for different streaming and social platforms. Also, the media buyer may work with social media marketing to launch campaigns.

For example, an Instagram ads media buyer may collaborate with both the social media marketing manager and coordinator for a single campaign. This would often be to decide the optimal positioning and ad spend for Instagram. 

4. Track Results and Optimize the Campaign

Tracking paid social ad performance has two major benefits:

  1. It lets you see which ad (and, in turn, which online platform) is generating the best response from the audience.
  2. It offers insight into how you can optimize the overarching campaign (and any future campaigns).

The best campaigns are the ones in which media buyers work constantly to recognize the optimal advertising opportunities. 

This is done preferably by tracking paid ad responses on the media buyer’s relevant platform or all platforms where the company is placing ads. A media buyer who is buying only YouTube ad space will know whether the response is great on the streaming platform, or if they need to branch out to, say, TikTok. 

For example, let’s imagine you launched a few ads on Facebook. You use a pair of static image ads, coupled with a video ad that builds on the message. While tracking the ad performance, you might discover that the video ad is getting more likes and engagement than the image ads. 

Seeing this, you can decide to allocate more of the advertising budget to creating and boosting video ads, and identify where they should be placed — like YouTube and TikTok, in addition to Facebook.

Final Thoughts

Hiring the right digital media buyer is key to placing your ads in the right space in front of the right online audience. Media buyers can make or break your marketing campaigns with their decisions.

No matter the size and complexity of your online paid ad campaigns, or how much you’re spending on them, you need to hire the right media buyer. The person you hire must have:

  • All the requisite skills.
  • Considerable experience.
  • A track record of successful paid social media ad buying.

To find media buyers with these qualities, you’d have to scour job aggregator sites and look through hundreds of profiles to choose the best one. This requires a ton of time and effort, and can be quite the task. Especially if it’s your first time hiring for this job role.

But there is an easier way… you can find and hire vetted media buyers from the top 1% right here at Mediabuyer.com. Everybody inside the database bas been rigorously vetted for a proven track record of results with paid ads.

Below you can apply to get started and start matching with A-player media buyers today. 👇

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