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Social Advertising – The high-level low-down

Choosing to advertise on social media can often be a hard thing to comprehend, especially as the platforms, by and large, are free to use. Marketers like us often turn our noses up and dismiss paying for it, as we believe we can achieve the results for much less. After all, we have written a few blogs on the very subject matter, including How to get results from Facebook without spending money on ads.

Advertising on SM

However, choosing to advertise on social media can boost your marketing efforts substantially if done correctly and shouldn’t be disregarded as part of your marketing strategy online. In this initial post on social advertising, we will take you through advertising on the main social networks so that you will be ready to hit the ground running should you wish to invest in it.

Social advertising by network

Facebook Pros

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A major tick in the box for choosing to advertise on Facebook is the size of the network. With over a billion active users it makes it an enticing proposition for many businesses. Another major plus is the fact that you can fine-tune your ad to specifically target users by such parameters as interests and location. 

Another huge benefit for many small businesses is that in contrast to “traditional” forms of advertising, adverts on Facebook are very cost effective.  Indeed, you can advertise for as little as a dollar per day.

Facebook Cons

The major disadvantage to running Facebook ads we have found is that you can get a far greater reach by applying good levels of smart engagement and outreaching into groups. Also, the targeting options often end up sparking Likes or clickthroughs that are not from the intended audience.  So, the message is that it is not easy to get right, but is possible.

To see a noticeable difference you really have to invest a lot of money into it. However, if you have the money then go for it because the minimum spend option isn’t likely to make a huge difference in terms of leads (brand awareness can be good though).

Twitter Pros 

A huge benefit to advertising on Twitter is that you can segment your ads specifically to the right audience. Twitter allows you to choose from 350 different categories. Another huge benefit in contrast to Facebook is that you are able to choose what you want to get out of the ads that you run. So, if you want more followers you are able to specify this, or if you want to get clickthroughs to your website you can tell Twitter this too.

Arguably the defining feature of this is that you aren’t billed unless your desired outcome is performed. For example, if you pay for a tweet with the objective of getting downloads for your app, then you won’t be billed for clickthroughs to your site, unlike with other social ads.

Twitter Cons

A key disadvantage aired by many when using Twitter advertising is that tweets don’t last very long. The shelf life of a tweet is often a few seconds, and can be much less than this! Whereas, on Facebook, a post can stay prominent in your newsfeed for a long time (of course, depending on how well engaged with it is). Another disadvantage to advertising on Twitter is that it can be difficult to analyse. Twitter does not provide you with analytics for your campaign, which we see as a big negative. Although, as the pros outweigh the cons, you should choose to measure analytics yourself (e.g. by using your social media marketing tool). 

LinkedIn Pros

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An obvious pro to using LinkedIn is that its user base is very clearly defined. Nearly everyone using the platform is a professional. So if your target market is business people then it is an often obvious place to start with.

Another benefit to using LinkedIn is that advertising on the platform is highly targeted and you can target people based on location, job title, company type and size, market sector etc., similar to how you can advertise on Facebook but, in my opinion, a more sophisticated option.

LinkedIn Cons

Whilst it is considerably cheaper than some social networks to advertise on it isn’t exactly the cheapest social network in which to advertise on. It is commonplace to pay around $5 per click. We have experimented with LinkedIn ads in the past and found whilst the reach can be high the clickthrough rate can be low. 

Although, it could be argued that you are targeting a B2B audience and those who do engage are likely to be much more targeted and specific than on other networks. It’s about quality, not quantity, after all.

Instagram Pros

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According to this blog on Hootsuite, ad recall from sponsored posts on Instagram was 2.9 times higher than norms for online advertising. Basically, Instagram users seem to remember ads on the platform more often than they do on other social networks. If your goal is to drive brand awareness then this is a very promising statistic indeed.

Instagram Cons

Instagram are quite quiet about how much it costs to advertise on their network. However, according to Shortstack.com, it can cost anywhere between $350,000 and $1,000,000. So I think it is safe to say very few small businesses will be using it as a viable channel in which to pay for promoted posts! However, if you have the money it’s cheaper than advertising on TV during prime time. More research needs to be done on Instagram to get to the bottom of actual costs, and tangible benefits and results.

Pinterest Pros

Advertising on Pinterest is still quite new compared to other social networks. However, with that said, it doesn’t mean it should be neglected by any means. According to Pinterest engagement rates on promoted pins is around 2-5%, which exceeds industry benchmarks.

Advertising with promoted pins is also incredibly cost-effective and can be done for as little as a dollar per day. Promoted pins can also be repinned, which adds to their appeal. Very few ads on social media can be shared. So this gives Pinterest a big tick in the box.

Pinterest Cons

Whilst Pinterest is often famed for driving more sales than other social networks, its major disadvantage lies in the demographics of its user base.  Being used primarily by women, you will struggle to get returns if you’re targeting males for a “manly” product.  

SnapChat Pros

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Snapchat is now more than an up-and-coming social network; it has around 100 million daily active users. So it isn’t to be sneezed at by any means. According to Snapchat, users who saw the Furious 7 ad were three times more likely to see the movie than those who didn’t see the ad. 93% of Snapchatters exposed to the ad liked or loved it.

Snapchat Cons 

The main disadvantage to advertising on Snapchat is that it costs $750,000 per day…! Even if you have the money it is an extremely high price to pay for an ad that will disappear after 30 seconds of viewing it. 

However, if you have the money then it isn’t a bad option considering it isn’t over-saturated with ads like some other social networks, coupled with the fact that advertising does seem to be effective on the platform, if you go by Snapchat’s case study from the link above.

Another disadvantage is there isn’t a lot of data out there about Snapchat because it is still fairly new. And with that comes an element of risk, although being an early adopter of Snapchat advertising could well be worthwhile.

Social advertising in summary

As you can see there are pros and cons to advertising on each network. There is no social network out there that is the perfect network in which to advertise. Much like with ‘traditional’ advertising, there was no right way in which to reach your customers. We like some of the above and we dislike some of the above! 

However what will work for you will entirely depend on who you are trying to reach. You just have to decide which is best for you.  But, hopefully when it comes to actually doing it this blog has been helpful in guiding you – we’ll also provide some more detailed How To guides on social advertising for each network in due course.

As always please leave your feedback below. Do you advertise on social media? What networks do you use, and have you had successes there? We would love to know!

Dan Purvis
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Dan Purvis

Head of Integrated Marketing Communications at Fintrax Group Holdings
Dan Purvis is Head of Integrated Marketing Communications at Fintrax Group Holdings, and is also a Media Champion for the Alzheimer's Society, helping spread awareness and understanding of this cruel disease.

Previously, he was Director at Comms Axis, a full service marketing agency specialising in content, social media & website services for businesses of all sizes.

Dan Purvis writes for a number of leading business, social media and marketing sites, including Smart Insights, MarketingProfs, Marketo, MarTech Advisor, Marketing Tech News, MarTech Today, MarTech Exec, and more.

Dan was also ranked by Brand Republic as one of the Top 50 UK Marketing & Social Media influencers.
Dan Purvis
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  1. Anna Says:

    A really nice analysis of the different possibilities for social media advertisement here. Social media advertising is no longer just a buzzword. It’s a serious driver of leads and sales, and marketing departments are increasing their social ad spend across the board in response, but as you show there are loads of options today and it can be difficult to know which is best suited to your business.

    • Dan Purvis Says:

      Thanks, Anna – completely agree.
      What is vital, however, is that social media advertising is not approached in isolation but, instead, is part of an integrated campaign or programme.
      All the best!

  2. Very important post. Thanks a lot Dan.

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