Which Paid Social Advertising Platforms Are Most Effective?


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Social media marketing is rapidly evolving. In the early days, it was a fashionable yet risky strategy reserved only for cutting-edge businesses willing to step out on a ledge for a communicative advantage over the competition. In the years following, as more platforms became available, and the number of users exploded, social marketing was a “must-have” peripheral strategy for every business in the country—and because it was free, everyone wanted to be a part of it. Now, we’re turning the corner to a new era of social marketing: the era of paid advertising.

Social media platforms recognize the sheer power of the information they have access to, as well as the brand recognition and prominence necessary to take advantage of it. While several platforms offer more diverse ways of paying for targeted advertising, the platforms you choose will have a significant impact on your eventual outcomes, but with so many options available, it’s difficult to know which is best for your company.

You might ask yourself, “isn’t organic social marketing just as effective?” Well, using social media in a more conventional way—that is, as a communication platform to share content and updates from your brand is still free, and it’s still effective to some extent. With enough effort, you can easily build a large audience, gain more web traffic, and ultimately get more conversions. However, social platforms are starting to downplay the prominence of organic posts in favor of promoting their advertising plans—for example, for pages with more than 1 million likes, average organic post reach only amounted to 2.27 percent in April 2015.

In comparison, paid advertising is growing more sophisticated with more options and more reach potential on virtually any platform. It’s also relatively inexpensive—for example, on Facebook you can start with a budget as small as 5 dollars per day. Organic social marketing is important, but only through paid ads can you start seeing the true potential of a strong social presence.

So which platforms are the best to use?

Facebook

Facebook’s ad creation tool is remarkably simple. Their basic, well-designed interface makes it easy for you to create any type of campaign you want, from one designed to attract more page likes to ones designed to funnel traffic to a landing page. Facebook also has an intuitive and highly detailed analytics platform, which allows you to easily compare the success of multiple individual campaigns against each other.

In addition to these features, Facebook commands a bigger audience than any other platform. Obviously, your total reach will be determined by how much you’re willing to spend, but the maximum potential is far higher than Facebook’s competitors—and the data available to you is rich. Using Facebook’s audience targeting tools, you can selectively advertise only to demographics that make sense for your business, down to the likes and interests of your ideal candidates. In terms of pricing, it’s relatively inexpensive, and you’re guaranteed at least some traction as a result.

Twitter

Twitter is a close competitor to Facebook in terms of audience size, but your options are going to be far more limited. Twitter does offer a handful of useful advertising options, but the only one worth pursuing is the Promoted Tweet option, which puts a tweet you choose at the top of a selected number of users’ news feeds. With Twitter, you’ll also be able to identify your core demographics, but the criteria available to choose from are far more restricted. In total, you’ll probably see a lower ROI than you’ll see from a similar budget on Facebook.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn offers a very different audience than Facebook or Twitter, catering specifically to professionals. As a result, LinkedIn is typically only worth pursuing if you’re a B2B company or if you have a specific type of professional you’re targeting.

Still, LinkedIn offers a wide variety of paid advertising options. If you have a wealth of great content you’d like to increase visibility for, the Sponsored Updates options is perfect. Using LinkedIn’s easy interface, you can set up a campaign in a few minutes. You can also target your audience almost as specifically as you can on Facebook, searching for candidates based on industry, title, location, and even company size. In addition, LinkedIn ads tend to be cheaper than comparable platforms, usually costing 1 to 2 dollars per click.

YouTube

YouTube, owned by Google, offers several different advertising options, including both video ads and static advertising associated with videos. You won’t have as much control over your target audience, and the ads will cost a little more than they will with some other social platforms, but a recent study suggests that YouTube converts more users than any other major social media platform. It has been shown to be effective in both raising brand awareness and sparking purchasing decisions.

Other Options

Of course, these are only the major players in the paid social advertising world. Other social bookmarking sites, like Reddit and StumbleUpon, also offer highly effective advertising channels. Typically, these platforms have less information, less detailed analytics, and a smaller available audience, but the ads are also cheaper, making them good fits for niche marketers or companies with small budgets.

The Bottom Line

The best advertising platform will depend on your needs. In general, YouTube tends to have the highest conversion rates and the highest ROI, but only if you have high quality video and a sizeable budget to back it up. LinkedIn is best for B2B companies, but not many other organizations. If you have a highly specific audience and a low budget to work with, peripheral options like Reddit and StumbleUpon might be best. Otherwise, Facebook is a perfect catch-all for practically any size or type of business.



Larry Alton

Writer, Freelancer

Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.



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