Is Social Advertising Right For Your Business? 

How to decide whether LinkedIn, Facebook or other platforms are worth your ad dollars

August 2015

As the users of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter have grown and the platforms’ advertising has gotten more sophisticated, tapping into social advertising may become an ever-more-attractive option for getting your marketing message out to as wide an audience as possible. But is it right for your company?

“I would recommend that most businesses at least test social media advertising, because until you test, you don’t know what the outcome will be,” says Anthony Kirlew, chief strategist of AKA Internet Marketing, which has been helping companies develop their online marketing strategies since 1999.

He says that a small business that is doing well at generating leads and meeting business goals without social advertising might feel no need to worry about the additional marketing approach. But it may turn out that your target audience can be reached more effectively and affordably through social media.

When considering social media advertising, experiment to determine which platform and which ads may be worth the investment.

Which Platform Fits Your Business Model?

If your company primarily serves corporate clients, LinkedIn, used by 1.3 million small business owners, is the best platform to consider. It allows advertisers to target by company demographics—such as title, company size and industry—and works well for building brand awareness. Payment is based on clicks or impressions, and you can cancel your advertising at any time if you feel it’s not performing. Far more than Facebook or Twitter, this service is ideal for generating B2B leads, and ads that emphasize your company’s thought leadership tend to work best.

For consumer-targeted ads, Facebook is the place to go, considering its whopping 1.4 billion users and counting. Even if your business’s Facebook page has an active following, social advertising might be worth your investment. The platform has made a number of recent changes to its algorithm, decreasing the chance a company’s (unpaid) posts will show up in followers’ newsfeeds. At the same time its made (paid) ads are likely to get the attention of members.

Because most social media site ad platforms will effectively target your messages to the right users and provide conversion tracking and analytics, it may be worthwhile for your company to consider a small investment in the service, whether to promote popular posts to a broader audience or to reinvigorate your existing social presence.

If your company has a new product or some other visual offering in which it is aiming to generate interest, Instagram and Pinterest can work well. These would be of particular value if your company has an e-commerce platform because Instagram “Shop Now” buttons and Pinterest “Buy It” pins provide clear calls to action and link directly to the item purchase pages.

Twitter ads can work well if your business is looking to get exposure for a specific announcement or promotion—for example, a short-term discount, giveaway or event.

Which Ads Are Right For Your Business?

Once you decide which platform is likely to work best for your marketing goals, you will want to assess what kind of marketing messages would be worth spending money on. Start by testing these for free: You should already be sending out a steady stream of (depending on your target audience) LinkedIn updates, Facebook posts, tweets and other content throughout the day. Use these as a beta test to see which ones get the strongest response. The ones that get a significant number of likes, retweets or clickthroughs, or that kickstart an active conversation, are good choices for promoting with advertising dollars. If none of your posts are generating interest from followers, then it’s time to reassess what you’re posting and not throw money at uninteresting content.

The instant feedback provided by social ads makes it easy to quickly assess whether each ad is working. Begin by “A/B testing” the ads—i.e., running several ads to small audiences and determining which get the strongest response. Reviewing these results, you can decide which ads are worth a greater investment and send those out to a larger audience.

Whichever ads you decide to invest in, keep in mind that they should be designed for mobile, which are increasingly the devices of choice for social media, as well as B2B decision making.

While social ads offer instant metrics, they also require frequent refreshing and reassessing. You should rotate the ads often to avoid losing the interest of your followers—Facebook actually penalizes ads whose clickthrough rates drop, increasing the cost per click (CPC). A good target is to rotate ads every three to five days, increasing follower engagement.

Whatever your results, remember that flexibility is key when it comes to social media, and what’s effective this week may need to be modified next week.





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