How Small Businesses Should Decide On Ad Platforms

Eric Hess SocialSurge Marketing

Written by Eric Hess

One of the common topics we tend to get asked about here at SocialSurge Marketing is wondering what platforms that small businesses should be advertising on.

While it’d be nice to have a blanket answer and tell everyone the same thing it doesn’t quite work that way especially when you want to get the best ROI for your marketing dollar. After all, being a small business, you know how valuable every penny is!

What ad platform you’re on really depends on a variety of factors that all point back to one thing – the goal of your advertising efforts.

If the goal of advertising for your small business is building brand awareness, an advertising campaign is going to look much different than an advertising campaign directed at solely increasing sales of a specific product.

What makes it even more difficult to give a recommendation is that some ad platforms are great at achieving multiple goals! With that being said, let’s try and look at each ad platform and break down what they’re really best for to help you make the best decision for you and your small business.

Google AdWords

One of the oldest and most established forms of digital advertising. Google AdWords is going to be one of the easiest to explain when and when you shouldn’t use it.

When should you use Google AdWords?

You should use AdWords when you believe your target audience will actively be searching for what you’re offering. If you’re selling a known product or service such as clothing or oil changes, AdWords is an easy win for you. This is because the goal of Adwords is simply to try and to be in the right place at the right time. Other advertising methods can’t guarantee that someone would be interested in your company when they see the ad. AdWords almost guarantees it.

And that leads us to goals. Adwords should be used almost purely for sales and business development. You can’t do a whole lot of branding using this method, however, these ads are much higher converting and are perfect for trying to reach new customers.

When shouldn’t you use Google AdWords?

There are really two things that AdWords isn’t good at. First, It’s not good at advertising a product that someone doesn’t know they need. AdWords works best when people are or have been actively searching for a specific product. If they’re searching for it, you know they want to at least see more information about it.

AdWords also isn’t great at branding. Since these ads are predominantly shown to users actively performing search engine inquiries, it’s not easy to convince someone to click your ad for a branding opportunity.

Facebook Ads

Facebook ads have been around for over 10 years now and have remained a popular choice for advertisers that entire time. There is so much data that people willingly give to Facebook that makes advertising on Facebook an easy win for a lot of small businesses (which is why we recommend them to almost everyone), but there are certainly times when Facebook ads might not be the best fit for you.

When should you use Facebook Ads?

Facebook is an absolute slam dunk for a lot of businesses out there. Pretty much any eCommerce business should 100% be using Facebook ads as a huge part of their strategy. There are so many tools and ways to target people that make Facebook ads an easy “yes”.

A lot of B2C companies can also see a huge benefit from running Facebook ads because it’s easy to target based on the interests of the user. If you’re interested in running, it’s pretty safe to say that Facebook knows this, and serving an ad about running gear to you will at the very least catch your attention.

Probably the biggest benefit to Facebook ads is the cost. While the cost has come up over the years, Facebook ads are still without a doubt the biggest bang for your buck in marketing. If you are working with a limited budget, this is the best place to start.

Finally, Facebook ads are also an awesome tool for branding. The fact that it supports every form of content including photos and videos, makes it a great way to help your business get awareness and show people what you are all about.

When shouldn’t you use Facebook Ads?

There are a lot of people out there who want to see results immediately from advertising efforts. I mean, I get it. You’re spending money and want to see an ROI! Facebook ads don’t usually work this way. They need time to warm up to their audience to get them into a funnel for them to convert later.

Another time that is hard for Facebook ads to really work well is for B2B companies. Kevin may get mad at me for making a blanket statement like this, but if you’re a B2B business getting into digital advertising for the first time stay away from Facebook ads IF you’re looking for leads. If you’re looking for brand recognition, sure, but otherwise you might end up a little disappointed.

Instagram Ads

Instagram ads are very similar to Facebook ads. Not only because Facebook owns Instagram, but because people use the two platforms in similar ways. So we’re going to handle this section a little differently than the others, and I’ll let you know how Instagram ads are different than Facebook ads.

Don’t run ads on both

When you’re creating a Facebook ad you’ll see that there are options to let the ad run on all different sorts of areas. Facebook feed, marketplace, Instagram feed, Instagram stories, and the list goes on! If you’re running an ad on Facebook, keep in on Facebook, and if you’re running an ad on Instagram, keep it on Instagram.

The formatting on all of these channels is very different and won’t perform as well as they could if you take the time and do them right. We’ve all seen those ads on Instagram that don’t look quite right. That is caused by a company not treating the platform differently and giving it the respect it deserves.

Instagram Stories

Instagram stories are amazing right now, but they’re only amazing for advertising when you do them right. It’s really easy for an Instagram user to spot an Instagram story ad when it’s done poorly. And when it’s easy to spot an advertisement, the chances of it working well go down dramatically.

Back to our last point, make sure you create an ad for Instagram stories it is specifically for Instagram stories. Take some time to check out what other people are posting on their stories, and make sure your ads fit into that theme. For example, your ad shouldn’t be in landscape mode, but it should be shot how you would naturally hold a phone. Non-professional, authentic content here can perform really well, even as an ad!

Difference in age

Another big difference between Instagram and Facebook ads is the difference in age. If your target market is in the early 20s, your ad is more likely to succeed on Instagram than Facebook. Instagram has a much lower average age than Facebook nowadays, so use that to your advantage!

YouTube Ads

Another huge player in the online advertising space is YouTube. A lot of people forget that YouTube is owned by Google, which means that they have access to all of the same data. They know what you’re searching for and what that next big purchase you’re thinking about making is. This makes Youtube Ads a very powerful tool that not many people utilize or even know is there.

When should you use YouTube Ads?

First of all, it’s necessary to mention that you need a video to advertise on YouTube. And on YouTube, the bar for the quality of content is set pretty high. This means that if your video doesn’t look near commercial-grade, this might not be the place for you to advertise.

If you do have an awesome video, there are a lot of great opportunities to have your video play on relevant videos on YouTube. It’s a pretty neat platform because you get the chance to choose which type of videos your ad will be played during. This gives you a good amount of control of the target audience you’ll be hitting.

For example, if you have a very specific Youtube Channel that you want your ads to show on, you can do that. With a little work and research, you could come up with quite a few channels that are smaller in size but still have big audiences. By doing this, you can help lower your cost and give your ads even more impact than if you went just with targeting options alone.

Most of the successful YouTube ads out there are either branding videos or clickbait-y videos. You know, the “Do you want to know how I went from homeless to owing two sportscars?” videos…

When shouldn’t you use YouTube Ads?

YouTube ads probably won’t be for you if you’re looking to make quick sales from them. There is a lot of time and production that goes into each of the videos being used as advertisements, which means you usually need a pretty decent amount of advertising dollars ready to be spent too.

YouTube also has a very similar interface to AdWords which can be less than ideal to work with, if you don’t have experience with it.

LinkedIn Ads

We certainly didn’t want to leave B2B businesses hanging, and LinkedIn ads are the place for all of you out there!

When should you use LinkedIn Ads?

LinkedIn ads still have a lot of targeting options that have been taken away from other ad platforms out there. You’re able to create very specific audiences Including employees of specific companies, job titles, year’s of experience, groups they are members of, education, and the list goes on and this is huge on LinkedIn because people actually update their job titles unlike a lot of people on Facebook so you know the data you are using is accurate.

People go on LinkedIn to be more professional than on most other social networks, which makes anything B2B related much more fitting.

When shouldn’t you use LinkedIn Ads?

There are still some negatives about LinkedIn ads out there. The two biggest negatives for LinkedIn are the fact that they’re pretty darn expensive. In our experience, I’d say at the very least, 5x (probably closer to 10x) more expensive than Facebook and Instagram ads.

The other big negative about LinkedIn ads is that the average user spends less than 15 minutes a month on LinkedIn. If you’re not running your ads pretty much constantly here, there’s a big chance that a lot of people aren’t going to see the ads.

If you don’t have a budget ready to commit to LinkedIn ads, this might not be the place for you.

Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, Pinterest, Etc.

There are plenty of other ways to advertise digitally out there too that we want to at least touch on. When it comes to these platforms you should really think about your audience.

If your target audience is a much younger audience, TikTok may kill it! If your audience is mostly female, Pinterest has been known to be a great place to advertise.

At the end of the day, you really have to sit down and think about who your target audience is that you want to advertise to. Doing that will at least give yourself a pretty good starting point!

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