For many growing companies, spending money on online ads can feel a bit like a shot in the dark. Choosing where ads should be targeted, ad bidding limits, and similar decisions don’t always come easily – especially when a significant portion of the marketing budget is at stake.
Today, we wanted to take an in-depth look at one of the common questions brands have about ads: What social media platform provides the most ROI for ad spending? This is an excellent starting place when making smart ad decisions online, because not all social media sites have the same members or goals, and fanning out ads among all of them can greatly dilute your impact. Let’s take a look at what every brand should know about each platform before buying ads.
Before We Dive In
If you haven’t already, we highly suggest doing research on your target audience and build up some buyer personas before looking at individual social platforms. It’s vital to understand what sort of leads you want to create before you start planning your ads. Always have answers for key questions like, “When does your target audience use social media?” “What do they like to do on social media?” “What content do they relate to?” The more you know about the people you want to reach, the more sense specific social platforms will make, so this should always be your first step.
If you want to go big, Facebook is your answer. With around 2 billion active users, Facebook easily has the highest numbers of popular social media platforms. That makes it an excellent choice for reaching a broad target audience, or an international audience for your brand. It also pairs well with Facebook’s strong set of targeting tools that allow you to adjust for a variety of demographics and activities to really narrow down who you want to reach (as long as you focus on the details). Ads on Facebook – and most social sites – also tend to be more affordable than Google Ads.
Facebook also has excellent synergy with its online business pages, which allow brands to both showcase their products and sell directly to leads without ever leaving the Facebook platform. You can even incorporate chatbots and other options for a more comprehensive experience – although your ads may need to lead to your Facebook page instead of your website for this to be effective.
However, Facebook’s immense size also creates some downsides. There’s intense ad competition from many, many other brands. Facebook’s news feed is often so diluted with ads that people have trained themselves to just ignore them, so it takes precision, investment, and talent to really get results here. Also keep in mind that Facebook’s users are trending older these days, so it’s not the best spot to reach particularly young audiences.
Bottom Line: The best place for reaching adult consumers across a wide variety of demographics, although competition is very high. Make ads striking and visual to stand out from the crowd.
Google may have some of the priciest ad buys, but also allows for deep targeting through keywords and analysis to spot exactly where your ads can excel with organic searches. This is Google, after all, so whatever audience you want to reach is entirely up to you – the search engine is also an excellent place for ads targeting local audiences (in combination with other good local SEO tactics, of course).
Google also focuses on user intent, which means its AI is always seeking to interpret what people are actually looking for or what they really mean with a search. It’s no surprise that the platform sees excellent ad ROI for industries where getting meaningful results is important. That includes real estate searches, healthcare questions, finance search, tourism, and of course online retailers. It’s also a great spot to advertise for specific channels, like advertising your YouTube channel, etc.
This is the point where many brands point out that they can get organic search results through SEO on its own. That’s true! But Google Ads allows for a far more targeted approach, which is why it’s a good choice for solution-oriented industries.
Bottom Line: Google pairs well with user intent and people looking for quick answers to specific problems. But your budget needs to be higher and your SEO understanding excellent for the best results.
Twitter moves fast, and offers options for immediate engagement with its Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts, and similar ad options. With around 353 million active users, there are plenty of potential target audiences here, willing to share, interact, and help posts go viral…if things work out.
Automatic targeting makes Twitter ads easier for beginners to use, but it takes skill and experience to use well. The primary 18-29 demographic for Twitter has an eye for visual and emotional content, and quick disdain for posts that can’t speak the Twitterverse language. While Twitter can be effective for creating buzz around your brand, it can also be volatile. It’s a good platform for promoting tweets that focus directly on a product in an entertaining way.
Bottom Line: Use Twitter ads only if you have a significant target audience there, and be prepared to navigate somewhat cluttered engagement options. It’s a good way to reach more casual audiences.
Instagram is synonymous with photos and influencers, but the platform also supports ads with tools similar to Facebook, so there’s plenty of options to create very visual ads that can lead viewers to your site. Instagram also has excellent engagement rates compared to sites like Facebook, especially for brands that work well with photos and videos.
Two important things to know about Instagram as you decide on ads: First, its users tend to skew much younger than Facebook. Second, users are more likely to be female and more likely to be minorities than many social sites.
Bottom Line: It’s a strong contender for visual experiences that reach older Gen Z and younger millennials – but your photos need to impress. Make sure your hashtag game is strong.
Reddit allows for ads that work similarly to promoted posts, appearing in a variety of subreddits along with user-generated posts – and Reddit ads are only going to expand as the company prepares to go public. However, Reddit can also be a hard nut to crack. The largest subreddits are too inclusive for many brands to make much of a dent with their ads, while smaller subreddits are often too exclusive and focused on a specific topic for ads to make
We suggest starting with research into what exact subreddits are a good fit for what you’re trying to sell – it’s the easy way to target ads on Reddit so far, and will quickly show you if Reddit is right.
For example, as our Hubspot link indicates, if you are selling e-commerce services to retail sites, you may be interested in r/retail, re/retailmemes, and re/AskRetail. If you find a subreddit that seems like it’s a good match for what you’re offering, always check community numbers, current active users (you can see how many people are on a subreddit at any time), and check the frequency and interaction levels of posts. Keep in mind Reddit has low tolerance for ads that try to blend in too much or waste user’s time, so represent your brand directly when possible.
Bottom Line: Search the subreddits for active communities that match well with your products – results may vary. Aim for authentic ads, and avoid pretending to be other types of content.
For many users, Pinterest can feel like, “That thing before Instagram and Snapchat.” That’s a bit unfair – Pinterest still has a robust following with 175 million active monthly users, and is a particularly good platform for target female demographics (more than 80% of users are women).
Pinterest allows promoted pins that are an excellent option for visual ads demonstrating products. It’s an ideal recommendation for all types of e-commerce products that look good in photos, from décor to baked goods. If you have a product-oriented online store, take a look at Pinterest! Also note that the site is very DIY oriented and encourages a lot of custom creations, so it’s also a viable option for selling tools, supplies, and other goods that enable creation.
Bottom Line: Pinterest is ideal for women from multiple age groups, and is a good way to showcase home-oriented products of any kind with the right visuals.
Post-rebound, Snapchat is in a curious place right now: It’s home to a community that’s highly invested in peer-to-peer social media contact, and the teens that started using it are now young professional with more contacts and buying power than before. That being said, it’s also highly siloed compared to other social media sites, it can be difficult to tell if its wide variety of ad options are a good fit for your company.
We suggest taking a close look at your buyer personas, and maybe creating a survey for your current customers asking about their social media use to see if Snapchat is a popular option for them. Note that you can add links to Story ads so viewers can immediately visit your site, which does open up opportunities. The platform is a good fit for casual content that still respects users that have a lot of experience in social media and won’t be especially impressed by gimmicks.
Bottom Line: Snapchat is an excellent platform to target…if your customers are using it. Use it for more friendly, casual ad content.
LinkedIn is famed for business connections and discussions of professional topics for over 700 million members. It’s popular among Fortune 500 companies, contractors, agencies, and everything in between. It’s also an increasingly popular place for professionals to stop by and pick up the latest news, suggestions or conversations about important topics.
The good news is that such a business-oriented viewership tend to be receptive to advertising – after all, a lot of them are there to advertise themselves. However, that makes the platform a better fit for more professional audiences in industries that see a lot of changes or trends. It’s an incredibly strong choice for B2B companies, but somewhat limited otherwise.
Bottom Line: Use LinkedIn for B2B ads and professional services, but stay away if you are only selling retail goods to individual customers. Buyers tend to be more receptive to ads and have higher incomes, but are business-focused when on this site.
Quora is a question-oriented site designed to encourage experts to answer common questions with on-point advice or information, designed around searchable Topics (and often accessed through organic browser searches). Quora is an odd mishmash these days, with questions yielding either random personal anecdotes or essays from certified professionals.
However, since its Google results are still strong and the community is alive, Quora can make a strong case for a limited ad run focusing on specific solutions or interests. Quora is generally where people go to educate or improve themselves, so ads that offer ways to do this (exercise, supplements, healthy food, education materials, etc.) can do well. Long term campaigns for the same product, however, can lead to oversaturation.
Bottom Line: Quora is a good platform for building brand expertise, but limited when it comes to ads. Focus on short ad runs targeted at solutions for people who want to better themselves.
YouTube is a monstrous video platform with many connections to Google – and like Google, it’s so broad it can be difficult to tell if ad placement is a good idea or not. While view rate is good on YouTube, CTR (click through rates) can struggle because, well, viewers just aren’t interested in video ads when they’re trying to watch other content instead. Fortunately, YouTube offers advanced targeting to help improve ROI with the right approach.
Ad options on YouTube include “Trueview” ads, pre-roll ads before a video, and bumper ads, and you can advertise through the Google Ads framework to make things even easier. Industries may have more chance of success if they follow YouTube’s popular subjects, including arts and entertainment, health and fitness, home and garden, technology, and more.
Bottom Line: Work with Google Ads to include YouTube ads if you want to focus on video content. Entertainment, fitness, and home-oriented products can do well here.
Conclusion – A Few Points to Remember
- Always run your target audience analysis and buyer personas before making ad decisions, and do research when it comes to platforms like Reddit or Snapchat
- The bigger the social platform, the more impactful and experienced ad content needs to be
- Google Ads are suitable for following user intent to provide specific solutions
- Instagram, Pinterest, and similar sites require excellent use of images
- More select platforms like Quora or Snapchat may be useful for limited runs to avoid oversaturation and study returns