It’s easy to get comfortable with Google AdWords and never branch out into the paid social world. Agencies and in-house teams that have been around since the introduction of AdWords in 2000 are often skeptical of branching into the other ad platforms, including Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. However, that’s where the growth opportunities lie.

It’s becoming less of an argument around whether a company should expand advertising efforts into paid social and more of a discussion of how and where to expand into paid social. My recommendation is to start with what you already know and trust – audiences from paid search.

Last week, Diane outlined the major audience types in AdWords:

  • Affinity
  • In-Market
  • Similar
  • Customer Match

Social platforms have slowly but surely caught up to Google when it comes to audience targeting products. Facebook has the most similar set of products and the largest user base. LinkedIn recently expanded their product line to include matched audiences. Pinterest has matched and similar audiences too. The products exist, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t at least test your existing AdWords audiences on the other PPC platforms.

Test social platforms

Now, I know there’s an obvious difference between paid search and social. With Google, people are looking for solutions to their problems and your ads may actually have the solution they want at that moment. On social platforms, people are trying to connect with others and your ads just happen to be there (Pinterest falls somewhere in between paid search and social, but for simplicity, I’m considering it to be “social”). Thus, expectations for audience targeting platforms should be different on paid social compared to search. Nonetheless, you can still apply many of the same strategies. You just need to decide on different goals.

Where should you start when expanding into paid social audience targeting?

First, you need to keep in mind that the demographics using these platforms are different. You should analyze your demographics from AdWords, Google Analytics, Facebook page traffic, and your CRMs to decide if a social platform is a fit. I would venture to say that your company or client will definitely find its target market on Facebook. It’s hard NOT to have a decent-sized audience of potential customers on Facebook. As of March 2017, there are over 1.94 billion monthly active Facebook users. The other platforms are smaller and have more specific uses. LinkedIn, of course, has more B2B advertisers than anything else. Pinterest users are busy planning their lives via pins, so there are specific industries that thrive on Pinterest, including retail, wedding, and home goods.

Okay, you’ve chosen the social platforms where you’d like to test audience targeting. Which audience targeting products should you start with?

Customer Match. Hands down.

Why do I think you should ABSOLUTELY start with customer or prospect lists? Whether you’re working in-house or at an agency, chances are that someone is breathing down your neck about return on ad spend, ROI, cost per lead, or revenue.

Start with Customer Match

Email list audiences are lowest in the funnel, compared to the other audience targeting options. At some point in the top or middle of the funnel, clients or prospects decided to give you their email in exchange for something. They trust you to some extent. They’re aware of your brand and are likely more responsive to your ads on social than any similar, in-market, or affinity audiences. That means you’ll most likely get the fastest financial returns compared to the other audience targeting products.

Each platform has a different name for Customer Match, but they all mean the same thing. You can upload a list of your customers’ or prospects’ emails and the platform will attempt to match your list of emails to the users on the site.

Which platforms have email list-based ad products?

Which audience targeting group should you test next?

Similar Audiences!


These platforms know more about users than you can imagine. Google’s ad products use the same machine learning that’s used in Google’s self-driving cars. One in five page views in the United States occurs on Facebook. Pinterest is uniquely positioned as a planning platform, which gives it an edge in terms of predicting future purchases. According to a post from Social Media Examiner“Pinterest captures shoppers in many mindsets, which is why we’ve seen some impressive shopping stats, according to Millward Brown: 93% of Pinners have used Pinterest to plan for or make purchases and 52% have seen something on Pinterest and made a purchase online.”

My point being is that you can trust that these platforms have enough data on their users to justifiably say, “yeah, this user is similar to (insert company)’s other customers” and throw all of those “similar” users into an audience.

Which platforms have ad products that are similar to Google’s Similar Audiences for Search/Display?

Once you’ve tested Customer Match and Similar Audiences, the ad products begin to diversify. I recommend looking for similarities between your in-market and affinity targeting options in AdWords and finding the equivalent targeting in Facebook. That’s more of a gray area, so I won’t cover that in this post.

The Path Of Least Resistance

When you know it’s time to expand your PPC campaigns beyond paid search, make it easy on yourself. Start with audience targeting products that you are already accustomed to in AdWords. This makes the setup feel more familiar and your client or boss already has some expectations. You’ll have to realign your goals and reset some performance expectations. However, it’s much easier to adjust to paid social when you start with the lower funnel audience targeting options. You’ll likely see faster returns in terms of both revenue and engagement, whether it’s direct or not.

If you’ve recently tested new audience products on the social platforms, I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to tweet me at @AlainaPThompson.