Pros and Cons of Top Social Media Advertising Platforms

By Kass Botts | Production Associate at Hanapin Marketing |

Whether you’re a small business looking for inexpensive options to add to your marketing mix, or a big brand trying to determine which platforms will give you the best return on your dollar, it’s important to be aware of the benefits and downsides to each of the major social media channels available today. While return on ad spend is generally high for social, your business should determine whether a platform is the right fit before making the decision to spend. To help with your consideration, I’ve compiled a list of the pros and cons for each of the top social platforms offering advertising services today.

source: joemartinezsem.com

Facebook: 2 Billion Active Monthly Users

Pros of Facebook

  • Affordable: On Facebook, you can spend as much or as little as you want according to your budget and goals, making it ideal for small and big businesses alike.
  • Easy to Learn and Use: Facebook Ads are self-service, and there is a wealth of information available to new advertisers through Facebook Blueprint courses. Seriously, there is a course for just about every subject.
  • Microtargeting: On Facebook you can target users based on demographic information such as age, gender, location, and language, as well as detailed interests and behavioral targeting to reach the large Facebook audience in a highly segmented way.
  • Wide Audience: Again, Facebook has 2 Billion active monthly users, and they span across ages and demographics. If you want the widest reach for social, Facebook is where to put your ad spend.
  • Retargeting: The Facebook Pixel allows you to track user actions once they interact with your ad. This allows you to get valuable insights as well as retarget to consumers who have taken any number of valuable actions on your site.
  • Lookalike Audiences: My favorite thing about Facebook Ads is the ability to target an audience that looks like users who were valuable to you in some way. Do you want to find brand new users who are most likely to download your whitepaper? Create a lookalike audience to find people similar to those who have already downloaded it.

Cons of Facebook

  • Diminished Organic Reach: Marketers are notices a sharp decline in their organic reach, and based on Facebook’s new NewsFeed algorithm changes, this trend is likely to continue. This means that reaching your audience will require more ad spend, and less attention to organic page post engagement.
  • (Potentially) Lower Quality Leads: While this depends entirely on your strategy, advertisers who are not yet adept at Facebook Ads may not know that optimizing for link clicks leads to Facebook serving your ads to “clicky” consumers who may not actually care about your product or service.
  • Time-Intensive: To keep frequency and reach in check, and to avoid ad fatigue, Facebook advertising requires constant monitoring and ad refreshes to give your business the best shot at success on the platform. If you don’t have the time to dedicate to this, you may not see the best possible results.
  • Creative Considerations: Simple text ads like you can utilize with Google AdWords don’t cut it in Facebook; creative is visual with a focus on video and mobile optimization. Having good creative resources is essential for success with Facebook advertising.
  • #DeleteFacebook: While we don’t believe that Facebook users are going anywhere to any significant degree, some brands have expressed concern over Facebook controversies throughout the first half of 2018.

Instagram: “A Captivated Community”

Pros of Instagram

  • Visual Focus: Instagram ads are meant to be visually appealing to captivate your audience. High-quality photos and videos grab user attention and promote positive brand awareness.
  • Detailed Targeting: Instagram has the same hyper-focused targeting capabilities as Facebook (and Instagram is owned by Facebook, in case you did not know). This means you can reach just the right user for your product, and tailor your messaging to their interests.
  • Shopping/Collections: Especially important for retail and e-commerce, Instagram allows you to group a collection of products together, or to inform users of the products highlighted in a photo or video in your ad. You can give the user a Call-to-Action to encourage purchases launched from within the app.
  • Engagement: Instagram is a personal, conversational, and engaging platform. Engagement rates are 10 times higher than Facebook, 54 times higher than Pinterest, and 84 times higher than Twitter.

Cons of Instagram

  • Limited Audience: Instagram has a much younger user base, with 90% of users younger than 35 years old. This is great for certain brands like fashion lines, but not as good for anyone with a much older target persona.
  • Minimal Text Copy: Because captivating photos and videos are the focus in Instagram, any text-heavy images or extra lengthy copy are not going to do well on this platform.
  • Time-Intensive: Like Facebook, staying fresh and relevant, as well as engaging with users, requires a lot of time and effort compared to search platforms like AdWords. An in-house advertiser who is responsible for all channels will probably not be able to devote as much time as they’ll need in learning as well as production.
  • Diminished Organic Reach: Businesses are seeing the same trend for Instagram feeds as in Facebook, naturally. Organic reach is steadily declining, causing paid efforts to rise and become the priority.

LinkedIn: The World’s Largest Professional Network

Pros of LinkedIn

  • Valuable Audience & Detailed Targeting: B2B customers will find their perfect audience on LinkedIn. Its user base is largely business professionals, and the targeting options are specific and related to users’ professions. Target based on salary, job title, employer, company size, etc. An approach that mimics an ABM strategy works well for my clients on LinkedIn.
  • Higher Lead Quality: It’s easy to reach top decision-makers on LinkedIn. You can even specifically target C-suite users. Member demos like income and job responsibility skew higher for LinkedIn than for the other platforms.
  • Selve-Serve: If you have a LinkedIn account, you can easily create an ad account for your business and utilize the self-serve options according to your advertising goals.
  • Varied Ad Formats: You can utilize text ads similar to what you find in AdWords, or you can take a content marketing approach and sponsor content such as blog posts to share with the top-of-funnel audience you’re after. There are also display ads, lead generation forms, and video ads to choose from.

Cons of LinkedIn

  • Higher CPCs/CPAs: getting quality clicks or leads is great, but it does come at a higher cost for LinkedIn compared to come other social platforms.
  • “Clunky” Platform: This is a matter of opinion, but I find the platform to be a bit unwieldy compared to other platforms. There is a lot of clicking around required to make changes.
  • Limited Learning Resources: Compared to Facebook, LinkedIn has nowhere near the level of educational resources available to new advertisers. There are FAQs and Help sections, but I find myself wanting coursework akin to the Facebook Blueprint syllabus.
  • Not Ideal for E-commerce: Because there are no product ads, and because LinkedIn users are expecting a personal and professional experience when they use the site, LinkedIn is not the best platform for E-commerce businesses.

Twitter: Let Your Audience Know What’s Happening

Pros of Twitter

  • Large Audience: Twitter boasts of over 330 million active monthly users, meaning you can engage with a large (and varied) audience. Take a look at Twitter member stats to get an idea of the potential audience available to reach. Custom audiences built around your followers, competitors followers, or user interests are a key benefit of Twitter ads.
  • Keyword Targeting: Unlike the other major social media advertising platforms discussed here, Twitter allows you to reach users who have recently tweeted or searched for terms you include in your campaign targeting.
  • Conversational: Twitter allows for real-time delivery of messages, and fosters engagement with mentions and communication between users. Brands can have active dialogues with their audience.
  • Global Reach: 79% of Twitter users are outside the U.S.
  • Scheduled Tweets: Stay engaged even when you’re off the clock by scheduling promoted tweets to run at predetermined times. This helps lessen some of the “time-intensiveness” that is inherent to face-paced social platforms.

Cons of Twitter

  • Fast-Paced: Users tweet by-the-minute updates, so the fleeting nature of messages in the feed means that brands are more likely to go unnoticed on Twitter compared to other platforms.
  • Limited Messaging: Only 140 characters means that messages have to be brief. Shortened URLs do give you the ability to link to longer content hosted elsewhere, though.
  • Time-Intensive: Because Twitter is fast-paced, success on the platform requires dedication of time and resources to stay relevant, fresh, and visible amidst the constant stream of new content into the feed.
  • User Perception: Users are more likely to see sponsored/promoted tweets as spam. There have also been instances where brands fail at fitting in on the platform, which means you’re often better safe than sorry when it comes to hopping on hashtag bandwagons or finding your voice on a trending topic.

Final Thoughts

Chances are your business already has a presence on some of these platforms, but you may not be utilizing the paid advertising services they offer. Hopefully this list was a good start in considering which paid services are right for your organization’s needs. Ready to start and looking for more specific information? Visit the Social Topics page for more blogs on all things social!

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