Should Small Business Owners Use Paid Search Advertising or Social Media Marketing to Promote Their Business?

Online Marketing

Do you want to promote your small business online, but are still be trying to figure out whether you should advertise on social media or search engines?

With so many opportunities online advertising offers, deciding which paid online marketing strategy would suit you best can be really tough – but not impossible!

You can start by answering the questions below to define your winning online marketing campaign! Grab a pen and paper (or open a new Google Doc), and start outlining!

1. What is your goal?

If your goal is to increase brand awareness and social following or to engage with your customers, then you should definitely use social media to promote your business. People are more relaxed there, and always looking to comment on posts they see in their news feeds. Do note that they might not be necessarily looking to make a purchase at the moment your ad shows up, but they will notice your business, and, eventually, engage.

Social media marketing allows you to create compelling ads to attract people by using a good copy and eye-catching graphics. You can also sponsor your posts without using Ads Manager, but these posts are limited in terms of customization features.

With Facebook, your ads can appear on the right side of the homepage, in desktop and mobile news feed, within Instant Articles and Audience Network, and on Instagram. What’s great is that you can choose more than one placement at a time to reach a wider audience.

Facebook ad placement(Image credit: FB) 

Here’s a FB video you can check out to help you choose a Facebook ad placement.

On the other hand, if your goal is to increase website visits or sales, then paid search advertising or paid-per-click ads might be a better solution. While you could do this on social media as well, search engines are more suitable for this purpose as you can target people looking to buy what you happen to sell.

Almost every customer’s journey begins with organic search. This make search engines a perfect place to show off with your great-looking website, and promote your products and services using a search engine marketing platform, such as Google Ads, Yahoo or Bing Ads.

Let’s see how it works:

A New Yorker is looking to order some curtains online, and have them delivered for free:

Google SearchWhen he hits “Enter” and just before a map overview of nearby stores, and organic results, he can see this:Google Search Results=> Ads that bid on the terms we entered: more precisely, on the word “curtains” and its synonyms, and “(free) shipping”.

(Interesting fact: A Google Maps list also tells you when a website has mentions of the keywords you searched for, which is rather awesome, as you’d know which stores to cross out in case they don’t offer free shipping!)

As we can see from here, businesses bidding on these keywords and offering products most relative to the user’s search query have won the auction, and had their ads show up at the top of the search results. Other factors influence Google’s decision to display an ad, but let’s not think about it at the moment.

2. Who’s your audience?

Whatever you do, you need to define your target audience as precisely as possible. Otherwise, your entire online marketing strategy would be pointless. You could spend thousands of dollars on showing your ads to God-knows-whom, with poor to none ROI.

When it comes to targeting options, there are minor differences between what features Google offers and what’s available on Facebook. Demographic targeting and location targeting are available both with Facebook and Google. They also both let you use remarketing to target users who have somehow interacted with your business in the past, whether it be via your ads, website, app, etc.

However, on Google, you can also use content targeting to narrow down your target audience. This option includes topics, placement (where on Google Display Network your ads will appear), and content keywords targeting. Google Shopping ads are great if you want to reach people looking for your products or the same product category.

Google AdWords targeting features are awesome, but what makes Facebook ad targeting more specific is the possibility to target based on users’ profiles (education, likes, life events, family and relationships, interests, purchase behavior, connections, etc.). Depending on the nature of your business, the incredible number of ad audience customization options can help you deliver your ads straight in your ideal customers’ news feeds!

3. Where’s your audience?

Social media advertising is not limited to Facebook and Instagram. You can post ads on LinkedIn, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, and Pinterest. Each of these platforms has its pros and cons, but also a specific group of people using it.

We know that LinkedIn is primarily for professional communication, and that Pinterest might be better for industries, such as beauty or food. But, actually, they are all intertwined in a way, as we can have makeup reviews on YouTube, but also many pinned photos of the collection on Pinterest, and interesting makeup tips shared as blog articles via Facebook.

Likewise, search engine marketing is not limited to Search Network. We also have Google Display Network, which places ads on a huge network of websites on the Internet – great for retargeting! Bing also offers different ad types, such as Microsoft Audience Ads; while Yahoo lets you advertise both on their and their partners’ websites, and choose from a variety of ad types.

If you know where people [potentially] interested in your business spend most of their online time, it would be easier for you to select a platform to go in line with your ad campaign goals.

For example, you know that most of your website traffic comes from Google, and want to increase the number of visits by including a more relevant source. Since you know that your customers spend a lot of time on Instagram, advertising on Instagram would help you achieve that.

4. What are your (available) resources?

When we talk about resources, we don’t just think “money”. People, their skills, and tools, as well as time are also very important for a successful digital marketing strategy. While they are all connected, let’s take a look at each of them separately!

4.1. Budget Budget

First thing: your budget. How much money are you willing to invest in your online marketing campaign?

According to WordStream, the average cost per click on Google Ads is between $1 and $2 on the Search Network, and below $1 on the Display Network. WordStream also found that the average CPC across industries advertising on Facebook was $1.72.

Start small, and then adjust as you go. Studies show that small business owners spend around $400 on marketing, with 46% of their budget being spent on digital marketing. This, again, is just an average, as some companies spend millions on digital advertising.

There is no pre-set magic formula to decide how much to spend on ads, but you can check out how businesses usually decide how much money to invest in digital marketing.

Facebook also offers a comprehensive guide on ad budget, and Google also has a bid simulator. Many similar tools are available online, so you can explore them a bit to help you set your advertising budget.

However, note that, on Google, the average click-through rate of ads on the Search Network is 2%, while the average CTR on Facebook is 0.9%. The click-through rate is important as it tells you how many people who see your ad end up clicking it.

So, if you have 8 clicks out of 130 impressions, your CTR is 6%. The higher your CTR, the better. If you’re not happy with how your ads are performing, it only means you can do more to improve. Just don’t waste money on strategies that don’t work. Selling on Facebook might be tougher than on Google, but it’s definitely not impossible, so the estimates should not influence your choice of a digital marketing channel.

The difference in costs is not that significant, but, depending on your business goals, you might see a greater ROI for less on Google than you’d have were you advertising on Facebook, and vice-versa. Whatever you decide, be realistic and keep your business goal in mind.

4.2. People, their skills, and tools

Skills and toolsDo you have a dedicated marketing team that excels at digital marketing? How familiar is your team with available tools and software that give businesses more control over their online marketing strategy? Think performance analysis, time management, market research, content.

If you’ve used only offline marketing channels to promote your business, chances are that your people aren’t that familiar with how Google AdWords or Facebook Ads works.

In case you don’t want to hire someone to manage your digital marketing campaigns, you need to train your people on online marketing, whether it be paid search advertising or social media marketing aka paid social. This would require extra time and money – perhaps even more than you’d spend on hiring an external digital marketing agency, as the risk of failure is greater due to a lack of experience.

That said, training your people on digital or online/Internet marketing would be useful if you want to run advertising campaigns on an ongoing basis, in which case, the costs of hiring a digital marketing agency might be greater.

On the other hand, if you only want to promote your business during a certain period, for instance, holidays, then you might as well go with an agency or hire a new person.

But, if you do have a bunch of digital marketing experts, you need not worry about any of this, but focus on defining your goals and audience straight away!

4.3. Time

You can run advertisements infinitely. However, what you need to understand is that reaching a desired ROI might take longer than you think.

You simply cannot expect to earn $50,000 by selling shoes before the first month of advertising is up. Unless these are golden, or have been touched by aliens, of course. You might say that all is Timepossible, and that’s true; but, let’s just be less starry-eyed, and more realistic, so we could truly focus on making our marketing campaign a win.

If you want to launch a paid social marketing campaign before Halloween to sell your homemade Halloween ghost cupcakes to your local community, plan in advance. You never know what might come up – and we all know that our projects are often hindered by some technical issues or inaccurate planning. Besides, consider the rush – you don’t want to let your competitors win your potential customers!

If you want to increase your social media following, or the number of newsletter signups, you need to give people time to notice and learn about you. You can’t expect to gather thousands of Instagram followers within a week. (I mean, you can, but take it with a grain of salt, please.)

Experimenting with online marketing channels might also prolong your campaign. Promoting on social media to grow sales would require more time, as people there aren’t necessarily looking to buy. Someone watching a YouTube video might not be interested in purchasing your DVD players at the moment your ad is displayed. Such conversions aren’t instantaneous, so you need to be quite selective when choosing where to advertise. And patient.

Things get more complicated if your team needs training. Unless you want to see your campaign fail even before it began, give everyone time to understand the material, practice, and discuss.

With all of this in mind, you can plan strategically and prevent any minor details from ruining your advertising campaign.

Bottom Line

You should consider many factors when choosing an online marketing channel to promote your business. However, the most important two are your business goals and target audience.

Assuming you’ve already set a budget and got the right people to do the job, nothing could help you decide between paid search and social media marketing more than knowing exactly what you want to achieve with your online marketing campaign, and for whom to create ads.

As you’ve seen, the difference in terms of costs isn’t that great between paid search and paid social. What could hurt your strategy more is improper planning, inexpertise, and confusion.

If possible, you should consider both search engine and social media marketing, as the combination of the two is more likely to yield better results. What’s crucial is actually where most businesses fail: to be as precise as possible at all times: before, during, and after a campaign. Plan, monitor, and analyze.

Managing your online marketing campaign might be daunting. But, with so much help and resources available online, a fear of not succeeding is just a lame excuse of inaction – and you want to avoid that.

So, go ahead and start planning! Alternatively, contact us for a free consultation!

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