Unlike more general forms of interruption advertising such as radio and TV, digital marketing puts your brand in front of a targeted audience where they already spend their time. Social media advertising is a prime example, as social media consumes more of people’s time and attention every year.
In 2005, when Pew Research Center started tracking social media usage, only about 5% of U.S. adults were active on social media. By 2021, at least 72% of Americans regularly visit at least one social media platform. The average daily time spent on social media platforms is 2.5 hours.
As the number of type of social media platforms grow and evolve, businesses are faced with the challenge of identifying the best channels for them. Each social media channel has distinct audiences, formats, and best practices.
This article guides you through the morass of social media advertising to help you identify and target the channels that will deliver results for your business.
Why Social Media Advertising?
Marketing goals usually fall into three general categories, including:
- Building brand awareness
- Generating leads
- Generating sales
Social media advertising can accomplish these goals, allowing you to access hyper-targeted audiences. In addition, most platforms will enable you to start small and scale over time as you find strategies that work for your business, so the cost of entry is relatively low.
A unique advantage of social media advertising is direct access to audience feedback. For example, prospects and customers can comment on your ads on Facebook. This delivers a raw and instant level of feedback not available through other marketing formats.
The Critical Importance of Knowing Your Audience
With all digital marketing, especially social media advertising, it is crucial to identify your target customer before creating a campaign. Knowing your audience is not a one-and-done prospect; it will continue to evolve and refine over the marketing process. However, efficient return on social media advertising relies on accurate audience targeting.
Knowing your audience supports success in social media advertising for several reasons. It helps you:
- Identify the best platform
- Create a campaign that speaks to your audience
- Target your advertising to display to the right people
Knowing your best customers gives you a sense of your ideal audience. Who shows up, appreciates your product or services, and tells friends and family about you? What age group, gender, or other demographics define the person who buys from your company the most? That is a great place to start.
You may have a general target audience for the business or define your target by product. For example, a car dealership wouldn’t use the same target audience for a sports car as a minivan. Each campaign would be customized to reach the audience most interested in that type of vehicle.
Define Your Campaign’s Objective
Once you know who the campaign is targeting, the next step is to define the action you want them to take. What is the campaign objective?
A campaign designed to build awareness of your brand will be different than a campaign designed to drive customers to an annual sales event. Knowing your objective at the outset helps build a compelling customer journey.
Social media advertising campaigns usually drive traffic to a landing page. In general, it’s more effective to customize your landing pages to your campaign rather than using a standard website page. A personalized landing page helps you create a cohesive customer journey.
How to Choose the Best Platforms for Your Marketing
Below is a list of the top social media platforms with details about demographics and audience size. When you choose the best platforms for your social media advertising, you’ll want to consider the following:
- Is your business’ target demographic on this platform?
- Does the type of ads used work for your brand? (For example, video marketing versus display advertising.)
- How does the platform target its audience? Is it possible to narrow the ad audience by your business’ critical demographic criteria?
- Are brands like yours on this platform, or do they appear more on another?
Here are seven top social media platforms with details to help you identify the best ones for your ads.
With close to 255 million users in the U.S., Facebook is a well-populated platform. There are users from 13 to 65+ years old on Facebook, but the largest group is between 18 and 44 years old, with slightly more men than women in those age groups. There is a significant population of users between 45 and 54 years old, but fewer than in the younger groups.
Facebook offers a selection of ad campaign options. You can use video marketing or static display advertising with a single image or a carousel of images. Polls are also popular on Facebook.
The key to Facebook advertising is engagement. If your ad looks too much like an ad, you won’t grab customers’ attention in the feed. Instead, you want to create unique content that integrates with your larger brand strategy and gives users a reason to continue the journey or respond.
With such a large and diverse audience, targeting your audience on Facebook is essential. You can narrow down who sees your ads by demographics and interests.
Instagram and Facebook are now connected through Meta Business Suites, but they remain distinct platforms with different audiences and best practices for advertising. Instagram’s total population of U.S. users is around 115 million.
The demographic profile by age and gender is close to but slightly younger than Facebook’s. Most users are between 18 and 34 years old, with 35 to 44 and 45 to 54 as the next two largest groups, respectively. There are slightly more men on Instagram than women.
Instagram has high engagement among users, and ads are more frequent in the feed and a natural part of the experience. That said, Instagram is a highly visual platform, and you will not win customers through great copy. You need highly engaging images or videos to make an impact.
Hashtags are also an essential part of Instagram advertising, as it helps interested users find your content.
LinkedIn is well known as a B2B platform—a place for business leaders to build networks and interact. It’s got close to 67 million active U.S. users. Interestingly, nearly 60% of users worldwide are between 25 and 34 years old, likely because they are actively pursuing work or building their careers.
In addition to individual users, over 58 million companies are listed on LinkedIn, making it prime for B2B advertising.
Connected through the same platform as Google’s paid search, discovery advertising, and the other search engine marketing pay-per-click options, YouTube advertising presents an incredible marketing opportunity for some businesses.
YouTube is a social media platform with 246 million users in the U.S. alone, and it is also the second most powerful and populated search engine after Google. YouTube has users of all ages, but the largest number of users are between 18 and 44 years old.
YouTube video ads have a unique feature. If a user clicks past the ad within the first five seconds, you don’t pay for that ad. This means you only pay for users who choose to keep watching your ad after the first five seconds. It also means that video ads on YouTube must start with an attention-grabbing bang.
In addition to paid advertising, YouTube allows businesses to build a channel and share interesting and relevant content to build brand awareness and win new customers. For example, an e-commerce business that can ship anywhere in the U.S. can create how-to and informational videos that prospective customers find helpful.
Imagine you sold bikes and can ship them anywhere. A series of videos on how to fix different parts of a bike, how to find a bike that fits your size, the difference between various bike tires, and reviews of products like air pumps and helmets would build an audience of bicycle enthusiasts and drive traffic to the brand.
Building a channel is a less direct approach than video advertising, which allows you to insert your video ad into other people’s relevant content.
TikTok is the new kid on the block who will not be ignored. It’s hard to ignore its rapidly growing reach and ubiquitous content.
TikTok now has 150 million active U.S. users and is growing. The age demographics skew younger than the other platforms, with the majority between 18 and 24 and female. However, there are still significant numbers of TikTok users between 25 and 44.
TikTok users stay at least twice as long on the platform each session as other social media channels and engage with content they find entertaining and funny. Users shop on TikTok—it ranked first for consumer spending at $6 billion in 2022.
The key to advertising on TikTok is engaging content consistent with your brand and leveraging existing influencers. Individuals with large followings can dramatically improve your ad’s impact—as long as the platform, influencer, and message are all a good fit for the product and brand.
Some marketers make the mistake of underestimating Pinterest. As a platform, it effectively engages users with highly specific interests, which makes it potentially powerful for marketing.
Pinterest has 84.6 million users in the U.S., which is only about 20% of its total user base. Even so, its U.S. users generated 82% of its $2.8 billion in 2021 revenue, a year-over-year increase of 11.9%. Unlike many other platforms with slightly more male users, about 70% of the users on Pinterest are women.
People go on Pinterest to plan and dream. They create boards of products and ideas that interest and excite them. Positioned well within that context, Pinterest is an excellent opportunity to drive customers to your products and brand.
There are over 95 million active Twitter users in the United States. Most Twitter users are between 25 and 34 years old, with the second-largest group between 35 and 49. About ¼ of American men use Twitter, and slightly more men are on the platform than women.
Twitter is vital for reaching a niche international audience as a marketing platform. It’s also a platform where users are more willing to read content and follow links to additional content when a topic interests them. It’s much less visual or image-intensive than Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook.
On average, there are fewer advertisers on Twitter, so it’s not as competition-heavy. However, it’s less user-friendly than other platforms, and conversion rates are harder to track.
Every Business Can Benefit from Social Media Advertising
As social media becomes an entrenched part of most people’s everyday lives, the question isn’t if a business should advertise on social media but where and how much. Most social media platforms allow companies to start with a small budget and build as they see results.
If you have questions about social media advertising, such as where to start or how it can drive new customers to your business, our expert team is here to help.