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More and more companies are experimenting with social media advertising, and for good reason. It can get great results, but if you go in without a strategy, it can also be a colossal waste of time and money.

The wealth of information out there can be overwhelming–where do you start? Which platform do you start on? Stay tuned for more articles breaking it down, with this week’s post covering the major platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), what types of ads they offer, the costs involved, and the pros/cons of each.


Facebook ads can get great results, but they can also be mightily overwhelming. One of their biggest features (all the different types of ads and ways to target) can also be the biggest drawback (the ad set-up process gets confusing, fast).

The types of ads offered on Facebook include (but aren’t limited to): 

  • Sidebar ads, that drive traffic to an outside site
  • Ads that prompt people to “like” your page, in the sidebar or the newsfeed, which are also available in the mobile app
  • Multi-product posts, which feature (you guessed it) multiple products–up to three–and are shown in the newsfeed and available on mobile
  • Ads that prompt a user to download a mobile or desktop app

You can read more about the different ad types and what goals work best with which type here. And not only do you have your choice of ads, you can use some powerful targeting techniques:

  • You can create location-based ads, including by country, state/province, zip code, and radius from a city, as well as having the ability to exclude viewers based on city or zip code.
  • You can target by all demographics the user has listed in their profile, including age, gender, relationship status, level of education, and the type of work they do.
  • You can target by “interests,” which are based on their interests, hobbies, the pages they like on Facebook, as well as “behaviors,” which are based on device usage, purchase behaviors, travel preferences, and other data that’s collected not just by Facebook, but by third-party partners as well.

And of course, you can layer all of this data–so if you wanted to create ads that were targeted at married women between 25-35, who had a four-year college degree, loved cats, were interested in home decor, and lived within 15 miles of St. Louis…you could do that.

As far as cost goes, you can set a daily budget or a lifetime budget, and then you choose between the different cost options: cost per action, cost per click, cost per mille (per thousand views), and optimized cost per mille. The actual costs themselves vary wildly depending on your type of ad and the targeting options you’ve chosen.

The pros and cons of Facebook advertising:

As already mentioned, one big benefit is also a drawback: the amount of options for ad types and targeting can be overwhelming. Of course, it can also let you reach exactly who you’re trying to reach, without wasting money getting your product in front of irrelevant viewers. 

One side effect of the advanced targeting techniques is that it can be easy to overspend if you don’t have a firm grasp on your audience yet. If you have a decent amount of hard data on what types of people tend to actually convert into buyers, then targeting can be incredibly useful–if not, it’s not as much of a value-add for your campaign. 

Last but not least, Facebook is less business oriented, and tends to be where users go to relax. Business oriented ads can do well on Facebook, but they might perform better somewhere else; you need to test them and find out.


Twitter has been focusing on improving their advertising offerings since 2010, when the platform was initially launched with the sole option of promoted tweets.

If you’re advertising on Twitter, you can promote your account to get more followers; you only pay when you get new followers. It’s an interesting idea, but for most small businesses, growing a Twitter following isn’t an end in and of itself and might not be the best place to put their budget.

The promoted tweets are where things start to get interesting. You can, of course, just promote a tweet–not only will it show up in users’ Twitter streams, it will show up at the top of results when people search for a related keyword. You can use those promoted tweets to share the word about your products or services, or to drive people back to your website. You can also create a promoted tweet that has a prompt to download an app–especially useful considering that mobile is the primary way many users access the service, and mobile users tend to be more active and engaged.

But, if you aren’t an app-based business, probably the most interesting offer of Twitter’s advertising platform is the “lead generation” cards. They’re like miniature landing pages, embedded in a tweet and giving you the ability to collect email addresses from users. On the user end, all they do is click the button, and they’re automatically signed up for your email list.

When it comes to cost, you’re paying for engagement–clicks, retweets, favorites, replies, and follows. Typically, for promoted tweets, the suggested bid is about $1.50-2.20 per engagement, and for promoted accounts, you’re paying $2-3 per new follower. 

For more on setting up Twitter ads, check out this article at Social Media Examiner, and for more on the lead generation cards, head here.

The pros and cons of Twitter advertising:

Twitter advertising could be especially useful if you’re in the middle of growing your email list or promoting an application. If you’re just trying to get more followers, it won’t be cheap–and honestly, your time might be better spent creating (or finding) good content to share and growing your followers that way.

Past that, the targeting options aren’t quite as robust as Facebook’s options, but they’re still available to help you narrow down your viewers and make sure that you’re paying for engagements with potential customers, not just random people.


With LinkedIn, you can promote a group, event, job listing, video (or other content, like a normal post from your company page), via sponsored content (which shows up in the news feed) or sidebar ads (which are–you guessed it!–in the sidebar). LinkedIn’s targeting options rival Facebook’s, although they’re obviously more oriented towards business and career demographics. You can target by: 

  • Job title
  • Job function
  • Industry
  • Location
  • Company size
  • Company name
  • Seniority (of position)
  • Age
  • Gender
  • LinkedIn Groups the user is a member of

There’s a $5 activation fee for all new LinkedIn advertisers, but it’s credited to your account and then applied towards ads when you start running them. You can choose to make your ads cost per click or per 1,000 impressions. LinkedIn recommends running ads on a CPC basis, and the minimum cost per click is $2–with the cost getting higher depending on your targeted audience.

The pros and cons of LinkedIn advertising: 

If you’re trying to reach high-level professionals, people in enterprise-level companies, or your potential customers are more easily targeted by the above options (job title, size of company, etc.) than by the targeting options that Facebook gives (personal interests or behavior), then LinkedIn is worth looking at. But make sure that you test the waters with a small spend, first, because, at a minimum CPC of $2, LinkedIn is one of the more expensive options out there.

So there you have it! A breakdown of the three main social advertising options. Which one is best for you–Facebook? LinkedIn? Twitter? If you’re having trouble figuring it out, give us a call–we can help.

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