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Which Social Advertising Channels Should You Invest In?

June 29, 2017
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Social media has taken the internet by storm over the past decade. So it’s no wonder that advertising on social platforms has become a more vital part of marketing within the last few years. But with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and an ever growing list of channels, how do you know which platforms to invest your precious ad dollars in?

The truth is there is no cut and dry answer. I simply can’t tell you one network will be better than another because each one reaches a completely different audience than the next. So let’s first review the factors you should consider when looking at each network.


There are a number of elements that should contribute to your decision of which network to spend ad dollars. We’ll look at each consideration more closely when reviewing each channel, but here is a list to get you thinking:

  • Are you B2B or B2C? Certain networks perform better for Business-to-Consumer (B2C) advertisers while other platforms perform better for Business-to-Business (B2B) marketers.
  • Who is your audience? Similar to the above, you must consider who you are looking for. Pinterest could be a very successful place to advertise clothing, but probably wouldn’t yield great returns for business software.
  • What does your data say? If you’ve been running ads already, which is extremely likely, take a look at your performance analytics. Run some reports and look at metrics like cost per click (CPC), engagement, and reach. If you have a tool that allows it, look specifically at your return on investment (ROI) for each network. If you have a low ROI, you may need to either adjust your strategy or consider that it may be the wrong network for your product or service.

The Channels

Now let’s take a look at some of the most popular channels for users and advertisers alike.


When it comes to social media, Facebook is king. The social network has over 1.9 billion monthly active users worldwide and is continuing to grow every quarter. Facebook seems to be the one network that is pervasive among marketers regardless of industry, probably due to the widely diverse audience of users. In a recent survey conducted by Social Media Examiner, 93% of respondents reported running paid social ads on Facebook.

Related: Key Performance Indicators Every Social Advertiser Should Know

B2C marketers run Facebook ads more than B2B marketers (95% vs. 87% respectively), although 2017 marked the first time in the annual report’s history that Facebook marketing surpassed LinkedIn for B2B marketers.

So what does this mean? Given the huge audience, Facebook is probably a safe investment as long as you do a few things:

  1. Target Your Audience With such a diverse user base, Facebook ads will benefit from being targeted to a specific audience. Otherwise, you’ll be spending your ad dollars on a shot in the dark. Use Facebook’s robust parameters to target certain audience demographics including location, education, age, gender, etc. For example, if you’re a B2C marketer at a home goods company that can only ship within the United States, you’ll want to focus your ads to those users located within that fence. Showing your ads to users in Europe won’t do you much good.
  1. Follow Best Practices Facebook Business wants your ads to do well so you’ll keep spending money with them. Their list of best practices should be consulted when putting ads up.
  1. Monitor Your Results Don’t set your ad and then forget about it, make sure you are monitoring your results. Facebook Business has a robust Ads Manager where you can set your ad parameters, monitor results, adjust budget accordingly and put together reporting on every ad or campaign. Be sure to utilize this feature and make adjustments to your ad when it’s not working for you.

Facebook also has a number of ad types which display at various locations on the desktop and mobile sites. You can learn more about that here.


Instagram ranks in the top ten social media networks worldwide with about 600 million active monthly users. The network, now owned by Facebook, has gradually increased its ability to display ads integrated into the user’s feed and can be created using Facebook’s Ad Manager. According to Social Media Examiner’s survey, 24% of marketers use paid ads on the platform, making it the second most popular paid platform for ads.

The anatomy of an Instagram ad is simple, but every aspect should be carefully curated to draw user attention. First, ensure that you have a high quality image or video. The almost entirely mobile platform is visually centered so if your media files are lack luster your audience will scroll right past the ad.

Related: Integrating Social Media Strategies with Other Channels

Once you have the perfect image selected, you’ll want to pick the best call to action (CTA) for users. Popular CTAs on Instagram include Shop Now, Learn More, and Install Now depending on what you want the user to do. Selecting the correct call to action is important as it prepares the user for what’s to come after clicking the link.

Take a look at this ad from UrbanStems, a DC based floral delivery service. The ad has a clean, quality image with a clear CTA:

Here are some other things to consider before posting an ad on Instagram:

  1. Your Company Handle Make sure your Instagram handle, or username, is clear and concise for your business. Try not to muddle the name too much from what your company is actually called. This will allow users to find you more easily in the future.
  1. The Caption Use the caption to provide more information including details about what makes your product unique, how you can solve a problem for the consumer, and promo codes. Be sure to include relevant hashtags as these can help draw users to the post when using Instagram’s Discover feature. But don’t over do it, be strategic with your choices, nothing looks worse than a never ending stream of hashtags.
  1. Your Company Profile Some users may choose to ignore the CTA and go directly to your company’s Instagram profile. Make sure this is kept up-to-date and accurately represents your brand. It’s also wise to provide a link to your company’s home page, or even a specific landing page in the bio of your page.


While LinkedIn has significantly less monthly active users than the previous two networks, 150 million active monthly users, it is still a valuable platform that marketers choose to spend their ad dollars on. 16% of marketers use paid advertisements on LinkedIn according to the Social Media Examiner’s survey, attracting more B2B marketers than B2C marketers (29% vs. 10% respectively).

It’s no surprise that LinkedIn draws more ad spend from B2B than B2C given that LinkedIn by it’s nature is based in business and employment networking. Take a look at your LinkedIn feed and what you’ll typically see advertised are business tools and software or continuing education programs relevant to your current job title or location. These ads will be labeled as sponsored, but are designed to blend into the user feed.

Related: Pros & Cons of Hiring a Social Media Agency

Much like Facebook, LinkedIn has an Ad Manager in which you can create and monitor your ads. Though you can take it one step further with LinkedIn by delivering personalized ads directly to a user’s LinkedIn Inbox.

Other Notable Networks

Four other social media networks made the Social Media Examiner’s report for paid social ads: Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Snapchat each drew 15%, 11%, 3%, and 1% of marketers’ ad dollars respectively. Depending on your industry, these networks may be worth researching and considering as well.

Bringing It Together

When you’re looking to invest in social media advertisements the most important thing is to do your research and to have clear goals. When deciding which channel(s) to use, look at the best practices for your chosen network and learn how to optimize ad performance by utilizing the platform’s native resources.

Once you have a quality ad designed, make sure you know who you are targeting with your ads. You may even decide to use different ads for different demographics. A 20-year-old female in New York is probably drawn to something different than a 32-year old male in Dallas. Use the granular targeting ability of each platform to your advantage and develop robust personas for each audience segment you want to attract.

Finally, test and iterate on your ads. If you notice the metrics on your ads aren’t generating the number you want to see, don’t wait until your entire budget is spent to make adjustments. Make small tweaks to the ad and note what increases performance. Each ad and network will be different, but diligence will help you crack into what your specific audience responds to best.

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