Tweet, Like, Follow and Pin: Advertising on Social Media

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It was in 2013 when the scales first started tipped – spending on internet advertising surpassed spending on newspaper advertising (the second largest ad medium) for the first time (20.6% versus 17%). Each year since then, the gap between internet advertising and television advertising (the first largest ad medium) has continued to close, and in 2017 it is estimated that internet advertising will finally come out on top (38.4% versus 35.8%).

The average person has five social media accounts, and spends just under two hours browsing these networks every single day, accounting for 28% of the total time spent on the internet every day.

So why exactly aren’t you advertising on social media?

What Is Social Media Advertising

As the popularity of social media networks continued to increase through the early and mid-2000s, the networks turned their attention towards ways they could monetize the systems they had built. Some toyed with small, monthly paid memberships, while others introduced premium paid accounts that offered new features that were unavailable to free accounts. Over time, each of the major networks also implemented their own advertising platforms to give businesses a way to put advertisements in front of the millions of people logging in to these networks every day.

If you use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Google+, or StumbleUpon (just to name a few), you’ve seen these advertisements in various places – in a sidebar, in your feed of posts, as a pop-up, or as a short ad before the video you want to watch. You may notice that if you post about a brand or “like” their page, you start seeing more of their ads, Or, you may see ads for a brand that several of your friends have “liked” or interacted with in some way. That’s the nature of social media advertising – using people’s social interactions to determine what types of ads, from what brands, would be relevant to their daily lifestyle. And it’s an approach that works really, really well.


When it comes to any form of marketing, the benefits and cons of a specific advertising channel are different from business to business, campaign to campaign. With that being said, here are some of the major benefits to advertising on social media, that you typically can’t find with most other major channels.

Advanced Targeting

When it comes to newspaper advertising, you get the benefit of knowing that your ad will show up in every printed copy of the issue you are running in. This gives you a higher number of “impressions” (times people see your advertisement), but a lower number of “qualified impressions” (times people of your specific target demographic see your advertisement). In print, you can try to improve your number of qualified impressions by advertising in publications that are more narrowly targeted at your demographic – a women’s magazine if you are selling women’s jewelry, or a business journal if you’re a corporate accountant. But your targeting is limited to the narrowness of the publication itself – a women’s magazine may not help you narrow in on households with a certain level of disposable income, and a business journal may not help you reach organizations with a specific number of employees.

Social media networks gather a large amount of user data, and advertisers on those platforms benefit from the ability to use that info to target their ads to very specific levels. There are four main ways this targeting happens:

Tracking Conversions

When it comes to social media, it can be very difficult (if not impossible) to track your return on investment. How do you measure the amount of trust, credibility and word of mouth that your social media presence is building within potential or current customers?

With social media advertising, however, you can get a much better view of how not only your social media advertising is performing, but also your social media presence in general (and one often bolsters the other, to boot!). With the correct systems in place, you can tell, for example, that visitors to your eCommerce website that come in through a Facebook advertisement are X% more likely to purchase the travel version of your product, versus visitors that come in through Google AdWords. This information can lead you into much more effective marketing campaigns; in this case, we would suggest you run advertisements on Facebook focusing on your travel products!


The dominance of mobile devices as the primary way people consume content is continuing to rise. Time spent on smartphones and tablets accounts for 60% of the digital media time spent in the US, and social media advertising is still the best option for reaching those mobile users. It’s always important that you put your advertising where the eyeballs are – and with such a higher percentage of people not only using mobile devices, but using mobile devices to browse social media, you avoid social media advertising at your own risk.

The Smaller Players

Advertising on big name social media websites gives you a large pool of users from which to narrow in to find the smaller subset of your specific target demographic. But what if there were other, less commonly known social interaction networks that catered specifically to your target demographic? For many businesses this is the case, and can often allow you to spend less budget while getting more qualified impressions. Here are just a few examples:

If you’re interested in how social media advertising would fit into your marketing campaign, or if you’ve been engaging in social media advertising and aren’t happy with the way it is performing, reach out! We’d be happy to review your situation and give you our recommendations.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user magicatwork.