Ever bought something as a result of an Instagram ad? Or seen unusually relevant sponsored posts on Facebook? Any LinkedIn ads that introduced you to new software?

Chances are you’re a social media user - whether that’s regularly scrolling through your Instagram feed daily, turning to Pinterest for inspiration, or keeping an eye on Twitter for the latest news. And the more you use social media platforms, the more ads you’ll see.

The power of social media when it comes to serving highly relevant (and persuasive) ads is almost unparalleled. If you’ve seen your Organic social performance floundering lately, or you’re interested in adding Paid Social as a new marketing channel, one of the first things to consider is which social media networks are the best fit for your business.

In this guide we explore what the big players on the social scene offer in terms of advertising, how it works, and how you can choose the best ones for your business. There’s also some handy tips on how to maximise your social advertising investment. Let’s begin!


What is social media advertising (aka Paid Social)?

Paid Social, social media ads, social advertising...call it what you want, but long story short it stands for the various types of advertisements that can be run on social media platforms. We prefer Paid Social.

From single image or video ads, sponsored posts to engaging carousels, collections or bespoke filters, there’s a plethora of ad formats available on each network that advertisers can experiment with. 

Getting started is easy, but unless you have some experience as to what ad formats and objectives will work best for your specific target audience, achieving good results can be challenging. 

That’s why understanding first the different types of social media advertising available and the pros and cons of each platform can help you make the right decision for your social media marketing strategy.

Types of Social Media Advertising

Whilst certain ad formats, such as sponsored posts tend to be common across most social media platforms, there are variations to consider for each network. 

Some factors you should review before choosing the right social platform to advertise on include:

  • Size of the platform and its audience
  • Type of audience available
  • Types of ads you can run and the assets needed to do so
  • How expensive it is to run ads 
  • What are your main goals

Below we’ve compiled an overview of six different social media platforms, the types of advertising they provide and whether they could be a good fit for your business or not.

Facebook Advertising

facebook logo and like icons

When it comes to Paid Social, Facebook is a behemoth. It has the second highest market share across digital ad spending after Google and its variety of ad formats, placements and targeting options is second to none. Not to mention the size of the audience your ads could reach.

You can use the Facebook Ads Manager to run ads not just across Facebook’s various placements (from Feeds to Search, Instant Articles, Marketplace and more), but also on Instagram, Messenger and Facebook’s own Ad Network. 

Therefore if you have a varied target audience and you’re a retailer, Facebook is the perfect platform to get started when it comes to Paid Social. And it’s not too expensive either! Have a look at our previous blog to see how much you should be spending on Facebook advertising.

Instagram Advertising

Currently owned by Facebook, and rapidly growing each year, Instagram already numbers over 1 billion users with the vast majority of its audience in the ‘below 35 years old’ bracket. This makes it the perfect fit for any business whose target audience relies on younger demographic groups.

Whilst you can use the Facebook Ads Manager to manage ads running on Instagram, you can also keep the two completely separate and just run social media advertising campaigns on the latter’s own advertising platform.

Learn more about the differences between Facebook Ads and Instagram Ads.

As a highly visual platform, having high quality images and videos are paramount for achieving Paid Social success on Instagram, and you can run a variety of ads from carousels to story ads, and much more. This also makes Instagram advertising particularly attractive for B2C companies in the fashion, health and beauty, food and travel industries. 

Instagram logo on mobile phone

LinkedIn Advertising

linkedin logo multiple times

The go-to platform for B2B marketers, LinkedIn ads can work very well, whether it’s to generate leads, for recruitment purposes, or to raise awareness about specific services or products. With a size of 630 million users, it remains smaller than Facebook and Instagram.

In order to start seeing results, you’ll need to have a bigger budget available, especially compared to Facebook or Instagram, as average CPCs were above $5 in 2018, and CPM above $6, with a significantly lower CTR of around 0.13%, according to AdStage data. These metrics will vary depending on your targeting and the types of ads you’re running, with LinkedIn normally recommending certain CPC bids.

In terms of ad formats, the most common ones include sponsored content which are the ads you’ll see on your LinkedIn feed, sponsored InMail, text ads, as well as more advanced dynamic ads for greater personalisation. 

However, where LinkedIn becomes truly powerful and a favourite of B2B marketers is through its detailed targeting options. In addition to the usual options around age and location, you can also segment your target audience based on: company industry, company size, company name, company followers, job seniority, fields of study, degrees, member schools, job function, job title, member skills, member groups, member interests and more.

This enables you to build highly relevant audience segments to go with your ads, so you can show the right message to the right person, giving you more control over your advertising investment.

Twitter Advertising

With over 300 million of monthly users, Twitter offers a plethora of advertising options. If you’re particularly active organically on this social platform, Twitter ads can help you increase your reach, drive more brand awareness and boost engagement with your audience.

You can also use the platform’s advertising solutions to drive relevant traffic to your website or promote your mobile apps. When it comes to targeting you can segment your audiences based on language, gender, interest, device, behaviour, keyword, geography and more options.

However, given the significantly smaller size of the overall Twitter audience, we do recommend experimenting with Twitter ads as an additional Paid Social channel, rather than relying on it as your primary source of social media advertising. 

twitter logo on iphone

Pinterest Advertising

pinterest spelled out

A similar size to Twitter, Pinterest boasts over 300 million users, and according to their data 83% of weekly users have made a purchase based on Pins they saw from brands. 

Due to its size it also serves more as a complementary Paid Social channel to add to your overall marketing mix. 

However, this platform can be extremely powerful when it comes to advertising particularly for fashion, beauty, food and drink, and home retailers. With the nature of Pinterest revolving around seasonal content, life moments and daily decisions, these verticals can resonate well with the audience available on Pinterest.

Ad formats vary from sponsored pins to carousel and video ads, as well as app install pins and shopping ads (shoppable pins) which are available only for English speaking countries at the moment. Coupled with a wide range of targeting options including interests, keywords, customer lists, remarketing and actalike audiences, Pinterest can deliver effective advertising campaigns for retailers who also have to contend with less competition compared to the big platforms such as Facebook or Google.

Snapchat Advertising

With over 200 million users globally Snapchat is the smallest social platform when it comes to size, but it’s been a firm favourite among younger audiences who engage with it several times a day.

Advertisers can use this mobile social media platform to pursue a series of objectives, from driving more traffic or app installs, to boosting engagement, raising brand awareness and more.

Most ad formats rely on vertical images or videos and can be run as collection or story ads. The platform also offers more creative ad formats such as AR Lenses and filters that can help advertisers stand out more, as well as 6 second, non-skippable video ads, whilst providing all the usual targeting methods you’d expect from a social media network.

However, when it comes to Snapchat ads, your budget will be a big factor in terms of what ad formats you can actually run. Some of the more creative options require fairly steep advertising spend, making them more attractive for well-established brands with big advertising budgets.

snapchat logo on smartphone with black and yellow background

How to choose the right Paid Social channels for your business

We hope the above overview of the main social media advertising networks has been useful to give you an idea as to which ones might be a good fit for your own business. If you’re still pondering different options, we recommend that you:

Start slow and pick one channel to trial first. Usually Facebook or Instagram are good starting points for testing the water without spending a fortune. 

If you have a more niche target audience, it’s worth exploring the social network they’re most likely to use. Are they younger and more likely to Snap a lot, or maybe they’re searching for inspiration on Pinterest? If you’re in the B2B arena, but you have a limited budget, you can start with 1 LinkedIn campaign that is highly relevant for your target audience. 

If you’re more interested in building brand awareness and engagement, go for Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat, depending on which one is closest related to your customer base.

If all you really need is just to boost sales for your ecommerce store, Facebook dynamic ads and shoppable Pins can be the way to go. 

Social Media Advertising Tips

group of people jumping for joy

Regardless of which social advertising solution you go for, there’s a few tips you can follow to increase chances of success:

  1. Have a clearly defined goal for each Paid Social campaign you want to run. Don’t run a Reach campaign and expect to see sales from it. 
  2. Make sure you understand your target audience, and segment accordingly. Avoid the ‘one size fits all’ approach.
  3. Tailor your advertising messages AND ad formats to ensure they resonate with each audience segment you’re targeting. For example, you’ll want to use different messages when appearing for the first time in front of brand new users versus retargeting basket abandoners.
  4. Make sure you can get all the performance data you need to be able to accurately evaluate the success of your campaigns. That usually means enabling additional conversion tracking via the social media platform, whether it’s using the Facebook pixel, Pinterest tag, LinkedIn Insight tag or something else. 
  5. If you want to go the extra mile in gaining insights on your Paid Social performance, don’t forget to use utm tags in your destination URLs. You can then identify the traffic coming from your ads in Google Analytics to access information about bounce rate and other website metrics.
  6. Use high quality assets for your ads. Image and video quality play a big part in helping you create effective ads, and copy is just as important. Always split test different ad variations to see what works best.
  7. Review your landing pages. This is applicable for any digital advertising campaign, not just Paid Social, but we can’t stress enough how important it is to have landing pages that convert, and if you’re not seeing the results you’d like, conversion rate optimisation can help you unlock any issues.

We hope this guide was a useful resource, helping you make an informed decision when it comes to what social media is best for advertising for your business.

If you’d like to discuss your social media needs further or take your Paid Social campaigns to the next level, get in touch with Williams Commerce today.