When launching a digital marketing campaign, many of our clients are unsure as to whether they should focus on search advertising (such as Google AdWords) or social advertising (social media platforms such as Instagram or Twitter ads). Our advice is always the same: both forms offer benefits and disadvantages, so take a look at what you want to promote and your target demographic, and select the service that’s right for your brand.
Confused? Let us break those pros and cons down for you:
Immediate traffic and sales vs. long-term value search ads, when done well, have a history of successfully driving traffic and increasing conversions for brands – this is great for those who are looking to hit their target audience fast and furiously, such as small retail stores. A potential customer is looking to pick up a six-pack on the way home from work? No problem: if you’ve set up your search ads for your liquor store correctly, you’ve instantly made a sales conversion.
However, social ads have been starting to edge out search ads for those who are looking for long-term brand champions, when emotional connection is just as important as reviews when it comes to conversions. This is because it is difficult to create personal connection to the stark, concise words of search ads; with social ads, brands can use visuals to trigger memories or feelings from the consumer, inviting the potential customer to subconsciously connect the brand with those positive emotions, thus increasing the potential for a long-term relationship with that end user. This doesn’t mean that social advertising doesn’t convert into sales – quite the opposite, in fact. Sharing images of your product in ways that will inspire consumers to purchase (again, using emotions to connect with users) can also convert to immediate sales when done well.
Guaranteed Impressions vs. Organic Engagement
When spending marketing budget on paid search ads, it’s quite clear where your money is going. Every time someone clicks on your ad, you pay. It’s quite cut-and-dry, and if you have to report back to prove your budget is well-deserved (and well-spent), it’s a succinct way to show that your digital ads are getting users to your website. However, when you use that same amount of money on social ads, you get those clicks as well as any organic engagement your ad generated. For example, when your ad is served to someone interested in your brand, and they click on it, your goal is achieved. However, if they then turn around and share that ad on their social networks (ie. shares or likes on Facebook which are in turn seen in that user’s friends’ news feeds), you are essentially getting free additional impressions. And, as we all know, social content that is organically shared by users is by far more trusted than paid content. The bang for your buck becomes much higher.
Keywords vs. Targeted Impressions
The use of keywords in search ads allows you to really hit an exact target demographic: those who are searching for what you’re offering. And because of that, it’s likely to convert in to sales or other end goals quite well. For example, someone searches “boat rental Vancouver”, your company that does just that is almost guaranteed a click. However, this can also backfire: if you aren’t getting into the mindset of your customer and using keywords you would use instead of keywords they are actually using, you may not get any results at all. Conversely, if you are using keywords that are also being used by people that don’t actually want what you’re offering, you may be paying for clicks with an extremely low conversion rate (i.e. ads with zero return).
With social ads, you are targeting general or specific demographics. You can start with a category as general as “females in Ontario”, and, with certain social channels, get as specific as “females aged 19-25 in Sudbury, Ontario who like yoga, eat kale, have at least one dog and drive a Prius”. By employing these targeted categories, you can hit as wide or narrow a target audience as your brand or product requires. Unlike search ads, you are able to reach an audience before they’ve decided exactly what they want to buy, because they aren’t having to type in exact words to see your ad. Similar to ads in a magazine, you can reach users that are receptive to what you are offering because you have used their expressed interests to align your product with them. While these may or may not convert to immediate purchase, they will keep your brand front-of-mind much longer than a search ad.
In summary, it is clear that social and search ads both have advantages to reaching digital consumers. Consider whether your overall strategy requires immediate short-term sales or long-term brand affinity and choose the appropriate method; or, devote portions of your budget to each tactic to benefit from the pros of both!