Which Strategy is Right For You? Posts Vs. Paid Ads on Social Media

If you frequent various marketing blogs, you’ve surely seen articles that have championed the effectiveness of increasing your business’ social media presence to generate more sales. On a base level, it’s an appealing paradigm. Social media is accessible, immediate, widely used, and relatively simple for anyone to get started in. It also only costs what your personal time is worth to you if you’re doing it yourself. Because of this, it’s a quick and easy way for small businesses to get online and engage with their customers.

There’s also no denying that it’s big business – there are 2.35 billion people using social media sites worldwide, and  the overall social media ad spend surpassed that of traditional television in 2016, and this trend is only expected to grow. Social media ad spends have nearly doubled in the last two years, going from $16 billion in 2014 to $31 billion last year. No doubt about it – the audience is huge and companies are spending big bucks to ensure they’re seen on social media.

However, let’s make an important distinction here – making posts and running paid ads on social media are not one and the same. Lots of businesses are interested in social media to get new leads or increase sales, but engaging your audience through posts to your page and running a paid campaign on Facebook will not have the same outcome. If you’re considering getting into the wonderful world of social media, you should have a general idea of what to expect from engaging your audience for free versus laying down some hard earned buckaroos on paid traffic.

The Case for Being Active on Social

There’s no such thing as a “typical” business, so this advice won’t apply to everybody. A clothing company that targets the youth market will obviously have a greater need for an active social media presence and ad budget than a company that sells caskets for funerals. However, If you’re reading this, the chances are that your business is the type that may benefit from utilizing social media in one way or another. The benefits may seem more readily apparent if you own a local restaurant or bar versus those if you have a local body shop or landscaping company, but getting online and interacting with your audience will be useful to many types of businesses if you keep at it.

Engages Your Local Audience
Setting up a Facebook page or Twitter profile couldn’t be more simple to do, and it’s a quick way for you to reach out to customers (and for them to do the same). Other local businesses and publications can engage with you as well, so it’s great for networking and cross-promotion. Speaking of promotions, you can always offer some coupons or discounts on social media once you’ve built up an audience. This could be a great way to generate some quick sales.

Adds a Face to your Brand
Posting on social media is one of the best ways to give your brand some personality. If you’re witty or a good writer, it can be extremely effective in terms of adding some character to your business and humanizing your customer’s experience. You might even find yourself with some new leads just because they think you’re a swell person.

Local SEO Benefits
Social media sites are generally ranked pretty high in Google, Bing, and Yahoo. A quick way to get your local company found in search results is to ensure you have a social media presence. Make sure your name is descriptive and includes your brand and location, and make sure you use any extras a platform provides to include things like a map listing, phone number, and pictures.

More Reviews
Google Plus is integrated into the Google platform meaning your reviews will show up alongside your business page if set up correctly. Facebook also has built-in reviews. This makes for a seamless experience for your users, and they’ll be more likely to leave you some kind words if you have a business page you actively keep up with.

It’s Pretty Easy, Dude
Making a few posts a week doesn’t take much time to do. Even if the benefits are moderate, it’s likely worth your while to spend a little time here and there keeping up with your customers online. If you start finding yourself with a large audience, the payoff will be exponentially better.

Why Paid Ads Will Still Get You Farther

Posting to social media sounds great, right? It’s quick, relatively easy, and has the potential to get you some new sales over time. But for a lot of businesses, that could be a very long time. You might have a product or service that people are less likely to engage with on social media. Maybe you simply don’t have the time or capacity to keep up with something that won’t guarantee a return. This is where paid advertising comes in. If you want to engage a large audience quickly, you’re still going to have to pony up some cash. So why should you consider spending money on social media ads?

Push vs Pull Marketing
I’ll preface the following statement with this – if you’re thinking about spending money on online advertising, your first stop should probably still be Google Google Ads. For most folks your dollar will be better spent there – it’s still the king of paid advertising. That said, most people already have a particular product or service in mind when they use Google to search. Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms that offer paid ads offer a different approach to advertising, and you can get your product or service in front of audiences that isn’t actively searching for your product. Facebook has great tools to make sure you’re traffic is targeted, but casting your net a little wider can be useful for general branding purposes to make sure you’re getting seen. It’s also useful for impulse buys. Selling a cool t-shirt? Put it in front of a lot of people on social media and you’re likely to get more conversions than you would via traditional paid Google ads.

It’s Low Cost
In general, paid ads on Facebook are much cheaper than Google. Rates will vary greatly depending on the audience you’re after, but Facebook can get you lots of traffic for a relatively small investment. Even an ad spend of $5-10 a day can drive a lot of traffic to a site. Unlike simply posting to social media, it isn’t free – but good advertising never is.

Immediate Traffic
Need to get a lot of eyes on your product or service immediately? Paid ads will be promoted to anyone that you’ve targeted, even if they haven’t liked your page. This means your audience isn’t nearly as limited. Think of a billboard versus talking to a couple people at a bar – you can engage a few people for free or pay to be seen by thousands.

Measuring Tools
Facebook has some great tools to see how your paid ads are converting. Some of these extend to regular unpaid posts as well, but their most robust when viewing paid ads. Most importantly, you can see where your money is spent and make adjustments to spend more on promoting ads or content that perform better,

Why Not Both?

The best types of campaigns will always use a combined approach to advertising. Your audience will appreciate it if you’re engaging them and the benefits from offering a more interactive experience can be huge. However, paid ads are always going to get you more traffic – especially if you’re just starting out. Once you get the hang of it and have some measurable results, you can start utilizing both in tandem more effectively. For instance, you can try something out as a regular post – then pay to promote it if it’s getting a lot of attention.

Your personal needs should dictate how much you’re spending on each type of service, and each one will offer different benefits. Want to build up a more dedicated audience over time? Make sure you’re engaging your audience with social posts. Want a lot of inexpensive traffic? Facebook ads will get you there fast. Need more qualified leads? Google Google Ads is still king. Still not sure what to do? Give us a shout!

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