Setting Up Camp(aigns)

Comparing the Results of 4 Different Advertising Platforms

With so many social media platforms available, choosing where to allocate your advertising dollars can be a daunting task. I hope that I can make it a bit easier by sharing some recent experiences and results.

When the Six Degrees blog recently surpassed 200 posts, we wanted both to highlight this accomplishment as well as make it easier for users to navigate through some of the most popular content. To do that, we set up a landing page that put our top 10 blog posts in one place (which is here – no harm in a shameless plug, right?). We then launched a small pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaign across four social platforms to get the word out and evaluate how they compared with each other in a “head to head to head to head” trial. Each platform was utilized with comparable budget, timing and content (headline and body copy, imagery and landing page destination).

Here’s how the platforms stacked up in four areas.

Bang for Your Buck (Cost per Click)

Winner: Twitter was the winner hands down, coming in with more than 1,000 clicks at just 10 cents per click. In contrast, Google Ads cost 87 cents per click, Facebook cost $1.66 per click and LinkedIn lagged dramatically behind at $4.35 per click.

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Of course, those numbers don’t begin to tell a complete story. Twitter was able to achieve those lofty numbers primarily by utilizing its Twitter Audience Platform, which displays ad campaigns through other affiliated apps. Twitter doesn’t share details about where specifically those advertisements are being shown – so despite winning in price, Twitter is disappointing when it comes to:

Transparency

Winner: Google Ads. With a simple-to-navigate dashboard displaying impressions (the number of times the ad is displayed), clicks and spend, Google starts off well and gets better the deeper you dig into it. It further shares proportions of views, impressions and clicks by device type (smartphones, tablets, computers) and how people ended up seeing the ad: through Google search, Google partner sites and other sources. Google also provides a list of all the search phrases that directed people to the advertisement, how many times each search term generated an impression, and how many clicks came from each of those impressions. Finally, to go even deeper, Google Ads links to Google Analytics, where you can see even more detailed data by selecting from a variety of metrics and key pages of your website and the actions taken by people who reached your website through Google Ads.

LinkedIn and Facebook both provide baseline statistics as expected, while Twitter falls shortest in campaign transparency. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Google is the only one of these platforms that doesn’t fall under the traditional “social media” umbrella and is the most successful at providing customers with detailed information. Social media companies tend to play their cards close to the vest and keep data proprietary.

Ease of Use

Winner: Facebook is the most user-friendly when it comes to setting up and launching a campaign, offering a quick and simple approach to setup and targeting. It begins with a simple question: “What’s your marketing objective?”

Following that selection, Facebook helps you navigate through the setup process, narrowing the approach with step-by-step options to best achieve that initial marketing objective.

Each platform is easy to use, but Google has a steeper learning curve than the rest, in part because of the transparency benefits mentioned above. Google gives the option to test a variety of permutations of each advertisement, so some of the initial setup can be more cumbersome. That time investment pays off in more detailed data, but there is a time cost that gets paid on the front end.

Targeting Detail

Winner: Unsurprisingly, LinkedIn offers the greatest level of targeting for business professionals, including company sizes by employee or revenue, management levels, levels of education, industry and dozens of other metrics. While Facebook and Twitter have larger user bases and can reach more people in bulk, you need to be careful to make sure that you are spending money not just to reach a lot of people, but the right people. When it comes to sharing a blog that is generally most appealing to our fellow marketing professionals, clients and vendors, the ability to target more narrowly is of greater value in generating blog subscriptions than the ability to reach a broader target.

So … What Now?

That’s a question you’ll need to answer yourself. The clearest takeaway from this is that a one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t exist, and you need to be thoughtful and prospective about your goals when entering into a campaign initiative. Establish and define what your target conversion event is – whether that means views, clicks, downloads, purchases or anything in between. Target your approach beginning with that end conversion in mind, and be free to experiment. Remember that there’s often no right or wrong answer, but rather several different roads leading to the same destination.

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Christopher Nagle
Chris has more than 20 years of design and art direction experience with work that spans multiple industries and areas of application. His drive to uncover what sparks the motivations of his target audiences is what has led to a career of not only award-winning work, but work that moves the needle for his clients. Chris’ extensive background working with researchers and strategists has also given him a strong understanding of how to ensure that visual communications are true to the brand while reaching the right audience in the intended manner.

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