There is a lot of buzz right now about the power of social media advertising and search engine advertising. And while I would certainly agree that each is buzz worthy, I would not necessarily recommend using both, or either. Like with any marketing channel, you need to have a strategic purpose behind any effort or expenditure. But in order to make a strategic decision, you need to have a foundational understanding of your options. And that is where this post comes in: to compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses, and the appropriate applications of these channels.
The Google Advantage
Google Adwords has a critical advantage in today’s gotta have it now culture. Whether someone is searching for “same day local plumbing repairs” or “fresh spicy beef jerky” they are interested in that subject right now. They want information about it now. They are actively looking for it. If you can fix their broken toilet or satisfy their beef jerky craving, you want to show up in the top of those search results. The user looking for same day plumbing repairs is ready to buy right now: they want information and they want results. Getting your ads in front of them at this moment is critical. The beef jerky-craving-user wants information and options right now, but they may not be as eager to buy.
Facebook offers some unique advantages that are on the opposite end of the spectrum from Adwords. Facebook lets you meticulously target people who are NOT looking for you. This approach may not be as valuable to the plumber, because few people are concerned with plumbing when it is working well. But you can target a specific audience of beef jerky sympathizers who may have never known how much they needed your new unique spice blend until they see your targeted ad. These people were not going to search Google for your new product because they have never heard of it. But on Facebook you can target people who have self-identified as being interested in jerky and bring your product to them.
Both services offer a budget-driven pay-per-click model where you can choose exactly how much you want to spend and when. They both enable you to create effective internet marketing campaigns when used strategically. Both give you a nice selection of analytics tools and integration options, though the burden is still on you to determine if those clicks are producing anything. And both systems let you target specific geographic areas, although each has a slightly unique interface and selection processes.
Additional Online Marketing Strategies
Facebook offers a unique opportunity to build targeted awareness. Using the pay-per-impression model, you can use your ads in order to create brand, event, or product awareness around a very targeted audience segment. This changes the game because you can do it without focusing on a call to action. Alone, this technique is not likely to amount to much, but when used in conjunction with other campaigns, offline media, and online marketing strategies, opportunities for synergy and reinforcement develop at minimal cost.
Google Adwords also provides a tangential benefit: enabling you to gather data about the search habits of users within a defined geographic area. By creating a small, low-budget campaign centered around a precise geographic area you can measure impressions, searches, and general interest for specific keywords. Though not an exact measure, this approach could be used to test interest and wording for a different type of campaign in a specific town, city, or region.
The Take Away
We have only scratched the surface with both of these advertising channels and I plan to write more in-depth posts on both in the future. But at this stage, the best two pieces of parting advice I can give you are these. First, analyze your online marketing strategies to see if there is a good place for either of these options. Second, take $25 and run a diligent five day test campaign on each. I doubt you could spend the money anywhere else and learn more.