Which Ads Platform Should I Advertise On: Social or Search

4 Minutes

Sep 2, 2020

Deciding on whether to run social ads or search ads can be a daunting task. Each business has its own set of unique challenges so there is no real one-size fits all solution when it comes to advertising. While building a full ad account structure requires deeper understanding of the specific business challenges, there are some key considerations that can help decide how social and search ads fit in the marketing plan.

What Are Search and Social Ads?

Search ads are text ads that appear either at the top or bottom of a search engine result page (SERP). To promote with search ads, you bid on certain keywords that people use to search.

Search Ad Example
Search Ad Example

Social ads are ads that appear in social media platforms, usually featuring an image or video accompanied with text. These ads can appear in different placements within social apps, from Instagram stories to Facebook’s news feed and they can come in various formats such as static images, carousel ads and video ads. Almost all social media platforms offer ads, think Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Reddit and TikTok.

Social Ad Example
Social Ad Example

Why Running Search and Social Ads is Different

The key difference between search and social ads is where along the marketing funnel you are reaching your audience. Once you have a good understanding of your customer’s journey, you can then decide on where you would create touchpoints using advertising.

Marketing Funnel
Marketing Funnel (Credits: Visual Paradigm)

Audiences on Search Ads

When someone searches for something on Google,  there is already some level of intent with them. However, the levels of intent can vary with the type of search. If they are simply looking for the type of service you provide, they are likely to be in the researching phase. If they are typing in your company name or your competitor’s name, we can assume they are even further down the funnel. Because there is intent first before a search ad reaches an audience, we generally use search ads to reach out to audiences that are already in-market or close to the purchasing phase.

Audiences on Social Ads

Social ads offer broader targeting and creative freedom with ad formats and placement. This makes social ads a great tool for brand awareness and brand education. When compared to search ads, the audience you reach is broader and closer to the top of the marketing funnel.

Another benefit of social ads is that different platforms provide a different set of targeting capabilities. For example with Facebook ads you can utilize their powerful interest-based targeting, while LinkedIn ads allow you to target people working in specific industries or job titles. We can quickly see why Facebook ads are generally better for B2C while Linkedin ads are a powerful tool for B2B businesses.

While the broader audience feature is great for brand awareness, those are not the only types of ads that are available. Most social ads platforms allow you to place a pixel on your website, which opens up other targeting capabilities. A pixel is a piece of tracking code you can place in the backend of your site, capturing information of users on your site. This allows you to send social ads to people who may have visited your site but haven’t purchased. On Facebook, you can even create a lookalike audience of people who are similar to those who have purchased in the past. This opens up the option of remarketing campaigns, ideal for businesses struggling to check their cost per acquisition low.

Decision Making Time: Promoting on Search or Social

When it comes to deciding which type of ads to run, it depends on where you want to reach your audience. It can also be argued that each stage of the customer journey is equally important. Without brand awareness, there won’t be consideration. Without intent, brand awareness doesn’t translate into actual revenue. In our experience, robust ecommerce tends to utilize both search and social ads. These platforms work in tandem with each other to lower cost per acquisition and capture more leads or purchases. We have also seen success when using multiple search and social ad platforms for a multi-level omnichannel marketing campaign.

While structuring campaigns across different ad platforms to capture audiences in each stage of the marketing funnel requires a custom build that reflects the specific goals of each business, understanding the type of audience in both social and search ads are the first steps to deciding where to spend your advertising dollars.