Online advertising. Are you wasting your money?

There was a lot of noise recently when General Motors pulled the plug on its Facebook ads. If you’re an owner of Facebook stock, this was the first trickle of bad news that has since turned into a cascading torrent of negative publicity and reduced everyone’s favourite social media site to a punchline.

It’s interesting that both Ford and Chrysler haven’t followed General Motors out the door. And it says something about how these companies approach online advertising in general.

Facebook certainly makes it easy to set up a campaign. But it’s not the only game in town.

For businesses the big three are Google, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Having used all of them I have some observations that may help you choose the best option for your company.

First I’ll start with some broad generalizations.

  • Just about everyone uses Google
  • Most people are on Facebook
  • Professionals are increasingly using LinkedIn

Google adwords does reach just about everyone – and that can be an issue if you’re a B2B company. Sure your clients are out there. But so is everyone else. Your ads are served up based on keywords, geography and demographics.  In essence your ad has to answer a query if someone is going to click it. And if you make your ad too compelling you can get a lot of folks clicking (read: $$$$) who aren’t actually interested in purchasing your product or service.

I like to think of Google as a great big information mall. In the real world, if I need pants, I go to the mall and look for stores that sell pants. With Google the storefronts are ads at the top of the results page and the organic searches themselves.

Facebook knows a bit more about it’s members so the demographics are much better. Gleaning information from profiles makes these incredibly targeted. So yes CEOs are on Facebook. But are they their for work or to look at pictures of their grandkids? My experience has taught me that the click through rates for Facebook ads are very low for B2B. As a true social network, people are not on Facebook to “search” in the Google sense of the word for answers to problems. It’s a fun place to hangout. So consumer goods related to their interests would seem to do better. If you’re a B2C, it would seem to be the place to be.

This brings us to LinkedIn. As a network for professionals, LinkedIn is where business people go to connect and find opportunities. As an advertiser, you can target a lot more effectively than even Facebook, and serve up business related ads in a forum that is appropriate for business.

If you want to target CEOs in Healthcare in the United States – you can make that happen. If you want to target dentists, you can do that too. And unlike Facebook, the people using LinkedIn are there for business, so your B2B business ads are placed appropriately in the right venue.

In terms of costs, Facebook ads are the least expensive of the three, with Google and LinkedIn Ads costing much more per view or click. But if your ad isn’t appropriate for Facebook, then even a little is too much.

So where will you spend your advertising dollar this month?

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