Social Media Advertising – How to Choose Which is Best for You

If you read our recent post on how to decide which social media platform is suitable for your business, the next step in building your social media presence is deciding which one you should advertise on.

Organic social can work well if you already have a large audience base, but if you’re struggling to gain some new followers or to reach a new market, paid advertising gets the job done. With organic social, only so much of your content gets outside of your established audience – paid social is effective in getting your content out to consumers that aren’t already following you, or would potentially be interested in what you have to offer.

Virtually every platform has the option for businesses to advertise on. Some are more widely used than others, and some are more intuitive. In general, companies tend to advertise on social platforms they have an organic presence on, but it may not be the most efficient or financially smart to advertise on all of those platforms.

First and foremost…

Which social media platforms do you already have a presence on? This is a great place to start when considering what platforms to start advertising on. You could certainly explore platforms you aren’t currently on, but it’s much easier to advertise on platforms you are already established on. It’s less work, and you likely already have an audience base.

For sake of length, I will discuss the 4 most popular social media advertising platforms that will help inform your decision. For a complete guide on all the different channels and how to set up campaigns, check out Bitly’s paid social strategy guide. Without further ado, let’s dive into them.


Ah, Facebook. The largest platform also happens to capture the majority of social ad spend for marketers these days. It shouldn’t come as a surprise – there’s so much rich and quality data on consumers because of the sheer volume of Facebook users.  

It’s hard to come across a business or someone you know that didn’t have a Facebook… it’s almost become a common ground for all different groups and demographics.

When should you use Facebook?

  • Huge exposure. It’s the leading social media advertising platform for a reason… with 1.7 billion monthly active users, you can reach pretty much any demographic in any location.
  • Granular and targeted ads. Facebook users are a gold mine because of the rich data collected with every interaction. Its comprehensive platform allows you to target specific groups of people for maximum conversions  so you’re not wasting money advertising to the wrong people.
  • Simple and intuitive. Even for the newest beginners to paid social, advertising on Facebook is easy to learn. Their interface is relatively user-friendly but there’s tons of guides on how to navigate Facebook’s advertising platform. Additionally, their ad analytics are stellar and highly detailed.
  • Universal. Really, Facebook is great for any industry and business. Regardless of what your business’ objective is or who your target market is, Facebook is the one place that works for virtually any business due to its sheer size.

When shouldn’t you use Facebook?

2016 ad spend by social media platform: Facebook 68%, Twitter 8%, Other 24%

  • Competition is intense. Facebook takes 68% of all ad spend between the different social media advertising platforms, so it’s likely that your competitors are also advertising on Facebook. Because of that, it can be difficult to really capture your audience’s attention. How many times have you scrolled down your timeline and saw a sponsored post? My guess would be a lot.
  • Facebook typically sees pretty low click-through and conversion rates (for the reasons above). Don’t be discouraged though! Learning and iterating will help increase your click-through and conversion rates.


Twitter can be a powerful platform to advertise on. You can reach consumers that are already participating in conversations about your brand or product category.

Twitter’s advertising platform has improved immensely over the last few years, and it’s slowly chipping  away Facebook’s  total ad spend share. In terms of audience size alone, Twitter is  fairly similar to Facebook and  captures a large portion of consumers of varying demographic backgrounds.

When should you use Twitter?

  • Audience targeting. Similarly to Facebook, its ad offerings are abundant. You can choose from a large variety of ad types that best suit your advertising objective. And for the selected ad type, its audience targeting is just as good as Facebook’s. You can tailor your audience, target certain behaviors, and even target certain hashtags and keywords.
  • Keyword targeting. One of the only social media advertising platforms that offers keyword targeting. If you like Google AdWords, you’ll enjoy Twitter’s keyword targeting. You can do broad match, phrase match, negative unordered match, and negative phrase match.
  • Looks natural. Promoted tweets look just like organic tweets – and with precise targeting,, you’ll likely see higher click-through rates (or at the very least, your reach).

When shouldn’t you use Twitter?

  • There’s a huge clutter of posts depending on each individual user, so for those that follow thousands of accounts, it’s less likely they will engage and interact with your ad.
  • While you are able to identify and develop your core audience on Twitter via the advertising platform, your options and criteria are more limited than Facebook’s. The data isn’t as rich, therefore your targeting might not be as precise.
  • From personal experience, working with a similar budget for similar campaigns for both Twitter and Facebook, I see a lower ROI on Twitter than I do Facebook. The costs can be higher as well, so something to consider if you have a smaller budget.


Instagram was bought by Facebook just a few years ago, so you have the option to run your Facebook campaign on Instagram with a click of a button. Instagram serves a more niche audience (ahem, millennials) than the rest of the popular social media advertising platforms, but it’s still very comparable in monthly active users.

When should you use Instagram?

  • Millennials. If your audience is mostly millennials. This is the platform that’s most popular amongst millennials, with 58% of its users also being female.
  • Facebook. If your audience lives on both Facebook and Instagram, and you already advertise on Facebook. Because it’s owned by Facebook, it shares a lot of the same features marketers love about Facebook – such as its in-depth targeting and dynamic ads. Since Instagram ads are handled solely through Facebook Ads Manager, it means that all your reporting and ad management conveniently lives in one place.
  • Visuals. If you produce visual content. Its unique and visual-heavy platform favors creative and high-quality content, so if your business tends to produce visual content with a creative flair, this might be the platform for you. This is especially true for businesses that serve customers directly, such as restaurants and bars.

When shouldn’t you use Instagram?

  • If you’re not in consumer facing industries. Instagram works best for those within the fashion, entertainment, and hospitality industries, so as a B2B marketer, it might be hard to see any sustainable results. This is mostly due to its visual nature, but also because the millennial demographic just isn’t really in the market for B2B software solutions on Instagram.
  • It’s heavily skewed towards a younger market that doesn’t have much buying power. While you may see a reasonable click-through rate, the chances of them converting (especially if it means purchasing something) are slimmer than other platforms.
  • It can get pretty expensive. Its average CPC is among the lowest of all the different advertising platforms. While the cost of running an Instagram ad campaign will vary greatly, the costs can add up quite a bit.


Deemed as the largest network for professionals, LinkedIn is a gold mine for B2B marketers. It’s similar to Facebook in terms of layout and types of posts, but the audience is specifically catered to working professionals.

When should you use LinkedIn?

  • Quick and easy. LinkedIn’s interface is simple. You can get a campaign up and running in a matter of minutes, which is perfect if you’re crunched for time. Although it is more limited in targeting options, it’s a great alternative to Facebook and may even have better ROI depending on its unique targeting options catered to professionals.
  • Little competition. It’s not overcrowded with other sponsored content, so there’s potential for more eyeballs LinkedIn is such a niche social media platform, that the competition won’t be too high and you won’t have to get through as much noise.
  • Blends in. Much like the other platforms, the sponsored content blends in very well with organic content. Some might say it’s deceptive, but I say it’s smart for marketers 😉

When shouldn’t you use LinkedIn?

  • Obviously, if the majority of your audience does not live on LinkedIn. It’s mostly for B2B professionals, so you may not have much success if you’re not within that same realm and if your target audience isn’t made up of working professionals.
  • If you have a smaller budget. LinkedIn, out of all the platforms, has the most expensive CPC. You might be better off exploring other options if you don’t want to run your budget dry within a few days.
  • Its users are not as active as some of the other platforms, and overall has much less monthly active users. This isn’t always a bad thing, but could potentially result in a less-than-stellar ROI.

What about the other ones?

You probably noticed that I didn’t cover some other popular ones such as YouTube and Pinterest. While they can be effective depending on your niche, they just aren’t as big of players as the other ones. They offer less in-depth analytics, are limited in ad types and targeting options, and have smaller audiences.

That being said, they’re also cheaper so they would work for smaller companies with small paid social budgets, or companies in niche industries. If you happen to be that small company with a small social budget, here are some tips to see a positive ROI with a small budget for your social media advertising.

Ready for more? Check out these social media writing tips.