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  • Daniel Rae

Why you should move your ad budget from Google to social media


It’s been a bad week for Google. In light of complaints around advert placement, namely adverts from well-known brands appearing next to extremist videos including Islamic fundamentalists and white supremacists, a whole host of well-known brands have pulled adverts from Google and YouTube. The list of brands includes (deep breath): McDonald's UK, Tesco, Sainsbury's, Audi UK, L'Oreal in the UK and Ireland, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Lloyds and Marks & Spencer. The UK government has also pulled its ads and have summoned Google execs to appear in front of Cabinet Office ministers on Friday.

Google have since made an apology, with Matt Brittin, President of EMEA Business & Operations for Google saying: "We are sorry to anybody that's been affected."

But if Google can’t be trusted to maintain blacklists and filter or remove hate speech on its networks, where else can brands advertise?

Well, there’s Facebook (including Instagram) and Twitter for a start. There’s even SnapChat. I’m sure many of the major brands are using these channels already, but could advertising budgets intended for Google be shifted over to social media? We’ve always been advocates of social media advertising, but the recent revelations might be enough for long-time Google Display Network and Google Search advertisers to make (or at least trial) a switch to social.

Making the case for Facebook

No longer the “scrappy newcomer” to the ads game, Facebook’s ad platform has become incredible sophisticated and its self-serve interface, like Google Adwords’, makes it accessible to all brands, big and small. With 1.79 billion monthly active users, there are a hell of a lot of people out there to target with ads.

Rather than basing ads simply on what people have searched for, ads can be targeted to people based on the (vast amounts) of information Facebook knows about them - their age, their location, their interests, their marital status, presence of children, their job, their education, the device they're using, etc. There’s a hugely granular targeting mechanism that can be coupled with data (for example, a list of customer email addresses or phone numbers) that can be matched to Facebook users, ‘lookalike audiences’ based on those matches or retargeting based on user visits and interactions on your website.

And unlike text-based PPC ads, Facebook’s adverts are wonderfully visual, featuring images, GIFs or videos in multiple formats like single image, carousels, slideshows, etc.

And there’s also the Instagram factor. While we’ve had little major success in generating web traffic from Instagram ads, it can be hugely successful for brand and product awareness and engagement. With 600m active users, the majority of whom are young - around 45% of users are aged 18-24 - it shouldn't be ignored.

In recent campaigns for clients, we’ve managed to get a cost-per-engagement as little as 3 pence and a cost-per-click price as small as 14 pence. For another campaign with sales conversions as an objective, we managed to get an ROI of 762% for our client. Of course there are many factors that influence performance, including your target audience, what your objectives are and your brand, these are best-case scenarios.

The case for Twitter

First of all, Twitter has a much smaller active audience (317m) than Facebook. In fact, it’s smaller than Instagram’s 600m audience now and there have been numerous recent reports about it’s lack of audience growth.

But audience size isn’t everything! It’s unlikely you would want to run an ad campaign to over 300m people and also unlikely you’ll have the budget to reach that many.

One ace up its sleeve is its targeting options. We’ve already raved about Facebook’s granular approach, but Twitter, being the open platform it is, allows advertisers to target people based on keywords and followers, as well as demographics like age, location, interests and demographic data such as household income, profession or presence of children.

There are some scenarios where the ability to target followers of a brand or handle (or multiple) gives you a perfect audience. Or the ability to target ads to everyone with certain keywords or hashtags in tweets. It’s a key differentiator between what Twitter and Facebook can offer.

Can ads appear next to inappropriate content on social media?

In a word, yes. But the very nature of social media is that you see a stream of news that’s (mostly) relevant to you. That applies to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You might see graphic news story, posts from a political party you don’t care for or even some “extremist” content like those mentioned above. But you’re seeing it because of an algorithm, because some of your friends have engaged with it or because you’ve been targeted with an ad (you can easily question why you’re seeing an ad on Facebook). Therefore, it’s more acceptable to see brands next to what could be described as inappropriate content, because you have more control over it. In Google’s case, extremist videos on YouTube that have, for example, a Marks & Spencer ad overlaid, suggests some sort of connection or partnership between the brand and video content.

Google, in many ways, are unlucky and are a victim of their ad system’s in-your-face design.

Take the plunge!

If you’ve never invested much (or anything) in social media advertising, now’s the time to give it a try. With careful planning, great imagery, a range of ad variants, and by continually optimising your campaigns, you can achieve some impressive results, even with relatively small budgets.

If you need any advertising support or would like to talk to a company with plenty of experience in advertising across all social networks, get in touch!