If you are thinking about spending some of your marketing budget on online advertising, you have lots of options, from pay-per-click advertising on Google (and other search engines) to a number of different social media advertising. So where do you start? Here is a short overview of some of the most common online advertising choices and things to consider before jumping into the advertising game on each platform.

Search Engine Advertising

Google AdWords

Want to reach consumers when they are in shopping mode? AdWords, or PPC advertising, allows you to present your message when people are specifically looking for your product or service. This works especially well in categories where people do not have a lot of experience in the purchase process, like legal services, appliance purchases and cremation services. Other search engines, including Bing and Yahoo, also offer online advertising, and while the ad rates will be lower, let’s face it, the audience will be significantly smaller too.

Yellow Pages (YP.Com)

When does this platform make sense? My first instinct is to say when hell freezes over. For most products, services and market segments this just isn’t a good choice. If, however, you are targeting a senior customer in a specific city or county, carving out a small portion of your online advertising budget for YP.com may actually be effective.

Social Media Advertising


If you are launching a new brand or product or if you have never had much of a community on social media, buying a small amount of advertising to rapidly build your fan base is a good way to jump start or revitalize your program. The problem with advertising on Facebook is that it is designed to primarily build your fan base on Facebook. It is a huge mistake to use growing a fan base as your end game because Facebook has made it clear they will continue to adjust the platform to limit access to the community you have built unless you continue to advertise. It is fine to use ads to build your community as long as you have a strategy to rapidly drive the traffic to your company website and/or email list.

If you are determined to spend money on Facebook, make sure to download our guide to help you dominate Facebook


This platform is most effective when you have a clearly defined B2B niche. You can use their advertising tool to target your message to appear in the timeline of individuals working in particular industries, in certain geographic locations, or in companies of a particular size. You can include or exclude individual companies by name as well. In addition to company demographics, you can refine your target audience based on job titles and years of experience.

This is a powerful tool for your sales force because ads can be designed to appear in in the timeline of employees of specific companies they are trying to connect with. For a very small investment, they can make multiple impressions on key decision makers.


If you are already using Twitter and have an active engaged presence, you can use this tool to supplement your content. This tool is particularly effective with time-based messages tied to events. You can use promoted tweets to share information about a special tied to the Super Bowl or a local music festival. The rapid fire nature of Twitter means your updates are here and gone, so you need to have other information in your stream to connect with users between advertisements. If you are going to invest in advertising, invest in developing an interesting, interactive Twitter account to engage the new followers you are spending money to reach.

I would also caution against trying to use Twitter to artificially promote a trend. While good in theory, it doesn’t seem to work well in practice. Trends are identified as “sponsored” so  it is obvious you are trying to make news where there isn’t any. There is also the risk of your hashtag being hijacked as the trend in transformed by a series of snarky and negative comments around the brand. See the example of JP Morgan losing control of their campaign earlier this year.

Instagram and Snapchat

Businesses are still learning to successfully use Instagram and Snapchat for online advertising. Unless you have $50,000 or more, advertising on Snapchat is less likely of an option for your business. Since Facebook’s acquirement of Instagram, their ad manager tools have made it very simple and easy to advertise on Instagram. With Instagram investing in new options that make it eerily similar to Snapchat, we may see Snapchat losing its business to Instagram.

No matter where you decide to advertise, here are a few tips which will improve your results:

  • Attract attention by sharing interesting and informative content as a sponsored posts. Remember, people aren’t really coming to social media searching for services. That’s why items in the news feed seem to perform better than sidebar ads. It is best to leave the hard sell tactics for other media.
  • For all advertising, run a short campaign with a low budget to test your assumptions. This allows you to review the results and make refinements before committing to a long-term program.
  • Create relevant landing pages on your website to extend the relationship beyond social media or the first search that brought a customer to your door.

Your end game is not to build a huge community on social media. Social platforms come and go, but your website is the one place you can completely control the message, so all these ads are simply a means to an end. Ultimately, your mission should be to get them to sign up for newsletters or follow your content so you can continue the conversation you paid to start on your terms.

online advertising guide