You need new leads. But where to get them?
Google Ads (or Adwords as it was formally known) is one of the most popular sources of traffic for small businesses – for very good reason. It can target hot prospects, just as they are showing interest in what you have to offer.
Social media is another popular choice, and has become the new darling child of the marketing world. It has an incredible ability to hyper-target demographics, and find users with specific interests.
If you listen to Google Ad fans, they will tell you Google Ads are the best. Social media gurus will tell you that social is the way of the future. But which is better?
Before we look at the pros and cons of each, let me start by summarising in two words: it depends.
There is no one master to rule them all. Instead, these two options get unfairly pitted against each other, as though there was a superior option for everyone.
The truth is, Google Ads is better for some businesses, social media for others. And, the only thing that matters is ROI (return on investment). If you can get a positive ROI for both, then use both.
With that said, let the unfair break down begin …
Social media is a broad term that covers many sites and has different meanings to different people. Many people claim they do social media marketing, when what they mean is they advertise on social media platforms.
While there is a big difference between the two, and it is important to understand which strategy you are using, they do overlap. These days getting your posts seen on Facebook is next to impossible unless you pay to boost them. (Most posts will only be seen organically by less than 5% of your followers.)
Social media has many big advantages, which is why so many marketers are excited by its possibilities.
For a start, you can choose a platform that targets your type of clients (LinkedIn for B2B, Pinterest for affluent women over 35, Instagram for those under 30 etc). You can also share content in a variety of formats (text, images, video, audio).
If you are paying to advertise, the demographic profiling on many platforms is hard to beat. You can target specific ages, genders, locations, interests, income brackets, etc. There is also the possibility that people may then share your content with others, and the dream that it may go ‘viral’.
However, the harsh reality with social media is that it is a lot harder work, more expensive, and less effective for many industries than the gurus and marketing hype would have you believe.
It is important to separate likes and shares from dollars. Be very careful not to get caught in measuring vanity metrics, unless you can create a strong correlation between them and sales.
You also need to be very wary of ‘negative social proof’. Something that few social media gurus acknowledge.
It is not sufficient to simply have a social media presence. You need to work it. If you don’t, then your profile looks sad and abandoned. The result will be a profile that works against you, and will actually lose business.
Google Ads fall into four core types. Search, content network, YouTube video ads, and retargeting. For this comparison, we will look at search result ads, as they are the easiest and most targeted for the majority of businesses.
Getting started with Google Ads is very easy. You can set things up with Google Ads Express in a few minutes, and the minimum required spend is almost nothing.
The real benefit to this type of advertising is your ability to get right to the top of the search results, and be found by highly targeted prospects. And all in just a few minutes.
What is often looked by proponents of social media is user intent. And, for me, user intent trumps demographics (at least if you want a fast return on your investment).
Think about it this way … why are people on social media? Generally not because they want to buy something. Why are they searching for ‘best mechanic in Nelson’ on Google?
I don’t care how demographically targeted some is or is not, if I‘m a mechanic in Nelson, I would much rather be in front of the person looking for me, rather than the one just hanging out socialising with no current need for my services.
It does not matter if someone fits my perfect demographic profile; if they don’t want/need my product or services, they are unlikely to buy. At least not yet.
So why do the majority of businesses that try Google Ads give up?
Usually, because they either don’t track results and assume they are not helping, or they track results and find they are losing money.
Huh? If the leads are so targeted, why would they lose money?
Well, the problem is twofold. First, most ad campaigns are set up badly (especially those using Google Ads Express – it simply does not have the power to optimise things that well). The second is a poor quality landing page (the page prospects land on after clicking your ad). If this page designed or written poorly, then it loses the sale.
This second problem applies to social media too (and most other marketing efforts for that matter). If your site is not built to convert, you will lose the majority of potential sales. On the internet, people shop around – and they will choose your competitor if their site is more convincing than yours.
The bottom line is both social media and Google Ads have their place. If it is long term relationship building you want, then social media is often most suitable. If it is quick returns you are looking for though, Google Ads usually has the advantage.