From “Likes” To Tweets: A Guide To Advertising In The Digital Age

By Ross Boissoneau

Advertisers go where the eyeballs are. Today, those eyeballs are on Facebook, Twitter, and the other forms of social media.

Dan Kolley of Knorr Marketing in Traverse City said the ability to target very specific segments of the population makes social media advertising attractive to clients. “Eighty percent are buying at least one per quarter,” he said.

According to the online financial publication Business Insider, social media ad spending will top $8.5 billion this year, up from $6.1 billion in 2013. It’s projected to reach nearly $14 billion in 2018.

Helping push this growth is the increase in social media ads and apps for smartphones and tablets.

“Mobile device activity is about 50 percent of Facebook traffic,” said Gregg Smith of the Traverse City communications firm Lawton Gallagher. Mobile spending may surpass non-mobile spending by the end of this year, and is expected to climb to $9 billion in 2018.

Social media advertising’s flexibility is key. “The beauty is its immediacy and accountability,” Smith said. “It can be altered, started or stopped on a dime.”

But where should advertising dollars go? Most costs are based on a bidding/auction type process, and vary tremendously from ad to ad and platform to platform. You set a budget and how long you want the ad to run. Each medium offers step-by-step instructions and tutorials for creating ads, information on how to track the ads, and tips. Each also has advantages and disadvantages, so deciding which to use and how to do it can be daunting – but many local experts said businesses not utilizing social media in their advertising mix are making a huge mistake.

Here’s a basic breakdown of the biggest players in the market and the advantages and disadvantages to each:

Facebook: 1.3 billion users

It seems everybody and their brother is on Facebook. For many it is the most logical place to start.


–  The ad creation process is simple and allows for great flexibility.

–  Ads can be targeted to specific geographic areas or demographics, even education and income levels, so it reaches only the people selected.

– Individual ads are relatively inexpensive, often costing below $1 per “like” received.


Ads tend to lose traction after about three days.

– It can be difficult to keep track of ads.

– It may require a considerable investment of time (to learn how to create and maintain the page) or funds (to hire someone to design and manage it).

LinkedIn: 300 million users

LinkedIn is based on a business approach rather than Facebook’s social model. For business-to-business products or services, it may be worth the time and money.


– As a B2B site, LinkedIn has multiple businesses and businesspeople connected through it.

– It is easy to target ads, especially to certain titles: executives, marketing directors, CEOs, etc.


– The minimum cost-per-click (CPC) bid is $2 per click, with a minimum budget of $10 a day. This means that, at the lowest rate, users will get 5 clicks per day.

– Different sources have experienced different conversion rates; while some suggest the rates are higher than other social media, many suggest they are low.

Twitter: 277 million users

If Facebook is the backyard fence everyone chats over, then Twitter is the busy intersection up the road. Twitter tends to generate the highest click rate of any social platform, but beware: it counts favorites, retweets, image clicks, etc., as billable events. Hint: People are drawn to images, so use eye candy. Some companies have reported a 150 percent increase in retweets when using images. And don’t distract readers by including hashtags or any clickable elements other than the delivery URL.


– Tweet promotion advertising generates numerous clicks and impressions.

– The account promotion ad model can yield an impressive following as people look for accounts they’re interested in.


– Conversion appears to be minimal.

– Account promotion is expensive.

– Ads begin to peter out after about five days.

There are other social media offering advertising. Foursquare (40 million people, 1.3 million businesses) helps advertisers reach potential customers who are nearby, on their phones, and searching for places to go. A usage study by comScore shows 80 percent of people who search locally on their phone make a purchase.

Instagram (200 million users) is very slowly opening ads to smaller businesses. It’s been available only to large companies with deep pockets such as Ben and Jerry’s or Nike.

How Do You Use It?

Lori Klym of Northwood Dental in Traverse City uses boosted ads on Facebook to try to expand the practice. The boosted ads place Northwood in front of those who have already liked its page, as well as their friends.

Ben Walraven, owner of Tucker’s in Northport, uses boosted ads on Facebook to promote specials and special events at his restaurant/entertainment complex. “We try to do it a couple days before the event,” he said. “Likes go up and those engaged with us go up.” Walraven said for as little as $5 or $10 he is able to increase patronage.

Kolley said Knorr Marketing’s clients use both boosted posts and display ads as part of their mix. Facebook can optimize which series of display ads is generating the most clicks and post them accordingly. “We could have five furniture display ads, with a couple of living rooms, a dining room, a bedroom, and a mattress,” he said. “Facebook optimizes the one with the most conversions.”

Social media is not a “flash in the pan.” It is a real – and potentially very effective – way to reach current customers or would-be customers. But to get the results – and business you’re looking for – it pays to research the right social media tools for what you’re selling.