Finding the best advertising platforms for your audience

Dan Morrison
Dan Morrison
A design showing ads appear on different platforms and devices

You’ve got a great product or service to sell and have a loyal customer base, but you’re not seeing much growth in your audience. There are a plethora of things you can try, from ramping up your email marketing to optimizing the UX of your website. But if you’re looking to quickly grow your audience and have some budget to play with, paid advertising is a great option. We’ve put together a list of some of the best advertising platforms including:

  • Google Search ads
  • Google Shopping ads
  • Amazon ads
  • TikTok ads
  • Facebook and Instagram ads
  • Pinterest ads

Google Search ads

When you think of the best advertising platforms out there, Google Search is an easy top pick. Google Search ads have become synonymous with paid advertising, and it’s thanks to their 3.5 billion Google searches per day. Seriously, that’s 40,000 searches every second, all on Google Search. It goes without saying that Google Search has the broadest reach of any search engine, which is reason enough to consider it as part of your paid ad strategy. 

Google Search has a few other key benefits to consider, including the ability to target users based on their stage in the buying process. If you’re bidding on a broader search term, for example, “hair products”, you can expect to draw in users who are just exploring what’s out there on the market, maybe not yet ready to make a purchase. If, however, you change that to a long-tail keyword, like “best hair spray for curly hair”, or “best pomade for men’s hair”, you’re more likely to target users further along the customer journey. That is, these users are more likely to make a purchase because they know exactly what type of product they want. 

Another great benefit to employing Google Search ads as a part of your paid ad strategy is that you can use it regardless of your budget. You can set a daily maximum budget for your business and also a maximum budget based on keyword. If you’ve used Google Search ads in the past, you’ll know that some keywords will require a $1 bid while others will cost hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. With this in mind, Google Search ads give you flexibility to work within virtually any budget. 

Another benefit is that Google Search ads will bring you new leads far quicker than trying to rank using SEO alone. SEO, of course, is an important part of any modern marketing strategy, but when you need to boost revenue more immediately, Google Search ads are a great option. 

One final benefit to Google Search ads is intent. People come to Google looking for answers, and your website can help answer some of those questions. Instead of interrupting social media users with an ad, you’re instead serving users the answer to their questions.

Google Shopping ads

If you liked the sound of Google Search ads, you’ll love Google Shopping ads. If you’re not familiar with Google Shopping ads, they’re the top layer of results you get when you’re searching for a product on Google Search. This leads into our first pro of using Google Shopping ads — they’re the only way to appear at the top of a Google Search results page. 

Google Search organizes its results in this format:

  • Google Shopping ads
  • Google Search ads
  • Organic results

Of course, some searches won’t yield Google Shopping results, but if you’re selling a product like t-shirts, you can bet that a row of t-shirts will appear when someone uses a search term like, “fitted tees”. 

In addition to getting your ad on the top of the results page, Google Shopping ads are great for showing rather than telling. Google Search ads require that you write an ad, where Google Shopping ads let you show off your product with an image and rich data like the product name and price.

Finally, Google Shopping ads share one of the main benefits of Google Search ads — they help the user find what they’re looking for. If we stick to the example of t-shirts, you’re going to be helping a user find your brand of t-shirts rather than interrupting them with an ad while they’re on Youtube or Facebook. 

Amazon ads

Amazon’s rise to market domination has made it almost synonymous with eCommerce, and there are numbers to back that up. With 310M active Amazon users worldwide, you’re missing out if you’re not advertising on Amazon. Of those 310M users, 100M are Prime members, who typically spend over $1,000 per year on Amazon. 

Similar to Google Search and Shopping ads, when a user enters a search term on Amazon, the top few results will be Amazon ads, marked with the words, “sponsored” or, “ad”. Beyond search results, when you visit a product page, you’ll often see an ad to the right of the main product. If you keep scrolling down that same page, you’ll see a row of sponsored ads towards the bottom of the page. This gives you great targeting ability, as you can advertise your products on the product pages of complimentary, or competitive, products. 

There are two main categories of Amazon ads: self-serve ads and premium ads. You can think of Amazon’s self-serve ads as Google Shopping or Search ads — they appear based on what a customer is searching for. These ads appear as products, so they help the user to find your product. Their premium ads can be thought of as display ads — they’re often top or side banners which can appear both within Amazon or on external websites. 

If you’re selling a consumer good, Amazon ads should likely be a part of your paid ad strategy. Their wide reach and flexibility with ad types is further bolstered by the fact that they have 100M Prime members who are known for spending more on Amazon.

TikTok ads

Part of the beauty of Google ads and Amazon ads is their wide reach and ability to target different audiences based on user intent, but what about the more targeted platforms? TikTok has burst onto the scene over the past couple years, and one of its unique benefits is its young audience. With over 689M monthly active users — 600M of which are active daily users — 62% of TikTok’s users are between the ages of 10 and 29, making it the platform of choice if you’re looking to target Gen Z. 

Another benefit of TikTok ads is their flexibility of ad types. TikTok ad types include pre-roll ads, in-feed ads, promoted hashtag challenges, and branded effects. Pre-roll ads are those that appear as soon as a user opens the app, while in-feed ads are those that appear while the user scrolls through their TikTok feed. Promoted hashtag challenges are video ads that promote the use of your branded hashtag, and branded effects are custom filters that can include your relevant brand information. There are also whispers of shoppable ads — similar to those on Instagram — becoming available on TikTok, but for now, this isn’t an available feature. 

With all of these benefits, there’s got to be a downside, right? One of the benefits of Google and Amazon ads is that you’re not interrupting the user, but with TikTok (and any social media) ads, you’re doing just that. Beyond this, TikTok is not for those with a small budget. TikTok ads can run you $50-$100K, and running a promoted hashtag challenge could run you upwards of $150K. On top of this, TikTok ads are done in video format, so you’ll incur additional costs in the production of your videos.

If you’re currently scaling your business, these costs may make TikTok seem like an impossible contender for your advertising efforts, but there are other solutions. Partnering with a relevant TikTok influencer is often a far cheaper way to promote your brand on TikTok while still grabbing the coveted attention of Gen Z. 

Facebook ads and Instagram ads

Facebook and Instagram ads are certainly the most popular option for paid social advertising, and there’s good reason for that! While Faceboook ads and Instagram ads are two different things, they’re both managed through Facebook’s Ad Manager, so it’s easy to run campaigns across both platforms, which collectively boast 3.7B monthly active users

As you might know, Facebook’s audience skews slightly older, while Instagram’s audience skews slightly younger, but there are a few more interesting differences between the two. Facebook has a larger audience, at 2B monthly active users compared to Instagram’s 1B. Just over 26% of Facebook users are 25-34 and the audience skews male, with male users making up 56% of users. On Instagram, just over 33% of users are 25-34, with 57% female users.

Facebook ads are a great choice for targeting Millennials and even Boomers, who’ve adopted Facebook more readily than Instagram. Instagram ads are a great choice for targeting Millennials and even Gen Z, with 25% of U.S. teens citing Instagram as their favourite social media platform. TikTok, in comparison, is the preferred social media platform of 29% of U.S. teens.

Both Instagram and Facebook have a wide variety of ad formats you can choose from. Instagram ads can be run on stories, IGTV, or on the main feed, with many customizations available, from photo to video to carousel ads. This Hootsuite Guide gives you an in-depth look at all the different ad formats available to you. 

Facebook ads are broken down into 3 categories: awareness, consideration, and conversion. These categories mimic the flow of the standard customer journey or sales funnel. Awareness ads are designed to promote your company in general so customers become familiar with your brand and what you sell. These would sit at the top of the sales funnel. Consideration ads take you into the middle of the sale funnel and should reinforce the value proposition of your product and encourage customers to more seriously consider using it. Finally, conversion ads are designed to get a user to purchase your product, and therefore sit at the bottom of the sales funnel. Hubspot has put together an intensive guide which outlines all of the possible types of Facebook ads.

Pinterest ads

Pinterest is sometimes overlooked by business owners, but it offers a unique value: a hyper targeted audience mixed with the right intent. With over 416M monthly active users, Pinterest captures a more targeted demographic than the average social media platform. 71% of Pinterest users are women, with 35% of users between 35-49 years old and 54% between 18-29 years old. Because Pinterest is a discovery platform, the intent is already there, similar to advertising on Google or Amazon. Instead of interrupting users, you’re helping them get to a solution with your ad. 

There are 5 main types of Pinterest ads, all of which appear alongside the regular pins a user would see in-app or on-site. The first category of Pinterest ad is standard pins, which appear with a small, “sponsored by” tag to differentiate them from regular pins. The next 2 categories are carousel ads and video ads, which both appear alongside regular pins, but instead of a static image, can feature 2-5 images, or a video, respectively. The final 2 categories are shopping ads and app download ads. Shopping ads allow you to upload rich product information into a pin, including the product name and price. App download ads, as you might’ve guessed, are ads that include a CTA to download your company’s app. 

Pinterest ads are a great option if you’ve got a business targeting women, Millennials or Boomers, but don’t count it out as an option if you’ve got a different target audience. Pinterest allows for targeting within the platform, so you’re still able to reach male users and users of any age. 

Final thoughts

Whether you’re looking to create brand awareness, increase conversions, or just expand your reach, there are endless resources at your disposal. From the all-encompassing Google ads to the more targeted social media ads, there’s an option for every business and every budget. This article is by no means an exhaustive list of paid advertising platforms, so go forth and find what works for you.

Next stop: endless growth.

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