Choosing the Best Social Network to Reach your Target Audience

You’ve decided to take your business or client into the paid social media space, great decision! You’ve built a decent organic following and now you want to take the next step and put some budget behind social promotions. But where do you start? More importantly, which social media platform is best for reaching my audience?

As you might expect, the answer isn’t so cut and dry. With ads flying around Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Pinterest, choosing the platform that is right for your business goals can be daunting. There is one place you should start.

 

Think About Your Target Audience

Who you are trying to reach with your ads? How do they interact with social media? Which networks do they use most often? What action do you most desire them to take?

Understanding where your target audience spends their time online is crucial to being effective with your social media spend. In order to cut through the competition and make an influential connection between a user and your brand, you have to find them first. You may have created the most eye-catching, irresistibly-clickable ad on the planet but it won’t do you any good unless it gets in front of the right people.

 

I Know My Audience, Where Are They?

It is important to understand which social network your audience most likely engages with. It may be several, it may only be one in particular, but there are many key differences in user demographics and behavior from network to network. Plus, once a price is entered into the equation, cost per anything becomes a major focus in the campaigns you run, not just reach and engagement. Let’s take a look at the major audiences and capabilities of the most used social ads platforms.

 

Facebook

With over 1.86 billion monthly active users (and counting), chances are your desired audience is on Facebook, which makes it a great social channel to start with.


Facebook is one of the most representative social networks with a wide range of user demographics and the largest audience size—by far. Yes, 88% of online millennials use Facebook, but the more powerful statistic here is that 62% of online adults ages 65+ use Facebook, compared to 10% and 8% for Twitter and Instagram.

It is also apparent that Facebook users are relatively more spread out across urban, suburban and rural areas. For this reason, it is more effective at reaching those who live away from the city in the countryside, who may also be over 65 and retired. Facebook contains a generally more mature audience than other social networks and we have seen strong success from targeting this audience in our client campaigns.                              

  Capabilities

One of the main reasons for that success is due to the immense targeting capabilities within the Facebook Ads Manager. You can narrow down that 1.86 billion user base by location, age, gender, employment, income, marital status, interests, buying behavior, and much more. This gives you the ability to be very cost effective with your advertising spend and can often result in a comparatively lower cost-per-action.

Targeting and testing abilities go deeper with the option to include custom audience lists, lookalike audiences, self-optimizing campaign objectives, and built-in audience split testing. It is important to note that while cost-per-click is generally low on Facebook the quality of clicks can vary greatly until your targeting is granular and fine-tuned, leading to lower conversion/result rates.

 

Instagram

Known as Facebook’s alternative by the younger millennial audience, Instagram is a network that relies heavily on visuals and videos.

With 32% of internet users, Instagram boasts the second largest audience of the social channels. Along with strong representation for younger internet users, Instagram audiences lean heavily towards women, as 38% of females use Instagram compared to a lesser 26% of males.

You will also find more users living in urban areas at 39%, unlike the more balanced suburban and rural representation on Facebook and Twitter. 

 Capabilities  

Instagram is conveniently built into the Facebook Ads Manager, allowing for simultaneous placements across both networks. When Facebook purchased Instagram, advertisers gained access to the same targeting capabilities as on Facebook. These interests are translated to Instagram from the user’s Facebook profile data, another benefit of integrating the two ads platforms. Of course, we always recommend treating Facebook and Instagram as two different channels and creating separate campaigns leveraging the differences between the two.

Content is king on Instagram, and it is crucial to make sure you are using high-quality, attention-grabbing images and videos to achieve high performance. For this reason, many brands that lack a strong visual component tend to shy away from investing in Instagram.

 

Twitter

With over 24% of internet users checking in, Twitter has the second largest audience of the social networks. Its audience skews towards a younger, more educated demographic and is ideal for sharing real-time information.

A hefty 36% of internet users aged 18-29 use Twitter, compared to roughly 22% of users between 30-64 and a small 10% of internet browsers ages 65+. Twitter also draws a more educated audience, with 29% of college grads but only 20% of high school grads or less.

This younger, more educated crowd feeds on sharing content in real time—and lots of it. For this reason, Twitter is ideal for social promotions focusing on live events or timely trends and can result in high levels of engagement/sharing.


 Capabilities

Twitter stands apart with the ability to target based on current activity with specific hashtags. You can choose to serve your ads to users currently tweeting about a particular topic, hashtag, or live event. This method of targeting is very effective at reaching your audience when they are talking about and engaging with topics related to your business. You can also target the followers of specific users via their Twitter handles, which comes in handy when trying to reach people engaging with influencers in your industry or even your competitors.

Where Twitter’s hashtag and user targeting shines, its interest targeting does not hold up to the likes of Facebook or Instagram. Categories are broad and limited, with the more generic categories often leading to lower relevancy scores and higher cost-per-clicks. Twitter also lacks some of the analytics insight that you get with other platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

 

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is home to the largest network of business professionals, making it a powerful network for B2B companies to reach new clients and influencers.

A strong 29% of online adults use LinkedIn, heavily favoring the employed against unemployed or retired users, 35% to 17%. The largest audiences on LinkedIn are college educated and have high incomes, reaching 50% of internet users with a college degree and 45% of users making $75,000+ per year.

This focus on B2B can be perfect for some companies but can be a major drawback for others. LinkedIn also collects a large amount of professional information when creating a profile, making for powerful targeting abilities.

 

 Capabilities

The ability to target based on job position, company and education can be a goldmine for B2B businesses lead generation. This network also does not have nearly as many advertisers competing for space, meaning your ads don’t have to work as hard to cut through the clutter. Yet even with the lack of competition, LinkedIn ads come with notoriously low click-through rates and a high cost-per-click, acting as a strong barrier to entry for small market businesses.

Although advertisers face lower CTRs, the quality of clicks driven from LinkedIn tends to be very high, making it worth the larger necessary investment for many brands.

 

You’ve Found Your Target Audience, Now Go Get Them!

Each social media ads network comes with benefits and characteristics that make them equally unique. By defining your target audience and determining the best channel to reach them you can be more effective with your social media advertising. To truly understand how your audience engages with your business across different networks, it is best to strategize and test which campaigns you run on which network.

Example:
When running a sweepstakes promotion for one of our national CPG clients, we tested link click ads on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with the goal of driving traffic to enter into the contest. We targeted similar audiences across the three networks using the same creative, yet the results varied drastically:

Average CPC

- Facebook = $0.23

- Instagram = $1.91

- Twitter = $8.65

Despite the campaigns being close to the same, users interacted with our ads differently across each network with different results. We optimized our campaign with this knowledge to drive the largest click volume for the budget, eventually helping us achieve our entry goals.


Social media can be a very powerful tool for digital advertisers and when used correctly yields a very favorable return on investment. By understanding where your audience spends their time online, how they engage with brands, and using granular targeting capabilities to reach them, your business can win more with social.

About the author

Senior Media Analyst, Tailwind

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