There is a lot of buzz going around as to what the best method of digital advertising is for 2018. So what is the best way to go about paid digital ads to promote your business? Should you use social networks or search networks? No, this doesn’t come down to Facebook vs Google. It all depends on your business, your goals, and other varying specs that define who your customers are.

Social Media Advertising

But nothing the copy said could convince her and so it didn’t take long until a few insidious Copy Writers ambushed her

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Social Network Advertising refers to the social media platforms that people use every day, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more, as well as the accompanying apps that belong in their network.

So what’s the difference?


Even with the recent controversy surrounding Facebook and the way they have been handling data, it is still considered to be the premier social networks for advertising purposes. There are three dominant reasons for this:

  1. Facebook has more active users than any other social media platform
  2. Facebook collects data that pertain to user’s interests and buying habits
  3. Facebook ads don’t disrupt the user experience

What does this mean? Here’s an example of this: Facebook vs. YouTube

Many YouTube ads interrupt videos, either before they start, or in the middle of the program. This annoys viewers because YouTube is not a platform that many use for purchasing, seeing how it is not an ecommerce site, but an entertainment platform. Most ads tend to be irrelevant and annoy users, leading to a negative impression on the advertising brand, which is especially bad if it’s the first impression the user has of the brand. They will think “those were the guys who disrupted my video!”

Facebook on the other hand runs ads within it’s news feeds and on the side panels. This gives users the option to see them (creative ads that stand out are more likely to catch user’s attention), but doesn’t force them to. This way, if the ads are irrelevant they can be ignored, but if they are relevant, the user is a click away from the advertiser’s desired landing page!


Owned by Facebook, Instagram follows a relatively similar ad format, but is often used for slightly different purposes. Advertisers often utilize Instagram for earlier stages of their advertising campaigns. This is because Instagram is more segmented than Facebook already, so impressions are considered to be more valuable. For purchasing, users tend not to convert as often on Instagram unless it’s from a brand or influencer that they’re already familiar with.


Twitter advertising is similar to Instagram in the sense that it is more segmented than Facebook and that it is used for awareness stages. It helps to integrate the product/brand you are promoting with trending topics that are circulating because ads perform better when the messaging aligns with the content they are searching for. Just like search advertising!


Predominately used for B2B or recruiting, LinkedIn advertising about reaching professional networks. You can assume that people viewing your ads are in an appropriate mindset, but not if they’re you’re ideal prospect. This is why it’s important to segment audiences by role and industry, as well as showing ads during business hours so users are more active.


People use Pinterest because they want to be inspired to try things. This could mean crafting a project, or trying a product. Either way, advertisers want their promotions to appear at the right times to maximize click-throughs. The situations are everything, once you have the right audience!


Local campaigns have a lot to gain from Snapchat, especially for younger audiences. Similar to AdWords campaigns that use location extensions, Snapchat campaigns are often used to generate foot traffic into brick-and-mortar stores. The audiences might be less specific than a search query, but can generate cheaper impressions, which can balance the scales.

Search Network Advertising

Search Network Advertising works to utilize the platforms provided by popular search engines such as Google and Bing, as well as their affiliate partners, such as YouTube, Microsoft, Yahoo, and much more.

There are plenty of ways to utilize search networks for advertising purposes.

Search Engine Marketing utilizes many practices and approaches for digital advertising including search text ads, display, shopping, and more. Extensions help engage users by location or intention, based on what they search.

Google and Bing’s partnering networks also show display and video ads to users based on interests and demographics. These are more comparable to social networks in the sense that the right message could be sent to the right audience, just not necessarily at the right time. While the placement might not be as high of a quality, it’s cheaper, allowing advertisements to determine the relationship between cost and quality with on-site conversion rates.

The Analysis

When it comes down to the raw analysis, it boils down to search vs display advertising. Since search networks bid on heavily researched and analyzed sets of keywords, the quality of the traffic tends to be higher, yet more costly. This is because (when done properly), ads are meant to accompany websites that rank highly for very specific demands.

A good running sneaker ad would appear when someone searches for terms like “best running shoes”. That keyword implies a possible intent to sell, which means the placement for the ad could lead to an easy sale.

Social networks (in addition to partnering networks of search and social networks) might not be as relevant at times because viewers aren’t necessarily looking for the items being advertised. This doesn’t mean the ads won’t convert, it just means they might not present the best timing. This includes display networks as well!

The Verdict

It comes down to targeting. Both options can be highly beneficial!

You always have to consider the customer’s journey and experience when advertising. What stage are they in via the buying process? How aware are they of your brand? Have they done any research? Are they currently looking to purchase or just learn more about a product or service? All of these things need to be factored into a potential customer’s purchasing decision or you will have more trouble hitting your mark.