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Should I Pay for Social Media or Google Ads?

Paying for ads comes with advantages and disadvantages, but there is no doubt that ads can boost your marketing efforts—if you have the budget for them. Plus, they can easily be incorporated to complement your organic marketing strategy!

We’re not here to tell you what to do. But if you’re looking for an answer to the question: “Should I pay for ads?”, there’s a lot you need to know.

Ultimately, how you interpret this information to decide what’s best for your business is up to you. But we want to make sure you have all the facts before you decide to go one way or the other.

First things first, you should get familiar with how social media and Google ads work. While the general idea (paying for an advertisement) is the same across the board, the way things work will depend upon the platform you invest in. Here’s a quick breakdown.

How Social Media Ads Work

Social media advertising accounted for 20% of all advertising costs in North America in 2021. That’s a pretty big chunk of the overall market taking place on some of our favorite platforms.

People are drawn to this method of advertising for a number of reasons. First of all, a LOT of people are on social media. (And by “a lot,” we mean several billion.) So if you’re looking to cast a net out, you won’t find a more well-stocked pond elsewhere. Paid social media ads pop up directly in a user’s feed as sponsored content.

Social media is also a great place to do organic marketing, like building your brand, providing free content, and promoting engagement. So it’s a win-win if you’re hoping to pair your paid and organic efforts into one cohesive strategy.

But how do these ads work? Here’s what you need to know:

First – Start with a Goal

You should know by now that you can’t embark on any kind of marketing strategy without some sort of game plan. Paid advertising is no different.

Defining your objective is actually so important that many social media platforms require you to specify your goals from the outset. On Facebook, you must set your objective to one of these six categories:

  1. Awareness – Reaching a higher number of people, attracting new followers, gaining more likes, shares, and follows, etc.
  2. Traffic – Driving increased traffic to a specific destination, like your social media account, website, or app.
  3. Engagement – Finding people who are more likely to engage with your brand by sending messages or taking some other specified action.
  4. Leads – Targeting users who might be willing to share their information (usually a phone number or email address) so that they can learn more about your business and its services.
  5. App Promotion – Appealing to people who use mobile devices and are more likely to download your app.
  6. Sales – Advertising to those who might be interested in purchasing your goods or paying for your services.

Before you select an objective, you must have a deep and comprehensive understanding of what your business goals are. Ask yourself, which of these categories would be most valuable to your business at this time? Or would running more than one type at a time be valuable?

Second – Select a Platform

Most social media platforms allow for some form of paid advertising. But some platforms are vastly more popular than others. Deciding where to focus your efforts is a big decision because different platforms attract different types of clients. We recommend you choose one or two social media platforms to start with before branching out.

Here are some of the most popular places for paid social media advertising:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest

Your instincts may tell you which platforms will attract your ideal client. But we also recommend that you do a little research about your target demographic before jumping in.

Third – Create Your Content

Creating ad content starts with deciding on your ad format. Different formats have different strengths, so it’s a decision that should be made carefully. We talk about the differences between video marketing, written content marketing, and image marketing here. Use this information as a starting board as you build something great!

(Ideally, you’ll start with a lineup of different ads. This will allow you to see what kind of content appeals most to your target audience.)

Fourth – Set Your Budget

By this point, you probably have an idea of how much you are willing to pay your chosen social media platform to share the ad content you’ve created. But it’s worth noting that many platforms require a minimum ad budget for businesses. You’ll also have to specify how much you are willing to spend.

Your maximum budget does not necessarily translate to the actual amount of money you will end up spending. The overall expense of your campaign will be determined by the number of views your content garners. So, your maximum budget simply signifies what you are willing to spend within a given timeframe.

Most social media platforms structure their pricing on an auction system. So the more you are willing to spend and the more appealing your ad content proves to be, the better. You can learn more about ad auctions here.

Fifth – Keep an Eye On Your Results

Your paid advertising campaign should be a work in progress. Keep an eye on what works and doesn’t work so that you can continue to tweak things for more clicks and sales! As complicated as paid advertising seems, we feel confident in your ability to get better as you go.

Paying for ads comes with advantages and disadvantages, but there is no doubt that ads can boost your marketing efforts.

How Google Ads Work

The steps to creating a winning Google Ads strategy are similar to those taken on social media. You’ll need to identify your goals, understand your target audience, and set a minimum budget before you take off.

So, why do some people prefer Google Ads over social media advertising? And how can you decide which method is best for your business?

People often turn to Google Ads because it’s a little quicker and easier to use than Facebook, Instagram, or other social media platforms. It also provides a wider potential reach than any one social media platform can provide.

Google is also great because it offers a number of helpful tools for any business looking to monitor and adapt its advertising efforts. For example, Google Keyword Planner can provide you with helpful insight into which keywords will help you achieve a lower cost-per-click on your ads.

Unlike social media, Google advertising is based on a pay-per-click system. Essentially, that means that you won’t pay just to have someone view your ad. Instead, you’ll pay every time a viewer clicks on your ad and is transferred to your website. Even better, if you run enough successful ad campaigns, Google will unlock a pay-per-conversion option. This means you’ll only have to pay when a click on your ad turns into a conversion.

Paid Google ads pop up at the start of a results page when people search your chosen keyword. This can be a hugely effective method of advertising when done well.

The Pros and Cons of Paying for Ads

Now that we’ve traveled the long, winding road of how paid advertising works online, let’s get back to our original question. Should you pay for social media and/or Google ads?

Ultimately, the decision is up to you. But here’s an outline of the pros and cons that come with paid advertising:


Guaranteed Visibility

When you pay for a platform to advertise your content, you are guaranteed to get eyes on it in a short amount of time. When you try to promote your content organically, you can see the same kinds of results, but usually not in as quick a timeframe.

Control Over Your Budget

As we mentioned, you have complete control over the amount of money you spend when you advertise on social media or Google. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend will ensure that you don’t ever unintentionally break the bank.

Targeted Ads

With paid advertising, you can also guarantee that your ads are reaching their intended audience. With Google, your chosen keyword ensures that the content is viewed by people searching that term. With social media, you can specify your target audience with the click of a button.

Tracking Your Results

Google and/or your chosen social media platform will provide you with data so you can track your results. This will tell you which of your efforts are successful and which need improvement.


No Guarantee of Long-Term Results

With paid advertising, you get results—but only so long as you are willing to keep the money flowing. As soon as you stop paying the bill, your content will stop being accessible. Organic marketing, on the other hand, has much more longevity.


With paid advertising, you only have to pay as much as you are willing and able to. But if you are vying for a popular keyword or within a dense market, you could find it difficult to beat out the competition and garner any real traffic. This is why it’s a good idea to pair your paid advertising efforts with organic methods as well.

Paying for Every Click or View

Not every click or view translates into the result you’re aiming for. Sometimes, people accidentally click on an ad or let it run while they’re washing the dishes—which usually won’t get you the sale or follow you’re looking for. So if your budget is already tight, these kinds of expenses may not be ultimately worth the cost.

Making the Best Decision for Your Brand

There are a lot of great things to be said about paid ads, whether you opt to go through Google, social media, or both. But before you make a final decision, be sure to weigh all the pros and cons. And remember, there are a plethora of alternative options available to you. In our experience, some of the most effective and long-term results come from organic efforts like SEO, non-paid social media advertising, content marketing, and more.

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