The Small Business Owners Guide To Social Media Advertising

Published: August 24, 2019
Author: Martin William Harvey

Chapter 1: What is Social Media Advertising?
Chapter 2: What is the difference between Social Media Content & Social Media Advertising?
Chapter 3: Social Media Marketing Strategy Considerations
Chapter 4: Choosing A Platform
Chapter 5: Who can help me with Social Media Advertising?
Chapter 6: Social Media Advertising of the Future

Running short on time? Want to read on the go? We've got you covered! Download this article to your device and read at your convience.

Download Now

What is Social Media Advertising?

Social Media Advertising is the strategy and process behind attracting a particular customer type to a specific web page (commonly referred to as a landing page) through social media paid advertising efforts. Unlike other forms of advertising, Social Media Advertising strategies differ greatly depending on the platform used to advertise.

For example, an advertiser that utilizes the Snapchat platform will not use the same advertising material or strategy as businesses utilizing the Facebook platform. This is simply because a Snapchat user and Facebook user are generally different in age and demographic.

In this article, we will discuss the various social media platforms most often used by small to medium businesses including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. We will also discuss briefly secondary social media channels such as Pinterest, Snapchat and Tumblr. We will discuss the difference between Social Media Advertising and Social Media Content Marketing, as well as the cost benefits and business growth that can result from having a well-thought-out Social Media Marketing Strategy.

Social Media Advertising vs. Social Media Content Marketing

Social Media Advertising and Social Media Content Marketing serve an unique purpose in the growing stage of a business. Within the marketing community, we have seen division and debate on the subject of which is better and which type of marketing helps business grow faster. We believe that a growing business simply cannot have one without the other.

Social Media Advertising is what we commonly call the “reach”. Reach is true advertising; its primary goal is to “reach” new potential customers that know little or nothing about your brand and bring them into your “stadium”. Your stadium is the place where the audience learns more about you, you are the star of the show and everyone who is watching will decide on whether they want to continue engaging with you or not. The message you use to communicate with your audience is Social Media Content Marketing. As new users come to your Social Media profile page from advertising campaigns, it is up to your Social Media Content Marketing to encourage the user to believe in your message and in your brand.

It is almost impossible to grow a business through Social Media channels unless you utilize both styles of marketing. Without Advertising, your stadium doesn’t grow, and your audience only grows by referrals. Without Content Marketing, potential customers have no reason to stay in your stadium and will most likely leave before ever becoming a believer in your brand.

Understanding this marketing concept is the first part of growing a successful brand through Social Media Marketing.

Social Media Marketing Strategy Considerations

Before we discuss each platform in detail, it is essential to understand some common high-level strategy considerations every business should build into their Social Media Marketing Strategy.

  1. How Will Social Media Grow My Business?
  2. Where Does My Target Audience Live?
  3. What Experience Are We Trying To Create?
  4. Do We Have The Resources To Create The Experience We Want To Create?
  5. 5. Has Someone Successfully Created The Experience We Are Attempting?

Let’s discuss each consideration in detail…

How Will Social Media Grow My Business?

After making the decision to invest in the Social Media Marketing, the first question to ask yourself and your team is:

How Will Social Media Grow My Business?

Many business owners assume that by creating a social media presence, business growth will likely result. This is not always the case – especially if the business owner has not created a thought-out strategy to approach social media.

Social media was originally created to allow people to share content quickly, efficiently and in real-time. Naturally, as more people joined social media platforms, communities of like-minded individuals formed. Today many social media users communicate with individuals they have never physically seen before and interact with communities that span the globe.

To determine how Social Media will grow your business, start by writing down your Target Audience (this is something we will discuss later when reviewing platforms). At its true form, Social Media is simply a network of people and no matter the number of features or advertising options a particular Social Media platform offers, if your Target Audience isn’t active on the platform then your strategy will not grow your business.

Next, establish some initial “growth-goals”. These are specific and measurable goals that will give you something to strive for in the beginning stages of Social Media Marketing. Growing a Social Media platform has its highs and lows, by having “growth-goals” you establish a target to keep you motivated when instant growth subsides.

Where Does My Target Audience Live?

After establishing a general understanding of who your Target Audience is, next you need to consider where they live? We don’t mean, physically track down your Target Audience to their houses, but figure out what Social Media platforms they use most often and depend on for daily communication.

If you have a good relationship of your Target Audience, then asking them or distributing a survey will give you the most accurate data, however if that is not an option then looking at larger data trends will give you an idea.

See Choosing a Platform for each platform’s audience types.

What Experience Are We Trying To Create?

Most businesses stop strategizing after choosing a platform, however we believe that creating goals and choosing a platform are only part of what makes a business successful on Social Media.

Before diving into content creation, visualize the experience you are attempting to create for the end user. When visiting your Business Profile Page do you want the audience to feel excited, motivated, calm, a sense of belonging, a feeling of trust, etc.? Depending on how you want your audience to feel will greatly determine the colors and style of imagery that is used in both your Social Media Advertising and Social Media Content Marketing.

The experience you are attempting to create should align with your business branding. For example, if a local gym decided to expand their digital footprint to Facebook then a community experience could keep members engaged. New users (who are not yet members) would see that experience first-hand on Facebook through Advertising and would likely be motivated to become a member.

Do We Have The Resources To Create The Experience We Want To Create?

It’s easy to visualize an experience, however its harder to rationalize the investment needed to create the desired experience. After creating a clear vision of the experience you want to create with your Social Media Marketing, next you have to find a way to fund it through time and money.

For small businesses with limited budgets, more time investment is needed to achieve similar results. However, Advertising isn’t free, the more people you desire to reach the more investment needed. See Choosing a Platform to find the latest advertising costs based on strategy chosen.

Unless your content marketing is contracted to a marketing agency, content marketing will be more of a time investment. Creating content that always aligns with the experience you desire to create.

Has Someone Successfully Created The Experience We Are Attempting?

The last consideration to make is whether someone has created the experience you are attempting to create before. If so, that’s good news! By following a brand, you want to emulate, you have a front row seat to how someone else is doing it and succeeding.

Most experiences have been successfully created before, however if you are trying something completely new then budgeting more time and investment will be necessary as your strategy runs on trial and error.

Choosing A Platform

With many Social Media platforms to choose from, picking the one that yields the best results efficiently is critical. In our experience, most businesses who get discouraged or quit social media altogether do so because they were advertising to the wrong audience on the wrong platform. Below we will discuss each platform in detail, we will discuss the popularity of the platform, the audience that generally uses the platform, the advertising strategies available on the platform and the cost associated advertising.

The first four platforms we will discuss are primary social media platforms. These platforms are used the most and offer mature advertising platforms for businesses. These platforms include:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Next we will discuss what we consider secondary social media platforms. These platforms are used mostly by early-adopters and have a more focused audience. These platforms also offer a more limited advertising approach for businesses. These platforms include:

  • Pinterest
  • Snapchat
  • Tumblr


Facebook is one of the most widely used social media platforms in the world. An estimated 2 billion people use Facebook every day to post images, update timelines, engage with communities and explore brands.

The sheer size of the Facebook platform is both positive and negative for business owners. As of 2017, an estimated 65 million business use Facebook business pages to reach new audiences and nurture relationships with loyal customers. With that said, because Facebooks audience is so large and over 65 million businesses are competing on the platform, advertising can be competitive and costly if not done correctly.

According to the PEW Research Center, 74% of females and 62% of males in the United States use Facebook at least once a month. Facebook resonates with people of all ages, however those 18 – 49 are more likely to use Facebook more often. Facebook is used more by those in an Urban environment than in a rural environment and most users have a college degree. If these descriptions match your target audience, then Facebook may be a profitable platform to invest in.

Facebook offers two major advertising platforms to advertisers with numerous strategies built into each. The first is Facebook Boosting. Facebook Boosting is the easiest way for businesses to advertise on Facebook. However, it is also the costliest. In our experience boosting cost business owners 5x as much as if they chose to use Facebook’s other major platform Facebook Ads Manager.

Facebook Ads Manager is typically used by agencies and marketing companies and requires a steeper learning curve to use. Facebook Ads Manager allows advertisers to create mockups, explore markets, and create full campaigns that feature advanced marketing such as A/B Testing, Remarketing and Campaign Optimizations.

In our experience Facebook Ads Manager can cost advertisers between $0.50 to $2.00 per click, whereas Facebook Boosting can typically cost $5.00 to $10.00 per click based on the experience of the business.

If Facebook Advertising features your Target Audience, then we suggest working with a professional that understands the Facebook Advertising Platform and Facebook strategies. Saving at minimum $3 to $7 per click is well worth the premium service prices of a professionally managed Facebook campaign.


Instagram was purchased by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion. Over 1 billion users actively use their Instagram accounts every month to scroll through endless images, post photos and videos and watch Instagram stories.

Since Instagram’s advertising can be managed from Facebook, advertising on Instagram is simplistic. Instagram offers a variety of ad types including story ads, the traditional photo ads, video ads, carousel ads and collection ads. These ad types are very similar to the variety of ads available on Facebook.

When it comes to the platforms, Instagram operates very similar to Facebook. Advertisers can “promote” content (which is another term for “boost”), or they can use Ads Manager to run targeted campaigns. Like Facebook, promoting content usually costs the advertiser more and offer less features compared to the Ads Manager campaigns.

According to the PEW Research Center, 39% of females and 30% of males use the Instagram platform daily. Unlike Facebook, Instagram is generally used by those aged 13-17 with usage decreasing as users get older. 42% of Instagram users are in Urban environments while 25% are in rural environments and most users have a college degree.

If Instagram Advertising features your Target Audience, then we suggest working with a professional that understands the Facebook/Instagram Advertising Platform and Instagram Advertising strategies. Save money by working with a professional who advertises through Ads Manager instead of more expensive “promoting”.


Twitter has become the go-to customer service social media platform used by brands large and small. Instead of traditional profiles like Facebook and Instagram, Twitter is generally used to comment on events in real-time. If you are not familiar with this platform, simply download the app onto your mobile device, create an account and find the “search” section of the platform (represented by the magnify glass). Click on an event and view the latest posts.

This is the power of the Twitter platform, celebrities and average joes have the same platform to communicate, collaborate and discuss events in real-time. We especially love tuning into Twitter during high-profile sports events or political debates where users voice their opinions seconds after goals are scored or politicians fire off compelling arguments.

24% of men and women use the Twitter platform in the United States according to PEW Research Center (significantly less than Facebook and Instagram). Twitter is popular among 18-29 year old’s, similar to Facebook, however Twitter is also popular among the Instagram demographic of 13-17 year old’s.

Most of Twitters users live in Urban or Suburban environments and make more than $75,000 a year. Twitter is especially popular among celebrities, CEO’s and influencers, so Twitter is the go-to platform for those wanting to stay up to date with the life of the wealthy.

Following in Facebook’s footsteps, Twitter offers several advertising options focused on specific audience types. Twitter advertisers use the platform to raise awareness of a specific tweet, attract new followers, increase website traffic or increase engagement. Twitter allows advertisers to target users by location, the followers of a notable account or target people based on their interests.

Twitter is the perfect advertising platform for those wanting to advertise to a specific following. If your Target Audience falls into the audience type above, we recommend working with a professional to create a thought-out strategy before making the jump into Twitter Advertising.


LinkedIn is one of the most prominent social media platforms dedicated to professionals. LinkedIn is seldom used to post pictures of family and friends or share personal life events. Users on LinkedIn prefer to use the platform to network with other professionals to grow businesses, gain additional professional education or find a job. Similarly, businesses use LinkedIn to find prospective new-hires or grow their brand awareness in the B2B market.

It goes without much explanation that advertisers on LinkedIn tend to be in the B2B market and are less interested in advertising to the typical “end-consumer”. LinkedIn is one of the least used platforms among the big 4 with only 25% of men and women engaging with the platform monthly (similar to Twitter). Unlike the other platforms, LinkedIn users are typically older (30-49) and make significantly more the $75,000 a year. Over 50% of platform users have a college degree and live in an Urban/Suburban community.

With over 630 million active professionals on LinkedIn, it is easy to see that most advertisers use advertising as a way of reaching more professional clients. LinkedIn in contrast to the other platforms, allows advertisers to target audiences based on job title, function and industry. Advertisers can “promote” ads much like Instagram, however they can all use In-mail that targets directly to users’ inboxes. Ads also appear on the sidebar on desktop screens and within scroll view on the mobile platform.

All social media platforms price themselves based on the budget, and how relevant the ad is to the audience it is targeting. In the past year, LinkedIn has been relatively cheap to advertise on because LinkedIn’s platform only recently started to adopt advertising in the same way the others have. However, if your ad and target audience are not aligned then advertising can be costly.

If LinkedIn’s audience fits your Target Audience, then we recommend working with a professional on a thought-out LinkedIn advertising plan that consists of both content and advertising.

Now that we have discussed the audience demographics and advertising options of the big 4 social media platforms Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. The next group are what we consider secondary platforms – Pinterest, Snapchat and Tumblr. These platforms have less options when it comes to complete advertising and we would not recommend putting all your advertising budget into these platforms unless your business solely focuses on these niche groups.


Pinterest has long been known for its “pins” and “woman-focused content”, however Pinterest has emerged as a sure-fire growing platform. Pinterest boasts over 250 million active users (significantly less than the big 4), however Pinterest is one of the only platforms where advertising can be directly linked to profit. In fact, 61% of “pinners” have reportingly made a purchase after seeing the product on Pinterest.

Pinterest’s audience continues to be mainly women with 41% using the platform over 16% of males and is popular among the suburban communities. With that said, Pinterest is one of the only platforms that is favorable by those in rural communities as well with18% of rural users accessing the platform monthly.

Pinterest users tend to be younger with 68% of platform users being under the age of 50 and most Pinterest users are typically wealthier than other platforms with almost 40% making more than $75,000 a year.

Unlike other platforms, Pinterest currently only has one option for advertising and that is “promoting pins”. Businesses simply create a pin just like any other content and then “promote” it like they would on Facebook or Instagram. Pinterest does allow some demographic targeting; however, it is safe to say that the platform is light-years behind some of the more mature social media channels.

If you choose to advertise on Pinterest, we recommend working with a certified Pinterest professional who can guide you through ensuring your ad is targeting the correct users to increase your businesses exposure.


With 186 million users, Snapchat is the social media platform of the youth. 70% of those between the ages of 13 and 29 compared to a mere 25% over the age of 30. Snapchat is used by 31% of women and 23% of males and is ideal for those in Urban communities. Unlike the other platforms, more high school and college students use the platform versus those with a college degree and a significant portion of the user population makes less than $50,000 a year.

Snapchat is most notably known for its image limit on viewing messages or “snaps” and its sometimes-crazy filters. Most Snapchat users have their favorite filter (we know we do), which drove Facebook to adopt it in their Facebook Messenger video-chat. Snapchat sticks to these parameters even in their advertising. Snapchat allows advertisers to promote content while users are scanning through Snapchat stories or advertise on their discover page.

Unlike Pinterest, Snapchat does allow advertisers to manage their ads through a platform (although simplistic). If Snapchat’s audience fits into your Target Audience, then we recommend working with a Snapchat professional who can guide you through creating unique ads and targeting the correct demographics that benefit your brand the most.


Of all the social media platforms, Tumblr is probably the one you are least familiar with, unless you fall into their niche demographic. Tumblr is all about micro-blogging – sharing short stories, ideas, images and gifs. The Tumblr community is over 450 million accounts strong (more than Pinterest and Snapchat combined) and is largely made up of millennials.

Those in the Tumblr community spend more time on Tumblr than they do on other social media accounts with an average visit time of over 10 minutes. Tumblr is unique because most of the community is made up by users within the United States, in fact it was the first site to host former president Barack Obama’s micro-blog. Although Tumblr is not a part of our big 4, it is safe to say that those who use the platform are less likely to spend their time on others.

Like other platforms, Tumblr allows advertisers to promote their businesses through “sponsored posts” similar to Instagram’s “promoting” and Facebook’s “boosting”. Unlike other platforms Tumblr also allows advertisers to Sponsor for a whole day! Business that use the Sponsor Day ad will have their creative pinned to the top of the Tumblr platform in one of the most high-trafficked areas of the platform – the Explore page.

If that’s not enough, Tumblr also gives advertiser insights into Case Studies of other brands, Marketr – Tumblr’s official Sales and Brand Strategy team blog, Analytics and Preferred Data Partners.

Tumblr is the perfect advertising platform for those wanting to reach creative, artistic and entertainment-focused users. If your Target Audience is in the Tumblr niche, then we recommend working with a Tumblr advertising professional (not someone who works for Tumblr) that can help you reach your ideal audience with the right creative. We also recommend having a graphic designer make your Tumblr ads as the platform is art focused.

Who Can Help Me With Social Media Advertising?

Social Media is a beast and not every marketing company specializes in every platform. For example, at White Whale Web Design we only specialize in advertising to the big 4 social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. This is because most secondary platforms require a professional who lives and breathes each platforms niche to produce the best results.

At White Whale Web Design, we help clients understand what platforms they need to be utilizing and if we do not specialize in the platform they need, then we find them someone in our network who can.

Social Media Advertising of the Future

Social Media Marketing in general is a fast-paced and ever-evolving network of growth and decline, twists and turns, political breaches and privacy regulations. One thing is for certain, Social Media Marketing continues to be an effective way for small businesses to expand their brand and audience for a reasonable investment.

When Social Media Advertising is done right, businesses can reach thousands of potential customers for as little as $0.01 - $0.03 per customer. With that said, when done incorrectly it can cost a business thousands in wasted investment. If you are serious about expanding your brand on Social Media, talk to a White Whale Web Design professional.