Facebook vs. Google Which can better target your audience: the world's most popular social site or the search giant?

By Starr Hall

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Many top blogs, including social news site Mashable.com , continue to focus on the effectiveness of pay-per-click advertising through Google's ever-popular search and content networks. But new advertising platforms are on the scene--from social sites like Facebook to high-traffic blogs--and they offer a more targeted advertising approach. Google is having a difficult time trying to compete.

The reason is social sites offer better targeting with keywords and demographic-specific ads. Think about the manner and type of information Facebook gathers. While Google knows you're in the market for a new home, Facebook knows what causes are important to you, which videos you like to share and how often you make recommendations to your friends. Social media advertising opportunities are yielding better-qualified, higher-ROI results compared to the Google ad network.

Additionally, Facebook recently announced that Bing is now the default search engine for its more than 400 million users worldwide, which puts the site in a position to enhance its advertising model even more. By offering search on the site, Facebook is now able to gather data that it can leverage immeasurably in the world of advertising: the way people think, what they care about and how this leads them to buying decisions.

Google's model is still effective, but this newer platform includes psychographic information--attributes relating to personality, values, attitudes, interests and lifestyles (also known as IAO variables). This is putting the pressure on Google to provide a similar service. The bottom line is, if you can display your ads to a (more precisely) targeted demographic, your click-through ratios will improve.

Regardless of the pay-per-click advertising model you choose, there are three things you need to do before you invest:

  1. Determine who you are targeting
    With Facebook, you can get very specific with your keywords and filter by location, interest, age level and group or cause involvement. With Google, you have the ability to present an ad based on what someone is searching for right now, ready to buy.
  2. Do a test campaign
    If your budget allows, compare and test both platforms. As little as $100 each placed in PPC or CPM (cost-per-thousand) advertising on Facebook and Google is usually enough to reveal the difference in impact between specific and general targeting for your audience.
  3. Determine which PPC model works best for your business
    Just in case you need a refresher on the two "pay per" models:
  • CPC: Cost-per-click advertising allows you to pay for each click your ad receives. If you agree to pay $1 for each click, five clicks will cost you $5.
  • CPM: Cost-per-thousand (M is the Roman numeral for 1,000) advertising allows you to purchase a set amount of impressions. An impression is a single instance of an ad appearing on a web page. If your ad appears twice on one view of the page, that's two impressions.

    Remember that click-throughs aren't everything. Even an unclicked (but viewed) ad can play an important role in promoting your company by way of exposure. Too many marketers overlook the potential of CPM-based advertising. Keep in mind that targeted advertising greatly increases the overall effectiveness of your ad.

Here's a quick comparison of the Facebook and Google models to help you determine which is best for your business.

Keyword Targeting
Facebook: Targeting with keywords is optional
Google: Keyword specification is required

Targeting Details
Facebook: Can target by location, keywords, interest, workplace, birthdate and/or age
Google: Can target by location and keywords

Ad Placement
Direct to users right on their profile page
Google: Ads are often placed on obscure, undisclosed websites

Market Saturation
It's a newer platform, so fewer advertisers
Google: Crowded, it is still one of the top-producing online advertising networks

Starr Hall is a social media strategist, international author and speaker and Associate Partner- Search & Media with Level, A Rosetta Company

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