The world of online advertising is vast. With a variety of effective options for marketers, making decisions on where to invest your time and dollars is no short challenge.
With a myriad of options available and the majority of them producing impactful results, it’s essential to create criteria to prioritize the channels you utilize.
Regardless of your organization’s size or market, understanding the platforms that are right for you is critical for maximizing your effectiveness to reach the right audience successfully. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy, so together we’ll explore potential options and how you can leverage them.
9 top online advertising platforms
In order to determine where to invest your resources, understanding the landscape of what’s available to you is essential. Here are some of the top online advertising platforms along with their greatest strengths:
As one of the original contenders in the online advertising space, Facebook brings the most data to the table to effectively target and reach its users. With almost 3 billion monthly active users worldwide, it’s safe to say it may be one of the most used social platforms with the ability to serve personalized ads to each account. Its advanced targeting capabilities, though somewhat diminished since mid-2021 due to privacy changes, still allow organizations to precisely target their audience.
This image-centered platform allows advertisers to showcase visually compelling content to attract the attention of users. With a highly engaged user base, this platform brings opportunities to engage with users and utilize a variety of ad placements to effectively tell a story. While geared toward slightly younger demographics, the platform offers a variety of ways to connect with your audience.
Google may currently have the greatest ability to target audiences with data unavailable to other platforms. Its immense reach and intent-driven advertising allows the ability to target users actively searching for products and services in real time. Unlike social platforms where users engage to connect with others, Google allows diverse advertising placements to target your market while they research buying decisions.
YouTube’s greatest strength is its ability to share engaging and inspiring video content, unmatched by any other video platform to date. With billions of users, it offers organizations the ability to engage audiences through captivating video ads. Its targeting options are precise and focused on content types, and even allow for direct URLs of websites to be targeted.
It’s clear in the B2B space there is no contender to LinkedIn. With a professional user base and accessible information about decision-makers' roles and organizations, LinkedIn allows marketers to directly target the right people by job title, industry, and skill.
This up-and-coming (and consistently growing) platform marries engaging short-form content with robust targeting options. While favored amongst younger markets, more users continue to come to the app. Not only does the platform allow for brands to showcase their personality and creativity, but it also allows for influencer collaboration, significant organic growth, and high-intent advertising objectives.
Functioning more like a search engine than a social network, this visual discovery platform offers opportunities for home decor, home services, and lifestyle industries to inspire and influence future purchasing decisions. With a highly engaged user base actively searching for ideas and inspiration, Pinterest poses a great opportunity for organizations to drive brand awareness and conversions.
The underdog of search, Bing’s greatest strength lies in its status as a prominent search engine without the competition of Google. With a smaller market share, the lower threshold of competition can lower your cost per click, allowing advertisers to increase their market reach without raising their budget.
Twitter brings the opportunity to connect in real-time with its users. With opportunities to engage a target audience and get real-time feedback, its ad platform allows a unique opportunity to create buzz and conversation different than any other platform.
Platforms by audience
One of the most critical criteria to determine the platforms to prioritize is none other than the market. At the end of the day, knowing and understanding your target audience is critical to accurate placement and investment. Based on several markets, here are some examples of platforms to consider based on their audience.
Platforms such as Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Bing have the most diversity, with the majority of most markets being present on these platforms in some capacity. These platforms can also be layered with different stages of the marketing funnel to reinforce other platforms (more on that later). Ultimately, there’s a high likelihood that, regardless of your industry, you can engage your audience in some capacity on these platforms, though depending on their buying behavior they may or may not cause the customer to convert.
If you’re targeting younger audiences, such as Millennials or Gen Z, Instagram and TikTok off the most opportunity. While other demographics certainly engage on these channels, stylistically the creative on these platforms suits a younger audience. This is likely because the platforms feel less like advertising and more like compelling content in order to connect with the audience before requesting a purchase decision.
LinkedIn, Bing, YouTube, Google, and even Facebook can all be leveraged in different capacities for a B2B or professional audience. While LinkedIn presents the most professional data and means to target this market, reaching them can be reinforced through other platforms as well.
For markets focused on higher-income consumers planning their lives, Pinterest presents immense consumer opportunities, along with TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and even Google Shop. Pinterest allows brands to inspire people early on in the buying process, but each of these platforms provides significant data and remarketing opportunities to attract the consumer.
For professional audiences and news updates, Twitter wins - but the capabilities of the platform are rapidly changing and unknown given the substantial changes it’s going through. Depending on your level of innovation and capacity, it could be a channel worth testing as an early adopter of new tactics.
Platforms by stage of marketing funnel
Now that we’ve established multiple platforms that can be used for multiple markets, understanding where the consumer is in the buying process in addition to your marketing goals largely dictates how you can utilize each platform. While the majority of platforms offer campaign objectives for every stage of the funnel, not each platform's conversion objectives are created equally. Certain platforms have more data readily available to push higher intent purchases through. We’ll explore some tactics to utilize different channels and campaign objectives for each stage.
Top of Funnel (TOF)
All of the channels above - aside from Google and Bing - present opportunities for top-of-funnel objectives. Each of these channels has the ability to target users engaged in other activities such as scrolling social media to connect with friends or pinning relevant ideas, and presenting them with an option or brand they may be unfamiliar with.
Google and Bing, are intent-driven platforms, higher intent platforms that individuals go to once they’re considering making a purchase. The mere fact that they search for a particular product means they have some knowledge of it and are more likely deciding where to make the purchase, so their TOF capabilities are less than other platforms.
When it comes to brand awareness, knowing where your market is most active will be your top consideration factor in deciding the TOF platform for you.
Middle of Funnel (MOF)
As mentioned above, Google and Bing present the most intent, but all of the other platforms also present strong middle-of-funnel conversion objectives. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok all present strong lead capture features to opt-in leads directly from the platform without relying on a landing page. Though they all offer these conversion objectives, Pinterest and Twitter may be on the weaker side here.
The nature of how to retarget existing web traffic may change drastically when the Google cookie “crumbles”, but currently, Google Display Ads and YouTube Ads present the most capability to retarget and push debating consumers over the line of conversion.
LinkedIn and TikTok may be close secondary contenders, but this conversion objective has become more challenging with limited data, creating a reliance on utilizing one channel and focusing on advertising objectives that track app behavior.
Evaluating your platforms
If determining which channels to use is still a challenge, here are some additional things to consider:
Not all platforms are created equally. LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, and YouTube, while campaign objectives are offered for varying budgets, are typically the most expensive to advertise on. This is due to a more competitive landscape, and more access to data to show more targeted audiences higher intent campaigns.
TikTok, Twitter, Bing, and Pinterest offer fewer barriers to entry because fewer advertisers have adopted these platforms, creating more opportunities to bid.
Depending on your stage of funnel goals, different channels can be added to your mix. For instance, if you’re running an ecommerce store and are trying to increase clothing purchases, TikTok could be utilized for a TOF campaign with influencers, layered with Facebook to showcase catalog products, and Google display to re-market at the bottom of the funnel.
If you’re targeting B2B professionals to book a consultation, LinkedIn brand awareness campaigns could bring the cost down, followed by YouTube conversion and Display retargeting to get them to convert.
Ultimately, based on your objective, different platforms and campaigns can be layered together to reach your goals.
Some channels take longer to optimize than others. Google, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are all platforms that can take longer for a campaign to stabilize, while Facebook and TikTok can learn more quickly. Depending on the lifetime of your campaign, this is an important factor to consider when choosing a platform.
Ultimately, there are a number of platforms and campaign objectives available to market an organization, many of which we haven’t even touched on. At the end of the day, the most important considerations are to understand your goals, market, budget, and timeline to make decisions that work the best for you.