Written by Caroline Cox on Apr 21 , 2020

From tweets to TikTok, here’s how to pick the right paid social platform for your business.

Here, you’ll find:

  • A breakdown of the main paid social platforms
  • Pro tips for paid social success
  • How these platforms compare to one another
  • Which industries see the most success on certain platforms

The aim of social media is to help us connect with people — and the world — around us. That could mean following an influencer whose style you envy, a travel writer who’s always (except in the times of coronavirus) traipsing across the globe, or a YouTuber with killer recipes.?

So, when your company is looking into ads on a paid social platform, it’s helpful to keep in mind why people are on them in the first place. It’s all part of understanding your target audience, their goals, and how you can meet them where they already are.?

HawkSEM: Determine Which Paid Social Platform is Right for You

When it comes to members, you just can’t beat Facebook — the platform boasts 2.5 billion monthly users worldwide. (Image via Unsplash)

Once you explore your audience and assess your resources (images, videos, ambassadors, et cetera), it can be a challenge to know where to begin. But don’t fear! Let’s break down all the main paid social platforms and how you can make them work for your business.


If other platforms are like happy hour, LinkedIn is the networking event. Sure, you can be quippy and share fun thoughts or links, but at the end of the day, it’s all about professionals. By its own estimations, LinkedIn has a whopping 625 million members in 200 countries and regions across the globe.?

According to Sprout Social, 65% of B2B companies have used LinkedIn paid ads to acquire new customers, and the platform is reportedly 277% more effective than Facebook in generating leads.?

Because of its business-centric purpose, LinkedIn can be a great paid social platform for ads relating to a software, services, and anything else that could be used in a professional setting or to improve workday processes.

Other industries that tend to do well with LinkedIn paid social ads include:

  • High-end retail
  • Wine and spirits
  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Professional businesses (such as performing arts, banking, pharma, and international affairs)

While LinkedIn has a lot of opportunity, LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager has a few minimum requirements that can be costly for small businesses to leverage. They also have limited targeting, as well as more expensive CPC and conversions, compared to other platforms.?

Pro tip: Since users view LinkedIn as a professional place, it’s a good idea to have your ads follow suit —?and don’t forget to maintain the correct ad specs!


When it comes to members, you just can’t beat Facebook. That’s because the social media platform boasts 2.5 billion monthly users worldwide.

But while that number is impressive, it’s worth noting that younger generations aren’t as active as older ones, and visibility for both organic and paid posts can be hard to come by. (For example, a Facebook page with more than 1 million likes only averages an organic engagement rate of less than 2.5%.)

Regardless of the drawbacks, marketers love Facebook because it’s affordable and generally results in high engagement. When it comes to paid social ads on Facebook, retail really shines. Think: items like clothes, accessories, beauty products, and the like. The visual format ad options make it easy to showcase your products and grab people’s attention.

Industries that tend to find success with Facebook (in terms of engagement and sharing) include:

  • Automotive
  • E-commerce?
  • Travel
  • Non-profit organizations

Industries like software may do as well as the above when it comes to Facebook ads. If the audience isn’t right and the industry isn’t a fit, ads can really flop.

Pro tip: Facebook’s Power Editor lets you target by location, demographic, interests, and life events. You can also target connections, like friends of those who like your page, according to Bitly.

HawkSEM: Determine Which Paid Social Platform is Right for You

Because of the visual nature of Instagram ads, any photos, videos, or graphics used should be high-quality and high-resolution. (Image via Unsplash)


Instagram is owned by Facebook. Because of this, there are plenty of similarities between the two platforms in terms of ad offerings. Additionally, the industries that tend to do well on Facebook also perform rather well on Instagram.

While the platforms fall under the same umbrella, they’re also different in many ways. While Instagram trails a bit behind Facebook in terms of members, its visibility and cultural relevance is significant.

After all, Instagram is basically the reason why “influencers” exist in the way they do today. And studies show ad recall from sponsored ads on Instagram is 2.9 times higher than Nielsen’s norms for online advertising.

Instagram ads also see decent engagement rates compared to other platforms. This is likely due to the visual nature of the app, and how seamlessly ads show up in Instagram Stories (temporary posts users create) and regular feeds. It could also be because the majority of Instagram users are part of younger, tech-savvy generations.?

You can manage your Instagram ads inside Facebook’s Ads Manager. This allows you to create Facebook and Instagram ads simultaneously, complete with a robust variety of targeting options to leverage.

Because of the visual nature of Instagram ads, any photos, videos, or graphics used should be high-quality and high-resolution (nothing fuzzy or grainy). And while the maximum caption length is 2,200 characters, experts say 125 characters is ideal.

Pro tip: For e-commerce brands, Instagram’s shopping capabilities allow you to add multiple hyperlinks to an ad, making conversion a breeze. (People can even purchase items without having to leave the app.)


Twitter has around 186 million daily active users, according to Hootsuite. That’s a lot of potential for advertisers. Twitter itself also reports that people spend 26% more time viewing ads on Twitter than on other leading platforms.

Similar to Instagram, Twitter ads fit subtly into members’ existing feeds and are relatively cost-effective. This platform is all about getting visibility, engagement, and spreading the word to grow awareness about your brand. Conversions can be a bit trickier here, though you can try generating quick leads with Twitter Cards or Promoted Tweets.

The platform describes promoted tweets as “a 24-hour high-impact takeover of the Trends list on Twitter,” ideally to launch something new or weigh in on a trend.?

According to Social Media Today, industries that perform best on Twitter include:

  • Music
  • Entertainment
  • Games
  • Aerospace
  • Retail & e-commerce

Pro tip: Twitter users can “like,” respond to, and share your paid ad tweets in the same way they interact with organic ones, thus boosting your reach without costing you more. This is why it’s crucial to make your ad stand out — so you can go viral for all the right reasons.

HawkSEM: Determine Which Paid Social Platform is Right for You

Along with TrueView ads, YouTube offers non-skippable video ads and bumper ads. (Image via Unsplash)


Along with Facebook, YouTube is the only other platform with a reach in the billions. Owned by Google, this platform lets you create video or image ads that play before and interstitially between YouTube videos. Much like Instagram, it’s huge with younger generations: 81% of 18-25 year olds in the U.S. use the platform.

Don’t have a video to promote? No problem. YouTube’s creative partner network connects you with pros who can help you with everything from motion graphics to voiceover, animation, and more. As far as payment, YouTube only charges you when someone chooses to watch at least 30 seconds or clicks on your TrueView ad (which lets viewers choose ads that interest them more).?

Along with TrueView ads, the platform offers non-skippable video ads and bumper ads. Non-skippable ads are ads that appear before a video, and mid-roll ads appear at the midpoint of videos that are at least 10 minutes long. Bumper ads, on the other hand, are 6 seconds max and are paid for on a CPM basis.

Pinterest, TikTok, and other platforms

While the platforms above are arguably the most popular paid social platforms, there are other players in the space that offer their own unique benefits. Apps like Snapchat, TikTok, and Pinterest all have ad options. While their reach may not be as wide as the Big Four, depending on your industry and target audience, they could still be worth your time and budget.?

TikTok is the fastest-growing platform in terms of popularity, particularly with Gen Z. It offers interactive ads in more than 20 global markets. Snapchat lets you target your ads based on users’ interests, behaviors, location, and more.

Pinterest gives you the option to choose to pay for either engagement or visits to your site, and pins often have a longer lifespan than a lot of other paid social ads.?

HawkSEM: Determine Which Paid Social Platform is Right for You

How you measure paid social success will depend on your goals, whether that’s purchases, engagement, followers, or CTR. (Image via Unsplash)

Leveraging multiple platforms

Because each paid social platform is different, with its own unique benefits and users, you may want to experiment with multiple platforms at once. Of course, it’s good to have variety, and testing out a few platforms can help you determine which ones have better ROI for your company.?

Just make sure you go into any testing with a game plan for the KPIs you’ll be monitoring, and how long you want to experiment before revisiting your strategy.?

The takeaway

How you measure paid social success will depend on your goals, whether that’s purchases, engagement, followers, click-through rate (CTR), or something more.

If you’re looking for ad options that are affordable, visual-forward, and have the potential to reach far and wide, paid social is worth checking out.?

Want more insight into paid social success secrets? You’ve come to the right place.?

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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