Why Paid Social Media Makes Sense For Most Small Businesses

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Obviously, for any business that has a website, traffic is crucial. In fact getting more traffic is typically the #1 topic of conversation whenever the subject of internet marketing comes up. A large part of what drives the conversation is that SEO has become increasingly complicated and for the vast majority of business owners, really doesn’t do much.

Although the idea of getting traffic for free is appealing, it’s also a bit misleading. First, nothing is really free-unless you value your time at zero. If you want to show up on the top ranks of google in the natural search listings, you’re simply going to have to have a page that’s better than all of your competitor’s pages. And since what is meant by “better” is a constantly shifting target, it’s no wonder that there’s a steady migration away from google as a primary traffic generation tool.

This trend has accelerated as Google is no longer the only game in town. It wasn’t all that long ago that if you wanted to get discovered on the internet, you didn’t have a lot of options. You could either work like mad to get your website listed on the first page of the natural search  results, or you could use Google’s Adwords program and pay your way to prominence.

That all began to change when first Facebook, then LinkedIn, then YouTube, then Twitter and finally Native Advertising sites such as Outbrain, entered the scene. All of them now offer a pay-per-click model that makes sense for virtually every type of business.

However, since we don’t have unlimited budgets, most of us aren’t going to either have the wallet nor the patience to advertise everywhere. So what’s most likely going to work the best for you?

Let me give you two answers. The first is very true but no on likes to hear it.


Ultimately your market will tell you what works and what doesn’t. It really doesn’t matter what I think, or you think, it’s the people you want to attract as clients that have all the votes.

Ideally you’d pick one platform and develop an ad that works well for you. Personally, I’d pick Facebook. Then I’d do the same for all the other social media platforms. But, be careful what you measure.

Number of clicks is important only in the sense that if you don’t get any, you can assume that your ad isn’t working. However, lots of clicks doesn’t mean that you’re getting the right type of traffic. The metric I think is the most important is engagement. That’s the number of people who are requesting your free report or lead magnet. These are the people who are giving you permission to send them additional messages, and that’s extremely important. So for me, I’d look at the number of clicks, but I’d pay a lot of attention to how many of them are becoming subscribers.

Some people advocate tracking sales, and depending upon your business, that may make sense. My thinking is that “conversion” is more of the role of your follow up machine. The messages you send and the offers you make. That said, there is a case to be made that if none of the leads from a certain source ever spend money with you, that would be a red flag that where the leads are coming from may not be optimal. However, I’m in a business in which I’m selling high value services (as are many of my clients) and there is usually a fairly considerable lag time between opt-in and conversion. Thus, it’s a bit hard to hold the original source responsible but it’s worth factoring in.

However, the reality is that Testing is boring and although everything talks the talk about it’s importance, most of us would like to shortcut the process by just focusing on one social media platform and if it works, do more of that.

So here’s how I’d evaluate your various options:

1) Facebook: For most businesses, this is where I’d start. Their advertising platform is easy to use, the pay per click is quite reasonable if you target correctly, and unless you’re targeting CEOs of Fortune 100 corporations, you’re prospect is likely to be there. It works for b2b and consumer businesses, so that’s where I’d at least begin my paid advertising campaign. Budget $100 and see what you get.

2) LinkedIn: There are some definite pros and cons. The pros are that this is the site with the most professionals and business leaders of mid and larger businesses. Increasingly, members are on the site more frequently, which is a definite plus if your advertising. If you’re in the big time B2B space, this is worth checking out.

Cons: First, advertising is expensive. Facebook ads typically will fall in the 30 cent to a buck range. LinkedIn has a minimum of $2 per click. That’s pretty expensive but if you’re selling a high ticket item, and your target audience matches their profile, it’s an ROI argument that can be made.

The second con is that LinkedIn was historically a site for people making a career transition. The profile has definitely shifted but there’s a ton of search consultants and job changers which clutters it up a bit.

3) YouTube: According to those that research such things, YouTube is the second larges search engine after Google. naturally if you have a product or service that can be demonstrated, it makes a lot of sense. What makes YouTube an interesting play is that if people click off your video ad within the first 30 seconds, you don’t get charged for the view.  This has lead to all sorts of clever marketing ideas that motivate viewers to click on a link on the video before the 30 second clock runs down, so traffic is driven to one’s website without incurring the charge.

I think there’s a lot of opportunity with YouTube but you’ve got to be comfortable and playing in the video space. If you are, I think it would be a good addition to your marketing spend. If you’re not a fairly experienced pay per click marketer, I’d put it on the second tier of options.

4) Twitter: I was talking with Ryan Deiss at Digital Marketer and he said that his company is driving a ton of traffic from twitter. That surprised me a bit but then again all of the social media platforms evolve and start attracting a more mature audience. It wasn’t that long ago that Facebook was only for kids (and unfortunately a lot of business owners are missing out on a great way to attract prospects by rigidly holding onto that perception.)

One way to determine whether Twitter makes sense for you is to go to it and # the services or products you offer. That will enable you to see what the conversation flow is like. If it’s robust and seems to dovetail with what you offer, it would be definitely worth testing. Again, I’m as guilty of this as anyone, and often hold on to a perception of a platform that was true at one time but no longer is.

5) Native Advertising: This is the new buzzword and refers to promoting your blog posts on other media sites (such as The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Bloomberg, ect). The model is pay per click and the cost per click is extremely low at 30-45 cents per click on services such as Outbrain. I’m not sure where the term Native Advertising came from but if you write a regular blog post, (and if your prospects are readers) this is definitely worth testing.

There are  number of different sites that provide native advertising so you’ll need to do a bit of research since they each represent a unique group of media properties. Simple google Native Advertising services and you’ll get a complete list. We’ve been using Outbrain for the past 6 months and have been extremely pleased with the quality of leads we’ve been getting.

So to sum it up, although SEO is becoming increasing painful to manage, there are a number of relatively inexpensive advertising options that have opened up as social media matures. If you want more traffic I’d pick one of the platforms and give it a test while making sure to monitor the quality and quantity of your results.

Hope you found this helpful. If you did, you could do me a huge favor and forward it on to others in your network who you also think might enjoy it.

Talk with you soon

Want me to personally create a sales & marketing funnel for you?

Mark Satterfield, Gentle Rain Marketing — Author , Marketing Consulting Expert, Lead Generation, Business Development, Marketing Strategy, Get More Clients, Increase Revenue — Click here for his Facebook Twitter LinkedIn YouTube

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Mark Satterfield, Gentle Rain Marketing -- Author , Marketing Consulting Expert, Lead Generation, Business Development, Marketing Strategy, Get More Clients, Increase Revenue -- Click here for his Facebook Twitter LinkedIn YouTube


  1. Ron Hitson  June 13, 2014

    Hey Mark,

    thanks for posting this wonderful article. It’s given me more more clarity after the awesome consult we had earlier this week. I’ve been laying everything out for getting my funnel set up. Looking forward to this and possibly working with you on a advisory basis in the near future.


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