indicatorSales and Marketing

Social media advertising: right audience, right platform, right time

By ATB Financial 20 August 2020 7 min read

Currently, 3.8 billion people worldwide are using social media. By 2025, Statista forecasts that this number will grow by over 20 per cent. Needless to say, having a social media presence isn’t merely a potential marketing tactic for your organization, but a necessity.

While having a social media presence, with consistent and original content, is critical to truly grow your brand and reach new markets, social media advertising is worth a closer look at.

“Your audience is on social – that’s a fact,” states Tyler Butler, senior manager of external communications with ATB. “Online advertising gives the capacity for targeting that is so important, and allows you to reach the people you want to reach in the place they like to go.”


Setting social goals

While an organization can start building their social media presence at any time (many small businesses focus on being active on social media before even having a website in place), before diving into social media marketing, it’s important to be clear about your specific goals.

“I advise having an objective in mind that can be achieved through social media ads and be able to articulate the value you will get for those ads,” Butler recommends. “You may be looking to raise awareness, drive purchasing, or direct traffic to a web page, whatever the objective may be, be clear on it and have the accompanying pieces in place.”


Choose your platform(s) wisely

When choosing a social media advertising platform, there are a few factors to consider:

  • Tone – are you planning to communicate in a conversational and laid back style or in a more professional and corporate manner?
  • Usage and popularity with your target market
  • Ad campaign objectives

Bottom line, your organization needs to be where it’s customers (and competitors) are. This blog post courtesy of Hootsuite gives a helpful breakdown of platform user demographics.

In considering where to direct your limited social media budget and resources, don’t spread yourself too thin. Pick one or two platforms, and give them due care and attention rather than semi-performing on multiple platforms.

Let’s get to know some of the current top social media platforms in a bit more detail.


“Facebook ads and Instagram ads tend to be strong traffic drivers,” Butler points out. “They are good platforms for sending users to websites. They are also valuable as their ad service learns and optimizes for you. If they feel more of your audience is on Instagram as opposed to Facebook, they’ll spend more there.”

Since Facebook opened up to the general public in September 2006, it has ruled as the undisputed king of social media, with over 70% of internet users currently on the platform. Facebook, more so than it’s competing platforms, is where users go to catch up and connect with friends and family.

Facebook ad campaigns are designed to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Awareness – brand awareness and reach
  • Consideration – traffic, engagement, app installs, video views, lead generation, messages
  • Conversions – catalog sales, store traffic

The audience demographic customization options that Facebook ads affords cannot be ignored. From user location to favorite movies to behaviors to relationship status, Facebook has a plethora of data at its fingertips to help its advertisers best target their desired clientele.


Twitter joined the social media party in 2006, and was the birthplace of the #hashtag. Successful brands on Twitter engage in two-way dialogue. It’s a forum for conversations, questions and dissemination of information. Twitter is also very much in the moment, with live-tweeting being a popular activity among users.

Twitter ads come with tailored pricing – payment is tied to specific campaign objectives. If your objective is to direct traffic to your website, you only pay once the user follows through on your campaign wish to click on your link. Furthermore, Twitter posts (including ads) have a higher chance of “going viral”, since retweeting is huge on the platform.


This leading business-oriented platform can be a strong option when looking to connect in the B2B world. With the ability to target ads based on job titles, industry or select qualifications, LinkedIn can give a direct line to decision-makers in a way that no other platform can. Advertising options on LinkedIn include news feed, side panel and direct InMail.

While LinkedIn doesn’t have nearly the user base of other platforms (600 million vs Facebook which is sitting at 2 billion users), it’s a very professional and business-focused user base. Butler states, “when the audience is right, it can have the potential to be the best platform.”


Fun fact: not only is YouTube the leader in sharing video content, they are also the second largest search engine in the world, behind Google. If video production is a component of your marketing strategy, then YouTube is definitely worth consideration. In one study of 56 brands, Google reported that YouTube delivered a higher return on investment (ROI) than TV in 77 per cent of cases.

In certain industries, YouTube advertising has tremendous impact. YouTube advises that 72 per cent of vehicle purchasers and 66 per cent of beauty product customers report that YouTube had affected their purchasing decisions.

In addition to providing the standard audience and engagement metrics, YouTube also provides analytics specific to video performance, such as at what point during the ad users stop watching, which allows advertisers to adjust accordingly.


Are females your primary demographic? If so, Pinterest may be for you.

Pinterest has some compelling stats around Pinner behavior (yes, Pinner is the term for Pinterest users):

  • 200 billion pins have been saved
  • In the past year, Pinterest’s active user base grew by 26 per cent (to 335 million)
  • Shopping for products is a top priority for 48 per cent of Pinners
  • Pinterest rates at the tenth most relevant brand in the US – making it the only social media platform in the top ten

With Pinterest being such a visually compelling platform, Butler advises that it is a must-do “if your business sells eye-catching products, like in the case of clothing retailers or home design companies, Pinterest is the place for it.”



Reddit describes itself as being the “home to thousands of communities, endless conversations, and authentic human connection.” Subreddits are communities which cover a variety of topics ranging from explainlikeimfive to GetMotivated to photoshopbattles.

The Reddit audience is known for being incredibly tech-savvy, young and liberal. Pros of advertising on this platform include its low cost, excellent targeting abilities and super-engaged audience. However, navigating the different cultures and rules of each of the more than 1.2 million subreddits can be challenging.

These are only a handful of the myriad of social networking sites out there. Regardless of which platform you choose, there are a few keys to success.


Continual improvement

“Test everything,” Butler advises. “Social media gives you the ability to run multiple versions of the ads you want people to see. Test different audiences. Make sure you are always running some kind of test and learning all the time so your ads are continually getting better and better. You can learn so much about your business through this kind of testing.”

All of the above-noted social media platforms provide solid analytical data. The onus is on the advertiser to use this digital advertising data to its full potential.


You know when you decide it’s time for a new widget, so you look up the latest widget online. And then you see this same widget advertised the next time you log on to Facebook. And again, a widget ad pops up when you are playing Boggle on your phone. And, then lo and behold, again when you are online placing a pizza order? That’s the power of remarketing. And it can be highly effective.


Custom audiences

Why market to everyone and their grandmother when you can customize your audience based on a selection of diverse criteria ranging from age to hobbies to post-secondary credentials. Audience targeting needs to be a high priority. Make them as specific as possible, and then create the ad to speak to that unique audience.

With so many platforms to choose from, so many audience customization options and so many factors to test, social media advertising can seem downright daunting. Butler advises, “simple is okay. Start with a goal and make sure you are reaching that goal with your ads. You can sink a whole lot of time into social media ads. If you have a more complicated ask, remember that there are social media professionals, including many Albertan entrepreneurs, who are really good at this. There is help available.”

If you’re looking for a deep dive on everything you need to know around how to grow your business, our ATB X Accelerator program might be just the place for you. Alternatively, feel free to reach out to one of our entrepreneur strategists to explore where you are with your business, where you want to be, and how to get there!

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