biz ladiesLife & Business

biz ladies: advertising via social networks

by Stephanie

Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from previous contributor Justine Smith, a creative entrepreneur from Toronto, Canada. Justine started Create Hype, a small-business marketing/consulting company, in November 2010, and today she offers some advice on how to advertise via social networks. In this post, she very clearly and precisely breaks down the pros and cons and various advertising possibilities of the most popular social networks. Thank you, Justine, for another helpful and informative post! — Stephanie

CLICK HERE for the full post after the jump!

Recently I had the opportunity to write the Biz Ladies post Big Brand Strategy, Small Brand Savvy, which was very well received by Design*Sponge readers. As I read through the comments one by one, I was thrilled to see how interested people are in social media and I wanted to continue the discussion.

Did you know that another interesting way in which many itty bitty businesses are using social media is by leveraging different advertising platforms offered by the social sites to pinpoint their target audiences and spread their message to those users directly?

Here’s Your Complete Guide to Advertising via Social Media

Social Site: Facebook

How Advertising Works: Facebook ads are charged on a cost-per-click or cost per 1000 impressions (cpm) basis with the ability to choose a daily spending limit. It allows you to set up a variety of campaigns, similar to Google Adwords, with different ad designs including a bolded title, text information and even a small photo. These ads are placed in the sidebar of targeted Facebook users after they login to the site.

You are able to get quite a few interesting options for targeting the right people on Facebook, including location, age, gender, likes and interests (by far the best option currently offered), education, workplace, languages, relationship status and more. It even allows you to include people associated with specific fan pages, which is helpful if, for instance, you are advertising your fan page and don’t want current members to see those ads.


  • The advanced targeting Facebook offers is great for being able to really narrow down the type of users you want to advertise to.
  • The staggering number of Facebook users mean that even with very narrow target parameters, you can still reach a large number of great users.
  • The cost is fairly inexpensive if you watch your campaign closely and really narrow down the right set of people for the best return on your investment.
  • I’ve heard many good things about advertising your fan page on Facebook since users are much more likely to “like” a Facebook fan page or group that interests them than purchase products or services on a non-Facebook website they found through an advertisement.
  • If you’re advertising a fan page and the user seeing your ad has a friend who already likes your page, Facebook mentions it just below the ad which boosts credibility to the ad and helps persuade the new user to follow suit.


  • Since Facebook ads are still evolving, there are several targeting options that would benefit advertisers if added.
  • There’s an issue with credibility because hoards of internet marketers have begun using the site to create ads that promote somewhat questionable affiliate product offers and websites. If a user you’re targeting has ever clicked one of those ads, they’ll very unlikely to want to click on more.

Real World Experience: Besides the great things I have heard from many fellow small business owners, Facebook has also published numerous success story case studies on their website. Tasting Table’s case study in particular was quite interesting and reports that the site grew from 50,000 to 400,000 subscribers in under a year with 40% coming from Facebook. One thing that they noted in their case study was that they were very creative in targeting users and continually tweaked their ad combinations to monitor what was working best.

Final Verdict: Facebook can be a great place to advertise a fan page or site that asks for your immediate action (like Tasting Table’s goal of capturing email addresses). Regardless of the site you’re advertising, continually tweak ad designs and target users in small groupings so you can monitor your results and decipher which ads and people are producing the most success for your campaigns.

Social Site: Twitter

How Advertising Works: Currently Twitter offers three advertising methods you can try, called “Promoted Tweets,” “Promoted Accounts” and “Promoted Trends.” Each one works differently, Promoted Tweets allow advertisers to place sponsored tweets (created by themselves or regular users) based on keywords, Promoted Accounts show sponsored accounts in the sidebar under “Who to Follow” and Promoted Trends allows you to select different hashtag phrases and promote your tweets that way.

Since Twitter only launched their internal advertising platform about a year ago, it’s not yet clear how advertising can benefit a small business owner in the future but it’s reported that Twitter is currently only allowing around 30-50 top brands, including Starbucks and Coca Cola, to advertise.


  • Once Twitter allows every day users and business owners to advertise, the possibility to see a great return on investment looks promising. For instance, say you sell handmade jewelry. You could target people who specifically say “I buy handmade jewelry today.”
  • With millions of Twitter users, you have the chance to reach a huge number of users.
  • With Twitter APIs like TwitAd and Magpie, itty businesses can test out the waters of Twitter advertising by getting their messages spread to the masses by other Twitter accounts signed up as publishers.


  • Small business owners are not currently invited to use the advertising platform, and it’s unclear when the program becomes public, what the cost will be.
  • When you try to sign up for advertising via Twitter, the minimum option you can select for Estimated Monthly Budget is $5,000 – $9,999 which isn’t very encouraging for small business budgets.

Real World Experience:
Since only large brands have been able to get access to their platform, it’s unclear what results they are obtaining, if any. I’ve personally tried advertising Create Hype and Justine Smith Media using the Twitter API Magpie and have never seen great results.

Final Verdict: When the program is made public, it would be worth jumping on the bandwagon as an early adopter to see if results will pay. However, when deciding to advertise on Twitter using different API sites, I’m often reminded of Chris Brogan’s tweet “Trying to advertise via Twitter? Try making a relationship first.”

Social Site: StumbleUpon

How Advertising Works: StumbleUpon is an interesting site that allows users to choose their interests (based on many categories offered by the site) and then “stumble” using a browser bar that shows them different pages on the internet that might interest them. For instance, if I like “fashion,” I’d likely stumble onto Oh Joy’s blog, which has gone quite viral on StumbleUpon for many different posts.

StumbleUpon offers a very powerful ad platform called Paid Discovery, which allows advertisers to target specific demographics, such as age, location and gender, as well as interests they have, such as fashion mentioned above. The reason StumbleUpon’s ads are very powerful is because people stumbling do not know the website they are being shown is an ad which means people aren’t red flagged by what they’re seeing and they can genuinely take interest the same way they would with another type of site.

The cost is also very inexpensive, costing only 5-15 cents per person that you want to stumble your site. That means if you choose the lowest option and want 100 people to view your website, it would only cost you $5.


  • The biggest pro is that users stumbling different websites have no idea that their view was paid for by an advertiser. This gives them an unbiased look at your site and can help them take action (such as providing an email address, subscribing to an RSS feed or purchasing a new handbag) more than they would with other advertising platforms.
  • Once you have gone through StumbleUpon’s ad options, the campaigns start very quickly and you can expect to see the number of visitors you’ve asked for, depending on your daily budget, delivered within an hour or two.
  • The cost of ads via StumbleUpon are so cheap that you could reach a lot of users in a very short time for a very small budget, perfect for a small business owner.
  • If many people “thumbs up” you site when stumbling, you may get extra views on your page that you don’t have to pay for.


  • StumbleUpon’s campaigns all must be approved by their staff so once in a while, a very promising campaign can be turned down and you have to go in and tweak things slightly to get it approved again.
  • Part of StumbleUpon’s options for users is to thumbs up and thumbs down different sites they see. If they thumbs down your site too many times, you’ll likely not get any free views from your campaign.
  • Since StumbleUpon users are constantly looking at different pages, the bounce rate from advertising is very high and most people will only stay on your site for a few seconds.

Real World Experience: Heather Allard from The Mogul Mom recently shared her thoughts on using StumbleUpon:

“I run a website for mom entrepreneurs and I’m always looking to increase my subscriber list. After advertising on many different sites and newsletters, a friend told me about StumbleUpon’s Paid Discovery advertising. I checked it out and decided it was definitely worth trying – they offer very affordable rates ($5 per day, for example) and you can target the audience that’s the best fit for your site (male, female, geographic region, age, etc). Once I placed my ad, I immediately started receiving hundreds of hits to my site sent from StumbleUpon and the conversion rate was great – about 30% opted in to my email list.”

Final Verdict: Go for It. With the cost being so low and the potential being so high, you have very little to lose and would miss out by not giving it a shot.

Would you try advertising via social media? Sound off in the comments below.

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  • Justine, Stephanie and d*s crew,
    A huge thank you for this incredibly helpful (and timely) post! I was just looking into FB advertising and was wondering if it was worth it — will def. check out Magpie! Cheers, Jessica W.

  • Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! What an informative guide. I hadn’t heard of StumbleUpon, so looking forward to checking that out too.

  • So happy to have found this… will be sharing it on FB :)

    I think that the Stumbleupon idea is great, as all I want initially is to find more traffic to my new blog, and to have it rated for feedback without really having to do anything but watch the stats and see if it receives thumbs up is pretty brilliant! Cheers!

  • just wanted to share that advertisers on facebook can also use the ads to promote specific event pages they’ve set up as well. thanks for the post, as always. the biz ladies series never fails to deliver something helpful!

  • Great info. My business is a small startup and utilizing social media is something I’ve been tinkering with for a couple of months. This is some really fantastic insight. I’m definitely going to give the StumbleUpon option a try. Thanks again! :)

  • I , too, had never heard of Stumbleupon, so that alone made this a great article! I also didn’t know about FB doing ads, tho I had read that Twitter wasn’t for small biz.

    Since I am trying to “open” by July, I have a TON to learn in every area of itty bitty biz :-) So anything is most likely news to me, altho I had checked out Google.

    I was on a blog site (blogger I think) and she had something I’d never seen; spaces for ads in her blog side board. Some ads were filled in, but a couple spaces said, basically, advertise in the space. Do you know anything about that type of ad?

    I took a tour of ALL the Biz Ladies Archives and found there were some issues which hadn’t been written about such as, is it better to go with Etsy, a blog, a website or a mix of any/all? Maybe more of a question for Grace to see if something has been or will be coming on this subject. (BLESS YOU!)

    I’m trying to be brave and positive, but when you are itty bitty, it’s IS scary! If anyone knows of forums I could join that might help, I’d surely appreciate knowing.

    Sorry so long! Just so much to know in advance for a newbie :-) <3

  • this topic really scares me… but I am glad it was explained in such depth (I am still terrified of the possibility of advertising, but now at least I feel more educated about it)

  • Brilliant as usual. The next thing on my wishlist is a small clearinghouse of craft/design/diy/decor blogs who accept ads that lists rates. I know people hate to just give up that info, but I go thru so much work compiling my own list. Blog advertising’s done the best work for us in terms of valuable contacts. One of our best ads ran on black.white.yellow and her ad rate is ridiculously inexpensive. That said, it’s often a matter of fit + you have to be sure your message fits the blog – most won’t accept ads that don’t gel. The other downside is size – you can’t usually get a ton of info across in the space allowed – the spolis go to the most eye-catching ads, so we rely on our great logo to reel them in.

    Thas again – awesome insight and insider info. PS. Stumbleupon every one of your own blog posts. We get great traffic from them for free.

  • Your information on StumbleUpon was so helpful! I use it personally, but never even knew I could advertise my web-based boutique there. I will definitely give it a try.

  • Thanks for the helpful post, like many others I Dif not consider StumbleUpon an advertising option before.

    I have great experience from Facebook’s sponsored stories. We use it to increase our fanbase and to make sure to get noticed when we launch a new artist.

  • In response to Mari’s question: I’ve used Yelp both as a consumer and business developer and I find that while Yelp doesn’t have as large an audience as Facebook or StumbleUpon, it is still incredibly useful simply as an alternative to yellow pages and as a local marketing resource. I’ve found it to be more user-friendly and comprehensive than a straight up Google search (currently, anyway), and that encourages users to make it their “go-to” site for locating businesses and checking reviews. Yelp has a growing audience, so advertising with them is increasingly effective. Just be sure that your business’ yelp reviews are favorable!

    Thanks for the article, Biz Ladies! Previously I preferred organic search engine optimization over ads, but now my scope for social networks has broadened. Definitely going to be rethinking some strategies.

  • another great post-thanks so much for the info re: StumbleUpon..your BizLadies posts have been my “guidebook” for starting my own little biz…keep the super advice coming.

  • Heads up people: Twitter Inc. is remodeling the way it charges advertisers, a move designed to court more small businesses in a bid to battle Facebook Inc.

    The San Francisco company currently receives payments if a user interacts in any way with its sponsored ads, which look like tweets and appear in the main content feed. That includes retweets, replies, “favorites” and clicks.

    In the next few months, Twitter will introduce the ability for its advertisers to specify exactly how they want to spend their money. For instance, a retail store may choose to pay Twitter only when a user clicks through to its website to view a fall collection. Other options include paying specifically when an advertiser gets new followers, has its app downloaded, or gets a user’s email address.

    The new approach puts Twitter’s fee-charging structure more in line with other social networks and self-service online ad platforms. Facebook already offers similar media-campaign options across its own network, for example, whereby advertisers can choose to pay for specific actions such as app installs, clicks or likes.

    posted about this killer change at http://www.xtrememind.com

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