Digital advertising: The big social experiment

You’ve read about what a day in the life of our Marketing Manager, Rebecca Allen, is like, so we thought just like our Social Media Manager shared how our Facebook experiments have gone, you might want a more in-depth look at how some of our other digital marketing experiments have gone. This post covers everything in her own words.

Got any questions? Find us on Twitter @UnionMetrics.

The big social experiment

Digital advertising has evolved a lot over years to be much more than display advertising, and more recently social media has become the leading platform for brands to reach out to customers. As a millennial marketer, I view advertising on social media a little differently. I had a Myspace page long before I took any marketing or business class and my Facebook page is over 12 years old. Having spent so much time on social media, you would think I have some kind of deeper knowledge or understanding when it came to advertising on it.  But with how new social media is and how frequently platforms get updated, everything we’re are doing on social media- including advertising- is one giant social experiment.

Joining Union Metrics, I didn’t have much experience in social advertising except for a little on LinkedIn. In my previous job, I worked in an industry where businesses didn’t spend much time on social media so I was excited to be thrown feet first into a new world. Over the last few months I’ve conducted an experiment of my own to see how advertising works on each platform, and which one is the best, starting with Twitter, Facebook and a little bit on LinkedIn.

Here are some tidbits that I learned, and for now I’ll stick with the two platforms we’ve been focusing on most recently: Twitter and Facebook.

The more targeted the audience, the better

Social media is such a vast platform and casting a wide net is not an effective approach if you want high-quality leads. Keeping your audience as narrow as possible with only a few specific keywords and hashtags will allow your ads to resonate more, boosting click-through rates and conversions.

While most platforms let you target accounts based on general interests, work attributes and demographics, Twitter’s ad platform has additional features to create even more targeted audiences, and offers visibility into the accounts that are currently seeing the ads you’re running.  Twitter’s Audience Manager lets me create website tags that build lists around “key events” like downloading an ebook or creating an account. For example, I currently have a website tag building a list of everyone who has viewed our pricing page.

With this audience, I can build ads specifically around pricing and even offer discounts, knowing they’ve already seen our plans. I can also import lists into Twitter to market directly to, such as prospects and current customers. Even more, I can use Union Metrics to pull contributor data from any public account and export the list of Twitter usernames for a campaign. It makes me feel like the most equipped marketer in the industry!

Similar to Twitter, Facebook allows general demographic targeting as well as custom list uploads and website tags. However, they also allow you to create Lookalike audiences, which are great for when your list is small, but you know they’re your guys. With lookalike audiences, you can expand your reach as much as you like, knowing the bigger you go the less targeted the audience.

In my opinion, Twitter’s ad platform is easier to navigate and has a great audience manager for all the targeted lists we created.  Twitter lets me take advantage of what I can do with Union Metrics Trackers, which opens the doors to a range of possible campaigns.  I think it’s easier to target the right people on Twitter, plus you can verify the accounts that you’re targeting, whereas you’re blind to that on Facebook.

Google Analytics vs. Platform Analytics

I once had a boss that always said “No link can leave the building uncoded,” and I will never forget his advice.  Whenever you spend money, it’s important to measure and evaluate the return you get on the investment, especially when it’s on a new medium. Facebook and Twitter provide data to help you measure the performance of your ads, but how do you know if it’s accurate? For marketers who’ve been in the industry for years, it’s hard to accept what social platforms report to you at face value.  Having other forms of tracking in place allows you to establish your baseline so you can have a better understanding how things are really performing.

Paid or not, every link you post on social media should be coded (with UTM parameters) so that you can monitor the traffic that comes from those links in Google Analytics (note: your website must already be set up for Google Analytics tracking). But what if the numbers you see in Google Analytics don’t align with the ones you see on Facebook? This is something we run into constantly at Union Metrics.  If you compare the link clicks from a campaign in Twitter to the number of users in Google Analytics, numbers can be almost 3X as high in Twitter than GA. Facebook, on the other hand, reports clicks lower than what I see in GA.

In the end, it’s all relative and trying to get the numbers to match will drive you crazy. That’s not to say to ignore the analytics Facebook and Twitter provide but instead to monitor the data on an ongoing basis and look for trends.

Tracking Conversions

If you’re concerned with monitoring traffic and reporting on ad performance then tracking conversions is probably high on your priority list.  After all, conversions are the end game and you want to know that your ads are working, right?

This is where I believe Twitter has beat out Facebook. With a unique Twitter pixel on the Union Metrics site and new website conversion tracking capabilities, Twitter can optimize for more complex conversions like ebook downloads and sign-ups, not just website visits (don’t ask me exactly how but they can).  I have conversion events for when someone has downloaded an ebook, created a free account, used a free tool, or even accessed our live demo, and I can easily see how many events (sign-ups or downloads) a campaign delivered.

Facebook also provides a pixel for conversion tracking, however it’s not as robust or easy to use and could use more experimentation on our part. They also don’t yet have an interface that gives a clear report on conversions from campaigns. For a digital advertiser, knowing your conversion rate is key to improving your strategy.  Much like what Union Metrics does for social media marketers, Twitter and Facebook need to equip marketers with the analytics and insights necessary to better understand what’s working and what isn’t.

For now, we’ll continue to try different approaches to how we set up the campaigns and target audiences and will report back on what we find!