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Facebook Advertising vs. Google Advertising – How To Tell When To Do Which

Facebook is mulling over its IPO, and today the hype is Facebook, Facebook, Facebook.  A 24/7 media fest about how Facebook is the new dominant player on the Internet…  About how, for marketers, Facebook is cool because Facebook knows everything about its users, and people spend hours and hours on Facebook.  Google, in contrast, is yesterday’s news.  Or so the story goes.

But, as marketers, we want to understand not only how to advertise on Facebook but when to advertise.  How is Facebook advertising different from Google advertising, and when should you advertise on Facebook vs. when should you advertise on Google?

Demographically Based Facebook Advertising

Facebook Advertising vs. Google AdvertisingThe basic difference between Facebook and Google is that Google advertising is “search based” whereas Facebook advertising is “demographically based.”  What do we mean?  Well, let’s look at user behavior.  When I am on Facebook, I am in “browse” mode.  I am browsing what my friends are doing, browsing updates from companies and other trusted sites that I have “liked” on Facebook.  I am playing games.  I am NOT searching.  I am NOT entering search terms into a search engine, and looking for stuff.

What does this mean for advertising?  First of all, this is how Facebook knows so much about me.  It knows my friends, it knows my posts, it can see what groups I join, what companies I like.  So it knows a lot about my demographics: I am a male, I live in Fremont, CA, I participate in groups on SEO, Social Media, and fun stuff like Whole Foods or Star Trek.  It can cross check me against my friends.

So when advertisers purchase ads on Facebook, they click boxes to select demographic features: male vs. female, California vs. Texas, interested in marketing vs. interested in cooking, etc., etc.  They filter “you” as a potential buyer based on who you are, where you live, and what you like.

Search Based Advertising on Google

For Google (and only for Google, not for its Display network), the situation is very different.  Google knows little about me.  But it knows what I am entering into the search box, and then matches ads based on keywords.  So if I search for “Best Christmas Gifts for Men” it can show ads that relate to that keyword.  Or if I enter “roofing company Dallas” it can show me ads about roofing companies in the Dallas area.

Ad purchase on Google are based not on demographics but on keywords.

Impact of Facebook Demographic Ads vs. Google Keyword Search Ads

The fact that Facebook advertising is radically different than Google advertising has major implications for when and why you should advertise on Facebook vs. advertising on Google.  First and foremost, if it is something that people actively search for (such as “roofing company Dallas” or “industrial fans for agriculture”), Google will be a better fit.  Google excels at search, and if/when someone is going to actively go out there and search…  Google is going to be the best fit.

Facebook advertising, in contrast, is best when they are NOT going to search for it.  For instance, if you are a New York advertising awards festival and are seeking new entries…  people are NOT going to be searching Google for advertising competitions.  But you can use Facebook to target people in the advertising industry, and shows ads on their Facebook pages.  Similarly, if you have a radically new product that no one searches for (or few do), such as the SHAM WOW product or perhaps a T-Shirt Quilt, you might use Facebook to target particular types of people.

Facebook advertising is more of a…  Oh, I am browsing my Facebook page and Oh, I see an ad for what’s this: SHAM WOW?  Hm.  That looks interesting, let me click over.

Google advertising is more of an…  My roof is leaking.  I need a roofer NOW, I am going to Google roofing company Dallas.

Google Advertising vs. Facebook Advertising: Summing Up

So, in sum, use Google if you have a KNOWN product that people are ACTIVELY searching for.  Use Facebook if you have an UNKNOWN product, a BRANDING campaign, or need to GENERATE buzz.  Facebook allows you to target specific types of people; Google allows you to target specific types of searches.

Advertising on Google vs. advertising on Facebook – these are complementary, not competitive advertising strategies.

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