Every time a new marketing approach hits the scene, the same thing happens. For a year or so the marketing community is abuzz with debate. When social media arrived it was search vs social. When email made a comeback it was content vs email marketing.

Now the debate hangs over paid advertising and the big topic is AdWords vs social ads. But it’s a pointless discussion because the two are not a like-for-like swap. AdWords and social ads each bring a different kind of lead to your business – and you want both of them.

AdWords and social generate very different leads

We touched on this in a recent blog post about SEO myths and it all comes down to user intent. People go to Google when they’re actively looking for something: to buy a product, compare prices, find a store in their local area, etc. These are people who are ready to buy now; high-quality leads you can target with focused messages. The aim is to give them the final push.

When people visit a social network things are very different. They don’t have anything specific in mind and they certainly don’t intend to buy anything. They’re in discovery mode. Which means your social ads need to capture people with zero purchase intent and grab their attention.

Your business needs both types of lead

When you talk about AdWords and social in terms of lead quality, Google seems to have the edge. In some ways this is true; high-intent users are far more likely to buy and generally take less convincing. But what about the other users?

You know, the vast majority who aren’t ready to buy now but may do in the future. Sure, you can just ignore them and wait for one of your competitors to pick them up later on. Or you could capture those leads at an earlier stage of the buying process and make sure it’s you they do business with when the times comes. Welcome to social advertising.

PPC in 2016: a two-pronged approach

With the rise of social advertising, PPC has expanded beyond targeting consumers at the end of the buying process. These are still the most valuable leads to your business, of course. But paid social gives you the opportunity to capture new faces and point them in the right direction. So the modern PPC strategy wants to look for something along the lines of this:

1. Social advertising

Introduce your brand to new prospects and guide them along the buying process.

2. AdWords

Target consumers who are ready to buy now and close the deal.

As we say, those low-intent users are the vast majority of consumers. So, while it takes more work to turn them into buyers, the room for growth is huge. This is where the winners in paid advertising will excel from now on – not just converting high-intent users, but turning lower-intent users into paying customers further down the line.

So don’t get caught up in any of this AdWords vs social ads business. Give it a few years and everyone will be saying you need both in any good PPC strategy – it happens every time. You don’t have to wait for your competitors to catch up, though. The sooner you start turning those social leads into higher-intent users, the harder it will be for your rivals to nudge in and take them away.