Social media advertising is a prime opportunity for a small business. Understanding how the different platforms work and how to leverage each for small business success is also a part of running a small business. Advertising on social media is a fantastic resource for small businesses, as the campaigns are extremely customizable and can be relatively cost-efficient.

Advertising on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are the best bets for most small businesses. However, knowing the nuances between the three enables you to craft the best ads for your audience on each platform.

This guide is your ultimate resource for creating your next small business social media campaign.

Supported formats

First, let’s start with the similarities. Each platform supports the following ad formats:

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Carousels
  • Slideshows

Incorporating variety into your social media advertising is a wise choice. Consumers like seeing information presented in different ways. Utilize a handful of these options across all of the platforms for the greatest engagement and conversions.

Unsurprisingly, the formatting for each kind of advertisement varies by platform. Unified Social created a helpful cheat sheet for Facebook and Instagram ad formatting preferences. Bookmark the image below as you’ll reference it continually.


Image courtesy of Unified Social

Twitter formatting is its own thing entirely. For Twitter ads, you can choose between tweets and website cards. For tweets, the normal 140-character limit and image specs apply.

However, website cards include 116 characters, a designated image, website link, and a clickable call to action button. These are easy to set up, but careful word choice is of the utmost importance for conversions.

In case website cards are completely new to you, below is an example of a website card courtesy of Twitter.

Twitter website card example

With the formatting guidelines now established, we can dive into more elements for successful social media advertising.

Call to action

For each social media entity, including a clear call to action (CTA) is imperative for sales and marketing endeavors. Luckily, all three platforms house nearly identical CTA buttons. The ads allow you to include buttons which can say any of the following statements:

  • Book Now
  • Contact Us
  • Install App
  • Learn More
  • Shop Now
  • Sign Up
  • Watch More

The primary difference between platforms is that Facebook has a “Play Now” button, which encourages viewers to open and use a mobile app directly from the ad.

Think about which CTA will resonate best with your audience and drive them to take a specific and intentional action. If your primary objective is to increase website traffic, the ‘learn more’ CTA is a solid option. It piques interest and generates clicks to your small business website. If building your email distribution list, you should employ the ‘sign up’ button. As always, having a clear and measurable outcome for each ad is a helpful guide for CTA selection.

User behavior

Facebook reigns supreme with its 1.7B annual users. It is a social media giant, and because of its incredible size, should be part of any business’s social media advertising strategy. There is one key differentiator between Facebook and its social media competitors, though. Facebook users view it as the online place to keep in contact with their friends and family, as well as an outlet for relevant news that’s easy to share. Facebook is the place where users create, watch, and share various kinds of content, one of which are their favorite businesses.

User’s brand loyalty is also very strong, as they feel connected to the pages they like and there is a real sense of community on the platform. People stay on pages for longer periods of time, and ultimately follow pages longer than on other outlets.

Instagram has solidified its place as a social media powerhouse as it has grown exponentially year over year. In contrast to Facebook, Instagram is where users share their lives and curate their style, inspiration quotes, and overall lifestyle. It’s almost as though a profile is a Pinterest feed for each user. The goal is to give followers a glimpse into your life. As this is a user-centered platform, people are not attached to those they follow, and don’t hesitate to unfollow or follow other users. As mentioned before, the loyalty that comes with liking a page on Facebook demands much more consideration from users than on Instagram.

Twitter has 313M monthly active users who visit over 1B unique sites embedded within Tweets. It’s a place for dialogue, and users are quick to follow and unfollow brands a people alike. It is the platform with most follower fluidity as the loyalty found when liking a Facebook page doesn’t translate to this entity. Users lean on Twitter for real-time information and valuable insights. Designing campaigns that play to these consumer needs can yield serious ROI for social campaigns.

Aesthetic criteria

Image is everything when it comes to social media advertising. Each platform has its own look and appeal. Facebook users prefer quality photographs and videos that are brand-specific. Effective Facebook ad imagery is most similar to traditional advertisements seen in magazines and other print ads.

Conversely, Instagram’s success has been built on highly stylized images. It’s no wonder blogger success has boomed on this platform as it’s the perfect canvas for their filtered images. It’s all about the curated experience and thoughtfully created imagery. Understanding what Instagram users like and respond to, aesthetically, will make your campaigns that much more successful.

Twitter is the least visually engaging platform of the three. While tweets with images and videos attached get exponentially higher click rates, the style and aesthetic are not as important as on Instagram. Be sure to include relevant and intriguing images with your tweets, but they don’t need to look like editorial pieces or filtered a la Instagram.


There are key demographic differences between Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter users. Knowing your audience is 90% of the challenge when creating effective advertisements.

Keep these as a point of reference when deciding where to place an ad.


Image courtesy of Glew

Twitter’s U.S. demographic sweet spot is urban teen girls, followed closely by mothers with children under 18. The latter group has spending power and should be targeted for your advertisements as they yield the greatest ROI. Income demographics are almost evenly distributed at 20-25% of users earning less than $30,000, between $30k-$49k, $50-$74k, and over $75k per year. Basically, Twitter is a catch-all for all economic groups, who largely use Twitter on mobile devices. Keep mobile optimization in mind when crafting your social campaigns, so your ads have the greatest impact across all devices.

If your message doesn’t resonate with your intended audience, it doesn’t matter how beautiful or clever it is; it isn’t going to do the trick. Familiarize yourself with social analytics for a better understanding of the current market and new audience opportunities. There will be a marked improvement in ROI once you have a clear handle on your potential consumers.

Social media advertising is a necessary component for small businesses looking to grow revenue and build brand awareness. Knowing how these three outlets house and promote ads will only help your advertising effectiveness. Keep this guide handy as you continue to create intriguing and appealing social ads.

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