Where to Focus Your Advertising Dollars in 2021

When you spend money to market your business, you want to be sure that you make it back.

In times of crisis or uncertainty, marketing and advertising departments are learning to use limited funds more efficiently.

Digital advertising spending grew 12.2 percent in 2020, according to a new report commissioned by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and conducted by PwC. With more and more businesses vying for those advertising opportunities, it’s important to know where to spend.

But, with so many different platforms available, it can be hard to know where to start. Even after you do get started, determining which platform or platforms you need to be focusing on can be a challenge.

In this article, we’ll be going through a wide sample of available marketing platforms. We’ll share what your dollars will be purchasing, and what kind of metrics you should be looking for to indicate success in any campaign. We’ll even share a strategy for small businesses who are either looking to get started with paid marketing, or have just begun and need a little help.

Overview of available marketing platforms

As we stated, there are a lot of different platforms out there that will help you to market your business. This is good news, because no matter what kind of business you are or the products or services you are selling, there is a platform that will work for you.


If you want to ensure that your business appears in search, this is the quickest way to do it. Google advertising has several different placements, but the most visible is at the top of a search results page.

If you load up a search right now, you are likely to find some paid results sitting right at the top. They are always indicated clearly with a bolded “Ad” tag to the left of the web address, as shown below.

Google ads are fairly unobtrusive, you may not have even realized that you subconsciously skim over them every time you make a search. The benefit of Google’s ads comes from Google’s massive reach. When people have a question that needs answering their first stop is usually Google.

Traditional Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)

For small businesses that have done any kind of digital advertising, the most likely venue is within the confines of various traditional social media platforms. Between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even YouTube, there are plenty of different routes to take.

The power of social media advertising comes from its ability to dial in on what the demographics are interested in. You can target individuals who follow a specific brand, or who have interests that align with certain brands or personalities.

Social media advertising also grants you the creative liberty to promote whatever kind of content you like. Maybe you have a video to promote, or maybe just an image or carousel of images. The advertising engines on each of the social media sites will allow you to tailor your messaging and content exactly how you want it, and will show you previews of what it will look like when a user scrolls through it.

New Social Media (Snapchat, TikTok)

TikTok is one of the fastest growing social media platforms in the world and offers a unique suite of tools to promote video sharing. Users on TikTok can create short videos with music, filters, and other features.

TikTok boasts almost 700 million monthly active users, and is the most downloaded app on Apple’s App Store. Oberlo reports in that same article that a massive 62 percent of its users are between the ages of 10 and 29.

Along with Snapchat, these Gen Z dominated platforms are the new frontier for business advertising, but be warned: these younger audiences are more savvy than you might think. They have a specific expectation for how brands should behave and interact on social media.

But, if you can master the tone required for these waters (or hire someone who can), you can earn the brand loyalty of the next generation of spenders.

Podcast and Music Platforms

Here’s a hint: it’s basically radio advertisements, but online. Ask anyone who has ever listened to a podcast, and they can tell you all about the various sponsored segments or advertisements that are sprinkled throughout their favorite shows.

Unlike a video or a blog post, a podcast does away with the visual element. In that way, it’s much easier to consume. And that has paid big dividends for podcast creators. The most recent survey conducted in 2020 found that 55 percent of consumers above the age of 12 in the US listen to podcasts. That figure represents a 25 percent increase since 2019, and shows how rapidly podcasts are growing.

While the more prominent audio-based ads will be direct, paid sponsored segments within a specific show or genre of shows, opportunities still remain for smaller budgets. On audio streaming platforms like Spotify or Pandora, as a user is listening, there are also advertisements played between songs or podcast episodes. These spots are generally cheaper, and provide a way to get your feet wet with audio-based ads.

Traditional Media

Even in the age of the internet, traditional media advertisements on the radio or in print still have their place. A lot of the principles you would adhere to to create advertisements for traditional media are the same. Video advertisements on YouTube or Facebook could be repurposed into commercials shown on local networks.

Traditional marketing strategies can still provide a return on investment if you apply them effectively and in conjunction with digital marketing strategies. The key to effective marketing — whether it is traditional or digital — is to know your audience. Knowing who you want to reach with your marketing efforts is the foundational element that you need in order to determine what marketing efforts will reach them.

Benchmarks to aim for

With more businesses, both small and large, paying for advertisements online and on social media, there has been a steady decrease year over year in conversion rate. Consumers seeing increasing numbers of advertisements within their feeds has somewhat dulled the senses. Therefore, in order to stand out, it is important to promote content that is engaging and that captures your audience immediately.

Smart Insights has a great blog on the current climate of social media advertising benchmarks, which we will use as a reference for all of the figures provided below. Please note that these figures represent the averages, across the board. It’s important to remember that some industries do not perform as well as others with conversion and click-thru rates.

In Q1 of 2020 on Google, the average click-thru rate for ads on the search results page stands at 1.55 percent. This represents one of the more drastic recent downward trends, down almost 50 percent from the quarter previously.

Meanwhile, on Facebook, the downturn was not nearly as sharp, down only 0.37 percent from the previous quarter, to 1.11 percent. Facebook has the highest click-thru rate of any of the more established and “traditional” social media networks, as the rest all stand below 1 percent.

On both Instagram and LinkedIn, the click-thru rate is a mere 0.22 percent. On Instagram, the visual nature of the platform doesn’t offer many opportunities for advertisement. Twitter fares a little better, with a 0.88% click-thru rate.

Best strategy for small business

There’s a lot to digest when it comes to getting started with digital advertising. Even after reading this, it may still feel daunting to consider which path to pursue with your business.

Our recommendation for businesses starting out with digital advertising is to start slow. Try things out, and don’t be afraid to fail. Sometimes it’s hard to know what will work, and what won’t. Don’t put too much on your plate, and try to take the platforms on one at a time.

By developing a mastery of one platform at a time, you create touchstones that you can come back to when something needs tweaking. You have a better understanding of what works with each platform, and you can set things up, and run them without much outside intervention.

If you find that one platform doesn’t work, or that you can’t seem to get a good grip on, that’s okay, continue to take it slow and iterate as best you can to find the results that you are looking for.

Sponsorship opportunities with BBB

Digital marketing gives you the freedom to choose where you spend your advertising dollars and how to target your audience. What makes digital advertising an excellent focus for small businesses is that you get to analyze each ads performance and adjust your business strategy.

Still unsure how to start your digital marketing campaign, reach out to BBB. Our Sponsorship team works with you to establish a strategy to grow your business.

To get started with BBB’s Sponsorship team, CLICK HERE.

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