facebook vs adwordsIs Facebook Advertising the right way to market your product? What about Google Adwords? Both? If so, which comes first?

Although there are myriad variables that go into answering that question, we see two main ways to look at products and services that can help you make an educated guess about where to start.

We see virtually every marketing message for a product or service as either Demand Creation or Demand Fulfillment. In other words, are you selling something people aren’t necessarily looking for? Or are you selling something that people know they want? Are you creating demand or are you fulfilling it?

This is important because it dictates your consumers’ behavior. If Betty Bad Luck has car trouble and she needs a tow-truck, what will she do? She knows that tow-trucks exist, and will probably search online to find one that is close-by. Thus the Adwords campaign for a tow-truck company would fall into the category of Demand Fulfillment. People are searching for a specific service, and you as a company have an opportunity to fulfill that need at exactly the right time.

However let’s look at a slightly different example. Let’s say that Betty really likes antiques. She loves to go to yard sales when she sees them, but otherwise doesn’t search them out online. Your company just launched a revolutionary online marketplace focused on buying and selling antiques. However your target market (people like Betty) have no idea that they can buy and sell antiques online. In this scenario, you need to essentially create demand for your product, thus the name Demand Creation.

Often, established businesses skew more towards demand fulfillment. For example, our heating oil client, 7Oil, is fulfilling the huge amount of demand from people in NJ, NY, PA, etc. who are looking for heating oil.  People need it or they don’t, and when they do, they search online. Thus trying to ‘create’ demand for heating oil is silly. For 7Oil we use a combination of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Paid Search Engine Marketing to get in front of people who are already looking for what they provide.

On the other hand, newer or more innovative businesses need to create demand for their products/services. Our startup clients, who offer things like free online SAT prep, subscription men’s ties, and smart home technology, often start in Demand Creation.

Of course, there is overlap. A lot of people don’t know that you can get online SAT prep for free and they aren’t searching for it, but a lot of people are searching for exactly that or something similar.  For those clients, we test both methods and determine which has the highest ROI. Sometimes both perform well-enough, but usually one type of marketing wins out over the other.

Now that we’ve discussed the differences between Demand Creation and Demand Fulfillment, let’s get to the good part – when do you use Facebook, and when do you use Adwords?

You’ve probably figured it out by now, but Facebook (and other display ad programs) is best for Demand Creation, and Adwords (and other search marketing) is best for Demand Fulfillment. It makes sense: when people are searching for the exact thing you sell, you will do well by advertising to them at that instant. However, if they may never search for something that is a latent need, you still need a way to get in front of them.

Partly this distinction is due to target market behavior. If people search for what you sell, use Adwords. If people don’t, use Facebook. However another part of it is also the targeting ability of each medium. On Adwords, you aren’t targeting people based on their characteristics, but rather their behavior. You target people based on the words they use to search. On Facebook, you can target people based on their interests, demographic characteristics, and other things that actually identify a type of person. This allows you to sell a smart air conditioning system because you know they read Popular Mechanics.

Hopefully this way of looking at things allows you to more-easily answer the question: When should I use Facebook vs Adwords?


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