Ask SUCCESS: How Should Small Businesses Approach Social Media?

Ask SUCCESS is your place to get questions answered on how to market more effectively. In each issue, marketing expert Bob Serling is joined by another expert to answer your questions. Have a question you’d like answered? Just email it to [email protected].

Today’s question is: With so many forms of social media, how do I decide which forms are best for me as a small business? 

Bob Serling: The expert I’ve asked to help me answer this today is Ryan Deiss, CEO of Ryan’s company is in the trenches using social media and testing new approaches every day.

Ryan Deiss: What’s been fun about watching social media is how different markets are shifting to different platforms. There’s a recent news story saying there is a big concern that youngsters are fleeing Facebook to platforms like Instagram, and that, now, Facebook is old and boring. But the truth is that among the 55 and older demographic, they’re rushing toward Facebook. Facebook’s becoming uncool for all the youngsters, but not so for the people who actually have money, the people who most businesses are trying to attract. 

When you’re looking at a social media strategy, Facebook is still the 800-pound gorilla out there. If you want to target teenagers, your best bet is to look at Instagram—which is owned by Facebook. This means they’ll be tapping Facebook’s ad platform, and you’ll have access to Instagram—similar to how you have access to advertise on YouTube through Google’s platform, as YouTube is owned by Google. 

So I still think that for the vast majority of businesses, Facebook is where they need to spend most of their time, most of their focus, most of their energy.

We love to use Facebook advertising to go out there and get new customers, to get new clients, to grow our list.

Bob: Would you please clarify the difference between Facebook ads and a sponsored post to a news feed—because both are paid advertising, but they’re used differently and they appear differently?

Ryan: The standard Facebook ads are what run down the right side of the page. Those are standard display ads, and everybody knows that they’re ads. When you’re advertising using these ads, your best bet is to have a design that follows all the rules of traditional display ads. We’re talking obnoxious. Make it stick out like a sore thumb. You want it to get noticed—it has to get noticed because no one thinks it’s content. 

Make your best offer, design a compelling headline and include a strong visual image that’s going to attract attention in somebody’s peripheral vision—that’s how ads work. 

When you are advertising in the news feed, that’s when you create a normal Facebook post, but then you say, “I want to sponsor this.” That means you’re telling Facebook, “Don’t just show this post to the people who are already following me—show this to all my followers and fans, but also show it to additional people who aren’t yet fans of mine.” This falls under the category of what we call native advertising.  

It’s advertising that follows the same form and function of the content that appears on that page. Just like you can go on Facebook and make regular posts, a sponsored post is just one that has been paid for—for expanded reach. Those are the distinctions.

Bob: So it appears to look like content, just like a regular post. It’s similar to what in offline marketing is called an advertorial, where you write an ad that looks like it’s editorial content in a magazine or newspaper. When you run that ad, the magazine will usually put “This is an advertisement” in small letters. You want your post to have the look and feel of actual content, so it pulls readers in in a different way than a glaring ad does.

Ryan: Yes, and people will ask, “Which one should I do?” The answer is you should do both.  That to me is marketing—that’s advertising.

That’s not “social media or content marketing” necessarily, where you’re giving away free content. We like to think with social media and content marketing, we’re talking to the people who already know us.

Social media’s job is to build that iron cage around people. You want to be wherever your prospects are, giving them great content so they never forget about you, so they’re always thinking about you and saying, “Wow, this person has really, really, good stuff.”

That’s the distinction that we make between social media and content marketing and advertising on social media—and on the advertising side, you’ve got traditional display advertising and native advertising.

Bob: Would someone new to this be better off building their followers and putting out great content, or should they start advertising right away, or do both?

Ryan: I think if you don’t advertise right away you’re not going to have any followers to talk to, and you do need to be creating great content on a regular basis.

What I recommend is to come up with a great offer, have a great product that people actually want and then advertise it. I would recommend starting with the promoted posts because they are more effective. We can get higher ROIs and lower costs per clicks by running a promoted post campaign than we can by running a traditional right-hand-side ad campaign. 

Facebook’s not the only platform, though. Twitter has advertising and so does YouTube. But we’re always going to start with Facebook because that’s where everybody is. You can test on Facebook quickly, you can get your message out there and you can find out if they like it.

Bob: That’s great. I think for anybody starting out with social media you’ve done two excellent things here Ryan. First of all, you clarified the distinctions between use of social media and advertising on social media platforms, and you gave everybody a really strong starting point by stating that right now Facebook is the way to go for just about everyone.


Bob Serling helps business owners and entrepreneurs generate more traffic, make more sales, and do both more often. Get his free ebook of interviews with 30 leading experts, including SUCCESS Publisher Darren Hardy, at

Ryan Deiss is the co-founder and CEO of Over the last 36 months, Ryan and his team have invested over $15,000,000 on marketing tests, generated tens of millions of unique visitors, sent well over a billion emails, and run approximately 3,000 split and multi-variant tests. And as you might imagine, they figure out a lot of new and unique marketing and business growth strategies along the way… all of which they report on at


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Bob Serling is the founder of Profit Alchemy. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs increase their profits with no cost and no risk. Get his free eBook to discover 42 no-cost, no-risk ways to double your profits at

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