At first glance, social media advertising looks like a business owner’s dream. It’s cheaper than traditional advertising, it’s targeted, and it lets you reach people on a platform that they love, social media. But is it something every entrepreneur should invest in?

The short answer is yes. The longer, more detailed answer is it depends.

Social media advertising isn’t a cure all. If you don’t have a clear idea of how to use social media for your business or if your current social media accounts aren’t contributing to your business goals, advertising might end up costing you more money.

To know whether social media advertising is for you and how it would work for your business, let’s look at the pros and cons and relate them to common business goals.

1. Expand your target market
Pro: Social media advertising is a great way of reaching your target market. Facebook, for example, has a really powerful algorithm that allows you to specifically target people not just on demographic and location data, but also on information based on the person’s likes, interests, and how they respond to similar advertising. This makes every cent you spend on advertising more cost effective.

Cons: If you’re targeting a very broad market or high value demographic, social media advertising can get very expensive. And with more businesses using social media advertising, people are actually becoming more immune to ads and advertising messages. Plus getting more likes or followers doesn’t automatically translate to more conversions. If your social media profiles and landing pages aren’t well made and they’re not converting well, then social media advertising would be ineffective.

2. Promotions and marketing
Pro: More and more people are looking at reviews and recommendations on social media when making purchases. By taking advantage of positive feedback, social media promotions and marketing campaigns can be cheaper and more effective compared to traditional advertising. And if you create enough buzz with your current campaign, it can even go viral or get the attention of traditional media.

Cons: Big businesses are investing more on social media advertising. This means that to reach the audience that you want, you have be more specific when it comes to targeting and make sure that the production value of your ads can compete with more recognized brands. This makes social media advertising more expensive, especially when you’re in a competitive niche or industry.

3. Brand recognition
Pro: Building brand recognition is one of the best uses of social media advertising. When you create ads that accurately represent your business and connect with customers, social media advertising can deliver good, consistent returns, and help build or sustain a loyal fan base.

Cons: Over saturation of ads and ad blockers can make brand recognition ads useless and expensive, especially when targeting a coveted demographic. Unless you already have a strong follower base, spending to expand your reach can be costly for small businesses.

When you weigh everything in, does this mean that businesses don’t need social media advertising? Not necessarily. Social media advertising is an effective and powerful tool given the right set of circumstances. Creative use of this tool can provide small businesses a competitive advantage. But it won’t work without a solid foundation. And for that you need to have

– social media campaigns that align with your business goals
– social media accounts and profiles that accurately represent your brand identity and message
– great social media content that connects with your audience and provides value.

Remember that even though social media ads are cheaper, they’re still an expense that takes up time and money. So before you invest in social media advertising, make sure you talk with your social media virtual assistant or marketing firm. Make sure that your social media accounts are achieving their business goals before you start creating ads and have a clear goal when launching a social media ad campaign.