22 May 2012

Should economic developers advertise on Google or Facebook?

Anatalio Ubalde is an economic developer, entrepreneur, and inventor. He works with organizations throughout the nation to foster enhanced economic development strategies using Internet technology. His work in geographic information systems, economic development and the Internet has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Forbes, Fortune, The New York Times, TechCrunch, and Inc. In 2009 he was named a Fellow Member of the International Economic Development Council for achieving exceptional stature in the field of economic development.

GIS Planning’s new survey of economic development organizations over the past years shows that the only EDO marketing strategy that has continuously increased in marketing importance is online advertising. It still ranks far below other more effective marketing strategies, but it is likely an overlooked opportunity for many EDOs. Our survey of site selectors and corporate real estate professionals which will appear in a forthcoming book also shows that online advertising has the highest growth in value to this target audience.

As economic development professionals decide where they are going to invest their online marketing budget, two Internet advertising power-houses are certainly going to come to mind: Google and Facebook. Each represents a unique way to target businesses and people that may invest in growing your local economy.

In the past we have talked about ways to leverage the two platforms in “What Would Google Do in Economic Development” and “500,000,000 Reasons Economic Developers Should Use Facebook.”  Over 90% of the EDOs using a website GIS site selection assistance tool are powered by a combination of Google and GIS Planning technology. We also created the first and only Facebook apps for economic development. So we believe in the value of both companies for economic development.

As you consider which platform to advertise on, the most recent research from WordStream shows that Google blows away Facebook in ad performance. Google reaches 90% of all internet users, while Facebook “only” reaches 51%. In terms of effectiveness, the average click through rate for an ad on the Internet is 0.1%. On Facebook it is about half of the average at 0.051%, whereas Google is 4 times the average at 0.4%. Here is an infographic comparing Google and Facebook advertising.

Based on just this data alone it might make you think that your EDO should focus its entire budget with Google, and perhaps you should. But before you make this decision, consider two things.

First, the profiles of most Google advertisers are not the same as EDOs, and the click-through rate may not be the same either. Most online advertisers sell a product or service; some of which enable people to buy directly off of their website. EDO’s offerings are different.

Second, Facebook provides an effective way to target the growing specialization in economic development of “talent attraction” in which communities are recruiting quality workers instead of the traditional practice of business attraction. Because Facebook users volunteer their personal characteristics in their profile, EDOs can target these people based on their education, workplace, likes, location, and demographics.

For most EDOs it likely makes more sense to put a significantly larger proportion of its budget with Google than Facebook, but depending on the type of marketing you are doing placing some budget within social networks like Facebook will make sense. And of course there is also value and opportunities utilizing other social networks like Linkedin, Twitter, and Google’s Google+.


Mike Ammann commented on 18-Jun-2012 10:54 AM
Any ad statistics or comparisons on Linked In which would represent more executives that may be part of the location or expansion team?
Paul Newman commented on 03-Jul-2012 05:14 AM
EDO's need to reach the right audience. Facebook for Site Selection decision-makers? Google of course, but if they want to drill down and reach qualified decision-makers there are several industry specific sites they can use to reach the audience that

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