Twitter vs. Facebook vs. Reddit: Advertising Options for Your Science-Focused Content

By Sondra Hadden

Reading Time: 4 minutes

There have been a lot of conversations recently about the relative ‘free-ness’ of social media, i.e. that there really isn’t any, especially with the dip Facebook Pages are seeing in organic reach. What started as a inexpensive way to broaden your message is now a much bigger line item in a marketer’s budget. Here at C&EN Media Group, we’ve run some campaigns across a handful of social networks, and thought we could share what we’ve learned and what we’ve liked, – and what’s really irked us. Below is our recap of Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit‘s advertising programs.


What we like: Twitter is really trying to hit home this advertising thing. [Surprise?] Which is good news for the user: we obtained a credit to get started, received follow-up emails to join webinars and twitter chats, and had a representative walk us through our entire campaign, both before and during its run. Some tips they imparted? It’s a natural inclination to include hashtags or handles within your promoted tweet. But depending on the type of campaign you run, you’ll be paying for those clicks, versus the link you’re really trying to push. Best to leave those out of the campaign, and integrate them into your regular organic content instead.

Twitter is also developing some cool tools that marketers will love. Lead Generation Cards that can talk to your CRM, and Mobile App Cards that take users directly to their device’s store. Twitter has done a lot of forward-thinking with their advertising product, and seem very focused on building solid marketing tools within their platform.

Twitter location targetingWhat we don’t like: Limited targeting by location.

While Facebook lets you target any country you want, even China, for small business advertisers, Twitter is very limited. This may or may not matter to you, but for a broad industry like chemistry’s, you’ll likely have numerous campaigns where geo-targeting would be beneficial.

[Update – 7.2.15 Twitter is upping it’s demographics game. Read a post about it here.] 

Finally, just because Twitter suggests something, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. We ran an engagement campaign to promote a video, and twitter suggested using a picture. We ended up paying for people to click the image, not the video, which was not what we were going for. So like it goes with any of these marketing platforms, be sure to A/B test and find what works for you.


What we like: Auto-optimized campaigns.

What we don’t like: Auto-optimized campaigns.

When it comes to sponsored posts, Facebook does a lot of the work for you, which has pros and cons. You basically set your budget, and it determines the cost per engagement and how much to spend per day. While we see the benefit — Facebook is in the algorithm game after all — you don’t feel in control, and they will spend the entire amount you budgeted (unless you pause the campaign). You are paying for an actual engagement, so you’re not wasting money, but it’s a bit harder to gain knowledge when you can’t see the true effects of tweaking your campaign. Regardless, Facebook is not kidding around with their new Pages algorithm. One of our sponsored posts generated a 1170% increase in likes over non-sponsored updates.

Notice how we mentioned ‘sponsored posts’ above. Facebook has other ad sets available: you can place your content on the right rail, in news feed, etc., and for these, you do have more options available (which they are updating constantly). At the time of this post, the ad interface and process is not very user-friendly, so our advice is to make sure you start to work on your Facebook campaign early, and give yourself some time to iron out any roadblocks.

On that note, we have a habit of thinking we know how these platforms work, simply because we use it every day in our personal lives. Take a minute to review Facebook’s advertising guidelines. Promoting a post or creating an ad is not the same as the status updates we’re all used to. For instance, they may not approve your ad if an accompanying image has too much text in it, and they also don’t play nice with other social platforms (they rejected an ad once because it advertised a Google Hangout).


What we like: This is a great platform for very specific content, like science. You can find and advertise to an existing community, versus setting up that community through the targeting tools of other platforms. Campaigns that are more interactive, like contests, will work especially well here, too.

What we don’t like: While there aren’t a lot of choices to wade through on their platform, you’ll feel the most ‘on your own’ here. Their Best Practices Guide reads more like a generic FAQ, and doesn’t give you many tips. Should you break up your spend and put more dollars toward larger subgroups? What ads are well-received here?

That being said, there aren’t a lot of choices with Reddit. You create your headline, give them a link, upload an image, and set your budget. The group or subreddit you select and your budget determines how many impressions you get, and that’s it. Their reporting will tell you how many impressions there were, and how many clicks you got. Done.

For more help here, read this post detailing how to run a Reddit ad (or see more recent examples from actual brands). As the author points out humorously, the guideline is really: “just be cool”.

General Tips

 ♦  Think about specific timeframes where you can utilize a small budget most effectively. Is there a trade show or conference coming up that’s in line with one of your products? With twitter, you can target an #Analytica hashtag, and even your competitors’ handles.

 ♦  Don’t forget the user experience. Some people haven’t warmed up to social media advertising, so our advice is to make sure your ads are as content-heavy as possible. Try and stray away from hard-sells and heavy marketing language, and ask yourself if your ad is really something that could fall organically in someone’s feed.

 ♦  Each platform will be different, but avoid running multiple campaigns on one network at the exact same time.

 ♦  For those familiar with Google AdWords, running Twitter campaign is very similar to this SEO tool. Get a refresher here.

 ♦  Take notes: write your own how-to guide and best practices. Record takeaways and lessons learned from each campaign.

At the end of the day, you can run social media campaigns on all three platforms with a very limited budget, and see how it works for you as a marketing tool. To get started, put $50 towards all platforms, and make your first social campaigns about the learning experience. Create, tweak, and repeat!

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How has social advertising gone for you? Experienced something different? Tell us in the comment.




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