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Beyond Google and Facebook advertising: 17 ad platforms you should try
Expanding your use of advertising platforms can help your campaigns reach target audiences not on traditional platforms through text, video and audio ads.John E Lincoln on January 29, 2020 at 8:00 am
While Google and Facebook both have distinct advantages, they aren’t the only platforms to promote your brand online. There are plenty of alternatives out there and it may be time to look at a few of them.
Remember, some of the folks in your target market will see ads hosted by those other networks. Even better, they might be more receptive to ads that aren’t displayed on the usual sites.
You’ll also increase brand-name awareness when people see your company name on multiple locations.
Below are 17 additional ad platforms to consider.
1. Microsoft Advertising
If you want to reach folks on Bing, you’ll have to use Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads). There are a couple of free options because Microsoft Advertising runs ads not only on Bing, but also on two other search platforms: Yahoo and AOL.
Here are a few stats about the total audience you can reach with Microsoft:
- 116 million daily users
- 5.5 million monthly desktop searches
- 36.2% of the overall U.S. desktop search market
Microsoft also offers a variety of advertising goals to help boost your business. Using the platform, you can:
- Generate more phone calls
- Increase ad engagement
- Bring foot traffic to your local store
- Sell products online
- Increase conversions
Additionally, Microsoft also offers an assortment of ad products that include:
- Ad extensions
- Shopping campaigns
- Dynamic search ads
- Conversion tracking
- Shared budgets
So if you’re familiar with the typical features offered by Google, you’ll find it easy to transition to Microsoft Advertising.
Virgin Australia, for example, adopted Microsoft Advertising and saw an 18% year-over-year revenue growth. The company used its own first-party data to target potential customers. According to David Rossi, one of the leaders of Virgin’s digital marketing team: “Virgin Australia applies models based on the likely propensity for users to buy flights to certain destinations.”
Rossi’s solution involved feeding data gathered by websites and apps directly into Microsoft Custom Audiences. He also set different bid modifiers for increased flexibility. Overall, the company only increased investment in Microsoft Advertising by 18%.
There are a few advertising platforms that really stepped up their game in the last year. One of them is Quora.
If you’re unfamiliar with Quora, it’s a “Question and Answer” platform. People log on, ask a question (anything, really), and then other users in-the-know provide the answer. Multiple people can answer, however, there’s often a single answer highlighted as the “best” and makes it easier for others to find.
Part of the challenge when running a business is to reach people who need digital marketing services right now. Quora enables you to do that by running your ad to folks who are asking questions about online marketing.
For example, if someone logs on to Quora and asks, “Which ad platform is best for e-commerce sites?” You can get your ad in front of that person.
Quora also offers the same kinds of sophisticated targeting options you’ve seen on other platforms, such as lookalike audiences, website match audiences, and list match audiences.
You can also target Quora users based on their history on the platform.
AdRoll’s platform employs a solution called IntentMap that tracks 1.2 billion shopper profiles with trillions of intent data points and makes more than 80 billion AI predictions every day. It’s designed to reach potential shoppers who are most likely to convert.
You can also use AdRoll to create the ultimate cross-platform experience for folks in your market. Run online ads, email marketing campaigns, and website promotions to lead people through the customer journey. You also get a healthy reporting feature that includes multi-touch attribution.
If you’re running an e-commerce shop, AdRoll integrates with some of the most popular platforms such as Shopify, WooCommerce and BigCommerce.
As much as you might think that your product is unique and you can set up a virtual shop alongside Amazon that’s effectively competitive, more than you likely you’ll learn the hard way that it just won’t work.
When that happens, you’ll need to sell your products using Amazon’s platform. And then you’ll need to run ads on Amazon as well.
Why do you need to run ads? Because the competition on Amazon is cutthroat. There are simply too many players in the game.
The bad news is that your margins will take a hit when you sell and advertise on Amazon. So you may have to make some adjustments to your business model.
Still, Amazon is a great place to land if you’re looking for a way to increase brand-name awareness and land more sales.
Amazon also offers targeting features and a rich reporting system so you can fine-tune your strategy.
Taboola stands out from the other advertising options because it’s a native advertising platform.
If you’re unfamiliar with native advertising, it’s a way to promote content on somebody else’s blog. The format of the ad looks like content on the hosting website.
Oh, there’s usually some kind of disclaimer making it clear to careful observers that the content is an ad. But the disguise is still effective.
Taboola recently announced a merger with Outbrain and together form a powerhouse of an online advertising option that will help you target the right people, gain more exposure and offer reporting that enables you to adapt your strategy.
Taboola also allows you to use a variety of creative formats, including video, social or content ads. There is also a smart bidding feature so you can automate your optimization strategy.
Reddit is an online forum for user-generated content. People who like what other folks post will “upvote” it by clicking an up-arrow next to the content headline. Folks who don’t like what they see will “downvote” it by clicking a down-arrow.
Unsurprisingly, content with lots of upvotes tends to surface towards the top of people’s feeds.
What kind of content can you find on Reddit? The answer is yes.
Seriously, Reddit offers forums (called “subreddits”) for just about every subject imaginable.
It also offers forums for some subjects you can’t imagine. But that’s a subject for a different article.
Reddit enables you to create your own post on the platform and then run it as an ad. It will, of course, show up with an “Ad” disclaimer next to it, but people will still see it.
If your headline is catchy enough, people might view your content. If your content is worthwhile, you might snag a few additional customers.
And lest you think that Reddit is an ad platform only for up-and-coming marketers desperate for attention, keep in mind that well-known brands such as Audi and L’Oreal have used the platform effectively.
Reddit, by the way, is another one of those platforms that has heavily improved its feature set in 2019. You’ll appreciate the results.
BuySellAds is a self-serve platform that enables you to target developers, designers and niche tech audiences. In other words, if your business model involves reaching people in high-tech, you should put BuySellAds on your short list of alternative ad platforms.
One of the more attractive features of this platform is that it enables you to reach people with a variety of ad formats, including:
- Native ads
- Content ads
- Podcast ads
- Display ads
- Email ads
The company website includes several success stories from brands such as Hello Sign, Rollbar, Circleci and Storyblocks.
Storyblocks used the BuySellAds platform to identify designers when they were seeking inspiration and resources. That’s how the company reached an audience at the lower end of the sales funnel.
If there’s one word that defines the Infolinks ad platform it’s this one: Smart.
Infolinks gives you the ability to reach people in your market when they’re most likely to convert. It does that with a sophisticated algorithm that presents only relevant ads to netsurfers.
You can also use the platform to reach an international audience. Infolinks boasts of a billion users worldwide.
Additionally, the tool enables you to:
- Choose from a variety of ad units
- Select from advanced targeting options
- Optimize your strategy
- Track your results
- Run search and display ads
The platform’s customer list includes Digitas, Starcom Mediavest Group, Mediacom, McCann Worldgroup, and MEC.
LinkedIn ads are practically a cost of doing business if you’re in the B2B space.
Simply put: there is no place online where you’re more likely to find business owners and leaders who are part of your potential customer pool.
As of now, there are about 630 million active professionals on LinkedIn. Of those, 180 million are senior-level influencers, 63 million are decision-makers, and 10 million are C-level executives.
In other words, the people you’re trying to reach are there.
With LinkedIn, you have several advertising options, including:
- Sponsored content
- Sponsored InMail
- Video ads
- Text ads
- Dynamic ads
- Carousel ads
Additionally, the platform offers many of the features you’d expect to find on state-of-the-art ad solutions, such as:
- Conversion tracking
- Contact targeting
- Website retargeting
- Lead generation
- Audience network
Companies such as Lenovo, Marketo, Intel, AIG, and American Express have used LinkedIn Ads to successfully promote their brands.
Finally, keep in mind that LinkedIn is now owned by Microsoft. So you get the advantages of the Microsoft big data platform, and the targeting possibilities that accompany it, when you run ads on LinkedIn.
Pinterest is another one that has significantly improved its ad offerings this year. If you haven’t looked at its rich feature set lately, you should check it out.
That’s especially true if women are a significant part of your target market because they are the vast majority of Pinterest users.
Also, if your brand places a high emphasis on image marketing, Pinterest is a great option because it’s all about sharing images.
Keep in mind: your “ad” on Pinterest will be a Pin. So you’ll start by uploading an image that promotes your business and then make it an advertisement.
You can choose to pay for engagements or website visits. In either case, you’re only paying when people show interest.
Pinterest also offers a robust tracking platform so you can see which strategies are paying off.
If a sizable chunk of your target audience skews younger, you should consider advertising on Snapchat. That’s because more than 70% of Snapchat users are between the ages of 18 to 24.
According to the Snapchat advertising page, more than a third of the app’s user community can’t be found on Facebook and Instagram. So you stand to gain market share with Snapchat ads.
The platform enables you to pick one of three goals for your ad:
- Website visits
- Local store visits
- App installs
Also, Snapchat makes it easy to get your ad up and running in minutes with its self-serve platform.
Finally, the tool offers tracking tools so you can measure and optimize your campaigns for maximum impact.
TikTok is a short-form video platform that boasts over 1.5 billion users worldwide. More than 60% of those folks are between the ages of 16 and 24. So, once again, it’s where you want to be if you’re looking to reach a younger crowd.
Unlike Vine, TikTok also offers an advertising platform to reach people in more than 20 markets around the world. The platform also enables a way to create ads in a variety of formats and plenty of targeting capabilities.
Guess Jeans, Universal Pictures, and Clean & Clear have used TikTok advertising to promote their brands.
“In an average month, 18-plus year olds in the United States spend more time watching YouTube than any television network.”
That’s the claim you’ll read when you visit the YouTube Ads home page. It’s a compelling reason to consider advertising on the platform.
YouTube Ads offers a targeting platform called Find My Audience that enables you to reach only the viewers who are most likely to become customers. You can go beyond simple demographics to identify the folks by habits and interests.
As is the case with other advertising options, YouTube Ads also allows you to create In-Market Audiences and Affinity Audiences to broaden your reach even more.
And here’s where YouTube TrueView Ads shine above and beyond traditional TV commercial ads: You only pay when someone watches at least 30 seconds of your ad.
Of course, you’ll have to put some money into producing high-quality video ads. That’s an added cost you’ll need to discuss with your accountant.
Finally, YouTube offers some great analytics tools so you can track your campaign performance and get the most bang for your buck.
14. Propel Media
You can reach folks in your target market with a website lightbox or a TextLink with Propel Media. The platform employs a “DeepIntent” algorithm that’s designed to find high-value audiences in real-time.
How does it work? According to the company website, it combines AI with natural language processing to understand the relationships between 300 million people, places, products and events. The targeting technology can reach your next customers with lightboxes, TextLinks and pre-roll video ads.
Here’s another selling point: the company formed a partnership with streaming brands Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast. Those platforms give you access to people you might not find with traditional web advertising.
Finally, Propel Media even offers native advertising options for both national and international audiences.
Revcontent is another native advertising platform that offers the goodies you’d expect from any native ad service: granular targeting options, real-time reporting and flexibility with creatives.
One thing you get with Revcontent that you might not get with some other platforms – dedicated account management. That kind of expertise can make the difference between profitable and unprofitable campaigns.
Revcontent is used by plenty of well-known brands, including Forbes, Ziff Davis, Bank of America, Wayfair and NASDAQ.
If you want to reach people in your target market in a way that your competitors might have overlooked, consider going with audio advertising on Spotify ads.
The production cost for audio ads might come in a bit higher than traditional image ads but the Spotify ad platform includes a feature to make your own audio ad, which includes a voiceover. So it might not be expensive at all.
Beyond that, the potential to reach your core audience shouldn’t be overlooked. Millions of people use Spotify to discover their favorite music and listen to the podcasts they love.
Spotify advertising also gives you the ability to target potential customers at unusual times, such as when they’re working out, driving to work, relaxing, cooking or cleaning.
Pandora is a competitor to Spotify so the advantages of running ads on the platform are similar.
Pandora boasts an audience of 118 million listeners. You can target a segment of those folks using the platform’s first-party data as well as Pandora-provided third-party data.
The first-party data includes segments such as:
- Basic demographic info (age, gender, etc.)
- Music preferences
- Listening times
The third-party data includes offline habits such as shopping behavior and media interests.
When combined, the first- and third-party data give you laser-like targeting capabilities so that you only reach people who are likely to show an interest in your brand.
With Pandora, you have the option to run 10-, 15-, or 30-second ad spots. The platform also includes an Audio Everywhere product that integrates your message seamlessly with the listener’s preferred experience.
You can even launch a campaign that combines your audio ad with a persistent visual component that runs across the web and mobile platforms.
Wrapping it up
Here’s your assignment: go through the list of alternative ad platform options above and select the one you think is best for your business. For example, if you’re running a B2B shop, you’d probably choose LinkedIn.
Then, follow a common-sense approach to advertising on that platform. Run ads that highlight the benefits of your brand. Do some split-testing so you can optimize your campaigns. Double down on what works.
When you’ve successfully fine-tuned a strategy for one platform and it’s giving you a positive ROI, pick a second option from the list above and start the same process with that platform.
Rinse and repeat until you’ve saturated your market profit-producing ads.