If you’re not using Facebook ads because you don’t think they work in B2B marketing, then you are among thin ranks.
Several surveys reviewed by eMarketer suggest social media advertising continues to advance – and Facebook is often voted the most effective paid platform – even for B2B. For example, a survey of 342 B2B marketers – the State of B2B Social Media Marketing 2016 (reg. req.) – by Regalix found:
“…of those who said their businesses buy paid placements on social media, the majority (almost three-fifths) pointed to Facebook and LinkedIn as the platforms that gave the best return on those dollars.”
That’s for both Facebook (58%) and LinkedIn (58%). These platforms show the best return on investment for social ad spend according to B2B marketers.
It’s not an isolated result either. A survey of 551 social media marketers, also reviewed by eMarketer, found just shy of 96% of social media marketers said Facebook was the most effective social media advertising platform.
Moreover, these studies mesh with my own experience in B2B. To that end, I do think B2B organizations should be investing moderately in Facebook ads, with one caveat: These should be done as an effort to augment a content marketing approach, rather than solely for lead generation.
This is because a hard-sell doesn’t fly on Facebook. In fact, I don’t think it flies anywhere, but on Facebook, it’s a means to waste your investment rapidly – and make the chances of ever getting good results harder.
If people on Facebook engage your content, Facebook will show it to more people. This is how a little paid promotion can earn a little extra organic lift. However, if the community hides or unfollows a brand (you can see this in the analytics), as they are likely to do with a hard-sell, it’s virtually impossible to get them back again.
Unlike traditional advertising, the audience gets a vote in paid social media. A vocal reaction from an annoyed audience isn’t nearly as bad as those that silent shut you out forever. More importantly, it is quite possible to be persuasive without selling hard.
What Should B2B Pay to Promote on Facebook?
If the hard sell isn’t the way to go, what should B2B pay to promote on Facebook? In my experience, I’ve had success with the following four categories:
1) Use Facebook to build your own audience.
This means putting a little bit of money to promote routine content you are already publishing on a daily or weekly basis to a defined target. In this effort, you are trying to reach part of an audience you wouldn’t otherwise reach, in an effort to get little of that community to join yours.
Don’t promote all of your content all at once, but rather selectively choose the better performing pieces – and only promote these for money after you’ve exhausted organic efforts.
2) Saturate Facebook with 3rd party coverage you earn.
When you earned good coverage – promote it! Media relations and influencer relations are hard won and you want as many people as possible in your target market have a chance to read it.
In the modern PR environment, what you do with coverage once you’ve earned it, is every bit important as earning it in the first place. Paid social ads are a simple and effective option.
3) Promote your most compelling announcements.
Facebook ads are an effective approach for B2B to get the news out, but you have to think differently about targeting. Look for those places on Facebook where people congregate for news. In other words, think about fans of news and trade publications in your vertical market.
When I have a product launch, I like to use multimedia-rich press release for this segment. Separately, I’ll promote a blog post for my prospect and customer segments. Be careful not to overuse this technique, rather saving it for your truly compelling announcements.
Every announcement you make is not truly compelling.
4) Leave room for experimentation.
Reserve a bit of your budget for experimenting with ideas, because you can stumble on opportunities and you want to build in room to exploit success.
For example, I once worked for a company that promoted a webinar in native advertising. To the be clear, the blog post was very well written, the blog was precisely the right community, and the sponsored piece performed well on its own.
However, in observing the results, I thought saw an opportunity to capitalize the success. I put $100.00 into a sponsored Facebook post for that ad, and it lit up like lighter fluid. So we doubled the spend.
In aggregate, the entire campaign produced one of the highest webinar registration counts that business had ever seen. If memory serves me about 50% joined the actual webinar or viewed the recording, which anyone that does B2B webinars regularly knows, is outstanding.
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The Struggle is Real in B2B Content Marketing [UML]
What are Techniques for B2B Targeting on Facebook?
There are many solid and traditional techniques from geography to demographics for targeting ads and promoted posts on Facebook. I’ve found success doing something a little different, as I mentioned above: I look for communities where a target audience already congregates.
For example, I’ll target promoted content at:
- Associations, where I think the content I’m sponsoring, will be of interest. There is an association for everything, and even for functional areas within a discipline. For example, in marketing there are communities for CMOs, digital marketers, SEOs, content and so on – the same is true in other verticals.
- Media organizations – as noted above – this is a community interested in news. This includes fans of popular blogs, some of which have larger communities than traditional media outlets.
- Trade shows – if the show itself doesn’t have a page, I’ll use the demographic and geographic filters and promote content during the show to get as close to that community as possible.
You have to build these “saved audiences” in the Facebook Ad Manager – a clunky awful interface. Once these are built however, it gets easier from a workflow perspective.
It’s also important to keep an open mind as you’re developing these saved audiences – because you can uncover segments that work really well that you have missed otherwise.
Additional recommended reading:
Social Bakers: Marketers, Don’t Promote That Facebook Post Yet!
The Social Media Coach: Looking into Facebook Audience Insights for Ad Targeting
Claire Jarrett: Should You Delete The Rude Comments on Your Facebook Ads?
Are Facebook ads an easy button for B2B Marketing?
Like anything in marketing, it’s not an easy button. You can’t just throw a bunch of money at Facebook and expect everything to go like clockwork.
It can be messy in the beginning and you will, for example, get some bogus likes. These are likes or engagements from accounts that aren’t real and are an unfortunate ugly part of the online marketing world.
In remedy, I’ll spot check the engagement from sponsored content periodically. If I see too many that are off topic – a piece about marketing get likes from a fitness enthusiast in Myanmar (true story) – then I’ll tweak the targeting filters.
Finally, and one last point that must be part of the process is measurement. I tend to be skeptical about the veracity of social media analytics the platforms provide. If you’re going to invest in paid social, you need to tag your content in order to measure results.
A very easy way for those using web analytics to get started is to use the Google Campaign URL Builder – which is new and improved.
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There’s plenty of data to support a measured effort at paid Facebook promotions in B2B. While every organization has to map out what works for them, survey research suggests, more than half of B2B marketers are using it – and finding it effective.
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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Facebook Headquarters… CC0 1.0 Universal