Is Facebook a waste of time for B2B businesses?

I was meeting with a client this week when he asked me this very good question: is Facebook advertising really worth it for a B2B? Why not just use LinkedIn?

On the face of it, I agree that it seems unlikely. After all, Facebook’s where all we check out the status updates of friends, watch the latest viral video and perhaps read a news headline or two.
 
That's right - all of us (or almost).

Facebook says 9 million Australians use the site every day, including 7.3 million mobile users. In July 2014 almost 13.5 million users logged in, making it the most used social media platform in Australia. In comparison, LinkedIn comes in at number 5, with less than 4 million monthly users. That puts it behind You Tube, Wordpress, and even Tumblr.

 

But LinkedIn is all about business – surely users come primed to respond to business messages?

There are several reasons LinkedIn users visit, but primarily it is to reconnect with past colleagues, make updates to their profile, participate in groups and research businesses – in effect, they come goal oriented. It can actually be harder to capture the attention of someone committed to a task than someone who is more generally browsing. When your audience knows what they want, marketing can become irritating or just plain invisible.
 
While in comparison, we use Facebook as a form of entertainment, the perfect ‘bored at work’ or ‘bored in line’ solution. Which means we are more open to distraction, providing it’s compelling, relevant or emotional - we’ve talked about this before.
 

Cost-Per-Click effectiveness

Advertising on LinkedIn starts at a minimum of $5.70 per click, which is starting to rival Adwords pricing – arguably a more effective channel as users tend to be further down the sales pipeline. While pricing for Facebook clicks can be as low as 20-30c. As a comparison, for a recent campaign we ran Facebook outperformed LinkedIn in both clicks and cost-per-click by a factor of 10.
 

The right audience

Where the rubber really hits the road for marketers is in the targeting. While LinkedIn allows you to target your audience by 8 factors (things like location, age, industry and role), Facebook has a much wider set of targeting criteria, including not only job title, but interests and even life stage.
 
And if you make use of Facebook’s Power Editor, you can show your ad to people who have visited your website or signed up for a newsletter or a ‘mirror’ audience who look just like those that have. Pretty smart. (Here’s something we previously wrote about how to take advantage Facebook’s custom audiences).

To prove the point, just imagine you were interested in targeting high-net worth professional women who were about to have a baby (or had recently had one). Which platform do you think would be more effective?
 

The winner on mobile

But for me where Facebook really wins is in the ad placement. With advertising a core focus (much as it may annoy us!) Facebook allows the use of great, large scale images, a range of conversion targets from page likes to website clicks, and offers superior visibility across both mobile and desktop.
 
Unless you’re prepared to spend $25K or more a month, LinkedIn by comparison relegates advertising to a small amount of Adwords-style text at the top of the page, or thumbnail images off to the side that, and this is key, don’t appear on mobiles or tablets. And uh oh, LinkedIn themselves are saying that mobile is driving almost 50% of site traffic.  A sponsored update offers the only real mobile visibility, and that’s not going to be suitable for many purposes.

Now I’m not saying that you should choose Facebook by default over LinkedIn, but just that it should definitely be considered when planning the different channels you are going to use when running a marketing campaign. And if you decide to include Facebook in the mix:


Do:

  • Make sure your ad messaging is relevant to the audience and captures their attention.
  • Use a really compelling image.
  • Spend time considering your targeting options – have a think about what your target is thinking and doing, and how that converts to the targeting options available
  • Have a goal in mind – think through the sales process you need your customers to go through. Do you need them to sign up to something? Read something? Design your campaign accordingly.
  • Consider other platforms – Twitter and blogging are also very effective B2B channels.

 
Don’t

  • Pay for likes. If you’re in any doubt, watch this.
  • Expect immediate sales unless you have a compelling offer. But remember that increased brand awareness means every positive interaction increases the likelihood of an eventual conversion.

 

Nerissa Atkinson is co-director of The Revery, a marketing consultancy for growing businesses wanting to remain lean. Curious about everything, her personal ethos is to have nothing in her house that is not useful or beautiful. With two small children life is weighted towards the first, but she spends plenty of time on Pinterest and other social media platforms planning for the future.

Image via Flickr CC/Leslie Kalohi