For B2B marketers, social media can present a challenge. On the one hand, most marketers will agree that it offers a unique opportunity. But on the other, they may not be sure exactly how to use it to its full advantage for a targeted B2B audience.
The good news is social media continues to evolve at a phenomenal rate. Platforms are becoming more and more sophisticated and are also far more attuned to the needs of business users. That means there are now many specialised options available that can be used to reach a target audience, whether that audience is B2B or B2C.
And ultimately the fact remains that whether you’re a B2B or B2C, people buy from people. As humans we are driven by communication and the relationships we build, which explains why social media has taken off in such a big way. The latest stats reveal there are now a staggering 2.3 billion active social media users worldwide. So for any business, the people you’re aiming to get in front of are likely to be spending time there. That makes it a viable channel to include in your planning.
The one main difference to be aware of is that your audience is not going to be in active purchase mode, or even search mode, when they’re on a social site. It will take a different type of approach to gain traction and that’s where social ads can come into their own. They can help make this type of platform a hugely successful channel for B2B organizations.
The power in using this type of ad is the highly effective targeting they can offer. For example, Facebook holds an incredible amount of information about individuals and their interests, as well as their location and habits, and offers a highly sophisticated way to successfully get ads in front of a very specific audience. So the targeting is sorted, the real trick lies in getting the right message to have an impact. For any B2B that needs research, understanding, brainstorming and ongoing monitoring and improvement.
Yes, social ads are ads, so they will come with a fee attached, but in comparison to some other advertising options the costs are relatively low. Plus given the enormous amount of data collected they can be an analyzer’s dream when it comes to tweaking the options and seeing what works and what doesn’t.
Before starting any campaign you need to invest time in doing some thorough research of your target audience and their online social behaviors. Social ads target specific people. The platforms themselves will choose who to show your ad to, based on a person’s interests. This is in contrast to Google ads, where you will focus on what a person is searching for.
There is one major difference between the two, which is why these two types of ads need to be so different: Social ad recipients are not in search mode, they are in browsing and entertainment mode.
For it to work you need to provide the appropriate content for the type of mode. It must fit with their interests if you’re to win on these types of channels.
And what would winning look like in this context? It would be for a person to see your ad, engage with it (step one) and then take action (step two). That would mean they reacted to your call to action, for example by downloading an e-book from your website. At this point, you have gained a low level lead who you can then continue to nurture and qualify further.
Always remember – never try to directly sell on social media. Especially not with social ads. You’ll be wasting your money as it simply doesn’t work for B2B. Your aim should always be to get people interested in your content and to engage with it in whatever way they can.
Know your target
Invest time in researching the following points about the people you want to attract:
- What are their specific interests (particularly outside of your scope of business), is there something that interests them all across various companies?
- What are their needs?
- Which problems and questions do they want solved? Even when in entertainment mode the people still carry their professional questions around with them and if they stumble upon an answer they will react to it, either read it right away or bookmark for later.
- How do they research and network?
Understand social platforms
There is a huge difference between the various social platforms, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they operate. You need to understand them to be able to use them effectively. For example, Facebook is about entertainment, whereas LinkedIn is far more focused on the professional side of things and YouTube has its own rules.
You will find different audiences on different platforms and you will need to develop different messaging for each. Creating one campaign and simply putting it out across the platforms is a total waste of time and money. If you are unsure how to go about it, simply start somewhere with a small test. Thankfully, social ads are really cheap and for very little money you can gain a lot of invaluable insights.
Once you have an idea about who the people are that you want to target and what their interests may be head over to Facebook’s ad platform and start looking at your target audience. You can easily establish your target market size that way and get a feeling for it. Think about job titles you may want to target, as this often works quite well for B2Bs on any platform.
What should you advertise and how should the ads themselves look?
Remember, the goal with social ads is to increase your audience, not to sell to it!
The selling comes at a much later stage in buyer journey. With social ads, you’re really just putting the feelers out to let an audience know that you are there and that you share their interests.
Whatever content you put out needs to add value to the person’s life. You are asking them to spend time with your content, so make sure it is time well spent. At the same time, the content needs to be entertaining and creative, to generate attention in the first place. This is another big distinction between social ads and search engine ads. You need to grab attention, whereas when a person is searching they are already deep into the subject and looking for a solution.
Attractive social ad content for B2B advertisers
The type of content to think about linking to would be e-guides, case studies and webinars. They have been shown to work the best. All of these formats, when done well, can generate a fair bit of attention and will be of interest to your target audience.
Just keep in mind that the content should not be about you. It should be about them ‘we know this is your problem and here are some ideas for how to solve it’. This different approach is especially important on social media sites but can sometimes take time to grasp in traditional B2B businesses.
Social ad content
Apart from the content the ads lead to, it’s equally important to think about and experiment with the creation of the ads themselves. They should include a heading, body copy, imagery and a link to the landing page where your content is. Together these elements will make or break your success before people have even got close to seeing your awesome content!
Top tip: Try not to use stock imagery. It can immediately put you into the ‘oh this is advertising’ pile and could encourage people to simply scroll by. Stock images can be obvious from a mile off so instead aim to be authentic and original.
Once you’ve experimented with the basic ad options it’s time to investigate the more sophisticated variations. For example, retargeting on Facebook works extremely well for B2B companies. This is where you add a little code to your website so that you can set up an ad on Facebook that targets all the visitors to your site.
You’ve probably seen this in action yourself. You may have checked out flights for your next holiday and suddenly your Facebook is full of flight specials from the very airline you visited. The same can work for your website. You can show a specific e-book to all those visitors in your Facebook ad.
LinkedIn has also stepped up its game and you can now reach people in their message box. And the other big hitters, including Twitter and YouTube, are also following suit and increasing their options. All these platforms have built up substantial users figures and are able to segment them for you, so take advantage of it.
ANALYZE, ANALYZE, ANALYZE
As mentioned, social ads are an analyzer’s dream. The amount of data you can get is staggering and can help you fine-tune your campaigns to a high degree. Try it out for a while. Look at the numbers and try to understand the story that they are telling you. Make assumptions, then test your assumptions, rinse and repeat.
Eventually, you will end up with a sizable channel producing the right type of leads, which can then be successfully nurtured and further qualified, helping you build a healthy pipeline.
Food for thought
With your social ads you don’t want to try and cover as broad a target market as possible. In fact, the complete opposite is true. The more niche your audience the more targeted and tailored you can make your messages, which will ultimately lead to a higher success rate.
Also, don’t start out with a big campaign if you have little or no previous experience. The best strategy is to start small and gather intelligence you can learn from. Find out what works and what doesn’t using a smaller test campaign. Once you have gained some insights start a bigger one and test your assumptions.
And remember, the content for your social ads needs to be about the audience, not about your company. In B2C you may be able to try to directly sell to the public on social media, but for B2B because of the nature of how buyers make their purchasing decisions, it simply isn’t possible. Focus on using these channels to attract a broad base of interested individuals out of which you can cherry pick the best ones. With the right message and the right content, delivered on the right channels, you’ll soon create a valuable stream of leads.