Paid Social for B2B Marketing: Why (and How) It Works

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Social platforms have become a primary source of inspiration over the past few years, so it’s no wonder we tend to think of social media advertising in the context of brands targeting individual shoppers. A quick look at the top 50 accounts on Instagram, for example, reveals that the majority of most-followed brands are B2C companies: National Geographic, Nike, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton to name a few. These are aspirational, visually appealing brands with products that interest a wide range of users. It makes perfect sense that consumers flock to those accounts that feature products, services, or lifestyles that they want to purchase or achieve.

B2B businesses, on the other hand, often have long, complex lead generation processes that make social advertising more difficult to navigate. A B2B brand trying to reach busy financial executives with a software product, for example, needs to approach social very differently than a retail brand whose primary goal is to increase sweater sales. Even if your B2B brand is an established player in the market, it will take more than a single Facebook or Twitter ad to convince executives to switch to a new software. But that’s no reason to disregard social media advertising altogether. Instead, here are a few ways B2B brands will benefit from social media, plus tips on how to build successful campaigns across the platforms.

Social Platforms Offer Unparalleled Reach

There are currently 2.32 billion monthly active users on Facebook, 1 billion on Instagram, and 231 million on Twitter. Together the social platforms offer businesses both incredible reach and unparalleled access to data about user preferences and behavior. B2B advertisers often have to target an entire business, but those businesses consist of “normal” people; individuals who are likely to be active on at least one major social platform. While you might not convince business executives to immediately convert based on a single ad they saw in their spare time, you can use these channels to make them aware of your company and its products. Then you can retarget them with lower-funnel ads down the line.  

Business Users Want Relevant Content Too

Social platforms are incredibly effective at turning user data into a deep understanding of what your customers want and need. This opens up new opportunities to tailor your content so it’s interesting and relevant to individual prospects. Research shows that the vast majority (80%) of customers are more inclined to do business with a company that offers a personalized experience. Although B2B companies are selling their products and services to other businesses, their actual target audience is still made up of individuals who, just like other users, prefer content that is customized to their interests and needs.

Creating Relevant Engaging Experiences

In late 2017, we started developing and helping to manage a global paid social strategy for Workplace by Facebook – a collaboration and communications platform that connects business and organizations. Within six months, we had reduced the global cost per acquisition (CPA) by 50%. Here’s how:

  • We concentrated on creative and localization. Our teams created several different color variations of an ad, for example, to be served in different geographical locations. By using dynamic creative optimization, they were able to test the different versions at scale and quickly uncover top performers. The result was significantly improved CPAs across all regions, including 47% better CPAs in the UK and 57% in North America.
  • We concentrated on the audience. We found that building custom and lookalike audiences derived from the Facebook pixel drove more impact than certain native B2B Facebook targeting we tested. Shifting to the custom audiences allowed our teams to target users who displayed similar behaviors or interests to people who already used the product. Not only did this provide cost-effective CPAs, but it also meant that users were targeted based on their preferences, wants, and needs rather than just job function or title.

It was only recently that eMarketer released its first-ever B2B digital advertising forecast, estimating $4.6 billion in total spend for 2018 – a 13% increase from the year before. This increased spending is likely to continue as more B2B marketers realize the full business opportunity presented by social platforms.