With literally millions of visitors every hour, Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter advertising is a tempting proposition for anyone looking to get their business in front of a very big audience. Assuming that most businesses do not have an infinite marketing budget, particularly for advertising via relatively immature channels, there will be some serious questions to either ask or answer.
So which to use?
Clearly that very much depends on your business, your objectives and of course who (and where) you customers are. However, here are some quick guidelines that may help you decide where to put your money:
LinkedIn is the platform to use if your business sells to other businesses (B2B sales). Whilst firms are still run by people (consumers), a business purchase decision is very different from a consumer (B2C sales) purchase decision. B2B purchasing tends to be a longer, fact based process that focuses on ROI. B2C purchasing tends to be a shorter and a much more emotive process that focuses on our need for something immediately. An emotive purchase is usually a no-brainer, in fact almost literally, as it’s bought with ones heart and not ones head! I’m sure we can all think of a personal example where that has backfired!
LinkedIn does a great job at encouraging us to complete our online profiles. This is important to marketers as the LinkedIn advertising system enables us to target our adverts by specifically targeting people with certain skills, job titles, industries and locations. This means we can precisely target likely prospects for our business offering. Be aware that job titles can be a little deceptive or ambiguous and that the skills listed on certain profiles can be somewhat “aspirational” or just plain wrong!
Because B2B buying is often a medium to long term process, we would recommend not including incremental direct sales as an objective from a LinkedIn ad campaign. Yes, this might depend on what you’re selling, but you’re far more likely to successfully develop increased company/product/service awareness or generate new leads. The latter is likely to be achieved by incentivising people to sign up to receive more information on what you’re selling after they’ve clicked through to your landing page. Once you have their details, they’re fair game to contact using a secondary channel such as email marketing or even the good old fashioned telephone.
LinkedIn ads are usually mini-display type ads on the right of the main content on the screen. There are also occasionally narrow banner-style ads across the top of the page.
Facebook is the platform to use if your business mainly sells to consumers. In addition to generating leads and developing awareness, Facebook advertising is also better at actually driving direct sales. Why? As well as sharing LinkedIn’s ability to target by location, Facebook advertising can target people by their interests, i.e. things they like. This automatically enables us to sell to someone’s emotions. For example, we target adverts for mountain bike accessories toward people who have listed mountain biking as a hobby.
Facebook advertising can be used to target business Pages (note the capital P), as opposed to making the adverts appear on individuals pages (note the small p); so B2B targeting can also occur on this platform. And again, by considering interests, job titles and location, a good level of targeting can be achieved. Just like a lot of online B2B marketing, due to longer and more considered buying cycles, it may be worth limiting expectations to generating leads and developing awareness rather than generating short term direct sales.
B2B advertising is often more challenging. For example, what if your company sells PC support services? Given every business has computers but with varying levels of expertise in-house, how do you target? You therefore need to target your adverts to everyone but alter the advert copy to entice people who have a need for your services. Fine, except Facebook charges by advert impressions (number of times your advert is seen) rather than by clicks. Cunning. Consequently, many B2B campaigns have extremely low click-through-rates.
At a practical level, Facebook ads are most often displayed as promoted posts in your main Facebook newsfeed (inline ads) or display ads to the right of the main content.
Advertising on Twitter is a new feature, Q3 2013, and is still not global, with only a handful of countries, including the UK, granted access so far. Twitter’s user base is far less clear-cut between B2C and B2B than Facebook and LinkedIn. That said, for marketers, the current emphasis is to drive consumers from a Tweet to a website in order to facilitate a transactional sale; as opposed to a business orientated enterprise sale.
As well as promoting individual Tweets, “Promoted Trends” is probably Twitters most innovative idea. Clearly when something “Trends” on Facebook, it will very quickly gather momentum and gain huge exposure. If it’s your brand trending (for the right reasons), that can be very powerful. Twitter is offering Promoted Trends to those willing to stump up c£150k. Per day. Ouch.
A few final items to consider…
Firstly, click through rates via social media advertising in general, and in particular on Facebook, are extremely low. Obviously this is offset by the potentially huge number of impressions, but be prepared for some very low numbers. Like, really low, i.e. 0.03% – 0.1%, compared to a Google Adwords campaign where you might expect between 2%-8% overall.
Secondly, consider those percentages when calculating a campaign budget if that campaign is to be priced by impression. You may find that even with a significant number of impressions, such a low click through rate may not deliver sufficient traffic to generate enough enquiries to make a sale. Focussing on conversion optimisation is therefore critical.
Thirdly, there are some scary statistics regarding Twitter’s 974 million accounts for many marketers. 44% of Twitter accounts have never sent a tweet. That’s over 400 million accounts! Also, only around 30% have sent 1-10 tweets, (that’s EVER,not just in the last hour!) and 13% have only ever sent more than 100 tweets.
If you boil that down, you’re left with around 126 million accounts that are active on a long term basis. Sure, that’s probably a big enough audience for most of us, but if nothing else it tells us one should always dig a little deeper behind the headline figures for any advertising opportunity.
Interestingly, Twitter reported that it had 241 million active monthly users in the calendar fourth quarter of 2013. They define an active user is somebody who logs in at least once per month but doesn’t have to tweet to be considered active! Hm.
Lastly, targeting can be a little vague at times. Twitter claims “We infer interest from a variety of signals, like the accounts users follow and the Tweets they engage with”. In LinkedIn terms, that’s a bit like saying I’m linked with a load of people in the enterprise CAD software market so I must be interested in it too. We’re hoping the targeting and selection criteria gets sharpened up soon.
Summary & conclusion:
If your budget can stretch to it, try running a campaign on each of these platforms at the same time. It will take perseverance and no doubt some cash, and will possibly be a steep learning curve.
If managed correctly, the messaging is right and appropriate for each platform, it should be possible to definitively answer the question of which social platform is right for your business.
This blog post is a update to a previous post about social media advertising, since Twitter has begun to offer advertising. No doubt I will have to update a third time when Google+ advertising finally arrives. It won’t be long.
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