By Helen Udolloress

Whilst the ad specs, platforms, and targeting opportunities remain the same, one thing is crucial: B2B ≠ B2C. Business to business paid social comes with an entirely different set of technicalities and challenges to understand. To maximise your B2B campaign success, you must learn to locate the key differences that pertain to these two very different clienteles.

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With this in mind, and to help you on your way to a fully optimised B2B social campaign, we have picked out the key areas of interest and difference when it comes to B2B over B2C. Starting with a consideration of the different buying cycles, we will then investigate the implications these differing sales processes have on the conversions you should track. Next, we will take a deep dive into the range of Social Media platforms available and how they each lend their selves to B2B in different ways; from the targeting available to differing ad formats. Read on to discover our top tips!

1. B2B sales take time: more complex products need more complex conversations

B2B sales take time

Business decisions are complex. Multiple conversations need to be had, multiple people need to be consulted, and most likely, multiple versions of a product or service need to be evaluated before a business decision is made. Unlike retail or more standard ecommerce sales, business sales are not going to occur overnight. Their complex nature and extended business purchase cycles also often means that even though the conversation may be initiated online, via one of your ads, it will more than likely end up being taken and then completed offline.

Your social strategy needs to be adapted to ensure your Paid Social ads are serving the purpose of initiating these multi-step, multi-person customer journeys. Rather than pushing for direct sales, you must focus upon educating your prospects, allowing them to see a) the benefits of your product, b) exactly how it will aid their business overall, and even c) content and ideas that can add value to their businesses. 

This is especially important when recalling the point that businesses aren’t likely to buy into your product on a whim. They will consider buying your product or service because they have a need or a problem that needs to be addressed and your product is the best fit both in terms of quality and price. Under these pretences, a rapport must be developed with your prospect to establish the fact your business is value giving and problem solving, even before a sale is on the cards. It must be demonstrated that your business is a good fit with theirs, and a working relationship will bring benefit to both parties. Put simply, your B2B social strategy must be well-rounded. It must affirm the fact that your product is the best there is, and the solution for a given business’s need. In addition, you must also look to provide value and insight for your prospect regardless of whether they are in the market for a sale. 

2. Adapt your conversion goals. Measure by leads not sales 

Measure by leads

Now that the key the differences between a typical B2B and B2C sales cycles can be understood, the next item to address is how these typically elongated sales come to affect the conversion and optimisation goals you set. Since business sales take time and do not involve just one step, your reporting KPIs need to reflect this.

If we first consider the topic of attribution, although a 7-day or 28-day attribution window may be appropriate when considering a B2C sale, the multitude of steps that may occur between a prospect registering their interest and them completing a sale may mean that a B2B sale may take anything from 1 month to 6 months – or maybe even more. Retaining an attribution window limited to these figures will therefore mean that any sales that occur more than 28 days after a user saw your ad (providing the sale took place online and the two events can be linked) cannot and will not be attributed to your social ads as an initial point of contact. The obvious solution to this would be to simply extend your in-platform lookback windows to say, 180D, but unfortunately this isn’t a possibility just yet. Most social platforms have either 28 or 30 days as the maximum window you can select.

A more appropriate solution is to instead re-consider the KPIs you select, for reporting and optimisation purposes. In general, selecting more “higher funnel” conversion events makes much more sense in terms of tracing the impact of your campaigns. This point is only further established when we consider the fact that it is generally unlikely for a prospect to return to the social ad they first went through to make their purchase after traversing the entire buyer cycle (e.g. having contact with your sales team, going to an event, or carrying our extensive research across multiple site visits). A more realistic KPI, in most cases, is the generation of a lead to which your sales team can respond. You may even want to avoid viewing purchases as the sole indicator of success altogether. Alternatively, other “soft” conversion goals, such as article views/downloads, webinar signups or video views can also be a gauge of how well your prospects are warming up.  

So, all in all, when it comes to B2B, purchase metrics don’t always provide the most accurate depiction of the full impact of your social campaigns. Metrics that indicate the capture of a warm lead or the initiation of a new customer journey can be a much more accurate indicator of your campaign’s performance. This is both due to the fact that B2B buying cycles often extend beyond the given attribution windows available to us, and because after an initial lead the B2B sales conversations are often taken offline. Since one business sale could amount to hundreds of times the value of your average B2C retail purchase, it’s all about curating a solid relationship and guiding that purchase from the start.

3. Choose the right social media platform 

Now that strategy and tracking have been ticked off, the final things to consider are which social platforms to utilise, and which ad formats to choose. Though LinkedIn is certainly the B2B king – it’s imperative not to forget about the rest. Let’s break down the key reasons not to forget other platforms below:

  • Targeting across the social media platform
Targeting across social media

To start, it is well recognised that LinkedIn is the undisputed king of targeting professionals in the world of advertising when it comes to B2B. From the fact it allows you to target by job title, job seniority, company name, and even years of experience, locating and targeting key individuals or stakeholders is an easy job. Although this level of granularity is unmatched elsewhere, however, it is important not to forget about the targeting options other social media platforms have available to them, and how these, despite their differences, can allow you to locate your prospects in a different way.

If we look at Facebook, the initial benefit that comes to mind is its “lookalike” audiences. If you are to upload a CRM list directly to the platform Facebook will allow you to match these users to its vast user base and find users that it foresees to display similar characteristics to them. By being creative with the CRM segments you upload, you can even find users who are similar to those who have bought one particular product or create lookalikes of your highest value customers alone. This can be a prime way to a) locate customers exactly like your own, without having to think outside the box and b) expand upon potentially limited reach. LinkedIn will allow you to upload a CRM list, and the match rate for work related emails is predictably higher, but a lookalike functionality is still something its platform lacks. At the time of writing you are only able to target those users directly.

Additionally, interest/follower targeting is a capability of ad platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, which LinkedIn currently lacks. The advantage of interest/follower based targeting, within these platforms, is that it allows you to easily locate users who could potentially have a need for your product based on their interest in competitors, and/or other products and services that could indicate a complimentary need for yours. On top of this, Twitter also has the added functionality of allowing you to target users based on keywords they have recently tweeted, or searched for on site. This allows you to easily find people who may be in the market for your product based on their topics of conversation, or the topics they are actively wanting to read more about.

Further to this, there are methods through which you can overcome the limited nature of job title on platforms other than LinkedIn (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter). By making use of third party audiences from vendors such as Experian you can very easily gain access to high quality audiences specifically built for B2B purposes, such as people with a certain job title, or seniority. These can be uploaded directly into the interfaces and be applied like a custom audience. There can be an additional cost associated with these audiences, but as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook remain much cheaper than LinkedIn in terms of bid costs, this is something that can be easily absorbed.

To summarise; considering each of these targeting methodologies and using them in tandem can help you adopt a multi-faceted approach to reaching potential leads based on a number of intent signals and demographic/behavioural traits.

  • The ad types available across platforms
Ad types

Another thing to consider when choosing your social platforms for B2B marketing is what ad types are available for use.

Starting at a brand awareness perspective Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn offer static link ads and video ads, which provide a great amount of space to introduce your brand. Where Twitter falls slightly short is its lack of carousel ads. With the opportunity to include up to ten cards, all with differing focuses and headlines, these ads, when used properly, have great potential to show case your brand and tell your story.

When moving on to the topic of lead generation, it is not only LinkedIn that allows you to successfully capture these without users having to leave the platform itself. Both Facebook and LinkedIn offer lead gen ads which have the key advantage of allowing you to curate a custom form that includes all the information you wish to collect from potential leads. With the bonus that these forms will auto-populate for users with the data entered within their profiles, you can almost guarantee the success-rate for them will be higher than for any blank forms you present on your website. You can even sync these with your CRM platforms such as Salesforce to seamlessly gain them all in one place. 

  • Considering the nature of each platform 
Nature of platform

With topics such as ad formats and targeting under our belt, the last remaining hot topic to consider is the user base and sentiment of each of the key social media platforms. This is particularly important as this will undoubtedly determine how your content will be received as well as what sort of content you should be pushing.

It should go without saying that LinkedIn is a place that people go to actively seek new knowledge, keep up to date with industry news, and gain valuable insights/innovative ideas related to the working world. LinkedIn’s users come to network, read, and digest, and do so whilst maintaining a professional tone. Your ads should therefore mimic this to not appear out of place. The key take-away, however, is that the opportunity exists on LinkedIn to elaborate more fully than on other platforms, and we therefore recommend taking full advantage of the longer character limits - if the topic remains interesting and relevant of course!

When it comes to Twitter and Facebook, the opposite remains the case. As people commonly log on to those social media sites to see content from friends and family (as opposed to fellow professionals), and/or to catch up with the gossip from their favourite TV show, it’s best to keep it straight to the point and perhaps adapt a more colloquial tone. The aim in all cases is to catch a user’s attention straight away.

One further recommendation when it comes to Twitter alone is to highlight the conversational space it offers for professionals (especially entrepreneurs), providing you are locating the correct accounts and handles. If you can place your ads into the right space, there exists huge potential when it comes to opening a specific conversation or divulging into a topic of interest amongst Twitter’s users. Making use of the right hashtags and keyword targeting acts as a great way to have your ad seen and your message heard when the conversation is most prominent.

Closing remarks

So, there you have it, our top tips on how to execute the perfect B2B social campaign. If you are interested in finding out more about launching a strategic B2B social campaign, please get in touch!


Icons made by Wichai.wi & Freepik from & licensed by CC 3.0 BY

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