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Do you ever wonder which social network is best for B2B marketing?

Me too, so I did some audience research and found some surprising results.  

Here's how you can do it too.

Even with all of the analytics available, it's tough for a marketer to know the best platform for a new campaign. I mean, sure, you can look at your historical stats - clicks, conversions, and even ROI - but it feels like there are just too many variables to make an accurate prediction.

And without having some idea of your chance of success, it can often feel like you're just 'winging' it. And that's not how we, the modern marketers, want to feel!

So when preparing to launch a new campaign, what's a data-driven marketer to do?

Analytics again, I'm afraid

Well for those who have mastered the basics of analytics there is something you can do in advance to predict your campaign outcome.

It requires an easy-to-obtain figure which, with a very simple calculation, can take you from being a quivering wreck to a (wo)man with a plan. And to top it off, it can also tell you which platform is better for your B2B campaign.

Audience size

What I'm talking about here is the ad audience size. That is, the number of people who could possibly see your ad on your platform of choice.  And by audience, I don't mean the spray-and-pray affinity groups that you get from display networks, but the micro-targeted B2B markets you can reach through social media.

See, all of the data LinkedIn and Facebook collect on you to provide you a great networking experience is available to advertisers, for free.  

Using each network's self-service ad tools you can see this data and research the size of your potential ad audience before you launch your campaign. Then you will know just how many people you are likely to reach - and you also have the added benefit of being able to compare the reach of the two ad networks.

And once you know your audience size and mix in a few guesstimates, you will be able to estimate your campaign performance and know whether LinkedIn or Facebook is the better platform for your B2B campaign.

Self-service tools

Before we go into the detail of audience research, we need to briefly cover the self-service ad tools for LinkedIn and Facebook.

If you're unfamiliar with these then I recommend you go through the excellent tutorials that the sites themselves provide.  

For LinkedIn, it's fairly straightforward but for Facebook I highly recommend that you use the more complicated, but far better Power Editor.

Why is that? Well, Facebook tends to release new functionality through its API first, then Power Editor second, and finally to the consumer ad tool.  

So, even if you're not a programmer, you can still get in ahead of the masses with the Power Editor.

OK, so once you have a handle on the tools, what next?

Step-by-step audience sizing

Create LinkedIn Ads

First, you need to create an ad.  Let's start with LinkedIn.

Don't worry about the creative for the moment, we just need the 'new ad' form up on the browser.

Why are we doing this? Well once you start creating an ad, LinkedIn kindly lets you see how big your target audience is before you ever start the campaign.

I'm sure they do this to encourage you to find a big audience so you buy more ad space, but you can also use it to not buy ads when the audience is too small.  

I mean, what is the point of putting together great creative for people Singapore who can translate Japanese if there are only 27 of them on LinkedIn?

For this campaign, I'm targeting people in Singapore who work in Software, Internet, or IT Services - a healthy audience of 110,674.

Create Facebook ad

Next, you need to create a similar audience on Facebook.

As you know, Facebook and LinkedIn have very different purposes - so the data they have - and the parameters available to build an audience -  are very different.  

For my example, we want to target people in the IT industry. Great - Facebook has 'industry' as an audience targeting parameter. And you can even select 'IT and technical'.

Hmm, it seems that Facebook's does not have a lot of industry data on its users. So when we try to target the IT industry in Singapore, Facebook only finds 13,200 people, or about 10% of what LinkedIn has.

But don't let this get your down. This is where your creativity as a marketer becomes important.

With a little research, we find that a much more useful parameter for Facebook audience building is Interests. So what are people who work in IT interested in?  How about 'Computer Programming'?

 

Now the audience is quite a bit bigger.  Great stuff.  But maybe those are a bunch of script-kiddies - and who wants to market to them?  

OK, let's put another useful Facebook parameter on: Education Level: College Graduate.

Compare the two

Wow that's getting very close to our LinkedIn audience. Add English language and we're almost equal - there's 112,000 in Facebook and 110,674 on LinkedIn.

So great - we now have virtually the same sized audience on LinkedIn as on Facebook!

But hold on, weren't we supposed to see some differences between the platform?

The real differences

Well, I used this example to make the analytics easier to compare, but this also provides evidence that the platforms have reasonably consistent audience measurements.

That is, if we start with the notion that people in Singapore who work in IT/Internet/Software on LinkedIn will also be on Facebook with an interest in computer programming - then we would expect the audience sizes to be similar. And indeed they are. They are also reasonably close to the official government figure for how many Singaporeans work in IT (82,800).

For other countries, however, this is not at all true:

Country LinkedIn (Software/Internet/IT) Facebook (Computer Programming Interest & Degree) LinkedIn Audience / Facebook
Singapore 110,674 112,000 99%
HK 35,503 40,000 89%
UK 750,509 920,000 82%
India 3,132,051 4,200,000 75%
USA 4,316,127 5,800,000 74%
Vietnam 41,329 146,000 28%
Malaysia 86,218 920,000 9%
Thailand 35,247 400,000 9%
Indonesia 107,052 1,220,000 9%
Philippines 130,853 2,200,000 6%

And this was I found very surprising. It seems that the participation rate on social networks is very different from country to country, so you should be very careful not to assume that your campaign will perform the same in one as another.

So although LinkedIn and Facebook have reasonably similar audience size in some countries, for others Facebook rocks all over LinkedIn. 

Who knows, for your market it might be the reverse - but at least now you know how to find out!

The analytics

So after you do this exercise, you at least know where your audience is. Now let's find out more useful information using estimates.

The Estimates

First estimate the following for both platforms

  • CPM: Cost per 1,000 Impressions
  • Click Through Rate: Clicks / Impressions
  • Conversion Rate: Conversions or Goals / Clicks

 CPM

  • LinkedIn: I typically set it at $2
  • Facebook: I use their optimized CPM and get around $3

Click Through Rates

  • LinkedIn: 1 / 1,000
  • Facebook: 1.5 / 1,000

Conversion Rates

  • LinkedIn: 15 / 100
  • Facebook: 12 / 100

The Calculations

Then, do the following calculations:

  • Total Conversions: Audience * CTR * Conversion
  • Total Cost: Audience / (CPM*1000)
  • Cost Per Acquisition: Total Cost / Total Conversions

For my campaign, I get

LinkedIn

  • Total Conversions: 110,674* .001 *.15 = 16
  • Total Cost: 110,674/ (2*1000) = $55.33
  • Cost Per Acquisition: $55.33 / 16 = $3.46

Facebook

  • Total Conversions: 112,000 .0015* .12 = 20
  • Total Cost: 112,000/ (3*1000) = $37.33
  • Cost Per Acquisition: $37.33 / 20 = $1.87

So, Facebook gives me more possible conversions at a lower cost for this audience. Nice!

It looks like Facebook may be the better place to spend my time and marketing dollars - at least until I recallibrate the model with real data after running the campaign.

So What?

So, if you want to predict the future success of your campaigns and know what platform you should focus your B2B efforts on, then it makes sense for you to find out your audience size on each platform before you do anything else.  

The self-service ad tools on both LinkedIn and Facebook make doing this easy, all you have to do is add some creativity to make sure your target audiences are likely to be similar.  

Then just do a bit of analytics and you're on your way to predicting the future outcome.

And you should note that, as I've shown, the platform audiences vary widely depending on what country you are marketing into. So, doing audience research can also help you be more knowledgeable about your target markets and make you a more data-driven marketer.

Jeff Rajeck

Published 9 July, 2014 by Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck is the APAC Research Analyst for Econsultancy . You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.  

85 more posts from this author

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AZ

Jeff, thanks for the analysis backed up with numbers, although I suspected Facebook might do slightly better before finishing reading your post.

I think it's worth while to do some further research in the future to understand why users are more receptive to B2B marketing on Facebook, although it's a more individualised social media platform.

almost 2 years ago

Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck, Marketing Director at Recruit Socially

Mmm LinkedIn B2B targeting tends to be superior (better conversions) but the ad space is awful (fewer clicks).

There is so much work that can be done in this space, I look forward to reading (and blogging) more about it.

Thanks for the feedback!

almost 2 years ago

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Harry

Thank you for this article. Very good analyze. I am using facebook and LinkedIn to promote my business so every detail is important if you want to be successful in your business

almost 2 years ago

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Kari Rippetoe

We've seen great success with B2B demand and lead gen using LinkedIn Ads. Yes, the ad space is terrible, but the targeting can't be beat. LinkedIn really has a lot of improvements to make to the platform, though.

Facebook may be cheaper, but from my experience the leads aren't nearly as targeted. So the choice between the two will really come down to lead quality. Facebook has been adding more targeting options, though, that may make it more desirable for B2B advertising.

We actually created a handy infographic for comparing Facebook vs. LinkedIn Advertising. Not as detailed as your comparison, but gives a good overview of the two: http://www.marketing-mojo.com/infographic/social-media-infographic-linkedin-vs-facebook-advertising/

almost 2 years ago

Chris Reed

Chris Reed, CEO & Founder at 423651

You have missed off a very important part of the analysis; data. You have no idea who the facebook person is, works for, authority, seniority, history anything. You also can't mail people directly on facebook and know exactly who those people are as you can on LinkedIn.

The two don't compare at all. LinkedIn beats facebook hands down for B2B sales and client targeting.

almost 2 years ago

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Geetanjali

Thank you Jeff.

I agree with Chris that LinkedIn has a great profiling for B2B marketers in general - designations, specific industries, companies, and this information is actively managed and updated by the users themselves (not all, but a significant portion at least).

In any case, a single channel will rarely meet a marketers need. The right mix of and right spending on the channels is key to successful campaigns. I would think that the Custom Audience Targeting would be a good approach for B2B marketers to try Facebook first.

Perhaps for some marketers a pattern might emerge about the type of content (e.g. free trial/demo vs a white paper) and the channel too.

almost 2 years ago

Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck, Research Analyst at EconsultancySmall Business

Hey thanks for all the feedback - it's really helpful.

One thing I think we, as marketers must keep in mind is that neither LinkedIn nor Facebook provides truly accurate data for targeting.

My results from targeted LinkedIn campaigns have varied enormously. I've used all of their targeting options extensively and, though useful, are hardly bulletproof. And, somewhat unexpectedly, Facebook interest audiences have proven to be effective with the right creative.

So, when potential audience size is massively different between Facebook and LinkedIn, I think it is sensible to weigh up both options.

Of course, my estimation methodology is only one way. You could run tests on both and look at the downstream data - but that would be a tougher post to write. Maybe next time!

almost 2 years ago

Chris Reed

Chris Reed, CEO & Founder at 423651

Hi Jeff have to say i totally disagree. I use LinkedIn targeting for myself and all my clients in the B2B space globally ans it works extremely well. I can pinpoint exactly who i wish to target, what job title, what level, what organisation, what country, what brand, what experience through an inmail (the crucial part you missed out of your blog).

You can't do that on facebook or twitter or anywhere else. The data on LinkedIn for one on one marketing is amazing and as accurate as you'll ever get. Ultimately it produces results if you do it right.

almost 2 years ago

Chris Reed

Chris Reed, CEO & Founder at 423651

Geetanjali that's precisely what you shouldn't do, facebook is a complete waste of time if you're a B2B brand. LinkedIn is a totally focused B2B platform.

I have many clients who have thousands of followers on facebook and they get no business from it because the decision makers that they are trying to influence are not following them, why would they?

LinkedIn is a proactive medium that rewards content engagement (another thing missed out from this blog) in a business context and combining it with very focused and targeted inmails.

almost 2 years ago

Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck, Research Analyst at EconsultancySmall Business

Of course, LinkedIn can produce great results. But I had one campaign that was successful because people shared it all over Facebook. That is simply not possible with a LinkedIn ad.

So, I'm not convinced that one is necessarily better than the other in every case.

Instead, I think we should be proactive and research audiences because no matter how much you target, if the people aren't on the platform there is no point trying to advertise to them.

almost 2 years ago

Chris Reed

Chris Reed, CEO & Founder at 423651

Totally agree Jeff on the point about going where your target audience is. Precisely why B2B marketers shouldn't bother with facebook. Also in my view even their own corporate website is a waste of time if you want people to read your blog don't post it their post it on LinkedIn and you will get shares and views by decision makers not time wasters as you would on facebook.

almost 2 years ago

Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck, Research Analyst at EconsultancySmall Business

Great stuff. I will take your points away and think about how to cover marketing as a whole next time.

You're quite right in pointing out that LinkedIn has much more to offer than CPM advertising!

almost 2 years ago

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Alison Battisby

Thanks for the article.

Interesting analysis and always worth doing your homework before launching a campaign.

However I think there's a lot to be said about the difference in content on the platforms. Yes, there may be more computer programmers using Facebook - but they are in a different mindset when they are using the platform to when they are on LinkedIn. Do they really want to be sold to?

I think doing your research, and crafting the right messages for the context of your platform are two important steps.

almost 2 years ago

Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck, Research Analyst at EconsultancySmall Business

Absolutely. When trying to narrow down this topic to something which would fit in a single post, I omitted a lot - perhaps too much!

So yeah, when advertising on Facebook - even for B2B - I think moving away from a CTA and towards something which can be shared is a good idea. Something like your logo with an inspirational quote, an unusual fact or details of an event.

Sure, your CTR may suffer - but hopefully you can pick up a few shares to compensate. And when someone you don't know shares your ad, you know you're on to something!

almost 2 years ago

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Ian Brodie

With only 20 conversions on Facebook and 16 on Linkedin your data set just isn't anywhere near big enough to draw firm conclusions from I'm afraid.

It's madness to see the degree of oversimplification on here.

For a start, there's no such thing as "B2B" generically. There are lots of different business to business models that work differently. Lots of small businesses are regular facebook users for example, as are certain professions (education, coaching, etc).

So while certainly there's less usage of facebook in large corporates (in fact, it may well be banned during office hours), that doesn't apply to all b2b scenarios. And it doesn't say anything about what people who work in corporates do in their spare time.

So the idea that "facebook doesn't work for b2b" is a childish oversimplification. it works sometimes, and not others.

Factually, Facebook's ad platform is a lot more sophisticated than Linkedin's With Linkedin you can't even properly track conversions for testing without creating separate landing pages per ad etc. And you can't do retargeting, you can't upload your existing email database to market to, you can't create lookalike audiences, etc.

But Linkedin does have much better targeting by industry, job title, etc.

My own testing showed me that for my particular b2b business, my cost per conversion on Linkedin was about 10x the cost as per Facebook. Each acquired lead was higher quality from Linkedin and more likely to turn into a paying client. But not enough so to overcome that 10x differential.

It's no good arguing this stuff in theory and throwing round "logic" that says one's better than the other. You have to test this for yourself.

A simple start if you find yourself wondering if your b2b clients are facebook users is to upload their email addresses to facebook's ad platform (without running any ads - just create a custom audience). That will tell you how many of them are on facebook using the exact same email address. Every b2b marketer I've spoken to who's tried it reports that at least 40% of their database is on Facebook with the same email address. So they're reachable on Facebook. Next test is to check their response on Facebook vs Linkedin.

almost 2 years ago

Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck, Research Analyst at EconsultancySmall Business

Thanks Ian, very helpful.

You're right that being more specific about what B2B we're talking about. I picked IT as an example as people in all company sizes buy IT products. If we were talking only something the largest corporations could afford, then perhaps my audience sizing would need revising.

And you're also right about the conversion data. in my example I only showed my estimates from one country to illustrate the analytics. I should have said that the results were not statistically significant...

almost 2 years ago

Chris Reed

Chris Reed, CEO & Founder at 423651

Totally disagree Ian, I could name dozens and dozens of B2B SME's who have a following on facebook which doesn't generate them any revenues at all and come to me asking for help on LinkedIn and then suddenly they are gaining clients and creating engagement on LinkedIn with decision makers not time wasters.

I stand by the point B2B doesn't work on facebook, show me some examples where it does and I can show you 100 where it doesn't and where it does on LinkedIn.

It's all about the B2B context on LinkedIn and the exact nature of the targeting on LinkedIn which you simply can't do and can't get on facebook.

same applies for content, write B2B content on LinkedIn you will get a great response, try it on LinkedIn and you get non-business people commenting, it doesn't work on facebook, there's a time and place for B2C and B2B and you wouldn't try B2C on LinkedIn so why try and claim B2B works on facebook when no evidence backs you up.

You keep talking about canmpaigns but you're missing the point of LinkedIn, it's a peer to peer business network where you can influence and connect using inmails, invitations, groups, content which you can'e replicate on facebook. advertising isn't used for example by any of my clients on LinkedIn and yet they are engaging, creating greater brand awareness for themselves and their company and most importantly winning new business, without the need for advertising.

almost 2 years ago

Chris Reed

Chris Reed, CEO & Founder at 423651

4th para down on my reply clearly i mean "same applies for content, write B2B content on LinkedIn you will get a great response, try it on facebook (not LinkedIn as I wrote) and you get non-business people commenting, it doesn't work on facebook,

almost 2 years ago

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Clive Roach

My take on the proposed calculation is to develop your own conversion and click through rates. These could vary per audience type/business. I also feel that the quality of content is a variable not mentioned in the post. I have found different success rates on each of these platforms based on the quality (and timing) of the content. Conversion rates also depend on how good your call to actions are (and if you actually use call to actions ;-).

In summary, a super post that will get you thinking, but try and base the calculations on figures you have for your own industry and content approach.

almost 2 years ago

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Logesh Dhanasekaran

Thank you for this article. Very good analyze. I use both Facebook and LinkedIn for B2B. From my understanding compare to Facebook, LinkedIn converted clicks quality is higher.

almost 2 years ago

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Jonny Walsh

Thanks for sharing your insight Chris, I have been procrastinating about which platform to use, but based on your comments I feel quite optimistic about the prospect of using linkedin

almost 2 years ago

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Jonny Walsh

Thanks for sharing your insight Chris, I have been procrastinating about which platform to use, but based on your comments I feel quite optimistic about the prospect of using linkedin

almost 2 years ago

Chris Reed

Chris Reed, CEO & Founder at 423651

Very wise decision Jonny, i wouldn't say it if it didn't work for both me and my clients. Best of luck.

almost 2 years ago

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James M

Looks like there is an error in your calculations. I'm a finance guy--not a marketer--so apologies if this is just my lack of understanding. But total cost appears to be lower for LinkedIn. My math shows
112000/1000*3 is how to calculate cost, not 112000/(1000*3). The calculation changes the outcome significantly:

LI
Total Cost: 110,674/1000*$2 = $221.34
Cost Per Acquisition: $221.34 / 16 = $13.83

FB
Total Cost: 112,000/1000*$3 = $336.00
Cost Per Acquisition: $336.00 / 20 = $16.80

FB is 21% more expensive. By your tally the result was opposite, showing LI to be 85% more expensive. Am I thinking straight on this or am I confused?

almost 2 years ago

Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck, Research Analyst at EconsultancySmall Business

James, you are correct - those calculations are wrong.

I originally had a section in the post about how Facebook and LinkedIn throttle your daily output to a fraction of your audience, but removed that point as I thought it confused the argument. I then wrongly left the 2 and 3 in as CPM figures.

Here they are corrected. CPM figures should have been the same. Sorry for this egregious error.

LinkedIn

Total Cost: (110,674/1000)*$2 = $221.34
Total Conversions: 110,674* .001 *.15 = 17
Cost Per Acquisition: $221.34/17 = $13.02

Facebook

Total Cost: (112,000)/1000)*$2 = $224
Total Conversions: 112,000* .0015* .12 =20
Cost Per Acquisition: $224/20= $11.20

almost 2 years ago

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DF

Award for MVC (Most Valuable Comment): James M

1. He corrected an error overlooked by both the author and 20+ "marketing" comments
2. The correction both fixes the formula and changes the conclusion
2. He did so respectfully and helpfully, in contrast to the tone of some of the other comments herein

Not bad for a "finance guy." Thanks, James!

almost 2 years ago

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Sanjib Saha

I use Facebook to market any product. THE CPC for facebook ads is low compared to any other advertising platform. For me it brings more lead at less price. However, I have not tried LinkedIn yet for marketing. I will definitely give a try and share my experience with you.

over 1 year ago

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liam mawson, locksmith/website developer at london secure locks

I would have to say Facebook is becoming a very powerful platform to boost your b2b business, CPC is definitely cheaper than google and I have found it great for promoting apps as you can drill down into your target audience in great detail.

over 1 year ago

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Maxime E, CEO at 123 Serrurier at http://www.123serrurier.com

I tried both and Linkedin gave better results on my locksmith website

over 1 year ago

Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie, Founder at The Rainmaker Academy

Chris - I don't think you fully understand what weve been discussing as evidenced by your comment "I could name dozens and dozens of B2B SME's who have a following on Facebook which doesn't generate them any revenues at all "

We're talking about Facebook and Linkedin advertising here - not about followings. You're right - I don't know of many SMEs who have won business from a following on Facebook, but I'm not advocating that - in fact I would say it's usually a waste of time. Nor am I talking about the peer to peer discussions on Linkedin you mention. There are lots of things that work well on Linkedin like that. No one, certainly not me, is saying that's not true.

But this discussion is a comparison of Facebook and Linkedin advertising. As I say, my data for b2b (in this case to professional services) saw the lead cost on Facebook of between 1/5 and 1/10 of Linkedin depending on campaign.

The key is you have to test. It will be different for different markets. That's my primary point. To say "linkedin is better for b2b" is a childish oversimiplification. Linkedin will be better for some people and worse for others. To test each out is a pretty simple process.

12 months ago

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