5 tips for a successful B2B social media advertising campaign

18 February 2014

The last few years have seen great advances in social media advertising, providing new and effective routes through which marketers can reach and engage audience online. But with the advances comes a good deal of risk. Ill-considered campaigns can easily miss their targets—wasting precious budget and generating little value for the business—or worse still, rile customers and generate mass negativity.

With that in mind, here are 5 tips aimed at you, the B2B marketer, to ensure your social advertising campaigns stay on track and contribute value to your business.

1. Be clear with your objectives.

As with any marketing campaign it's essential to define what you want to achieve up-front.

  • Who are you looking to target, and what do you want these people to think or do when you reach them? 
  • What will success look like for your business? Are you trying to raise awareness for your brand, or generate leads for your sales team?

Answering questions like these up front will help you to focus on activity that can add value to your business, and disregard activity that won't. It will also help to identify any potential hurdles that could hinder your campaign along the way, and help to validate whether social media is indeed the right area for your focus in the first place.

2. Choose the right channels.

Once your objectives are defined, you need to pick the right channels through which to advertise. Most social networks rely on advertising for income so there are a great many options, but we'll focus on four channels for now.

LinkedIn is an obvious choice for B2B marketers because of its focus on business, and its advertising engine provides a number of ways through which to identify and segment an audience based on its professional background (for example through a user's role, industry, and company size). Such targeting makes it an effective B2B advertising channel, but it's also one of the more expensive – with the average cost-per-click of a display ad frequently exceeding £5. While that may satisfy companies looking to generate leads, it may prove too costly for those simply aiming to generate awareness.

Slightly cheaper are Facebook and Twitter. They may lack the professional focus of LinkedIn, but they can still make for effective B2B marketing channels as, whatever your business, it's likely that a significant proportion of your audience have accounts on one of these sites. While the audience targeting is much more consumer focused, it's still possible to find and segment a good proportion of B2B audiences through user connections – for example the conversations users have or the accounts they interact with. While your audience targeting may be less accurate, any wastage is usually balanced by a much lower cost per click – CPCs of 50p on Facebook and £1 on Twitter are often achievable.

Cheaper still are content discovery engines like StumbleUpon that recommend web content to users based upon their interests and activity on the site. As with Facebook and Twitter, it's not possible to target users based upon their professional background, but StumbleUpon's interest categories still allow for the targeting of many B2B audiences – including a healthy focus on technology and finance. The real beauty of StumbleUpon is the price: it's possible to acquire relevant web traffic from as little as 15p per visit, meaning great volumes of traffic can be acquired from a modest budget.

That provides an overview on four key channels, but from our experience a mix of activity works best: most lead generation campaigns, for example, will perform best with a mix of higher-value, higher-cost activity (e.g. on LinkedIn) and higher-volume, lower-cost activity (e.g. on Facebook and StumbleUpon).

3. Develop the right content, and ensure it's delivered well.

Ultimately, the success of your campaign will depend on the quality of your content. It needs to be valuable enough to generate the interaction you're after from your audience – be it a click, like, share, or email capture.

If you're simply looking to generate awareness then think concise and vibrant – infographics and short videos are great for attracting attention. Make it as easy as possible for users to view and share the content. For example, publishing and promoting content within a social network will usually generate more views than if you use adverts to drive users to view it on an external website.

If you're looking to capture leads, however, the bar is higher - content needs to be of sufficient value to persuade your audience to leave the social network, head to your domain, and part with their email address. Whitepapers make for good bait here.

But it's not just the content you need to consider – you also need to bear in mind how people will access it. If you're driving users to an external domain, you need to ensure that your landing page and content are mobile and tablet friendly. It's obvious, but most people tend to use social media outside of work, on their own devices. You need to ensure that your content works well whether they click an ad at work on their laptop, on their phone during their commute, or on a tablet at home.

As for the ad creative itself, the requirements of social advertising platforms differ greatly, but most allow for A/B testing of images and text content. Make the most of the opportunity by testing a range of creative options: discover which combinations work best and optimise your campaign as it runs.

4. Decide how you'll monitor and respond to comments.

It's a given that social media is a two-way street, and you need to be prepared for the interaction your campaign generates. A modest social advertising campaign can generate millions of impressions, and it's only natural that some people feel compelled to respond, be it positively or negatively.

Who do you talk to if a customer asks for detailed technical information on a product? What do you do if a customer complains at being targeted with your content? How do you react if you fall victim to abuse from internet trolls?

It's essential to set expectations to management that—due to the scale of social media advertising—some negative comments will likely arise. It's also essential to agree a response workflow in advance of any campaign so you can act quickly once it's started: making the most of any opportunities, and dealing calmly with any negative responses before they become a big issue.

5. Build a robust reporting framework that demonstrates your contribution to the business.

As with any marketing campaign, measurement is essential if you want to demonstrate the value of your social media advertising on the business.

The first step in the process is to define your KPIs – what metrics will indicate success for your campaign?

  • For brand awareness campaigns this could include the number of people reached; the number of times your content is viewed; the amount of user interaction; or the increase in audience on your social channels.
  • For lead generation campaigns you may wish to focus more on advert clicks; referrals to your website; and the number of email addresses captured.

The second step is to identify how you'll measure these KPIs.

Most social advertising platforms offer near-live statistics on spend, impressions, clicks, and basic demographics for the audience engaged. Such reporting allows you to track and optimise your campaign as it runs: this is the opportunity to A/B test your creative, and focus budget on the combinations that prove most successful.

If you're driving traffic to your website, you also need to consider the behaviour of users once they land on your domain. Implementing Campaign Tracking and Goal Conversion in your website analytics will allow you to better understand the business impact of your activity, and to compare your success with other demand generation activities. Many social advertising platforms themselves also offer conversion tracking, allowing you to analyse the impact each advert variation has had on your bottom line from within the ad platform itself.

Hopefully these tips prove helpful to anyone considering a social media advertising campaign. If you're interested to learn more, or to discuss a potential project, please get in touch!