Originally published on August 16, 2016. Updated on May 6, 2020.
Facebook and LinkedIn are both social media juggernauts and they’re both competing for the B2B marketing dollar. Which one is the best? More specifically, which is the best for your business?
If you’re like most busy business owners, you only have a limited amount of time each day to focus on B2B marketing. The question weighing most people down is where do they spend their precious moments? It is a very, very good question, because the right strategy can make a big difference when it comes to generating leads and converting sales. Here are some points that will help you find a solution.
Back in 2015, Think With Google reported that, “90% of B2B researchers who are online, use search specifically to research business purchases. On average, B2B researchers do 12 searches before engaging on a specific brand’s site.” It’s still true in 2020, which is why a solid B2B marketing strategy is essential. Business leaders know exactly what they’re looking for – and if that includes you or your products or services, you need to be easy to find.
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Every B2B marketing strategy starts with people
Many people exclude Facebook as a realistic B2B marketing platform because they see it as the “fun channel” while LinkedIn is the “serious channel.” It’s true that there is a lot of fun to be had on Facebook, and that LinkedIn is more focused on business-like interactions. However, people don’t stop being business professionals just because they are on Facebook or having fun because they’re on LinkedIn.
When you look at the straight numbers, the two platforms are very competitive in B2B marketing. According to a Statista report from December 2019, Facebook has 190 million active users in the United States; meanwhile, a report from April 2020 reveals LinkedIn has about 160 million active members. On the face of things, Facebook lends itself to quantity and mass reach, while LinkedIn lends itself to quality and better leads.
That’s not to say the quality isn’t there for the taking on Facebook. Keep in mind that when people are using Facebook, they’re looking to be entertained, so to have quality B2B marketing on this platform, it’s important to focus on the story of your brand and to engage with people in a very community-minded way. It’s a great way to build brand awareness, show off your culture, build loyalty and drive traffic to your website. It’s not the place to hard sell through posts on your company’s Facebook page, because that’s not what people want to see.
There’s a knack to B2B marketing on LinkedIn, too. Yes, the audience will be much more open to hearing business-focused information and learning about new products and deals, but they’re people too. Brand story is just as important, as is community engagement, so take time to build genuine influence before you try to sell.
Read more: Is marketing the new sales?
Know your B2B marketing target audience
Successful B2B marketing strategies depend heavily on knowing your target audience. At the core of every good campaign is a solid knowledge of who wants to know, what they want to know, and why they want to know it (their pain point). Digital marketing is the same, and when you are looking to optimize your social media strategy, it’s vital to define your target audience so you can get the most out of your time and money.
(We always recommend a multi-channel approach, but we understand that can be tough if you’re short on time. It’s always better to excel at one than to spread yourself too thin over two or three.)
Facebook and LinkedIn both offer excellent audience analytics tools for B2B marketing, which means it’s easy to focus your messaging on the types of people most likely to become customers. For example:
- 82% of internet users between the ages of 18-29 use Facebook vs. only 22% of internet users in the 18-29 age group that use LinkedIn
- 79% of internet users between the ages of 30-49 use Facebook vs. only 32% of internet users in the 30-49 age group that use LinkedIn
- 64% of internet users between the ages of 40-64 use Facebook vs. only 26% of internet users in the 50-64 age group that use LinkedIn
If you’re looking at number alone, Facebook is the clear B2B marketing winner. However, it is important to know the what and the why. As we said, people tend to go to LinkedIn looking for something specific, which makes it a great platform for growing awareness of your products and services and generating qualified leads. If Facebook is a casual networking lunch, LinkedIn is an industry-wide conference.
Know what your target audience is looking for and find a way to connect.
Engage in B2B marketing in a human-centered way
Once you connect with the right people, your B2B marketing plan needs to allow room to engage with them. Both Facebook and LinkedIn have some specific avenues for businesses and individuals to engage with the public.
Let’s start with LinkedIn. The most effective interaction is typically found in groups. LinkedIn has always done an excellent job of facilitating groups where like-minded people can come together and share ideas. Its professional forums can be particularly effective for B2B marketing if you regularly participate by asking questions, responding to issues and comments, and posting information or articles that are helpful to the group at large.
As with anything worth doing, this takes a dedicated investment of time and is more about you building your personal brand or by association the brand you work for. No-one wants to hear a sales pitch or unabashed self-promotion. Engaging in groups and publishing original, quality content will help establish you as an expert in your field. Again, the focus is still primarily on you as the person and not on the company first.
Facebook, on the other hand, focuses on the business first. Huh? OK, this statement does sound a bit strange considering Facebook is all about casual, personal engagement. However, founder Mark Zuckerberg figured out pretty quickly that his platform was going to have to cater to companies, and B2B marketing, if he was going to take over the world. While every company account must connect to a personal account, business accounts and pages have a tremendous amount of flexibility in how they connect to and engage with social media users.
In recent years, LinkedIn has tried to follow suit, but their system is nowhere near as intuitive or user-friendly. It is more about a company brand interacting with their customers and fans than it is an individual building their personal network. Both have value, but we think Facebook takes the win in this category of B2B marketing.
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Get creative with your B2B marketing ads
Facebook has dominated digital ads and promoted posts in the B2B marketing space right from the beginning, and everyone else has struggled – and is still struggling – to keep up with its monopoly on social advertising dollars. That being said, LinkedIn has stepped up their game a bit in recent years. As the adage goes, better late than never, but Facebook is far ahead with a sophisticated, yet simple, advertising solution.
Facebook does a thorough, to the point of invasive, job of collecting data for marketers and professionals to use to target their promoted posts and ads. It offers businesses a chance to target people by age, location, gender and even interests. This changed the face of B2B marketing forever, due to its incredible specificity.
Additionally, it offers retargeting ads through the use of a pixel put into the code of your website or landing page that can track when someone has visited either one. Then when they show up on Facebook, ads show up based on which pages a user has visited and what they are interested in. This custom feature is a little bit creepy, but it’s very powerful for B2B marketing.
Facebook vs. LinkedIn B2B marketing score
For a company looking to maximize their essential and often limited time, Facebook marketing is the clear winner. However, if you’re a business owner looking to connect person-to-person, then we still recommend LinkedIn first – despite the hype, it generates much better B2B leads.
The truth is that your B2B marketing plan should use both to capture different people in different ways. If you’re looking to optimize your social media strategy, it may be worth engaging a marketing agency. Doing social media well requires a clear and consistent strategy as well as a significant investment of time.
The potential to generate leads and convert sales, however, makes it well worth the effort.
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