B2B advertising has a reputation for being dull, but it doesn’t have to be – especially when you’re advertising on social media.
The more relaxed nature of social media platforms gives B2B marketers a valuable opportunity to be more approachable and relatable. It gives marketers room to create more engaging, more distinctive creative… and that usually translates into better return on ad spend.
B2B social media advertising is also a bit less competitive than other marketing channels. 72% of B2B content marketers use social media advertising or promoted posts according to the 2020 CMI / Marketing Profs B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks report.
That might sound like a lot, but flip that statistic over: 28% of B2B marketers aren’t advertising on social media. And honestly, a lot of the marketers who are advertising are paying to promote ad creative that is just unnecessarily bland.
There’s also a perception that most of B2B social media advertising is done on LinkedIn. A great deal of B2B marketers do use LinkedIn ads, for sure. But that’s hardly the only place they’re advertising.
The CMI / Marketing Profs report found that 76% of B2B marketers do advertising on LinkedIn. But Facebook ads came in at a close second, with 66% of B2B marketers saying they use Facebook ads.
In a different study (Social Media Examiner’s 2020 Social Media Marketing Industry Report) B2B marketers reported similar use of Facebook ads (62% versus 66% from CMI / Marketing Profs). But the two reports vary significantly when it comes to LinkedIn ads.
According to Social Media Examiner, only 23% of their B2B survey respondents said they use LinkedIn ads. But 76% of the B2B marketers who completed CMI / Marketing Profs report said they use LinkedIn ads.
So how many B2B marketers use LinkedIn ads? Clearly, it varies . Among the companies KoMarketing works with, most B2B marketers do use LinkedIn ads, though they may not use them extensively. Some marketers will do a small test, not get the results they want, and then stop using LinkedIn ads. That may be a missed opportunity, as we’ve found that if you apply a few best practices, LinkedIn ads can perform well.
All your ads can perform well, actually. But only if they have effective creative. These examples of B2B social media ads and the principles behind why they work can improve your return on ad spend significantly. They can also give you great ideas for what to test in your social media ads.
LinkedIn’s customer story ad on Instagram.
A LinkedIn ad about Adobe on Instagram?
Yes – and it works.
This video ad is a great example of the power of customer stories.
Case studies have always made for good content, but they can also make for extremely successful ads.
The pop-out ad.
We’ve seen a couple of these ads on Facebook and other platforms. The ads use a visual trick of adding a bottom border of white to make it look like the ebook cover is popping out of the ad.
Does it work?
Judging by how long many of these ads run, yes. And any trick you can find to “stop the scroll” is worth trying.
Show your product in action.
B2C advertisers have used this principle for decades, and “show versus tell” rule has been drilled into all of us since grade school.
B2B marketers – even technology marketers – can use this principle, too. Even a B2B SaaS company that has a highly complex product can show a few screenshots of how their product works, and the value it delivers to its customers.
The before and after ad.
These “split-screen” style ads give you an opportunity to tell a story, even if it is a super-simple story. And there’s no way someone can’t understand a split-screen ad like this.
The prospect goes from hot to cold.
This is a story and a distilled value proposition all in one.
The next time you get a professional photograph done, have the photographer take a bunch of shots of you pointing in different directions. Then have them take a bunch more photographs of you looking in different directions.
Then use these photos to employ the power of direction in your ads. The way this photograph is taken pulls the eye right into the headline. It telegraphs the priority of those words.
This pointing trick has been used in conversion rate optimization for years. It’s also very effective to have the person in your ad point to the call to action.
A LinkedIn ad on Facebook.
Do all these ads LinkedIn runs on other networks mean their platform doesn’t work?
Not at all. LinkedIn is encroaching on market share with these ads. It’s pulling people away from Facebook and Instagram and over to their platform.
Another thing this ad does – and does so well – is to nail its messaging. Notice the six-word value proposition. We’ll see these six-word headlines and ad copy snippets in quite a few ads. Six words is just enough space to tell a really quick story in. It’s just enough words to describe a transformation.
- The Noteworthy Expression.
There are several things going on with this ad.
The thing that’s probably getting people to “stop the scroll” is the expression on the woman’s face. I’ve been testing quite a few Facebook ads lately just by using photos of people with really noteworthy expressions… often expressions of disbelief, disgust, or just the “screwing up their face while thinking” look.
They tend to get a lot of clicks.
Also note that this is a real person, not a model. That’s another factor that helps. And it’s (obviously) a photo of a person. Ads with people in them usually outperform graphics.
Finally, note the six-word line of ad copy right next to the call to action. Told you you’d be seeing more of that format. Two sentences, three words each. It’s a copy formula worth testing.
The Faux Interface.
This is one of the oldest tricks in display advertising. And yet, it’s still working.
I’m talking about the faux interface in the bottom of the image in this ad. It looks like you can click the arrow and play the video. But you can’t. If you click that arrow you’ll be clicking the image, clicking the ad, and you’ll be brought into the next step of the funnel.
This trick increases click-through rates dramatically, and thus tells the Facebook ad algorithm people are interested in the ad, which can reduce cost per click and get the ad more reach.
This is a Facebook ad from the advertising expert Perry Marshall. According to Facebook’s Ads Library, this ad has been running since January 23rd. Perry isn’t the sort of guy to run an underperforming ad that long.
We’ve picked this ad to demonstrate the power of long copy, even in a Facebook ad. You can keep your Facebook copy short, of course, but never forget there’s room to write this much.
Also note the approach in this copy. Perry isn’t talking at all about advertising tactics. This is a “big idea” ad designed to speak to the hearts of his ideal audience. Clearly, it’s working.
Go where the puck is headed.
If you want to attract the type of senior B2B buyers who most influence buying decisions, create ads that think at the same level as those buyers.
Strategic ads. Ads that take the long view.
Ads like this.
Note that this ad also leverages being timely. And it promises relief from a problem pretty much every business in America (and much of the world) is experiencing right now.
Test different ad formats, like Facebook carousel ads.
Ahh… the dilemma. What one thing should your ad focus on? Feature #1? Feature #2?
How about both of them, plus a few other features? That’s what carousel ads can do.
I see a lot of carousel ads on Facebook now, from companies that definitely know how to advertise profitably. If those companies are running carousel ads, they work.
The more comments and engagement an ad gets, the better.
This is a great example of a somewhat plain-looking ad that has generated an enormous amount of engagement. Over 7,000 likes… 255 comments.
The photograph in the ad could maybe have been more engaging, but the topic of the ad is clearly a home run. We published a post about LinkedIn profiles a while back ourselves, and it’s been one of our best-performing posts.
Don’t spend weeks creating a piece of content for B2B lead generation when people really only want something simple and actionable.
Checklists sometimes convert better than massive reports and exhaustive ebooks.
More is not always better.
Don’t be shy: Show your face in your ads as much as possible. It will increase your ads’ click-through rates. Extra credit if you follow up by showing your face on your ads’ landing pages, too.
This webinar ad on LinkedIn does a nice job of building interest by showing the faces of everyone who will be presenting in the webinar. This is a much more interesting approach than if the ad only had peoples’ names and titles. Try it for your next webinar or virtual event.
Promote old content that performs exceptionally well with “ICYMI”.
This Twitter ad exemplifies an excellent tactic: Advertising your top-performing content. The ad also overcomes the problem of promoting older content with “ICYMI” (In case you missed it), which gives them cover to reshare content that may have been published months ago.
Not everything you publish is worth advertising. Only promote your top 10% to 20% best content – the type of content that’s driving plenty of high-quality leads.
Have a little fun.
B2B marketers are people, too. They like humor and fun just as much as regular B2C consumers do.
Of course, B2B content does tend to be a little more serious than B2C content, but that’s actually an opportunity. If you can have even a little fun in your B2B content, your content will stand out a lot more than it would otherwise.
B2B buyers are in some ways starved for fun content. Even a little dash of humor could go a long way to get their attention.
Leverage an influencer.
Influencer marketing works. It works for B2B companies, for B2C companies, for small companies, and for large companies. And it works especially well on social media.
So why not test it in your social media advertising?
The Written Word.
This Facebook video ad is basically a condensed explainer video. It’s certainly well-done, but you or someone on your time could definitely replicate this even if you don’t have exceptional drawing skills or perfect handwriting.
Hand-written messages are visually arresting, and lend an air of realness and spontaneity that is perfect for social media. Using these types of images in advertising can work well.
Show your team.
B2B companies often prioritize humanizing their brand, and for good reason: People do business with people. People connect with people.
If making your company brand more accessible is part of your marketing priorities, adding photographs and brief profiles of company employees can help.
This shows prospective customers who they’ll be working with, for starters. That helps you because it gives your audience a moment to imagine what it would be like to work with the employee in the ad, and if someone can see themselves working with you, they’ll be more responsive to your messaging.
But using employee photographs in ads works for a simple, more direct reason: People are simply attracted to other people. We’re more likely to look at an ad with a person in it than an ad that has only text.
Speak to your audience in language they understand.
Most people won’t be able to read this clever ad from Microsoft Azure, but their target audience will understand it immediately.
This is an excellent example of really knowing your audience and developing creative they’ll love… even if nobody else “gets it.”
Strategy + Creativity + Testing = Better B2B Social Media Advertising
B2B advertising needs great creative to perform. But creative alone isn’t enough. Good analytics and a solid B2B social media strategy are required if you want to succeed in an environment like this.
That said, creative is an incredibly powerful part of successful B2B advertising. And if you really need results, consider doing some competitive analysis of other companies’ creative assets.
I mentioned the Facebook Ads Library earlier in this post, and that’s a great free resource to get started with competitive analysis. But if you want actual ad performance data, you’ll need tools like SocialPeta, Social Ad Scout, PowerAdSpy, and Connect Explore. Tools like that can give you detailed analytics on how your competitors’ ads perform.