Paid Social Targeting: Winners and Losers

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I’ve been working on a guide for paid social at work the past couple weeks – something we can use to illustrate how it works to achieve client objectives. As I’ve worked through the 3 major paid social channels, I’m realizing that there are winners and losers when it comes to paid social targeting.

Winner: Facebook

At gyro, our clients are all B2B. Many clients initially assume that Facebook won’t work for them, because of its broad appeal. But broad appeal is exactly why Facebook works.

When it comes right down to it, business decision makers are still people – people who probably check Facebook multiple times per day. People who are part of industry-related groups, and who like industry-related Facebook pages. There’s no reason not to use Facebook for B2B.

Facebook’s reach is huge – far bigger than any other social engine. Not only that, but CPCs are relatively low. Their B2B paid social targeting is greatly improved, so we can now target by employer, job title, and other B2B attributes.

When setting up Facebook ads, advertisers choose an objective. Facebook’s options cover every objective we could possibly want:


We don’t use product catalog sales or store visits often in B2B, but the other options are great. I can’t think of a single client whose objectives don’t fit into one of these buckets.

Not only has Facebook thought of every objective, but they optimize by objective. So if you’ve chosen traffic, Facebook will optimize your campaign for traffic. All your reports in the interface will focus on impressions, clicks, and CPC – the exact KPIs you’d want to see. If your objective is conversions, the KPIs will change to conversions, and Facebook will optimize for those. Manually managing bids isn’t necessary anymore – and I’d venture to say it’s counterproductive. I’ve seen better performance when I let Facebook optimize rather than trying to do it myself.

Facebook’s conversion tracking pixel is decent, too. It’s easy to install, and is flexible for different goals. It measures multiple steps in the process, too:


While I know that some advertisers have reported inaccuracies with the Facebook pixel, I’ve found it to be quite accurate for the clients we have using it.

An often-overlooked element of Facebook’s ad platform is their documentation and setup guide. I love this as a quick reference when planning Facebook campaigns, and to give to clients. There is a description of each ad type, along with specs and sample ads – great for taking screen shots! No other social platform comes close to a handy guide like this. Facebook’s other ad documentation is pretty good too, although I admit I’ve had trouble finding answers to my questions now and then.

Facebook ads can also appear on Instagram – another plus. If you have an Instagram page, you can show ads both there and on Facebook, all in one campaign. While Instagram volume is relatively small for B2B advertisers, it’s nice to be able to hit both platforms in the same campaign.

Losers: Twitter and LinkedIn (and everyone else)

Now that I’ve sung the praises of Facebook, it’s easy to conclude that the losers are, pretty much, everyone else. And Facebook is outpacing the other social engines in innovation. We mostly use Twitter and LinkedIn in addition to Facebook, so I’ll focus my “losers” category on them. Pinterest is a loser because the B2B applications are so slim – although Pinterest’s user base is growing, while Facebook’s is holding steady, meaning that Pinterest may become a bigger player at some point.

Thinking about Twitter and LinkedIn, though, they have such a long way to go. Twitter objectives aren’t bad.


If you go to LinkedIn and look for objectives, you’ll be looking for a long time – they don’t have them.

Ad unit options are limited – Twitter has 5 ad units, while LinkedIn only has 3 – and one of those 3 is Sponsored InMail, which really only makes sense for recruiters. And if you’ve ever tried LinkedIn sponsored ads, you know that performance is awful. The only viable option for LinkedIn for B2B is sponsored updates, and even those options are limited – you only get one type of ad unit.

Reach doesn’t come close to Facebook on LinkedIn, either. Most of our clients interested in social PPC come to us asking for LinkedIn, but find that Facebook offers more volume, more frequency, and significantly lower CPCs. I can’t tell you the last time I looked at my LinkedIn feed, but I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve checked Facebook just today.

Twitter has the opposite problem – their reach is too broad. Targeting options are so heavily skewed toward B2C that it’s hard to find good targeting for B2B, unless you’re targeting specific users. Keyword targeting is nearly useless, and will result in an audience of millions of people. And there’s no way to narrow targeting by saying “include these keywords AND these interests,” for example. It’s all “OR” targeting – what a nightmare. And if your Twitter targets use TweetDeck or other third party clients, ads are filtered anyway. I hope no one is trying to use paid social targeting to reach me on Twitter – I rarely see ads!

Twitter and LinkedIn don’t have automatic bid optimization, either. You still need to set bids. And it’s hard to know where to set them, since the ranges they suggest are often crazy – $15+ for LinkedIn, for example. And since few third parties offer bid management tools for paid social, you’re stuck with manual bid management.

Conversion tracking is downright awful. Both engines have a pixel, but I’ve yet to get Twitter’s pixel to work. We’ve actually paused Twitter campaigns because we can’t get conversion tracking to work. And LinkedIn’s pixel isn’t very flexible.

And if you’re looking for ad documentation, forget it. As I was working on my paid social guide, I tried to find examples of the different ad formats that I could take screen shots of. No luck – as far as I can tell, they don’t exist. I had to take screen shots of our client’s ads – which isn’t ideal, if we ever want to share the guide with prospects.

Am I saying that B2B advertisers should stick to Facebook and ignore Twitter and LinkedIn? Not at all. We’ve had great success with both channels for the right clients. But from a management standpoint, an ease-of-use standpoint, and a paid social targeting standpoint, Facebook wins hands down.

What about you? Have you found Facebook to be the big winner for paid social? Or do you prefer LinkedIn, Twitter, or something else? Share in the comments!

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Comments

  1. Good post. I think I shared this with you already but can’t remember whether it was on this blog or Twitter. So, here goes again.

    Twitter: We haven’t tried it yet.
    LinkedIn: Agree with everything you say, especially high CPC.
    Facebook: We just completed our first campaign. Everything was fine – but we got ZERO leads:(

    For the moment, we’re staying with Google Ads.

    PS: All this is for B2B technology space.

  2. Ian Fabiano says:

    One way I’ve heard to get more volume on Linkedin is to target the same people using different terms. For example, instead of just targeting CMOs, target CMOs and people wth skills in marketing strategy with a high level of seniority, people in marketing groups with high seniority, and people with a marketing job function with high seniority. Linkedin’s data isn’t always complete so this can fill in the gaps. It talks about in this video at at 19:44
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0A2UFckRhM4

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