Sunday, 13 July 2014

Facebook vs. LinkedIn: Know which is better for B2B marketing?

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:

LinkedIn (Software/Internet/IT)
Facebook (Computer Programming Interest & Degree)
LinkedIn Audience / Facebook

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


    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

: 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


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


  •     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.


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