For marketers, picking a digital ad platform to use and to master is important and is taken with as much care as any major commitment or purchase.

Here are some strong arguments why Facebook may be a better platform than LinkedIn for your B2B campaigns.

Picking the right digital ad platform for your B2B campaign is one of the most important pre-launch decisions you can make. Sure, you can always change later as your results come in, but it’s worthwhile spending time and effort to learn about the platform so you make an informed decision.

In my last post, I provided a methodology for spending this time wisely. I talked about using analytics to compare LinkedIn with Facebook, specifically for B2B.

But in the comments section, it was clear that people also wanted specific reasons why one platform is better than another. Understandably, they just wanted to hear why you’d use one over the other.

So, as I’ve heaped praise on LinkedIn advertising previously, I’d like to explore reasons why Facebook can be a better platform than LinkedIn for B2B advertising.

Note that this assessment is subjective and full of caveats and conditions, but still I think there are a few things worth discussing which aren’t covered well elsewhere.

The terms 

First, however, let me define my terms.

Better: By ‘better’ I mean that there are instances where you will get better results on Facebook than LinkedIn for a campaign. I don’t think it’s possible to declare an absolute, overall winner, so I won’t bother trying.

B2B: Business to business, or anything that is bought by a company. Corporate tax advice is B2B. Luxury goods are not. Software can be and so would be included.

Marketing: The promotion piece of marketing on social media, which I’m afraid now is only advertising. For those who still think there’s something wrong about paying for promotion on Facebook, it’s time to move on.  

Facebook needs revenue, so its platform is now for advertising, not for free distribution to people who ‘like’ your page. (Even Gary V. agrees in a recent eConsultancy interview).

You can possibly get better organic distribution through LinkedIn (though I have not), but to compare the two platforms I largely stick to advertising here.

Reasons: And finally for reasons, I will offer three strong, but contentious, and four indisputable ways in which Facebook is a better B2B marketing platform than LinkedIn.  

All OK? Let’s begin.

Three strong arguments in favour of Facebook

1. Superior distribution

The first question you need to ask yourself when reviewing the two platforms is do I want to hit a mass market? If so, then you need to compare audience size on the platforms.

Below is a table from my last post about how many people there are on each platform for two similar audiences.

Country LinkedIn (Software/Internet/IT) Facebook (Computer Programming Interest & Degree) LinkedIn Audience / Facebook
Singapore 110,674 112,000 99%
HK 35,503 40,000 89%
UK 750,509 920,000 82%
India 3,132,051 4,200,000 75%
USA 4,316,127 5,800,000 74%
Vietnam 41,329 146,000 28%
Malaysia 86,218 920,000 9%
Thailand 35,247 400,000 9%
Indonesia 107,052 1,220,000 9%
Philippines 130,853 2,200,000 6%
  • YES the two are not exactly the same.
  • YES LinkedIn gives some guarantee that they are actually working in the area.
  • NO we don’t know where Facebook gets their ‘interests’ moniker from but…

Look at the numbers.

If you’re selling software services in Singapore, then sure, perhaps you’re probably better off with LinkedIn. It’s the same amount of people, and quite likely, you’re able to target them more precisely.

But look at The Philippines. LinkedIn has only 6% of the Facebook population. Even with great targeting, you’re just not going to get more clicks/conversions/customers on LinkedIn because the people simply aren’t there.

Sure, you may still get a bad response from Facebook, but then you need to review at what you’re offering, not blame it on the platform.

So whilst both platforms have their audience strengths, Facebook has more people. 1.2bn vs 300m. And, especially in developing economies, Facebook is clearly a better place to market your B2B services.

 

2. Visual creative

Undoubtedly the visual web is on the rise. Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr are all emerging platforms are based on visuals, not text. By one account, Instagram already has more interaction on the platform than Facebook.

So how do the platforms stack up?

  Side Ad   Promoted Post    
  Image Text Image Text  Post Example
LinkedIn 50 x 50 pixels 25 character headline / 75 character body 180 x 110 pixels 250 characters
Facebook 100 x 72 pixels 25 character headline / 90 character body 1200 x 625 pixels 420 characters

I think it’s quite clear that, visually, Facebook is far ahead. So, even at similar cost-per-click, your visitors can see much more about your product and are, therefore, much more able to decide on the value proposition before clicking.

And yes, people are in a different mindset on LinkedIn. They are clearly thinking about jobs and work when they are there. But people also surf Facebook at work and with the right creative you can channel them back into the productive work they should be doing(!) 

3. Sharing

Sharing gives your ad distribution which you couldn’t achieve any other way. That is, someone personally recommending your product or service to a friend.  You can hardly do better than that.

So, how do the platforms stack up?

Well, both of their side ads cannot be shared although their promoted posts can. But let’s think about this a bit more.

Are Facebook page posts shared? Of course. We can all go into our Facebook news feed and see many instances where either a page post was shared, or we see an update of  company was liked by our friends.  

It doesn’t necessarily mean that they were shared in a meaningful way, but at least it is likely that your posts will be shared.

And this is where Facebook can really stand out. Your ads look exactly like page posts and with the right visual can fit in well in the News Feed.

For LinkedIn, I doubt that you have the same experience. This is, of course, subjective, but I find that LinkedIn page posts are rarely shared and have a very high CPM – $15 minimum in Singapore! 

On top of that, LinkedIn is by its nature a commercial platform and full of business-related content. This may work well for job-seeking or evaluating business contacts, but its not useful when trying to get your message to stand out.

So, at best the platforms offer the same functionality, but typically Facebook is a better place for your content to be shared. If you can find your audience, that is.

 

Four slam dunks

OK, now the controversial topics are out of the way, let’s cover the ways in which Facebook is truly a superior ad platform to LinkedIn.

4. Custom audiences

When advertising with Facebook, you are given the option of uploading a list of email addresses or phone numbers of people to target.  

Facebook then takes that list, creates a ‘custom audience’ and only shows your ad to users who are on that list / in that ‘audience’. 

Now you may not want to do this for a variety of reasons, but advertising to existing users of your product is a sensible strategy for many businesses so for those who can, custom audiences are clearly a benefit of using Facebook over LinkedIn for B2B Advertising. 

5) Look-alike audiences

Not only can you create a ‘custom audience’ but you can also ask Facebook to take your audience and give you more of the same, or a ‘lookalike audience.’ This greatly expands the reach of your campaign which you can also filter according to location, age, interests, etc.

How do they do this?  I don’t know. I presume the new audience shares likes or other characteristics with the original audience.

My results have been mixed. Sometimes it works well, other times it doesn’t, but yours may differ. Still, I think this is like custom audiences.  

Lookalikes are a better way of targeting people who are more likely to be your customers than the masses of Facebook in general. So again, if it applies then it’s clearly a benefit.

6) More usage time

The figures for how much each platform is used are controversial. They are largely self-reported and averaged across their whole community, so taking too much stock in the details is not a good idea.

However the difference in reported numbers is astounding. Facebook reports that their users are typically on the platform for more than eight hours per month whereas LinkedIn users, from what I could find, are only on the platform half an hour per month on average. 

Regardless of the real figures, it’s quite clear that Facebook overall gets more user time than LinkedIn and, therefore, is a better place for your ad to be seen by your targets.

7) Mobile

Finally, we come to the future of the internet: mobile. We could argue about the relative merits of each platform’s app, but I don’t think that would be helpful. 

Instead, let’s look at usage figures. For every hour people spend on their mobile, they spend more than 10 minutes on Facebook. And how much on LinkedIn? Who knows? Not enough to even register a blip.

 

So, if there’s anything about your product which could be appreciated by a user on their mobile then Facebook is, again, a superior ad platform to LinkedIn.

So what?

The point here is not to declare one platform a winner over another.  Instead, I want to point out that the social media landscape has changed since advertising took over. Facebook is no longer just a place for ‘likes’, it is also a great platform to deliver your B2B message.

In some ways, B2B marketing is still LinkedIn’s to lose. They have amassed a great audience with excellent demographic information for B2B marketers. 

LinkedIn does, however, fall short in many ways and we, as marketers, should take note as we decide which platforms to use for campaigns and master to further our careers.