The million dollar question for all B2B advertisers, when you consider LinkedIn and Facebook ad performance side-by-side, which platform is better? To get a true answer of like-for-like performance, you need to consider two things:
- First, are you managing both platforms for what they are? Or are you using Facebook tactics on LinkedIn?
- Secondly, what does ‘performance’ mean for your business?
- For those that are here for the actions - the bold ‘Conclusion:’ throughout the newsletter acts as a TL:DR.
Before we go on let’s take a look back…
LinkedIn Ads is technically older than Facebook Ads (2005 vs 2007) but in terms of modern day social-media advertising, Facebook was the trailblazer and LinkedIn has taken a more laid-back approach with product development until recent years. A combination of diversified revenue streams, a members-first policy and the power of first-party data have simply just not required the level and speed of investment in technology from LinkedIn that Facebook has led with.
But nowadays, after a couple of years of steady development on LinkedIns part, the advertising management platforms look and feel similar, some features even share the same names e.g. campaigns, lookalikes. All of this creates an illusion of similarity for those experienced in FB/Instagram advertising when using LinkedIn. However, the audience targeting, platform functionality, audience mindset and pricing are different. They all need to be approached differently.
While at LinkedIn and now with Tuned, I’ve audited thousands of accounts and the same mistakes pop up time-after-time. Marketing teams using Facebook tactics on LinkedIn.
So much so, that it’s inspired me to write a bloody newsletter about it.
Let’s compare the platforms…
Round 1: Targeting
B2B products and services have much more specific audiences. LinkedIn offers strong demographic targeting options to pinpoint these customer profiles, Facebook offers them, but they’re nowhere near as strong.
The power of LinkedIn is its demographic data. You need to use it. As a B2B advertiser, you have access to company details, industry, job title and listed skills of each LinkedIn member. This is incredibly valuable targeting that you can accurately build your message around.
Conclusion: Use LinkedIns demographic data and segment it as much as possible. Then you can easily see the performance of each segment and match ad copy to be relevant to that segment.
With the demographic, interest and behavioural targeting of FB, you may be targeting some of the right people but it will serve a lot of ads to the wrong people. In my opinion, the targeting is more suited to B2C and should be rarely used on Facebook for B2B.
Where Facebook can compete for B2B is the functionality of its algorithm, lookalike audiences and retargeting audiences. You can use your own data and that can work with the algorithm to extract better results from Facebook.
Conclusion: If you’re using only interest and behavioural targeting on LinkedIn as you would on Facebook without adding LinkedIns demographic data - you can basically wave goodbye to budget.
LinkedIn has to be more targeted. Facebook can afford to be a little more pay and spray.
Round 2: Functionality
There’s many common features but I’ve picked 3 that are present on both platforms but work differently on each, and need to be treated as such.
1. Frequency and impressions caps
LinkedIn: the LI member is protected and can only see 5 ads from one company every 48 hours, and unique ads once every 24 hours.
The sweet spot for an audience to engage with a campaign on LinkedIn is about 6-8 impressions per month. However, increasing frequency on LinkedIn is not easy and you have to control it manually. You can do this by:
- Increasing/decreasing budget relative to audience size
- Increasing/decreasing audience size relative to budget
- Increasing/decreasing campaign duration
- Having at least 5 unique ads in each campaign
- Using retargeting
It’s manual for now, but it’s an important indicator to get a true idea of whether your ads are performing or not.
- Facebook: you can simply control frequency and reach. There are also not huge limits on how many times a member can be served an ad. It’s a positive in that you can achieve high frequency quickly but a negative in that ads are less noticeable.
Conclusion: Frequency is something that needs managed more closely on LinkedIn to achieve success, this is not required for Facebook.
2. Retargeting Audiences
LinkedIn: Retargeting is really effective and can often be the source of your best-performing campaigns. It’s great for increasing frequency, capitalising on engagement/buying-signals and helping B2B decision makers on their buying journey.
You can’t get huge scale with the website Retargeting option just yet but last year, LinkedIn acquired Oribi which should expand the scale of the offering with the website actions. Word is that it’s coming soon.
Facebook: Retargeting is pretty effective for FB also, its strength is that it has greater scale and more touch-points than LinkedIn but still, you have less certainty that you’re retargeting to the right audience.
Conclusion: Retargeting works great for both platforms but should be used differently on each. My opinion would be to to treat LinkedIn retargeting audiences as much lower-funnel and engaged than Facebooks retargeting audiences.
3. Lookalike Audiences
In my opinion, this is a feature on Facebook that helps make up a bit for what it lacks in demographic targeting. On LinkedIn, this is not a feature I would use unless I was looking to expand my audience outside of the demographic targeting options.
It may improve in the future on LinkedIn but I feel there’s no real need to use it when you have the targeting options that LinkedIn already has available.
Conclusion: Better on Facebook, not needed on LinkedIn.
Round 3: Mindset
With B2B advertising, you’re marketing for a longer sales-cycle and larger deal-sizes. Your buyers make considered decisions that are going to take time. That’s worth considering when comparing the platforms as there are big contextual differences between the two.
Has a professional context and your ad strategy need to match that somewhat. In my experience, you can bend the rules for sure but within reason. What gets you clicks and likes, often times does translate to conversions and sales. You need to build trust with your audience in a professional context, that’s why educational content performs so well on LinkedIn.
For example - never over-Emoji… or in some industries, never emoji at all (looking at you Financial Services). Reason being is that it can take away from the perceived value and seriousness of what you’re selling. You don’t want to make your $20k+ Saas product or $50k financial service look like a crypto-scammers instagram bio.
Speak to your target audience. If you’re not being relevant, the LinkedIn audience does not care for you.
Conclusion: Use the professional context on LinkedIn to provide value. Be careful of looking too casual. Bend the rules but only at the right stages.
In general, the environment and content is more casual. The mindset is not professional which makes it more difficult for a buying decision to be made while using the platforms. I’m not saying buying decisions are not made on Facebook, but it’s just more difficult because of the nature of the content surrounding your ads.
This does offer an opportunity to show a different side of your brand but again, be careful and don’t just expect this to translate to LinkedIn.
Conclusion: Less professional mindset, the content that works on FB is not transferable to LinkedIn.
The Final Round: Pricing
LinkedIn vs Facebook
For initial costs, LinkedIn is more expensive than Facebook - for sure.
If you’re using Facebook tactics on LinkedIn, then LinkedIn is definitely more expensive - for sure.
The further towards ROI you measure - the cheaper and more powerful LinkedIn becomes.
When you have spent the time to use the demographic targeting to advertise to the right audience, with the right message - you’re paying for quality on LinkedIn. How do you measure quality? Look beyond initial costs and further down the funnel. Analyse the CAC of your LinkedIn attributed deals vs Facebook attributed deals.
But to reiterate one last time… if you’re using Facebook tactics on LinkedIn and not treating it differently, it won’t get any cheaper.
Conclusion: LinkedIn is more expensive initially, but when used the right way - it can bring better ROI
And the winner is…
Look, it really does depend on the offering and I am biased towards LinkedIn but with the advertisers I’ve worked with I can confidently say that when the time is invested into getting LinkedIn right, it often beats Facebook.
I believe the the majority of B2B marketers are using their channels backwards by leading with Facebook and neglecting LinkedIn because of the greater input required to get it working. If you have a B2B product/service that has a complex buying-journey, a deal-size in the thousands and an audience that is present on LinkedIn, you should be leading with LinkedIn.
With LinkedIn you can connect with the right audience with the right content in the right context, Facebook can then scale this using its retargeting and lookalike capabilities
That’s it for this week…
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