Social media advertising is one of the most powerful tools B2B brands can use to reach out directly to their buyers. 

LinkedIn boasts 830 million worldwide users, while Facebook can claim a space-dominating 2.95 billion (yes, with a “B”) monthly active users. Even in the middle of a rather rocky ownership transition, Twitter still commands a significant share of the social media audience, with a forecasted 354 million users in 2023

With those kinds of numbers, the law of averages dictates that B2B companies will be able to see results from advertising on these platforms. But all too often, companies limit the effectiveness of their campaigns. 

Let’s explore some of the most common mistakes that B2B brands make with their social media advertising and uncover strategies to avoid them.

Distinguish Between Social and Search

One of the biggest mistakes B2B brands make is treating social ads like Google or other search cost-per-click (CPC) ads. While it’s true that both types of ads involve keywords, social ads require a more nuanced approach to targeting. 

Social media users are not actively searching for products or services like they would on Google. Instead, they are scrolling through their feeds, looking for exciting content to engage with. That means you need a deep understanding of your audience as you plan and execute social media advertising campaigns.

In contrast to a typical search CPC campaign, social advertising begins with a target audience. Instead of bidding on specific keywords, you focus on your audience interests, demographics, and other relevant factors to tailor your social media ads to them.

Social media platforms offer a wide range of powerful targeting tools that are especially helpful for B2B brands. These advanced targeting options allow you to target users based on their job title, seniority, company size, and more.

You can also customize your audience with contact lists that help you build “lookalike” audiences based on your existing customer base. In other words, you can build an audience for your ads that is based on your ideal customer profile (ICP).

For example, if your brand focuses on enterprise network security solutions, it would be a waste of money to serve ads to SMBs with only a few workstations. With appropriate targeting, you can ensure your message reaches an audience that fits your ICP.

A good way to think about the difference between search CPC ads and social advertising is this: Search targets only those who are actively looking for your product or service while social targets potential customers who fit your profile and therefore may be interested in learning about your company, products or services.

Avoid the Brochure Approach

While making your ads all about your products is tempting, this approach can be a turnoff for users. Instead, focus on providing valuable content to draw users in and make them want to learn more about your company.

Don’t make your ads the digital equivalent of a tri-fold brochure; use them to spark interest and drive traffic to your website, where users can learn more about your products and services.

The best part of this strategy is that it will generate high quality leads at a much lower cost per lead (CPL). 

Investing heavily in lead generation without introducing the audience to the company via non-gated interest- and discovery-based content is often counterproductive. While lead generation is an important goal for any B2B company, it’s crucial to remember that social media is a discovery platform.

Users are looking for interesting content, not just ads that sell them something. Use social media to share non-gated content to help users learn more about your company and establish you as a thought leader in your industry. Once users are familiar with your brand and trust you as a source of information, they will be more likely to convert into leads.

Using a social platform’s pixel on your brand’s website will enable retargeting campaigns that help keep your ads and social content in front of potential customers who have shown interest by clicking on your ads and spending time engaging with content on the website.

Help Before You Sell

Evangelizing without educating is a surefire way to reduce the impact of social media advertising. 

Another way to think about this is “selling vs. helping.” Today’s buyers often respond negatively to a sales pitch. But they are much more likely to engage with marketing and advertising that empathizes with them and offers solutions that directly address their critical business needs.

While every B2B marketer wants to promote their company’s products and services, the first order of business is to provide potential customers with valuable information that will help users solve their problems.

Believe it or not, you’ll get more long-term ROI out of advertising that content than you will simply running ads for your product.

Instead of promoting what you’re selling, give your potential buyers valuable information. Focus on things like industry trends, best practices, and tips for success based on your team’s expertise.

By providing this kind of helpful content, you’ll establish your brand as a leader in your industry and build trust with your audience. And that will pay dividends when the people you have helped are planning their annual purchasing budget.

If we were going to sum up this approach to social media advertising, it’s a lot like our approach to organic social media marketing: Put people ahead of product, help when you can, and build a community.

Ready to get started with social media advertising? Let’s chat!