B2B Ads on Facebook


Everyone knows that Facebook is a good medium for targeting people in the B2C market.

But what’s not so well-known is that Facebook can also provide some great opportunities for targeting people in the B2B space.

Given that Facebook is a social medium, you might be wondering how come?

Facebook Ads for B2B Marketing

Obviously, you have to have the right message – a truism that holds whether you’re talking about B2B or B2C.

And your B2B ads on Facebook will clearly have to be attractive enough to appeal to people when they’re in “social mode”.

We often describe B2B ads on Facebook as being interruptive – the equivalent of a newspaper ad in that has to “interrupt” someone’s train of thought while they’re engage in something else (ie reading a newspaper).

Whereas a more conventional type of Pay Per Click ad – such as Google AdWords or Bing – is “responsive” – in that the ad is triggered in response to someone’s search, so you can already be pretty sure they are interested in what you’re advertising.

So surely when you’re talking about B2B, it’s far more difficult to interrupt someone who’s in “social mode” than it is for a B2C campaign?

The secret of attracting a B2B audience lies in the way you target your ads.

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Facebook Ads Targeting

The secret of attracting the right audience lies in the way you target your B2B ads on Facebook.

A scattergun approach is certainly unlikely to attract good returns and will probably result in the oft-heard lament that “B2B ads on Facebook just don’t work”. With many people having invested hundreds of dollars in the medium over the last few years. Only to be disappointed when their bank account simply gets depleted through paying for ads, rather than filled up with cash from all the new sales they’ve made.

So how can we target people in the B2B space on Facebook and expect them to be interested in our attempts at business leads generation?

It’s all to do with Behavioural Targeting. (See Wikipedia’s definition here).

Behavioral Targeting – Facebook’s Killer App

Essentially, behavioral targeting is a means of showing your advert to someone who you can assume will be interested in your content, based on the way they have previously behaved on the internet.

Facebook (and Google, and others) utilise technology such as pixels or cookies (small bits of code that are triggered when you visit a particular web page), to track a user’s behavior online.

The tracking element sits within your browser, such that when you visit particular web pages, it sends this information to Facebook, alerting them to the sites you’ve been visiting.

You’ll almost certainly have seen examples of “programmatic advertising” in practice for yourself – for instance, when you visit an online store and then see an ad for the same product “following you around” the internet for weeks afterwards – which is what advertisers use the pixels and cookies for.

What many people miss, though, is that Facebook has an enormously detailed record of people’s browsing behavior and can thus start to identify the type of subjects individual people are interested in.

So if you are a tennis fan, you might well visit the website for the French Open finals alongside other tennis-related sites – identifying this interest to Facebook so they can categorize you as a “tennis fan” for when advertisers wish to target that demographic.

OK, so far so good. And you’re probably thinking it’s obvious how this works when people are searching for products. But how does this relate to B2B targeting?


Behavioural Targeting for B2B Leads

People’s behaviours online are usually quite closely linked to their general interests. And if you’re like us, you certainly spend a lot of your “outside work” time researching work-related topics and catching up with the latest industry-specific info.

So people who work within particular industries are extremely likely to be visiting relevant websites both at work and outside of work, using their computers and smartphones.

So what you want to do is identify the type of websites that are likely to be visited by your B2B target audience, then include these in your targeting within the Facebook system. (We’ll go into the specifics of that shortly, but first here’s a few pointers for how to identify suitable sites your audience might visit).


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Identify Your B2B Audience’s Interests

Brainstorming ideas is going to be a great starting point, based on the suggestions below (and remember – you’re thinking about your Target Audience, not yourself):

1) Industry Influencers and Thought Leaders

Who are the “big names” in the industry you’re targeting?

This doesn’t just apply to known people (such as Bill Gates or Larry Page in the technology field), it should also cover brand names and possibly products.

At the brainstorming stage, certainly just throw all the ideas into the mix before you filter them down to a more concise level. Be aware, though, that you don’t want to be super general with your big names – in the technology sphere, for instance, Google is probably the biggest name. However, you won’t exactly be narrowing down your audience if you try to target people who’ve visited Google site.

Once you’ve come up with your own list, do some Google research to find out other people who should feature. For example, “technology thought leaders” etc. (As is so often the case when it comes to marketing research, Google is a fantastic tool for you to use).

Don’t forget to use one of the world’s other major search engines, too. And we’re not talking about Bing here, we’re talking about Amazon!

Specifically, look in the Books section for the relevant topic related to your target audience, and see who are the people who’ve written the popular books in the field. They are certainly likely to be thought leaders and influencers for your target audience – at the very least, your audience should know some of their names.

2) Associations and Organisations

Think about – and use Google to research – the industry-specific associations and organisations that your target audience are likely to belong to.

If your prospects work within the accountancy industry, for instance, do a google search for “accountancy associations”.

In the example above, you can see the top listing is for a publication about accountancy, which could be quite useful for us – see next item about Publications and Websites.

Returning to our Google results, we can see a few specific organisations (ACCA and APA among them) that look promising.

A little additional thought around the process might see us refine our search to “accountancy membership organisations” – the top result for which is a directory listing for a range of membership bodies, including AAPA, AMA, CIMA etc.

All useful stuff for our purposes, as we can record a whole range of professional member organisations that our target audience will belong to.

B2B Ads on Facebook Interests

3) Publications and Websites

This is where we want to record the trade mags, websites, subscription-based publications etc that our audience is likely to read.

For accountants, for instance, we’ve already come across Accountancy Age. So if we go back to Google and do some more searching – “accountancy magazines” – we see CCH Daily, CCH.co.uk, Theaccountant-online.com – all magazines we’d expect our audience to read or websites we’d anticipate our target audience to visit.

Another search we can perform here is for “accountancy websites”, in order to find non-magazine sites and blogs that will also fit the bill.

Quick Tip: “accountancy blogs” being another useful search phrase to identify suitable sites.


4) Events and Conferences

Particularly within the B2B space, there are no end of industry-specific conferences and events for people to attend.

Once again Google is your first port of call here – “accountancy conferences” brings up lots of individual websites plus lists of accountancy conferences and events that can also provide useful info.

Quick Tip: If you’re only interested in targeting people within a certain region, it might be worth you adding that country or area to the end of your search so you can narrow the results to people who are more likely to be interested in what you’re offering.


5) Software and Tools

An often-overlooked specialty item within specific industries is the unique software and tools they might use. Within the accountancy industry, for example, there are some very famous pieces of software such as Sage and Quickbooks.

However, there are so many businesses that use these particular tools that you won’t really be only identifying accountants if you target people by this form of behaviour.

So let’s narrow down the search – “accounting software used by accounting firms” – which brings up as the top listing a restricted access page. However, Google has kindly indexed the top few listings from that page which gives us specialty software such as Freshbooks and Xero.

Once you have your tightly-defined list of behaviours and interests for your target group, it’s time to put these into Facebook and setup the targeting.

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B2B Marketing on Facebook

Setting Up Targeting in Facebook

The section within Facebook’s system that you’ll be using is within the Ad Set creation element of the system.

Here you will see an input field called “Detailed Targeting” – it’s here where we can start to input our Interests and Behaviours for a well-defined audience to target.

For example, using one of the organisations we’ve previously identified as being relevant to our audience – the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) – we can input that term into the Detailed Targeting field.

As you can see, Facebook now provides a series of suggested Interests that it believes are similar to the ACCA, based on their enormous data sample of websites they know people have visited.

Once again, at this point you can use Google to research the options given to you by Facebook – for instance to determine if the options they’re suggesting are indeed worthy of being included in your list.

You can also see here that there are different labels for the type of Interest that Facebook has identified – Interests, Fields of Study, Job Titles.

You may decide that targeting people via their Job Title is sufficient for your needs, but we’d caution against relying on this as your sole targeting method. People are under no obligation to be truthful when they setup their Facebook profile, so you may find targeting people solely by their self-defined Job Title isn’t very useful.


B2B Lead Generation on Facebook
Facebook Targeting for B2B Advertising

We’ve found that how people actually behave on the internet is a much better indicator of their actual interests than how they may have defined themselves when they first setup their Facebook account several years ago.

If you are keen to use Job Title targeting, we recommend you further refine your audience by including the various websites you’ve identified as an additional Interest.

Refining Your Audience

Click the “Narrow Audience” link to bring up an additional field.

You can see that now your audience is based on people who are defined as Accountants by Job Title, but they must also behave in a certain way – ie visit certain websites – in order to qualify as people we are going to show our ads to.

Inputting an extra Interest here will help refine your audience.

You can repeat this process again and again by repeatedly clicking the “Narrow Further” link in order to really focus in on people who, for instance, are defined as accountants, have an interest in the Xero accounting software, have visited the Accountancy Age magazine website, and have visited the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants website.

Facebook Targeting for B2B Advertising
B2B Ads For Facebook

With this level of targeting, you can be pretty sure you’ve got a well-defined audience for your adverts.

Quick Tip: Be aware that not every item you’ve identified will have its own listing within Facebook, as they only highlight items that they believe include a significant enough number of people for targeting purposes.

And you’ll also want to keep an eye on the suggested Audience Size that Facebook anticipates you’ve developed, as narrowing things down too tightly will lead to the ads not showing at all. (Whereas having too large an audience means you haven’t defined the audience tightly enough).

We recommend for general purposes (ie for targeting that isn’t super specific such as a particular town), that you develop an audience size of somewhere between 100,000 – 1,000,000. Though you should experiment with this for yourself to find out what works best for you.

Conclusion – B2B Targeting Through Facebook

So there you have it – a step by step approach to using Facebook for targeting to a B2B audience. Something you might not have considered to be possible before!

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