LinkedIn ads are often thought of as being best for B2B, but can they outmatch the power of Facebook ads? I created this study to discover the truth.
As a business-to-business marketer, I really wanted to know whether Facebook advertising or LinkedIn advertising would bring me the most value. I had some experience running ads successfully on both platforms, but not nearly enough to determine which would actually be best overall for B2B marketing.
To satisfy my curiosity, I created the following case study: I ran the same ad on both platforms, at the same time, to two identical landing pages. Which one do you think yielded the best results? The answer might surprise you!
My Experience With Facebook Ads
I did my first Facebook Ads training and ran my first solo ad over a year ago. Since then I’ve invested at least a couple hundred dollars into additional trainings, and I’ve run over a thousand dollars worth of ads in total (mostly for clients, but some for myself). Overall I usually get solid results, even when I’m just experimenting like I was in this campaign.
Here’s a few thoughts on Facebook ads:
- They’re incredibly powerful and versatile, but if you don’t understand how to use them properly you can waste a lot of money.
- Depending on your targeting, ad type, creative, and copy, you can successfully advertise almost anything on Facebook (as long as it’s within the Facebook ad policies).
- Being successful with Facebook ads requires staying up-to-date on what is currently working both with the algorithm and with your audience.
- It can be difficult to get started with Facebook ads because of their complex policies and the fact that “mature” ad accounts seem to get more leeway than new ones.
- Facebook’s system is advanced, but far from perfect. I see tons of complaints about bugs in forums I frequent, and once my own ad account got banned for no reason. I wasn’t running ads at the time, and the ban was removed as soon as I contested it.
Overall, Facebook is one of the most powerful ad platforms known to humankind, but it does present certain complications.
My Experience With LinkedIn Ads
I have significantly less experience with LinkedIn advertising, but it is a less complex platform. LInkedIn’s ad platform is actually quite similar to a stripped-down version of Facebook’s. However LInkedIn does have some special ad formats, and until recently they had targeting options that didn’t exist on Facebook (Facebook remedied this with an update). In my article on How to Advertise On LinkedIn For Beginners, I ran a successful inmail (LinkedIn messaging) campaign. Since then I’ve used LinkedIn ads a few more times, but overall I’ve spent less than $100 on the platform.
Here are my thoughts on LinkedIn ads:
- They have fewer applications than Facebook ads, but when used in the correct context they may be just as powerful.
- They include the ability to target people based on job description/role, which is extremely useful in any B2B marketing situation.
- Some of their special ad formats (such as inmail ads) feel almost like “cheating” because it’s so easy to get your target’s attention.
- LinkedIn ads are essentially a much faster, more advanced version of ordinary LinkedIn marketing. Lots of people are successful with organic outreach on LinkedIn, but using ads can supercharge and scale your efforts.
- LinkedIn ads are easier to use and more accessible to newbies for a number of reasons, including their live chat support.
Even without going into the details of my experiment, it’s becoming clear that each platform has pros and cons. But which one will create the best return on investment for a B2B marketer?
Let’s find out!
How I Created a Split Test
I wanted to compare LinkedIn ads vs Facebook ads as closely as possible, so I decided to run the same ad and type of ad on both. I went with a single image and short copy because it’s easy to create and available on both platforms.
N.B: In retrospect I feel like this approach created an immediate disadvantage for LinkedIn. While I have no data to support this opinion, I believe people scrolling through Facebook are much more likely to click on image ads than people using LinkedIn for work. If I repeat this experiment in the future, I’ll probably compare LinkedIn inmail messages to Facebook video ads or carousel ads instead.
In order to make the test as even as possible, I ran both ads to identical landing pages at the same time. Each ad was active for approximately 36 hours during the same 48 hour window, and each campaign spent just under $15.
Obviously it would have been better to run the ads longer with a higher budget, but I have my reasons for keeping the cost low. I wanted to run business-to-business ads, which meant I needed to offer my services to other business owners. The problem? I was swamped with client work (still am) and the process of expanding my agency. The truth is, I wouldn’t have been able to handle a bunch of new potential clients all at once, so I had to keep the experiment brief.
My Solo Image Ad For Facebook and LinkedIn
I’ll be honest – I’m not the best designer, and I didn’t put very much time into making my ad creative or copy. That was intentional; I wanted my ad to be “average”, like something that anyone might run. I wanted to test how successful a newbie could be using each platform.
Here’s a look at the ad as it appeared on Facebook (left) and LinkedIn (right).
As you can see, the ad has a very similar appearance on both platforms. LinkedIn shows more of the body copy, but Facebook shows a lead beneath the title.
The Results of my Facebook vs. LinkedIn Ads Case Study
I’m going to be honest; the results surprised me. I think it would have been different if I had used different ad types, but Facebook won by a hop skip and a jump.
On Facebook, my $15 investment bought me 1774 impressions, which resulted in 7 landing page views at a cost of $2.14 per click. That isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible either. If I was hungry for clients right now, I’d be happy to pay $2-$3 per highly targeted visit to my landing page.
On LinkedIn, my $15 only brought me 215 impressions. You can probably guess that it also resulted in less website visits. It only brought me 2 unique visitors, at a cost of $7.38 per click. That’s expensive!
This experiment did not result in me booking any consultations, so it’s hard to see for sure which platform did a “better” job. However Facebook clearly created more volume and so I feel pretty comfortable declaring it the winner.
Analyzing the Data
As I mentioned earlier, I feel like I didn’t quite give LinkedIn a fair chance in this experiment. While I tried to make everything as equal as possible, I think that I inadvertently tipped the scale in favor of Facebook. After all, single image ads are quite popular on Facebook – they’re a tried and true way of getting visits to your site. LinkedIn image ads have a significantly lesser history of success.
I also have less experience advertising no LinkedIn, so while it seems quite simple, I may have missed a detail or two that could have optimized my campaign.
Overall I believe that further testing is necessary. I want to run a followup campaign that pits inmail LInkedIn ads against Facebook video ads… but that’s going to take a bit more work and preparation.
I hope this helped you determine which advertising platform is best for your business in some small way. Best of luck connecting with and serving your clients!
HI Alex, I have found the same thing with clients and my own ads on both LinkedIn and Facebook. But you are right – Facebook can be very tricky today and you have to stay up with their trends and courses to stay on top of it. Not easy for sure! Thanks for sharing your case study with us.
If no one filled out your forms then you don’t know how “highly targeted” those leads were, from FB or LI. You really can’t even call them leads (tho I guess you can retarget them now).