B2B Paid Social Benchmarks: What We Learned From $15M in Spend on Facebook and LinkedIn

For demand marketers focused on driving sales and business growth, revenue is the ultimate KPI.

And targeting your audience with paid social media campaigns is one of the best ways to do that.

When you hit the sweet spot of the right audience, right social channel, right ad and right offer, there really isn’t a better advertising medium for B2B.

This B2B Paid Social Benchmark Report will give any B2B company the data, insights, and social media strategies to level up their social media ads.

  1. How to look at the data
  2. LinkedIn vs. Facebook for B2B marketing
  3. What are the best CTAs?
  4. How long should your ad text be?
  5. What works better: images or videos?
  6. Which images work best?
  7. How to set your own benchmarks

So, what’s working in social advertising for B2B marketers?

To find out what’s working, we looked at what’s working for our own customers.

We analyzed actual campaign data from every experiment the Metadata.io platform ran in 2020 to find paid social media benchmarks.

We looked at every data point we have access to, from spend and impressions to clicks and leads to MQLs—then all the way to opportunities and closed deals.

b2b paid social benchmarks metrics

Our customers run the gamut from software to manufacturing to services—each with their own unique demand models. But after analyzing nearly $15M of ad spend, we’ve zeroed in on some of the ways our customers are boosting their LinkedIn and Facebook campaign performance.

The benchmarks and insights in this report are based on straight-up averages across all Metadata customers.

But we’re giving you the raw data so you can slice and dice however you’d like—by industry, annual ad spend and company size.

paid social benchmarks report ranges

As you can see, there’s a huge range from lowest to highest values across the different metrics. That’s because there’s a wide range of differences in our customers and the products they sell.

For example, an $82 CPC could be great for a company that only targets CEOs of maritime engineering companies with a $100k ACV product, but horrible for a company selling task management software to developers for $12/month.

How to look at the data

  1. Click through rate (CTR): CTR is an early indicator of the relevance and appeal of your campaign to your target audience. It’s best to look at this when you’re experimenting with several ads, creative, etc., and want to quickly optimize those with the most initial engagement. A CTR of 0.60% to 1% is considered good.
  2. Cost per click (CPC): CPC is another early indicator of efficiency, and you can use it to compare one program against another. You’ll optimize to this metric if you’re running a brand campaign, while you’ll optimize to CPL for lead gen. What we consider to be a good CPC is relative, but for well-targeted social campaigns with relevant offers, it should be below $10.
  3. Cost per lead (CPL): CPL measures the efficiency of your campaign. How much can you spend to generate a qualified lead and convert that lead to a customer? A good CPL is different for every company and should be based on your unit economics. For example, if my average selling price is $1M vs. $100k, I can likely afford to spend more per lead.
  4. Cost per opportunity (CPO): CPO is another measure of efficiency that you can use to start looking at the ROI of your marketing spend. If you know the opportunity dollar value, and your cost per opportunity, you’ll have a good sense of ROI. A good CPO is different for every company and should be based on your unit economics.

LinkedIn vs. Facebook for B2B marketing

We already know what you’re thinking: My audience isn’t on Facebook.

But your customers don’t build walls around their professional and personal lives—you have to meet them where they are. With more than 2 billion users worldwide, including 74% in the US who check in daily, Facebook could potentially get a boat-load of high-quality, high-earning eyeballs on your B2B campaigns—if you can target them.

That said, there are differences between running Facebook ads and Linkedin ads that impact your campaign planning.

Key differences

Although the averages may tilt to one platform, there are definitely positive and efficient use cases across both. It just depends on who you are, who your audience is, and the types of offers you run.

b2b paid social benchmarks key differences

Cost per lead

Generally, CPLs are 10-50% lower on Facebook—but not always. Some of our customers actually get lower CPLs on LinkedIn. For example, for some personas and in some countries, Facebook is simply used much less, meaning there’s a larger audience on LinkedIn.

More inventory means lower prices. There are also some offers, like demo requests aimed at a retargeting audience, that can be more efficient on LinkedIn.

Lead quality

When it comes to lead quality we don’t see a big difference between LinkedIn and Facebook. But (shameless plug ahead!) this is primarily because of how we build audiences in these two ad channels using the Metadata platform.

We can use standard firmographic and job title targeting across LinkedIn and Facebook, targeting the same people without using lookalike audiences or personal-interest targeting.

What are the best calls to action?

What do you want your audience to do when they see your ad? The answer to this question—your CTA—is one of the most critical parts of any ad. It’s also one of the easiest things to experiment with. You can duplicate an entire campaign and just change the CTA.

So test it early to see which brings the highest CTR or lowest CPC and then use that one going forward.

b2b paid benchmarks linkedin cta data

Most-used CTAs for brand awareness

Nearly 80% of our customers used “Learn More” for brand awareness, making it most popular by far. It makes sense since it sounds like the least commitment.

Most-used CTAs for lead generation

46% also used “Learn More” for lead gen—but be careful to set clear expectations. It could feel like “bait and switch” if you make people fill out a form.

paid social benchmarks ctr range

These are straight averages across all Metadata customers. The range of CTRs are from 0.10% to 2.55%. The range of CPLs are from $0.57 to $1,175. The range of CPCs are $0.29 to $81.92.

“Learn More” has the highest clickthrough rate on LinkedIn—but also the highest CPL. So if your goal is demand gen, but you optimize only for engagement, you’ll pay a lot more.

“Register” on the other hand, is one of the least used CTAs but also carries the lowest CPL, making it a budget-friendly option for webinars or events where people have to register.

On Facebook: ‘Learn More’ & Download’ give the best bang for the buck

Facebook gives you four CTA options for image and video feed ads: Learn More, Download, Sign-Up, and Apply Now. But Apply Now barely gets used.

b2b paid social benchmarks facebook ctas

Here’s what we found were the most used CTAs for brand awareness and lead generation:

On Facebook, the most popular CTAs also happen to have the lowest price tag. “Learn More” is most efficient, with the highest CTR and a CPL on-par with “Download.”

It’s interesting how “Learn More” performs differently on Facebook vs. LinkedIn. For example, on Facebook “Learn More” has an average CPL of $98.90, while the same CTA on LinkedIn has a CPL that’s nearly double at $180.89 and is most expensive.

“Apply Now” really only makes sense in special cases—like job postings and association memberships—so it’s not surprising that our customers rarely use it. It also had the highest CPC and CPL and the lowest CTR.

paid social benchmarks facebook ctr range

How long should your ad text be?

In this category, we saw notable differences between LinkedIn and Facebook.

Why?

Well, for one thing, each platform allows a different maximum number of characters. LinkedIn is 300 while Facebook is 63,206!

Our data shows that longer ads have the best clickthrough on Facebook vs. shorter ads on LinkedIn. Same thing for CPL—longer ads have lower CPL on Facebook.

Less is more for LinkedIn ads

b2b paid social benchmarks linkedin ad text

For both brand awareness and lead gen campaigns, you can see that the most common text length tends to be more than 100 characters: 140-150 characters seems to be the sweet spot for brand awareness campaigns.

But that length doesn’t even crack the top-10 lowest CPCs.

paid social benchmarks text data

The tendency is to write longer text, but using fewer words generally yields better performance, especially for CPL campaigns.

Longer ads fare better on Facebook

b2b paid social benchmarks facebook text data

On Facebook, where people tend to hang out on weekends or in their spare time, longer ads generally more clicks compared to LinkedIn. They also have some of the lowest CPLs.

Put it in action

Here are some real examples of longer ad text in Facebook that each had >1.5% CTR:

Example 1: “In traditional script-based tools, such as Selenium, object selection is typically pretty obtuse. In this white paper, we explore why this is a problem and show how smart object selection increases effective test coverage by an order of magnitude.”

Example 2: “Many businesses are adopting more work-from-home processes, so moving your IT infrastructure may be a “must-do” right now. If you’re looking for an option for your on-premises #IT #infrastructure, move to our #datacenters. Act now for discount offers!”

Example 3: “How do you exceed your demand gen goals for the rest of 2020? Even if you blew away the first quarter, how do you make sure you are thinking next level? In this “ask me anything” format, you’ll have demand gen and marketing technology experts addressing a curated selection of your burning questions about revOps, demand gen and marketing automation strategy.”

Images vs videos

While CPCs for videos are a bit lower than images, by most other metrics images outperform videos for our customers. This is a smaller sample of data, only from LinkedIn, and only from the last 4 months of the year after we started offering video.

paid social benchmarks images vs videos

When does it make sense to use video?

Based on the survey we ran at the end of 2020, we know more than 70% of you are planning to use more video in 2021. But videos take a lot more time and money to produce than images. So before going all-in, make sure video is really the best format for the type of content you want to create. Like when you want to showcase your company culture or grab attention right away.

How long should your video be?

Curious about the ideal video length for paid social campaigns? So are we! And
although we originally planned to include this in our trends analysis, we didn’t have enough data to be statistically significant. That said, 30 seconds should be the absolute max length for any video used in
your campaigns. We typically recommend between 6-15 seconds.

Which images performed best?

We also looked at which images performed best and found that ads with high clickthrough and low cost per lead had a few things in common:

  1. Photos with real people
  2. Recognizable partner mentions
  3. Personalization

Use photos of REAL people

Real people humanize a B2B brand and are a common feature of ads that got the highest CTRs and lowest CPLs, especially on Facebook.

paid social benchmarks snapwire example
Snapwire brings the human element into their ad which reinforces their message.

Try partner mentions

Don’t be afraid to be a name-dropper—people click on images with names they know.

paid social benchmarks cohley example
Cohley adds a subtle placement of a CVS basket into their ad.

Personalize your images

Relevance always wins. Images with the highest CTR on LinkedIn featured names prospects immediately recognize—either their own companies or other well-known brands.

paid social benchmarks the intersect group example
The Intersect Group adds personalization to this ad targeted at Christus Health prospects.

How to set your own benchmarks

We’ve shared a lot of data here. Like we said up-front, this data looks at averages across all of our customers, but we’re also giving you access to the actual raw data—so you can dig in and pull insights that are most relevant to your business.


Run your own data Customer Performance Dashboard

What works best

It’s interesting to see what’s worked best in the past. Even better is using that data as a starting point for the winning plays we’ll run next.

1. Double down on LinkedIn

Based on our customer survey, we know most of you are planning to double down on LinkedIn and video. (We’d start with LinkedIn.)

You’re also looking to personalize your marketing. We hope that means more than just name-dropping your target accounts and bringing in more humor and empathy. Don’t just personalize; make it personal.

2. Tear down this gate!

We’re all hoping to see more ungated content. This is something we’re betting on ourselves. But be ready to set expectations: your landing page hits and your volume metrics will go down, but deal cycles should move faster. Just make sure you and the “front office” are on the same page.

3. Test, test, test

As we’ve noted before, “what works” is changing faster than ever. The campaign that failed three weeks ago may work today. The evergreen campaign that’s worked for two years could stop working next week.

So as B2B marketers we’re constantly testing, refining, testing some more.

And while the data we shared in this report focuses on top-of-funnel metrics like CTR, CPC and CPL, you also have to look at lower-funnel performance and connect the dots to real ROI: pipeline, closed business, revenue.

How to Optimize Existing Content & Why it Matters

This is the tenth post in our new content series, No Fluffs Given. We’re tired of the fluffy content in our LinkedIn feeds, with no real substance or actionable takeaways. So we’re teaming up with some of the best B2B marketers we know. People who have ACTUALLY done this stuff before. And giving you new, actionable tactics to implement today.

At this point, you have probably heard someone say that you should be refreshing your content or maybe saw yet another up-and-to-the-right chart posted on Linkedin.

But what does that mean?

Well, when you move past some of the gimmicks or quick hacks to get a temporary boost in traffic, content optimization emerges as a sub-discipline within the world of SEO & content marketing. 

As such, it requires the same level of attention and process as things like optimizing PPC landing pages or A/B testing automation flows. It isn’t the core discipline but improves performance and should be done on a regular (if not recurring) basis.

The Metadata team was kind enough to let me share my experience with you on why it matters and how to identify the opportunities, implement the right solution, and do it at scale. 

Why all high-performing content programs include optimizing existing content

In my time leading Demand Gen & Acquisition at Sprout Social, we scaled the blog to 1 million sessions per month. As early as 2016, we saw the benefits of optimizing some of our existing blog content that had begun to decline in performance. 

Over time, it went from “cool, that worked” to “wow, this keeps working” to “let’s do this every month” to eventually a point where we were publishing more optimized pieces each month than new content. 

As I began speaking with others and studying similar companies, it was clear that every team with a significant content production was doing something similar.

Shopify, G2, Hubspot, and even sites like Motley Fool were all optimizing existing content to some extent.

The reality is that content decay is natural, and when you are in a competitive space AND producing a lot of content, it can happen rapidly.

But it isn’t all about fixing what has gone wrong. The process of analyzing existing content uncovers new growth opportunities as well.

So, high-performing content programs make content optimization a core part of their process to remain competitive, prevent the decay from working against overall growth, and continuously find new opportunities to expand and scale awareness, traffic, and conversions.

3 ways to spot opportunities for optimization

There are several ways to identify content to optimize or refresh, so I am breaking down the three that I’ve found to be the most common and most effective across a wide range of blogs. 

1. Look for declining performance

Declining performance is probably the most common and easy to understand. You look at the traffic and conversions over time, and they are trending downward. This steady decline works against any new content you create and often results in a net negative outcome for conversions. 

Semrush screenshot showing declining traffic
Look through Google Analytics, Semrush, or other tools to find which pages have been declining in traffic.

2. Find content sitting on page 2

In Google Search Console, you can look at the specific queries aligned to each blog post. In many cases, you may have posts or pages that are getting decent traffic, but upon closer inspection, realize that most of the queries matching to that content are ranking on the second page of Google. 

screenshot of Google Search Console
Google Search Console lets you sort by position. Look for pages that have a position greater than 10 and see if you can rework the content to move onto page 1.

3. Spot internal competition

As your content program grows, you naturally have more and more pages that talk about similar topics, which increases the likelihood of internal competition. 

Internal competition is when a single keyword matches multiple URLs on your site, creating confusion for search engines as they don’t know the priority. Internal competition typically results in most or all of those URLs having degraded performance. 

5 approaches to optimize existing content

As you identify good candidates for optimization, you need to figure out how you are going to do that. The truth is that each situation is unique, and it depends, but that isn’t helpful.

At Sprout, we eventually reached a point where we classified the solutions into three tiers, roughly corresponding to the level of effort required. This system helped a lot with capacity planning and systematizing our solutions to be highly efficient each month. 

Here are the five most common approaches companies take to optimize existing content: 

1. Expand

Content has slowly become longer over the years, so it is relatively common to find a blog post from a few years prior that is quite short. 

Word count is relative, so in this case, it comes down to how long the posts are that are ranking on page one of the search engines and how long it takes to cover the topic of the blog post thoroughly. 

i.e., don’t write 800 words about how to build a tiny home yourself or 3,000 words on how to change a drill bit. 

In many cases, you can assess what is missing from the post and expand it to cover the topic in full. 

2. Update

In some cases, the blog post covers the topic pretty well, but some of the content is outdated. 

For example, at Sprout Social, we created the Always Up-to-Date Image Sizes Guide for all social network image sizes.

Sprout Social displays the Last Updated date near the top to quickly let the reader know the content is relevant and up to date.

This blog post required frequent updating to make sure the content was fresh and entirely relevant.

3. Create

There are times when search demand grows for a topic that is currently only a small section on one of your blog posts. 

That post may be ranking for a few queries related to that topic, but the opportunity lies in creating a new, full post on that topic and then linking to it from the section on the existing one. 

This solution is more focused on growth and expansion than trying to mitigate decline and can be extremely helpful when you are scaling up your company blog. 

4. Consolidate

Consolidating content is typically the best solution to the internal competition problem mentioned before. 

Content consolidation involves combining multiple posts into existing ones or an entirely new post altogether, then setting up 301 redirects from the consolidated URLs to the new, final URL. 

The consolidated content creates a better experience for your prospects and customers trying to consume the content. Also, it sends a positive signal to the search engines, saying, “We cleaned up this mess that was creating problems for you and organized it all right here.”

5. Links

In some cases, the content fully covers the topic, is up to date, is of good quality, and isn’t competing with other internal URLs. Many times, this content needs more backlinks, more internal links, or both.

Look at the number of backlinks and internal links for the content ranking on the first page of Google to see if your post is low and needs more. 

An easy way to find internal link opportunities is to use Google.

screenshot of a Google search results page
Try typing: “site:[your site url] + [keyword]” into Google to find internal link opportuties.

In this example, there are several pages that mention “Facebook Image Sizes” that could be linked together.

Bonus: Prune

I’ve included content pruning as a bonus. It isn’t optimizing specific posts, but it can work well. 

Instead of consolidating content and redirecting URLs, sometimes you find old, lame content on your site that isn’t doing anything positive for you and isn’t worth keeping. 

In this case, delete it and make your site tidier.

Best practices for implementing at scale

As I noted before, content optimization is a discipline that requires processes and systems to be effective as possible.

Here are some of the best practices I’ve learned from scaling content operations at Sprout Social and now doing this for several companies.

1. Analyze quarterly

When you get ramped up, you’ll probably be analyzing your existing content every month. To get started, make it a point to analyze your content every quarter to identify posts that need to be fixed or have upside potential. 

Analyzing your data helps you stay on top of it, and like most things, what gets scheduled gets done. 

 2. Dedicate bandwidth

Most content teams create a consistent volume of content each month because that makes planning, budgeting, and consistency easier. 

If you are like most teams, that’s 4-8 posts per month. I’ve done as high as 30/month and talked with folks who have done 100+/mo. 

Regardless, a pretty easy starting point is to dedicate 25% of your current publishing bandwidth to optimizing existing content. 

So, if you are currently publishing 8 per month, start doing two optimizations per month and six new posts per month and go from there. 

The important part is that you carve out space for it and make it a priority and an expectation. 

3. Align with teams

One area that can hang up a team from making this a consistent process is collaborating with other teams. 

If you are frequently coming across older content, you may need new imagery or product shots or be required to verify with subject matter experts how to update the content from a technical standpoint.

Make sure you factor any outside dependencies into your timing and process, just like you would for new content, to make sure it becomes a smooth process.

Next steps for optimizing existing content

If you haven’t ever tried optimizing the content you already have, give it a shot on 3-5 posts you identify as good candidates. 

If you’ve been doing it for a while, but are inconsistent, consider building out a process to make it a recurring discipline for your company. 

If you want to learn more, subscribe to the Ten Speed Blog, where we frequently write on all things content optimization and strategy. 

Meet Nate Turner

Co-founder & CEO of Ten Speed.

Nate Turner is a SaaS marketing leader. He was the first marketer at Sprout Social, where he built and scaled the inbound engine from $100k to $100m in ARR. He is now the co-founder and CEO of tenspeed.io, a content optimization agency helping SaaS & D2C companies create revenue-generating content and an advisor for SaaS companies.