‘Dark Social’ Is Changing Your B2B Ad Engagement – How To Immediately Reverse Declining Performance & How To Optimise For The 99%

B2B advertising can be a challenge. You’re trying to reach a business decision maker with a message that is both informative and persuasive, all while standing out from the competition. So, how can you improve your B2B advertising creative to make sure you’re getting the results you want?

In a world where advertising, seemingly alongside everything else, is getting more expensive, it is more important then ever to ensure the creative that we’re putting in front of our target audiences is going to engage them. CPM’s on LinkedIn are now averaging $33.80 in western countries, a rate which has grown by c. 20x in the last decade as their platform reaches saturation.  The problem compounds once you realise that ad click through rates continue to decline. We’re paying more money to reach an ever harder to identify segment, and we now need creative to work harder than it ever has just to stand still on our key metrics.

The sad reality of running digital ads is that 98-99.7% of people who see your ad will never see the landing page that the ad points to. So what you show your audience before the click is critical to gaining enduring value from the marketing you’re running.

How has B2B ad interaction been changing?

At FunnelFuel we have made the following observations over the last 24-36 months

People are more reluctant to share personal information – they know that doing so makes them a “known prospect”

  • It used to be easier to capture this type of data during the research phase. Nowadays prospects prefer to research privately and not to share their contact details
  • The whole market is more privacy aware. People don’t and won’t fill out long forms.
  • Fewer people have second phones or work phones, so they do not want to share their personal phone number. This one field on your form could be causing a significant drop in fill rates.

Looking at LinkedIn specifically, mainly because of the quality of job role data that they have available, we can see that ad engagement differs quite significantly by job function and industry;

  • Software & Internet : 0.39%
  • Finance Services, Insurance & Banking: 0.49%
  • Education: 0.42%
  • Hardware & Networking: 0.40%
  • Healthcare: 0.58%
  • Manufacturing: 0.49%
  • Media & Communication: 0.42%
  • Retail: 0.8%
  • Public Administration: 0.46%
  • Consumer Goods: 0.6%
  • Transportation & Logistics: 0.67%
  • Corporate Services: 0.5%

This CTR metric then impacts the cost per click, giving us these ballpark averages;

  • Accounting: $5.00
  • Business Development: $6.30
  • Education: $4.90
  • Engineering: $5.10
  • Finance: $6.90
  • Human Resources: $6.00
  • information Technology: $7.90
  • Marketing: $6.80
  • Media and Communications: $5.60
  • Operations: $5.70
  • Product Management: $7.30
  • Sales: $5.40

source; https://www.theb2bhouse.com/linkedin-ad-benchmarks/

People have migrated from open social to dark social 

  • Bigger, open social like Facebook is declining. B2B is migrating to dark social where tracking is really hard (comparatively)
  • Dark social is sites like Discord, Slack, Reddit and YouTube – which are either entirely or partially closed ecosystems which have either no or comparatively limited ad products and as such tracking capabilities. Dark social could thus be seen as a migration to a more contained audience, and its especially apparent when compared to the early days of networks like Facebook which were much more open and visible.
  • Prospects are using tools like private slack groups in their industries to discuss your service, pricing, get recommendations and generally explore your offering. These invite only, industry specific groups share the narrative on the space as well as the companies that participate in it.
  • Exploration and research behaviour is being carried out on DM’s and private chat; slack, LinkedIn DM’s, Whatsapp, text and Discord – most of which have no opportunity to interrupt the process with targeted advertising

Dark social is setting the narrative for your brand

  • Informed by direct conversations in private channels, prospects spend more time lurking on social and less time clicking [ads specifically].
  • Dark social lends itself to the vocal minorities and those who make an effort to get their voice heard, and to be seen visibly sharing on social. What an ‘influencer’ shares publicly on LinkedIn is likely to be a safer more ‘pc’ version of what they’d share in private, where their constrained audience and privacy enables a more embolden view.
  • Advocacy from vocal industry champions has become a much more powerful tool, so powerful that the leaders in B2B creative are starting to use positive influencer style creative to propagate the messages.
  • Additionally, prospects don’t want to be ‘followed’ or ‘spied on’. They’re more ad-tech aware and don’t want to share their information until they’re fairly certain they want to engage – so relying on email automations to sell is much harder.
  • In yesteryear, gated content, analyst reports and tradeshows played a much greater part in the process. The pandemic married with the emergence of dark social platforms and methods, an greater online privacy has moved the needle

Here are three tips: How to front-load your value messaging into the ads themselves to ensure you acquire customers as cost effectively as possible

1. Keep it simple and optimise for people who are scrolling but not clicking

When it comes to B2B advertising, less is more. You want to make sure your ad is easy to understand and digest so that busy decision makers can quickly grasp your message. Use clear language and avoid industry jargon. And don’t forget to include a call-to-action that is straightforward and easy to follow.

Our expectation is that the prospect is going to see your ad and scroll on past, so how can we deliver a payload of brand awareness to a scroller who will then carry on right past it?

The emergence of carousel ads (first in social, now in programmatic), mobile first formats, videos and GIFs all provide comparatively more real estate to deliver value against then a standard banner. Content is just a product brochure in disguise

So if 99% of viewers won’t click, lets not put messages like ‘click here to download our eBook’. Lets instead look at what brands like Gong are doing here – they’re running a social carousel ad which delivers a few hard-hitting takeaways from their ebook. Using language like ‘secret 1’, ‘secret 2’ and combining with some impactful stats, they’re building much more desire to actually go and grab the ebook.

This is a great example of how to frontend value into the ad creative

2. Focus on the offer and making it punch out of the feed

What can your product or service do for your customer? That’s what they want to know. So, focus on the benefits of your offering in your ad copy. Tell them how you can save them time, money, or effort. And be specific! Include numbers, percentages, or other concrete data to back up your claims.

All of this constitutes your offer. Your offer absolutely has to be differentiated, engaging and unique in todays market, and your creative needs to let the prospects know that immediately.

Testing is also critical. Testing new and different offers, testing new ways to stand out in the feed, testing new creative agency partners who can move the needle and engage the 99% non-clickers.

Raw component based creative is another FunnelFuel go-to here. Why? its more flexible and can fit all and any ad placement, its more dynamic because titles, subtitles, videos and images can be combined in infinite manners, which combines with measurement to find winners. Its also fast and comparatively cheap to update across all media buying platforms, giving more agility to test new set-ups. 

3. Segment your messages to different Ideal Customer Profiles, personalising the message to compel them to engage!

Ad buying platforms like FunnelFuels combine precision ad targeting with incredibly granular data collection enabled by our analytics toolkit. When you boil this all the way back down, what does it give you? The ability to segment audiences very precisely and then to re-target those users with personalised and tailored creative.

As a rule of thumb; targeting is far too broad. Creative as such is largely irrelevant, trying to be the one thing to all people. Effective B2B marketing in 2023 will be defined by those who can segment the segments and create sub-personas within their ICPs. Answering questions, focusing on the offer as its relevant to say a CFO verses a CTO will make a huge difference in ad engagement. Can your tool be used differently by marketing teams versus sales teams? if so, they should be two totally different segments. Considering data like employment role and seniority can further segment between the ultimate decision maker and his/her wider decision making universe because users aren’t buyers, but they do impact the buyers.


The world is always changing, and what works changes with it. As your ICP’s are moving from a more open social to a new dark social, driven by privacy and direct connections, they are becoming harder to identify, target and ultimately reach. Prices are getting higher yet fewer people will click; and this means we have to optimise differently, optimising for the 99% who don’t click. The dark social web will lead the narrative, driven by emboldened vocal industry leaders under the cloak of secrecy, but world class modern creative can let innovative brands re-claim their narrative and drive the next wave of prospects


Recent Posts

25 Most Powerful Account Based Marketing Insights From The FunnelFuel Analytics

In todays post, we're looking at insights and more specifically insights with an ABM lens applied over the top. In all my years around agencies, adtech, brands and clients directly, and the various teams that service all stakeholders, everyone has always been...

2023 Best Guide To ABM: Your Account Based Marketing Cheat-Sheet

Here at FunnelFuel, ABM remains one of the most requested marketing tactics, and tracking named accounts is one of the biggest use cases of our platform Journey. We have amassed a list of the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) which we get asked by clients of all...

What is ABX? Uncovering The Power of An Account Based Experience B2B Marketing

Today we’re diving into ABX, or the concept of an ‘Account Based Experience’, and how it has evolved out of the widely talked about Account Based Marketing (ABM) movement. Account Based Marketing (ABM) has been a staple in B2B marketing for years, enabling companies...

Unlocking Programmatic Performance with Supply Path Optimisation (SPO) for B2B Marketers

Today we're diving into the topic of Supply Path Optimisation (SPO) and how it pertains to a B2B marketer. We're looking at the concept of SPO, why its especially relevant to B2B and what we have done here at FunnelFuel to optimise the supply chain which we connect...

Dissecting & Optimising The Best-In-Class TOFU B2B Media Mix (April 2023 stats)

What are B2B marketers doing to drive their Top of Funnel (TOFU) marketing mix in 2023? According to the latest research from Insider intelligence, it's squarely into the world of social media. As you can see on the below graphic, according to B2B marketers in the...

B2B Positioning: How To De-position Your Competitors Using This Competitive Intelligence Framework & Gain Mindshare

Today, we're looking at B2B positioning and more specifically at how you can use advanced competitive intelligence gathering exercises to de-position your competitors and win their business. This journey begins with world class competitor research, with the intention...

Implementing World-Class B2B Content Marketing To Move Your Marketing Needle

Welcome to our blog post on B2B content marketing! If you're in the world of business to business marketing, you're likely familiar with the term content marketing. But what exactly does it mean when it comes to B2B marketing? I’ll preface that the majority of what...

Dark Social Falsely Attributes B2B Web Traffic as “Direct”: Unmasking Dark Social For B2B Marketers

We have spoken previously about the impact of 'dark social' for B2B marketers and I was interested to see the topic hit the headlines again this week with research carried out my Rand Fishkin and SparkToro. I've followed Rand since his days founding SEOMoz, which...

As the Legality of Google Analytics Gets Called Into Question Again; Here’s How To Not Process Any PII With FunnelFuel

Disclaimer: this blog post has been written by digital analysts, not lawyers. The purpose of this article is to explain how to not process any personal data with FunnelFuel in order to avoid going through the GDPR compliance process with FunnelFuel analytics. This...

Scaling B2B SEO; AI Content & Programmatic SEO Tactics To Dominate Search Engines & Lower SEM Costs

Of all of the marketing channels available to the modern B2B marketer, SEO in many ways remains one of the most perplexing - In many ways SEO still lives in an earlier incarnation of the internet where links are traded and dubious, hard to measure and hard to gauge...

Book A Demo