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How To Avoid Common Slip-ups With Your B2B Social Ad Creative

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How To Avoid Common Slip-ups With Your B2B Social Ad Creative

Content marketers spend a lot of time developing content. But when it’s time to promote that carefully created content in social ads, they don’t have the same flourish.

Relatively recent research shows B2B ad creative often misses the mark regarding quality and impact. The B2B Institute, a LinkedIn think tank, says although marketers carefully measure ad media spend, optimizing ad creative doesn’t feature anywhere near as heavily in our psyches. It’s often neglected, as indicated in this graphic revealing 75% of B2B ads are rated one star or less.

A line chart showing 75% of consumers give B2B social ads a one-star rating.

75% of B2B social ads earn a one-star rating from consumers.

While these low ratings might seem like worrying news for B2B marketers, it actually presents an immediate opportunity to reassess and improve your social ad creative to promote and get your content consumed.

As a social strategist, I regularly witness common mistakes in social advertising, and they’re made by even the biggest of brands. Among them:

  • Weak, poor quality, or common visuals
  • Conflict between ad content and format
  • Unclear, hard-to-digest messaging that doesn’t resonate with the target audience
  • Lack of continuity among ad components

By preventing these potential problems, you’ll better position your digital ad to be seen and recognized to be relevant by your target audience, so it earns the desired click. Here are four tips on how to do just that.

1. Create thumb-stopping visuals

Develop strong, engaging visuals that entice viewers to pause a moment. It’s widely accepted that people scan ads. Over the years, eye-tracking studies have identified common patterns of digital reading and social media platforms have shared what they’ve found, too.

Create visuals that get viewers to pause their thumbs when they come to your ad, says @Fi_digitaldrum via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

In the image below, I explain how readers would usually consume this digital ad from Hootsuite. First, the compelling visual with the prominent words “30 Day Trial” will be seen. Then, the eye will go to the bold statement below the image, Start Your Free Trial Today,” followed by the line below it in a smaller font size, “Trusted by 18 million users worldwide.” Lastly, their eyes will go to the line above the image that reads: “Try Hootsuite for 30 days and start managing your social from one simple dashboard.”

Without that strong central image, Hootsuite wouldn’t have attracted viewers to give it more than their split-second attention.

Software company Asana consistently makes an impact with its social ads. With a low-key color palette, modest-looking fonts, and a smart style, their ad creative makes a bold impression on newsfeeds to encourage viewers to stop the scroll. Asana often uses statistic-based visuals to pique interest and connect with the target user as they did in the second ad below.

The graphic in the first ad includes the cover of the e-book they’re promoting with the words, The Ultimate Guide to OKRs, prominently displayed.

The graphic in the first Asana ad includes the cover of the e-book they’re promoting with the words, The Ultimate Guide to OKRs, prominently displayed.

The second ad is a pie chart showing a 24% slice with the accompanying text to explain 24% of employees in Australia experienced burnout four or more times in the last year.

The second Asana ad is a pie chart showing a 24% slice with the accompanying text to explain 24% of employees in Australia experienced burnout four or more times in the last year.

Sometimes visuals can have a big impact by looking just different enough to stand out. Take media publication The Economist. They commonly use graphic design to create thumb-stopping moments for users.

In the first sponsored content ad to promote an article on the backlash of gender ideology at universities, the art contains a globe-type circle with two women in graduation caps who have brightly colored lines to symbolize talking. One of the women is upside down.

Economist ad showing a globe-type circle with two women in graduation caps who have brightly colored lines to symbolize talking. One of the women is upside down.

In the second promoted content ad, a colorfully illustrated chicken is flexing their bicep to promote an article about how chicken became the rich world’s most popular meat.

Economist ad showing a colorfully illustrated chicken is flexing their bicep to promote an article about how chicken became the rich world’s most popular meat.

These images create intrigue because they don’t tell the full story and they lack words to explain them. They’re also different in style compared to typical ads on LinkedIn.

Use intriguing images that pique interest and differ in style to attract ad clicks, says @Fi_digitaldrum via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

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2. Choose the right ad format for your content

Why string out a straightforward message about your promoted content over eight carousel cards when a two-card carousel or a single image ad will do?

Assess how your promotion fits into the available formats each time you kick off a new paid social campaign. Some content will work well as a video or a sponsored poll, but some things won’t.

In this example, LinkedIn Sales Solutions perfectly demonstrates that carousel-promoted content doesn’t need to include many cards. In this case, three does the job just fine – the first asks a question, “How have UK sales professionals and their buyers changed their behavior since the pandemic?” The second card gives an answer, “For one, 45% of UK buyers now want to make purchase decisions remotely.”

LinkedIn Sales Solutions ad asks a question, “How have UK sales professionals and their buyers changed their behavior since the pandemic?” The second ad The second ad gives an answer, “For one, 45% of UK buyers now want to make purchase decisions remotely.”

The third and final card promotes the content offer: “Discover more trends in the State of Sales 2021 Report, UK edition.”

The third and final ad promotes the content offer: “Discover more trends in the State of Sales 2021 Report, UK edition.”

That formula can work well for many content product ads: Identify the audience’s challenge (understanding buyer behavior after the pandemic), include one answer (make purchase decisions remotely), then offer the content solution (e-book on the state of sales).

3. Write copy that resonates, entices, and nails the point

I really like the recent social ads from GWI, a market research firm. They’ve managed to use minimal copy to promote the insightful content they have up for grabs.

The first is an ad for its report on social media trends in 2022. On the prominently displayed image, the text poses a question: “What on earth is the metaverse?” The line of text above it is one stat from the report and a call to action: “53% of social users are baffled by the metaverse. If you’re one of them, get the lowdown in our 2022 trends report.”

GWI ad showing a Black man next to a question: “What on earth is the metaverse?” The line of text above it is one stat from the report and a call to action: “53% of social users are baffled by the metaverse. If you’re one of them, get the lowdown in our 2022 trends report.”

The second ad, “Thanks, I got it on Instagram,” includes a simple question before the CTA: “How has social commerce changed in 2022? See what makes shoppers tick in our flagship trends report.”

GWI ad with an arm holding a purple shirt on a hanger coming out of a smartphone with the copy “Thanks, I got it on Instagram,” includes a simple question before the CTA: “How has social commerce changed in 2022? See what makes shoppers tick in our flagship trends report.”

4. Ensure synergy among the creative components

Yes, users typically scan social ads, making the dominant image, video, or other visual the central element. But, that doesn’t mean that the other elements need any less attention.

After all, even with all the credible research and eye-tracking studies out there, we still can’t be 100% sure about how users are going to process the social ads served to them. It’s therefore important to consider how the ad hangs together as a whole.

I’ve seen many social ads where the copy makes total sense, but it’s out of kilter with the visual creative or vice versa. It can lead to a quick win by spending just a bit of time upfront getting all those elements right.

Adobe’s Creative Cloud brand creates social ads that are easy to read, quick to digest, and nice to look at because everything from top to bottom and right to left makes sense and is consistent. It doesn’t matter which part you look at first, you know what the content offer is straight away.

These two ads exemplify that technique. Both include a visually appealing dominant image and headline. The first, “New Ways to Collaborate in a Hybrid World”, includes a one-sentence lead-in describing the content’s purpose and a CTA button to watch the video.

Adobe Creative Cloud ad showing a visually appealing dominant image and headline. The first, "New Ways to Collaborate in a Hybrid World", includes a one-sentence lead-in describing the content’s purpose and a CTA button to watch the video.

The second also includes the one-sentence explainer as both the lead-in and a small text – further emphasizing the message/purpose – appearing below the headline: “Growth. It’s a mindset.” That may seem like a really repetitive way to tackle copy. However, this approach makes the offer really clear when you only have milliseconds to get across your message.

The second ad includes the one-sentence explainer "Research by Forrester reveals how to use creativity as a business tool". Appearing below the headline: “Growth. It’s a mindset.”

You don’t have to repeat the same thing top to bottom; you could experiment with different combinations that tell a story or set a scene in a cohesive manner.

Slack did it in this ad for its content about how to win the best talent, using a stat in a large font in the dominant image: “75% of Australians want flexible work hours.” Above it, the sentence in a smaller font above it echoes the concern and identifies the solution: “Move past the 9-to-5 schedule to reinvent work. Stand out from other companies by offering more flexibility for your people.”

Slack ad shows a stat in a large font in the dominant image: “75% of Australians want flexible work hours.” Above it, the sentence in a smaller font above it echoes the concern and identifies the solution: “Move past the 9-to-5 schedule to reinvent work. Stand out from other companies by offering more flexibility for your people.”

Design success for your content promotion social media ads

Finally, don’t credit a single ad for a campaign. Testing the creative is important, too. Invest time in developing and distributing multiple versions in each content ad campaign. It allows you to identify what’s working and what’s not so that you can make informed tweaks to the creative – adjustments that can boost, strengthen, or even revitalize ad campaign performance.

By spending a bit more time and consideration upfront, you can avoid the common errors and missteps with social ad creative. You can’t guarantee every single paid content promotion will bring amazing results, especially since you don’t control how the platforms serve up your ads. But you can make sure every creative asset is optimized, well-built, and as impactful as it can be.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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MARKETING

State of Content Marketing in 2023

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State of Content Marketing in 2023

I just pressed send on the manuscript for my book to be released in September. It’s called Content Marketing Strategy (snappy, eh?), and Kogan Page will publish it.

Last week, marketing professor Philip Kotler wrote the foreword. I won’t spoil it, but he mentioned the need for a strategic approach to owned media.

He writes, “(T)he company doesn’t carry an account of showing these marketing assets and their value. As a result, the company cannot show the CEO and company board members a return on owned assets or content.”

Luckily, my upcoming book shows exactly how to do that. Funny how that works out.

In any event, all this struck me that now is an opportune time to look at where the beloved practice of content marketing stands today.

First, let’s go back to 1999 when Kotler published Kotler On Marketing, one of his more than 70 books. The latter 1990s – a time of tumultuous change – fueled most of the thinking for the book. But he knew that it was merely the beginning.

Kotler concluded the book with a section called “Transformational Marketing.”  In the next decade, he wrote, “marketing will be re-engineered from A to Z. Marketing will need to rethink fundamentally the processes by which they identify, communicate, and deliver customer value.”

Well, it’s taken over two decades, but it’s finally happening.

Consumers have changed, but marketing operations are just starting to

In case you didn’t notice, almost every marketing conference these days starts with the same four or five requisite slides:

  • Digital technologies, such as search and social media, empower consumers today.
  • Consumers research, engage, buy, and stay loyal to brands in ways that have fundamentally changed.
  • First-party data and privacy are of the utmost importance.
  • Artificial intelligence begins to threaten the idea of the usefulness of search and pressure companies to deliver better and more personalized experiences.

You get it. Consumer expectations in the age of the social, mobile, and AI-driven web are different than they were.

However, the continuing challenge in 2023 is that content and/or marketing operations in enterprise companies are only beginning to evolve. Most marketing departments have remained as they were when Kotler wrote his book — they still work from mid- to late-20th century hierarchies, strategies, and processes.

Most marketing departments still work with mid- to late-20th-century hierarchies, strategies, and processes, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Content marketing isn’t new, but a content marketing strategy is

For hundreds of years, businesses have used content to affect some kind of profitable outcome. But the reality is this: Whether it was John Deere’s The Furrow from the 1800s, Michelin’s guide to car maintenance in the early 1900s, or even Hasbro’s GI-Joe partnership with Marvel in the 1980s, content was not — and is not for the most part now — a scalable, repeatable practice within the function of marketing. In short, companies almost always treat content marketing as a project, not a process.

That fundamental change will finally take hold in 2023. It could happen because of the digital disruption and ease by which you can now publish and distribute content to aggregate your own audiences. It could happen through the natural evolution that the ultimate outcome – more than the marketing – matters more.

As we roll through 2023 and beyond, content — and the exponentially increasing quantities of it produced by every organization — deeply affects not just your marketing strategy, but your business strategy. Content in marketing is now bigger than simply content marketing, and it should be dealt with as a component of that business strategy throughout the enterprise.

#Content in marketing is bigger than #ContentMarketing. Treat it as a component of the business strategy, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

In 2023, the No. 1 focus of my consulting and advisory practice these days: help companies transform content into a repeatable, scalable, and measurable function that drives value through a multi-channel strategy. It’s bigger than publishing a blog, creating a lead-generating resource center, or sending an email newsletter. Today’s content marketing team is being absorbed into marketing because marketing and its various operations are fundamentally transforming into a content-producing machine.

It is not good enough to produce content “like a media company would.” The goal must be to operate as a media company does. Your job is not to change content to fit new marketing goals. Rather, your job in 2023 is to change marketing to fit the new business content goals.

Your job in 2023 is to change #marketing to fit the new business #content goals, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

The unaware builds a case for the aware

The term “content marketing” continues to evolve. Even today, I run across those who still call it “brand publishing,” “custom content,” or “inbound marketing.”

My take matches with what Kotler described in 1999. I always thought the term “content marketing” would become part of “marketing” more broadly. In 2023, that happened. So, returning to the lexiconic debates of 2013, 2014, or 2015 doesn’t seem terribly productive. Content marketing is just good marketing, and marketing is just good content marketing.

That said, two kinds of companies do well at the broader view of content marketing. Some of them, such as Cleveland Clinic, Red Bull, Arrow Electronics, HubSpot, and REI, have purposely devised content marketing strategies as differentiating approaches to their marketing. They are succeeding.

Others, like Amazon, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, and Peloton, backed into a smart content marketing strategy. But executives at those companies probably don’t recognize it as such. If asked (and some have been), they would say acquiring or launching a media company operation was just a smart business strategy to diversify their ability to reach their consumers consistently.

They’re right, of course. Many have yet to read books about content marketing, been influenced by the Content Marketing Institute, or even recognize content marketing as a separate approach (as far as I know). And they are also succeeding.

Consider this proof: As I write this article, six companies have a market capitalization of more than $1 trillion. Four of the six wholly or partially use the business model of media creation to further marketing and business strategies. Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Amazon are all, in part, media companies that also sell products and services.

Why would you not avail yourself of that same model?

The future looks cloudy and bright

As for the overall state of enterprise content marketing, it’s in transition, as all marketing is. As a focused project-based approach, working in ad-hoc ways across a business, content marketing appears to have proven its worth. Hundreds of entries every year to the Content Marketing Awards feature myriad case studies using content marketing techniques in strategic ways to profitably affect business results.

And yet, it remains to be seen whether you can make content marketing a scalable, repeatable, measurable function within marketing.

As to what the discipline’s future holds? At last year’s Content Marketing World, one of my favorite events, the Executive Forum gathered senior leaders from brands succeeding with content marketing. As we talked about the future, one participant said: “The only certainty is change. I can’t tell you where or when, but I do know there will be change, and this is the principle we build on now.”

As for my take, Kotler’s idea of transforming the marketing function seems to have gotten lost along the digital road traveled by marketers. In so many cases, marketing – and especially content – remains just an on-demand service function within the business. Its sole job is to produce ever more voluminous amounts of content that describe the value of the brand (or its products or services) so that sales can sell more efficiently, customer support can serve more effectively, and all manner of customer interfaces are more beneficial to both sides.

However, and maybe because I need to rationalize now that my book is finished, I passionately believe it’s finally time for marketing to reclaim its ability to create value — not just reflect it in the polished shine of your traditional products and services.

Almost 27 years ago today, Microsoft founder Bill Gates wrote an essay called Content is King. In it, he said that “(C)ontent is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”

It certainly was one of his more prescient moments. Nearly three decades later, his words have proven true. The essay title has become the rallying cry for thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs who now make their living on creating, managing, optimizing, and measuring content on the internet. (A Google search for “content is king” nets more than 1.7 million results.)

But it’s the last line of his essay that I find the most visionary: “(T)hose who succeed will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products – a marketplace of content.”

That’s what content marketing is for me in 2023. It’s just marketing – optimizing the value of ideas, experiences, and products in a marketplace of content.

Time to get to work.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Get Robert’s take on content marketing industry news in just five minutes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries

Watch previous episodes or read the lightly edited transcripts.

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week. 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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MARKETING

27 Best About Us and About Me Page Examples [+Templates]

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Your about page summarizes your history, values, and mission — all in one place. That’s a tall order for just a few paragraphs. If you’re feeling stuck, turn to these about-page examples for inspiration. 

about us page example: laptop held in palm of hand

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MARKETING

MarTech’s marketing operations experts to follow

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MarTech's marketing operations experts to follow

Marketing operations is what makes the magic happen. These are the folks who see that your martech stack doesn’t get stuck. They are the maestros, modelers and makers who make sure the trains run, the data is digestible and that you have the programs you need. Where would we be without them? That’s too scary to think about. Here’s our list of MOps experts who have the ear of the profession.

Darrell Alfonso

Darrell is director of marketing strategy & operations at Indeed and the former global marketing ops leader for AWS. He’s the author of “The Martech Handbook: Build a Technology Stack to Acquire and Retain Customers.” In addition to speaking at many conferences, Darrell was named one of the Top Marketers in the US by Propolis 2022 and among the “Top Martech Marketers to Follow” in 2020 by Martech Alliance. He’s a regular and popular contributor both to MarTech and the MarTech conference; you can find all of his articles at this link.


Eddie Reynolds

Eddie has been in business a long time, starting his first company when he was 14. “A pretty minimal enterprise,” he told one interviewer. “I had a tax ID number, a legal entity, and a company name. I even had the IRS coming after my dad for sales tax that I failed to report properly.” Today he is CEO and revenue operations strategy consultant of Union Square Consulting. He publishes The RevOps Weekly Newsletter and the podcast RevOps Corner. Eddie’s large LinkedIn following attests to the quality of the insights he shares there on  sales, marketing, service, and admin roles. 


Sara McNamara

Sara is an award-winning marketing and sales operations professional whose work has been recognized by awards from the likes of Salesforce (Pardot), Adobe (Marketo), Drift, and LeanData. She is a Senior Manager, Marketing Operations at Slack and a martech stack (+ strategy) solution architect. That and her passion for leveraging technology and processes to improve the experiences of marketers, sales professionals, and prospects, explains why she’s a regular guest on MOps podcasts.


Ali Schwanke

Ali is the CEO and founder of Simple Strat. The firm specializes in helping companies get the most out of HubSpot — from CRM strategy and setup to marketing automation and content creation. She is also host of HubSpot Hacks, “the #1 Unofficial YouTube show for HubSpot Tutorials” and has been a guest speaker at the MarTech conference.


Mike Rizzo

Mike’s career in marketing operations showed him that there is a real and significant MOps community. That’s why he founded MO Pros/MarketingOps.com, the fast-growing online community for people in marketing operations. He is also co-host of Ops Cast, a weekly podcast. 


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About the author

Constantine von Hoffman

Constantine von Hoffman is managing editor of MarTech. A veteran journalist, Con has covered business, finance, marketing and tech for CBSNews.com, Brandweek, CMO, and Inc. He has been city editor of the Boston Herald, news producer at NPR, and has written for Harvard Business Review, Boston Magazine, Sierra, and many other publications. He has also been a professional stand-up comedian, given talks at anime and gaming conventions on everything from My Neighbor Totoro to the history of dice and boardgames, and is author of the magical realist novel John Henry the Revelator. He lives in Boston with his wife, Jennifer, and either too many or too few dogs.

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