LinkedIn is often overlooked in B2B marketing campaigns – but that may be a missed opportunity
Samsung’s launch of the Galaxy Note 2 “phablet” (a mobile phone of near-tablet size) at the beginning of this year made great use of LinkedIn, the professional networking site which is often overlooked in consumer marketing campaigns.
The mobile phone giant created a microsite and invited visitors to sign in with their LinkedIn membership profiles. They were then encouraged to share their thoughts about the phablet with their LinkedIn connections, enabling Samsung to reach a global audience of 20 million people. Samsung’s director of social media marketing, Andy Hwang, points to LinkedIn’s ability to precisely target audiences, adding: “It provided a platform for driving word of mouth and shifting perceptions among consumers worldwide.”
Since its launch 10 years ago, LinkedIn has become the first port of call for businesses wanting to use social media for B2B marketing, staff recruitment and disseminating industry information. But it comes low down the list of social platforms that brands consider for marketing to consumers, a situation the company is seeking to remedy.
Its 239 million members worldwide tend to spend less time on the site compared with users of Facebook and Twitter, but LinkedIn’s members are there for serious reasons. They are less likely to lie in their profiles and they visit the site to enhance their position in the world.
With 3m company pages, the marketing potential seems huge. LinkedIn’s marketing solutions division accounts for about a quarter of the company’s revenues, recruitment account for more than half of revenues, while subscriptions make up about a fifth. In the second quarter of this year, the marketing unit’s profits grew 36% on the 2012 period to over $85m (£54m).
Josh Graff, head of LinkedIn Marketing Solutions across Europe, says this shows that advertising on LinkedIn “is truly coming of age”. He adds: “The platform has changed. People used to think of it just as a place to secure a new job. But six times more impressions flow from people seeking information about companies than those specifically looking for a new job.
“More and more consumer brands such as Samsung and Mercedes are going on LinkedIn every day because they can target our members who are affluent, educated and influential and have a high disposable income.” He says that a third of visits to the site come via mobile, up from a fifth a year ago.
Paul Armstrong at Digital Orange Consulting points to figures from digital analysts ComScore, which show that the 9.4 million unique UK visitors to LinkedIn in July were evenly spread across the age groups. But the site has an above-average proportion of high-income visitors. While nearly 6 million had incomes under £50,000 a year, 3.5 million earned in excess of 50K, according to ComScore. “People are getting to understand that it is a controlled space, there’s not a lot of noise going on there and it is a simple eco-system. It is becoming a hub for high-quality business information,” he says.
LinkedIn has recently introduced Sponsored Updates, where businesses can pay to ensure their posts appear in the news feeds of members, who they can target using a range of criteria.
Graff says this enables brands to promote new and relevant information, such as white papers, research and infographics, particularly important for companies seeking to build their reputations for thought leadership on business issues. This helps the site’s B2B marketing strategy, positioning it as a resource for anyone in business who wants advice, data and contacts.
Computer giant HP uses LinkedIn to target small businesses through its Business Answers page, where firms can discuss areas of interest such as tax. Rebecca Shears, head of marketing for printing and personal systems at HP, says: “We had research which showed that more and more small businesses are turning to social media and are looking for peer-to-peer advice, so we launched the hub two years ago. Now we’ve got over 9,000 members. The main reason we are doing it is to position HP as a brand that supports businesses.” She says members of the LinkedIn page are 20% more likely to recommend HP products than the average population.
Though the LinkedIn page is free for HP to run, the computer giant supports it with advertising. Shears says that if HP doesn’t buy the ads, rival companies will.
Of course, B2B marketing also has a consumer spin off. Vodafone UK’s business division uses LinkedIn to promote its Your Better Business website, which offers information and advice to business people. Helen Moon, head of Enterprise Brand at Vodafone UK, says LinkedIn is a powerful platform for disseminating business information. She adds: “There is a definite halo effect for consumers on LinkedIn. Business people are also consumers so they absorb information which shapes their personal and professional opinions.”
In truth, all the social media sites are works in progress for marketing, says Leo Ryan, head of Ogilvy@Social. “LinkedIn certainly is not a natural place for consumer marketing,” he adds. “Though that’s not to say you can’t do something innovative there. Facebook’s billion-strong membership is a hard number to ignore, so it is the default site for brands, while Twitter can have such an impact on the news cycle. LinkedIn is behind Instagram for consumer campaigns. But if B2B’s your thing, it is the first stop.”
LinkedIn’s share price is soaring in the US. Investors seem to like LinkedIn’s argument that the site’s users go there for serious reasons and that this offers brands strong marketing potential.
Article Originally Appeared: By David Benady in The Guardian – Wednesday 11 September 2013
Here are 10 very simple steps to make sure that your social media marketing programme starts smart, has a strong launch and allows you to get the most from your new B2B communications.
1. Determine Social Media Marketing Programme Goals
Though it’s a brand new era, the place to begin is with the age-old exercise of goal-setting: Will you be working to generate new leads and sales, increase awareness of your offerings, decrease marketing spend as compared to traditional media, ensure the relevance of your company, decrease purchasing cycles, extend the reach of your market footprint… or achieve other goals?
Remember, you’ll be investing time, budget, and resources into your social media marketing programmes, so the first step is to determine exactly what you’re seeking to achieve in return.
2. Conduct Three-Point Research
A well-planned initiative always involves research at the outset, and with social media there are three key types of research that you’ll need to conduct—customer, competitive, and community:
- To ensure that your programs deliver a high level of value, identify your customers’ business needs, challenges, and technology preferences.
- To differentiate yourself from your competitors, understand which programs, tools, and content they are (and are not) employing.
- Learn which online professional communities—and influencers—are relevant to your business sector so that you can start building relationships with them.
3. Set a Strategy
Now that you’ve determined your goals and done your research, you can move on to setting your strategy.
A (very) common misstep by marketers starting out in social media is that they identify a tool before setting a strategy: They just know “We need to get on Facebook, Now!”—but don’t know why they should, much less how they’ll use their presence to achieve business benefits.
Once you’ve set your strategy for reaching your goals, the set of tools you’ll need becomes very clear—whether your social media marketing strategy is to educate your audience on a business subject, produce an outlet for like-minded professionals to network, initiate a new communications channel or application that saves executives time and solves business problems, or create a new outlet for crowdsourcing product development.
4. Identify your Marketing 2.0 Toolset
Providing an unprecedented array of tools, technologies, and platforms, social media offers B2B marketers more choice than ever, at the most affordable costs. So choose wisely and make sure that the tools you choose support your strategy (step 3) and map to your audience’s comfort levels (step 2).
Some professional audiences are more comfortable participating in online forums than they are using Twitter or Facebook, whereas others might prefer content delivered in text, such as in the form of a blog, rather than via audio podcasts or online videos.
5. Define ROI Metrics
Now that you’ve designated your goals, strategy, and tools, it’s time to define a set of metrics to evaluate your program’s ROI.
Depending on your goals, metrics might measure the number of leads generated, increase in sales, the number of brand mentions and whether they’re positive or negative, improvement in search engine rankings, level of user engagement, and so on.
The point is that you’ll need to closely track progress, so you’ll want to define which metrics you’re assessing, how you’ll assess them, and how often. And you won’t only need them for your own department… Trust me, your boss will be asking for them, too.
6. Train Your People
Because these two-way tools give rise to powerful, customer-led communities, many marketing practices have drastically changed. The BIG action point here is to not only prepare your social media program but also prepare your people for social media.
Ensure that everyone involved with the program understands the fundamentals of marketing and communicating with these new media, practices that increase success rates, and what practices to avoid in order to decrease risk.
7. Create Content Processes
Social media marketing programs don’t have specific start and end dates—once they’re launched they keep going and need constant attention and care. Far too many marketers create the program, but not the processes needed to support the program.
Creating processes is key in ensuring that your programs remain “fresh” with new content and are managed by resources that can answer users’ questions in a timely fashion, interact with the community on a regular basis, and take care of issues when they arise.
8. Implement Monitoring Systems
In this new world order—where everyone has a voice and everyone is empowered with the tools to amplify their opinions, preferences, and ideas—monitoring online conversations is not a luxury, it’s a priority.
Whether a customer is expressing a compliment, voicing a complaint, or offering a suggestion, you need to know about it, no matter where on the Web it’s being mentioned.
There are plenty of free and paid services that will enable you to monitor online mentions; you’ll also need to identify which resource will be tracking brand mentions and responding to feedback when necessary.
9. Launch… and Promote!
Now that you’ve done the upfront work, built your program, created your processes, trained your people, and instituted brand monitoring systems, you’re ready to launch.
But just as we learned during the Web’s early days, the “build-it-and-they-will-come” mentality is a surefire way to fail.
It’s a good idea to stay in beta (or soft-launch mode) for a couple months to ensure all features and processes are working optimally, but when you’re ready you’ll most definitely want to promote your new social media marketing program and have a plan for doing so.
10. Facilitate Internal Communications
Once you’ve shared your program with the world, share the lessons learned and the progress of your social media programs with other departments and groups in your organization that would also benefit from those insights—such as Management, Customer Service, PR, Sales, and R&D.
You might distribute monthly reports, or make a quarterly event of holding brown-bag lunch briefings where you invite representatives from relevant departments to discuss findings and next steps—and let social media be a way to open up conversations within your own company, too.
What tools do you use to market through Social Media and how do you measure? We’d love to hear in the comments below!
This article first appeared in MarketingProfs