By Jennifer Finetti - Managing Director, NIA Creative
Studies show that social media can drive revenue in the B2C space, but it is a bit murkier for B2B. HubSpot looked at 2011 data from over 3000 B2B businesses in an effort to better understand the impact of social media on their lead generation efforts. Unfortunately, the data showed that 63% of the businesses failed to convert social media channel visits to leads. This actually is not unexpected, as we have heard anecdotal reports from clients as well as other agency colleagues that while there is great interest in social media for B2B customers, proving its value to the bottom line has been challenging.
Despite this, we do recommend strongly that our customers actively participate in social media. Having a profile / page in the major social channels is a must-have; however, companies should priortize their activities on each channel, focusing on what will achieve the best result. And in our experience - and in our clients' experience - that channel is LinkedIn.
- LinkedIn attracts career and business-minded professionals ranging in age from 35 to 54 - this age group is where decision-makers will be found. Conversely, Facebook targets users interested in socializing on a personal basis, and their largest age group is 18 to 25 year olds. So it's no surprise that B2B companies are not gaining significant traction on Facebook.
- While LinkedIn initially was viewed as a site primarily for job seekers, it has evolved into an online hub for all business professionals interested in increasing their industry knowledge, networking with others in their field and more. LinkedIn users share both their original content as well as content created by others that is of interest to those in their network. As such, users share blog posts, articles, press releases, white papers, videos, e-books, infographics and more. Many of these shares are in the form of updates, similar to status updates on Facebook. But saavy LinkedIn users share content and comment on posts shared by others in LinkedIn Groups. And this is where B2B companies can really benefit from social campaigns.
Tips for Success
- First build and enhance your LinkedIn profile. Update your LinkedIn profile photo if needed, and spend time reviewing your profile. Update your summary, detailing the most interesting information about your background and accomplishments. Be sure to include information about your knowledge and experience in your current industry and current position. Ensure that you have included a link to your company website, company blog and/or other professional sites you are associated with.
- Next, if you haven't spent a great deal of time on LinkedIn, you'll need to build your network. Reachout to colleagues in your industry and related industries and invite them to connect with you - focus on people you know and have done business with in some way.
- Review your company's LinkedIn Page, and ensure it is updated with the latest information about your company's products and services. This month, LinkedIn announced its new look for Company Pages. So you'll definitely want to check your page now, as well as in the next few weeks once the new look populates across the site.
- Now you're ready to really see what LinkedIn can do for you and your company.
- Post and share content about your company, such as videos, product demos, press releases, blog posts, infographics, etc. Share these as updates on your personal profile, as well as share them on your Company Page. Include a strong call to action in your posts.
- Share industry news and events via status updates, and read what others are sharing on their updates.
- Create a landing page with interesting content and upload it to your website. Be sure to have a lead generation form, and if possible an incentive for completing the form, such as a free downloadable eBook. Then, share information about the incentive on LinkedIn, with a link to the landing page.
- Review "LinkedIn Today" news items, taking the time to educate yourself about what people are talking about. You can customize your "LinkedIn Today" feed to ensure you are seeing the news that interests you most. Share and comment on articles that your connections will find relevant.
- LinkedIn Groups enable you to find like-minded business professionals interested in your industry as well as your company. You can connect with Group Members to build your network while simultaneously growing their interest in content by and for your company.
- Join existing LinkedIn Groups that are relevant to your industry and your company. There are literally thousands of groups, so spend time researching groups for your industry and join the ones that are most beneficial. One way to narrow your options is to look at the LinkedIn Groups that your peers as well as your competitors have joined, and consider joining those groups as well. Look for groups that are active, but not SO active that your posts will be lost amongst the noise.
- Once you have joined some groups, spend time reading discussion posts, as well as the comments from others. Share your own insights on the discussions that are of greatest interest to you. If you have a blog post or white paper that relates to the topic, share the link to it in your response. If you like what some members are posting, consider following those members.
- Start a discussion in one or more of your Groups. Share a piece of original content written by you or a colleague. Think about what you would like to say in your subject line, and make that subject as compelling as possible - perhaps ask a question, or make a statement that will provoke an active, spirited discussion / disagreement amongst members. Be sure to include a strong call to action as well. When members comment on your discussion, be sure to respond promptly to keep the conversation going.
- Actively participate in discussions initiated by others, and make sure your comments are reasoned and relevant to the conversation. Soon you'll develop your own following as other group members recognize your name and photo, associating you with topics that you and your company cares about.
- Create a group for your company employees, and share your content there as well.
- Consider initiating a LinkedIn ad campaign. HubSpot reports that LinkedIn is 277% more effective for lead generation as compared to Facebook and Twitter (see post). So if you're a B2B marketer, clearly LinkedIn will be a better advertising investment than other social sites.
So as you can see, though the value of social media is more easily proven in consumer marketing, B2B marketers still need to get some skin in the game - and LinkedIn is by far the best social vehicle for engaging with customers and prospects, as well as for elevating your company's visibility and credibility within your industry.